Is It Normal? Sex After an Affair

Couples therapists probably have an interesting view on what’s normal. We spend our lives as invited guests on the insides of other people’s relationships. Starting couples therapy is kind of like inviting someone over when you haven’t cleaned up your house and you’re still sitting around in your PJs. It’s your personal space–one in which you are at your most vulnerable–and you may not be all that happy with the state of it. But, as therapists our jobs are to help you take a look at the clutter, streamline and do a good spring cleaning. At our best, we help you find your own special brew of normal.

As I mentioned in my last blog, ‘normal’ is a relative term. Each relationship has its own balance point that is unique and special. So, in the case of this blog, what I really mean to say is, “is it common?” But frankly, “Is it Common” just didn’t sound as good as a title. So, we’re going with normal instead.

This blog is my first foray into creating a column that tackles some of the things you’re curious about, but may feel too awkward to broach. Not everyone has access to a couples counselor, and even the ones that do have a real human reticence to inquire about certain things. The following question is one of the ones that many clients who are coping with a partner’s affair ask…and then say they feel silly for asking. I think it’s an important one:

“Is it normal for me to feel sexually reconnected to my partner after I have discovered his/her affair? Does this mean I’m not “really” dealing with it?”

I think that lots of couples experience this phenomenon. And, I suppose if you want to look at it in a dark light, you could say that it’s a kind of hysterical bonding, clinging to one another in the face of a huge injury to the relationship like refugees after a bombing. It is probably some of that. But it’s something else too–something much more positive. It’s a way to redraw a boundary around the two of you, a way to honor the fact that you have chosen again to be together despite this terrible chapter of your lives. When couples get married, infidelity seems like a fictional nightmare. It’s the very kind of tragedy that could never happen. I mean, how often have you heard someone cavalierly say, “Oh, I love so-and-so. But if he/she cheated on me, that would be it!”

However, what if the worst happens and you don’t want it to be it after all? Surprise.

I think it’s a powerful thing when couples are somehow able to crawl back from that ledge. In my eyes, it denotes something important about the partners’ abilities to choose one another all over again.  And, I think it’s absolutely normal to reach for one another, even in the face of this kind of relational tragedy. Sex after an infidelity is something that should be approached with mutual respect, and an agreement that if intimacy triggers the betrayed partner and he/she needs to stop, that those boundaries will be respected. But, there is nothing wrong with wanting to make love with your partner sooner rather than later. That is normal.

Have you got questions about how to make your normal even better? Please consider this my invitation to you to come in and talk about them.


Your Partner in Healing,


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