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Rebuilding Trust in the Bedroom

Q&AToday’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.

10 thoughts on “Rebuilding Trust in the Bedroom”

  1. J,I thank you for writing this article. This is going to sound really weirdI guess..but trust is trust. I found out nearly three years ago that my husband had an affair. At the time,he said it had been for less than a year and that it had happened after I’d had our 3rd child. (1997/98) He said many things in the beginning until I finally got the truth…or what he said was the truth. He claimed that he didn’t actually sleep with her because the one timehe tried he couldn’t get it up and he was so embarassed he ended things. I couldn’t shake the feeling that it had happened when I was pregnant(strange hormonal things happen to me one of which is that I had images of him with other women in my mind throughout my pregnancy). We’ve struggled to build back our marriage and our intimacy and our sexlife is the best its ever been. I found out I’m expecting again and somehow being pregnant has brought back alot of my pain and fear because I still believed it was while I was pregnant he started this affair or was already in it.(there’s sort of a history of that in the family including his dad and brother) I had a meltdown session where I bawled and asked him if all men are unfaithful to their wives while they’e pregnant and he said no, even though he did it once it doesn’t mean it would happen again. So, I find out this way that it did happen while I was pregnant. This puts the timeline closer to two years than the less than one he said, plus I feel as if he lied again. I’m struggling with this right now…I feel as if I don’t know how to trust him, I don’t want to start this all over again, it took so long for us to even begin to heal and he has already said things like I’ll never get over it. I want desperately to move on,but he doesn’t seem to understand how I can’t when i feel like I wasn’t told the truth.

    I know this is very long but my question is…when is it okay to want details? I agree that too much imagery will hurt me, but I need the truth. Did he or did he not sleep with her? Did he or did he not have an emotional affair. He has denied this in the past but right now I don’t know what’s the truth anymore. How could he have been with someone that long and not had sex or not had his emotions involved? I hope that you can help me because I’m being eaten alive again and the hormones are not helping either!

    1. I strongly advise you to sit down with a counselor. It is not unreasonable to get the truth. You don’t need details of which sex acts they did or how it felt or what she wore or whatever. But your husband needs to take responsibility, be honest with you, and heal the relationship.

      If he won’t go with you, go alone and get professional advice. If money is an issue, talk to your church and see how they can help. One of the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association members is Affaircare; they may have some resources for you as well:

      Blessings! I honestly believe you can heal from this pain and situation, but you do need to clear the air and reestablish trust. Saying a prayer for you.

    2. Hello Anonymous,

      Having been both an offender and an offendee (in adultery) let me assure you that regardless of whether he did or didn’t have physical sex with her, it’s still adultery. Matthew 5:28 makes that quite clear.

      I had an emotional affair, although if the other woman had said yes, I was certainly willing (at that time). My wife’s affair went the full physical route… but in God’s eyes, both her sin and mine were alike.

      The unfaithful spouse cannot dictate how long it takes the faithful spouse to heal, as we are all different. Gory details will definitely cause you heart and mind battles later, but an expectation of such things as:

      1. A definitive answer to whether physical sex did or did not happen.
      2. How long it went on (once, days, years, etc.)
      3. A physical health check (aids, STDs, etc.)

      These expectations are not unreasonable.

      I wrote an article on our blog called “Inner Demons” detailing some of the mind battles I have gone through regarding our story. You may find some comfort in knowing how someone else has handled it before. Just writing this post was medicinal for my heart… I believe that for me, it was a form of spiritual warfare just typing it out – as the devil has seriously backed off since I wrote it. If you’d care to read it, you’ll find it here:

      J’s advice to sitting down with your husband and a trusted pastor/elder/counselor is dead on the money. If your husband has nothing to hide, then even though his manly pride might be stung a bit, it would behoove him to do what it takes to help his beloved feel safe in the marriage.


  2. Dear J,

    Thank you for your advice and for taking the time to reply. I also want to thank you Jason. I hopped over to your site and read the post you linked here and I totally understand what you are saying.Battlefield of the mind does rage here too. When I am weak and fail to abide in Him, I am crushed by it…I end up thinking I know better, why am I allowing him to bash me like this? Like you, I wish we’d never had to walk this road but I know that our marriage and communication, our intimacy would never have changed. Still, my husband wants to move on without looking back…so do I and I have tried desperately because, just as you said, the tearing apart of the one flesh would destroy me. Yet, I am being destroyed slowly by the lies he told me. I understand his fear and shame would have made him do that in the beginning,but when I looked him in the eyes and begged for the truth…did I really get it? He doesn’t understand that, while the details are not supposed to be important and he doesn’t want to rehash them, some things are important to me…the timeline,the whys, the truth about his involvement. Thank you so much for the transparency and the links to other resources. God bless you both and thanks for the prayers!

    1. I agree: Jason’s perspective was terrific. It sounds like you are asking for reasonable information from your husband. If he isn’t forthcoming, you may need to approach a pastor or counselor. Blessings and prayers.

    2. You are welcome, and I hope that you’ve been encouraged through this conversation. Tiffani and I will pray for you and your hubby, as I’m sure J will also. Tell your husband that you very much want healing and forward movement… but his truthful involvement is critical to that healing. And once the truth is there, don’t hold it over his head anymore.

      Our life scripture has become Isaiah 43:18-19.

      “Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. “Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.

      God was not surprised by this turn in your marriage. And as I’ve heard so much lately, sometimes the BETTER comes after the WORSE.

      In Christ,

  3. Pingback: For Wives: When You Don’t Desire Sex | Hot, Holy & Humorous

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