After His Affair, We Still Have Sex Sometimes But He Never Hugs Me Or Shows Me Genuine Affection Anymore

By: Katie Lersch: One would assume that the biggest physical marital complaint after an affair is sex. And, to be sure, plenty of couples do have issues with sex after one of them has cheated. But, it might surprise you to know that I just as often hear from people who have resumed their sex life (with various results,) but are most troubled by the drop off in spontaneous innocent contact – like hugs, handholding, or pecks on the cheek that aren’t meant to lead to sex, but are just meant to communicate love. And frankly, this can bother people every bit as much as the sex. And they can be confused as to why their spouse seems content to have sex – which is seen as far more vulnerable –  but then doesn’t seem to want to do the simpler stuff, like hug and hold hands.

Someone might explain: “I know that this is going to seem petty when so much catastrophic stuff is going on in our lives. But I’m so disturbed by the fact that my husband never hugs me anymore since his affair. He never holds my hand either. And he only kisses me when we are having sex. Yes, we have sex. That is what is so weird. We didn’t at first. But now a couple of months have passed and I want to try to get our marriage to feel like it did before. So I consented to it and I even wanted it myself – to a certain extent. And my husband does show enthusiasm and enjoyment when we have sex. But my husband used to be the best hugger. We would hug for several minutes every day. He would just hold me. It was one of my favorite parts of our relationship. He would also often grab my hand when we had dinner. And he would hold it and actually look at me. He never does this anymore. And I don’t really understand why. Yes, I was very furious at him after the affair and I said and did some mean things. But lately, I’ve been really trying to give our marriage a chance and there is no way that he can ignore this. I feel like we are both really putting in an effort. Yet, sometimes you can literally feel the elephant in the room. Things certainly are not the way that they used to be. There a sense of unease and awkwardness. But we are both trying. However, I’m not sure that we are going to be able to recover if he won’t kiss and hug me and spontaneously show me love and affection in the way that he used to. Now, I feel like I only get any of this when he wants sex. But it is those hugs that I mourn the most. I really miss those hugs. I know that it sounds silly, but that is how I feel. And I feel like my marriage is fractured as much by the lack of the hugs as by the affair. I know I’m overreacting, but I don’t understand why he can have sex with me but doesn’t seem to want to give me a hug.”

I don’t think that you are overreacting at all. And I can give you some theories as to why the hugs are suddenly missing. But when you are trying to recover from an affair, you often want all of the physical reassurance that you can get. And the sex can certainly be reassuring. Because not all couples are able (or want to) resume it after the affair. I know that for me, I looked for these loving gestures too. And I mostly looked for them because they were spontaneous. They were a “tell,” (or so I thought) as to whether or not my husband was feeling intimate and loving toward me. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that sometimes, he was holding back because he didn’t feel that he had the right to show me affection unless and until I asked for it. He was afraid of being rejected. So like you, I wondering what was wrong with him, or with me, since I wasn’t seeing the back rubs or the brushing of my cheek, or all of those things that used to happen before the affair. In truth, if I’m being completely honest right now, I wanted him to TRY to do these things, but depending on what mood he caught me in, I may have rejected him or lashed out at him. Or I may have welcomed him with open arms. My emotions were all over the place at that time. I WANTED to know that he wanted me, but I didn’t always want him back because I was very angry and confused. One day, I may have wanted a lot of physical affection and the next day, I might have rebuffed him if he had even tried. I believe that this is what my husband was trying to avoid when he held back. (You can read more about how we went back and forth (and eventually recovered) on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com)

This type of hesitation is possible for your husband also. He may hold back even when you have been nothing but receptive toward him. Some people are just very tentative after they have made this type of mistake. They feel guilty. They feel very badly about themselves. I know it is very hard not to take this personally, but it is often about them and not about you.

If this continues to bother you, you can always try to address it. You might try: “honey, this might sound really silly to you, but I notice that you haven’t tried to hug me, hold my hand, or initiate more intimate physical contact. I miss your hugs. I know that you might be holding back on them because we are both unsure about where we stand lately. But regardless of the struggles that we are facing, I don’t think that you can ever go wrong with a hug. No matter where we are in this process, I’d probably always value a hug from you because it shows me that you care and that you want to reach out to me. I can’t promise that we won’t have our challenges or bad days, but withholding the simple things that show we care isn’t the greatest idea, either. Can you try to bring the hugs or intimate contact back into our marriage, even if it is on a smaller scale?”

I would suspect that he will agree. He may have just been waiting for you to give him the okay. If things don’t improve, please consider getting counseling or using self help. The reason that I say this is that emotional intimacy is often necessary for the physical intimacy to follow. Sometimes, a hug is more intimate than sex, which is why you the hugs may have disappeared. Sometimes, you have to recover the emotional intimacy before the physical intimacy is satisfying and spontaneous again. And that doesn’t always happen on its own. There is no shame in getting the help you need so that you can once again get the hugs you want. An affair can knock a marriage off its axis. Sometimes you need a little help righting it again. You can read about my attempts to do this (and my final success) on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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