Today’s Q&A topic is about rebuilding trust in the bedroom. In order to engage fully in marital sexuality, you must be able to trust yourself with your spouse. So how do you get trust back when it’s been broken?
Here’s the question an Anonymous reader left on my Q&A with J at HHH post:
Sorry if you’ve already discussed this I may have missed it. Due to husbands indiscretions (while maybe tame to some, significant to me) recently having a difficult time with trust and the role [it] plays in marriage bed. Partnered with an increased libido for myself in last year, it makes a really twisted logic for my brain to process. I wanna but i don’t wanna. Really need to overcome quickly so we can heal and i don’t go crazy being unsatisfied/needs met in the bed. (for clarification he is all for my increased libido it just makes my heart hurt sometimes when i start thinking about it)..thanks for your advice.
If you need more than I give you here, there are certainly other resources. There are numerous resources on the web about recovering intimacy after an affair. Run a Google search, and you’ll get lots of advice out there. Make sure, of course, that they align with biblical teaching in their approach. Also, you may wish to seek counseling alone or with your spouse from your pastor or a therapist to work through the issues.
As for my advice, there are two things you can do after trust has been wrecked to rebuild it.
Ask for what you need. First ask yourself what you need (not want) to feel reasonably safe with your spouse. When a spouse has been unfaithful, it is not unreasonable to ask for things you might not otherwise do — such as checking their phone and emails or getting frequent reports on where they are and with whom.
But let me help you out here: You do not need the details of whatever indiscretions occurred. For instance, if your husband had an emotional affair, you don’t need to know everything they said to each other. If he went to strip clubs, you don’t need to know what all he saw in those places. You don’t need details because they are not the issue, and you won’t be able to get those images and thoughts out of your mind. They will merely cloud the current situation.
So what do you need? Perhaps you need reassurance that you are beautiful. Tell him. Ask him to specifically describe what he loves about you and your body. Perhaps you need more romance and foreplay to approach the bedroom. Let him know. Perhaps you need for the time being to have more control over sexual activity, such as being on top. (I say for the time being because this is to ease back in, not to become the regular approach.) Perhaps you need more eye contact or talking during sex.
This is so personal that I can’t tell you what you need. You must consider yourself, what happened that threatened or destroyed trust, and what would make you feel more assured that you are the only one he wants to be with. It is okay to ask for that. If he has left his indiscretions behind, he has made the choice that you are the one he wants.
Don’t make it a “since you did ___, I now need ___” statement, but rather something like, “I want to engage fully with you in our sex life, but I am struggling a little. Will you help me by providing a few things that will make me feel safer so that we can experience better intimacy?” Pose it as your desire to have a quality sex life with your husband, and then ask him for specifics that will help you get there.
Rewrite the script. When you’ve had a bad experience with something, you are rightly reluctant to do that again. It’s like how my husband ruined Ferris wheels for me by flipping the car so many times I almost vomited; I haven’t ridden a Ferris wheel since. That’s okay because I do not need to ride a Ferris wheel (how often do I even have the opportunity?), and my body and brain are just protecting me for another bad experience.
However, some things we have to do or should do even if we have negative thought patterns currently attached to the activity. For instance, thank goodness James Earl Jones had an English teacher who made him get up and recite poetry, thus overcoming his horrendous stutter. In this case, Jones and his teacher rewrote the script. As written, Jones was a hopeless stutterer, but by replacing bad experiences with new, better ones, actor James Earl Jones (the voice of Darth Vader) became comfortable speaking in public.
Back to marital intimacy. You know you should be physically intimate with your husband. You want to be physically intimate with your husband. But the script as written is that your husband failed you and the trust is eroded. You are rightly nervous and reluctant to engage in an activity that brings back negative thoughts and feelings. But you can rewrite the script.
For that, you have to plunge in. Get on the Ferris wheel. Take the stage. Jump in bed with your hubby. Know that it will not happen overnight. It isn’t a 1:1 ratio of negative to positive. In fact, marriage researcher John Gottman, Ph.D. has stated that we need five positive interactions to balance out every one negative interaction. The good news is that you can take back your sex life and make it a positive thing. The challenge is that it will take time to create new memories to replace the old ones, new scripts to write over the old programs, new feelings to replace the hesitant ones.
Yet I know of no other way to make marital intimacy a positive thing than to engage in positive marital intimacy. You simply have to engage. Shove the negative expectations aside and do everything you can to enjoy the moment and rewrite the script. Eventually, you will have so many more wonderful memories than bad ones that the pain and mistrust will abate. Will it ever go away? I suspect that you will still be able to tap into those feelings from time to time. But they will be your history, not your destiny.
I believe in healing, forgiveness, and hope for your future. Read The Gospel in the Bedroom for more on that. It is my prayer that you both can move past your husband’s indiscretions and into the blessings of physical intimacy that God desires for your marriage. Thanks for the question.