I Feel Sexually Numb After My Spouse’s Cheating. Why? What Can I Do About It?

By: Katie Lersch:  It’s rare to carry on with your sex life as if nothing happened after you discover that your spouse has had an affair.  Although some couples will report that their sex life actually improved right after infidelity, this is the exception rather than the rule.  Many couples struggle sexually.  This is particularly true of the faithful spouse who can hesitate to be intimate after being betrayed and hurt so badly.  Many people report feeling numb, detached, or flat.

A wife might say: “the biggest damage to our marriage because of my husband’s affair is our sex life.  The other woman was everything that I am not – young, thin, and beautiful.  I don’t want to tear myself down.  I know that I am not ugly.  I know that some people would consider me still attractive.  But after nursing two children and having two pregnancies, my body can not compete with a young woman who is at her prime weight and who has never had children.  I suspect that she was more adventurous and eager to please sexually.  Plus, there was the aspect of surprise and newness with her.  I can’t compete with that either.  My husband ended the affair as soon as I found out.  He has done everything that I have requested of him.  I do believe he is putting in a lot of effort.  And I can’t imagine that he would jump through all these hoops if he did not love me.  I do believe that he loves me.  But it is very hard for me to engage with him sexually.  He seems into it and enthusiastic, but I wonder if this is only for my benefit.  I will feel like I want to have sex, but then when it actually comes down to it, I find that I am basically just numb.  I want to actively participate and to enjoy myself like I used to, but I find that my mind just wanders.  Most of the time, I imagine my husband having sex with her.  But other times, I find myself thinking about silly, mundane things like whether or not I paid my bill or when I am due for a teeth cleaning.  Or, I’ll worry about something to do with my kids.  This hasn’t been a huge problem with me in the past.  Am I always going to feel numb like this when we have sex? Why is this happening? And how can I stop it?”

I’m not a therapist.  I am answering this question as a wife who has been through this and gone through something similar.  In my experience and opinion, sometimes, we shut down sexually when we have shut down emotionally.  It is very hard to have great sex when you are not connected emotionally.  Therefore, if your relationship is still struggling a little bit and is still not on solid ground, you might see your sex life being affected accordingly.  It’s understandable and it is normal.  When you continue to heal and you regain that emotional connection, you will often find that your sex life greatly improves as well.

Here is another consideration.  Many of us kind of detach and distance ourselves from our husband after he has an affair.  We do this as a defense mechanism.  We may not be consciously aware of it.  But by distancing ourselves from him, we are trying to protect ourselves from being hurt.  And this distance can seep into other areas of our life – like our sex life.

How do we begin to stop this?  Well, we can start by trying to notice if (and when) we are doing it.  Notice how you are when you’re conversing with your spouse or spending time with him.  If you find yourself only half way engaged, pay attention and ask yourself if you want to lean in just a little bit.  Sometimes, you have to do this gradually because you are understandably reluctant to completely trust and you do not want to be hurt.  Often, over time you will feel a little safer, engage a little more, and then retreat and watch again and repeat the process.  Over time, you are no longer as guarded because you’ve learned that it’s safe to trust.  Watch yourself in this process and if you are not actively leaning in and giving a little more in time, ask yourself why. Figure out what hasn’t been settled and address it.

Finally, mindfulness can greatly enhance sex in any circumstances.  I know that it seems silly to compare sex to meditation.  But the same type of mindfulness works with both.  When you find your mind drifting, draw your attention to what is what in front of you.  Notice your breath.  Notice the feel of his hands on you. Notice exactly what is happening at that time.  Don’t be afraid to look at him and to really and truly take it all in.  This is the easiest and fastest way to stop being numb.  I know first hand that you have every right to want to numb yourself.  You are afraid.  You are reluctant.  But if you want to experience all of the pleasures sexually then you have to be willing to be a little more vulnerable in other areas.  And you have to be willing to take down the walls during sex and to experience it all.

Just like we had to build up our marriage after my husband’s affair, we had to build up our sex life.  It took repeated effort, but it was worth it.  There is a good resource for restoring your sexuality on the side of this blog. It’s called “her secrets.”  Look to your upper right to find the link.

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