By Katie Lersch
I sometimes hear from wives who are devastated not only by their husband’s cheating or affair, but also by the loss of intimacy and physical contact. For whatever reason, sex has been taken off the table. So at a time when a wife is already hurt and confused, she’s now struggling with the fact that she can’t have the reassurance of being intimate. This leaves her wondering whether her husband is still attracted to her sexually and whether or not her marriage will be able to recover.
She might say, “my husband had an affair about two months ago. At first, I would not even speak to him. Eventually, I allowed him to come and see the kids, and little by little, we began talking again. I can tell that he feels very guilty and embarrassed. He goes out of his way to be accommodating and kind to me. He has told me that although he’d like to stay married and that he would never cheat on me again, he can’t ask me to stay with him because he doesn’t know if he could stay with me if I cheated. He is basically saying that he wouldn’t blame me if I refused to take him back. I’ve told him that I’m going to take my time in making a decision. But up until this week, I truly was considering it. However, last weekend, the kids and I watched a movie with my husband and they fell asleep. My husband and I ended up talking and laughing. One thing lead to another and before long we were kissing. When things were about to get intimate, my husband pulled away and said ‘I just can’t have sex with you right now.’ I was stunned, so I asked, ‘you can’t or you won’t?’ He got up and said ‘I just can’t. I’m sorry.’ I have no idea what to make of this. I have tried to ask him about this, but he always changes the subject. Is he not attracted to me? Can he not physically complete the task because of the affair? I want to save my marriage, but I also want to have a healthy sex life again one day. Why would a man not be able to have sex with his wife after the affair?”
I can’t speak for your husband, but I’d suspect that it wasn’t that he couldn’t have sex with you. I suspect that he could have completed the task if he had felt right about it. However, many men have quite a bit of guilt and shame after the affair. So they know that having sex again might create a good deal of awkwardness and negative feelings. On the one hand, they may very much want to have sex with you. But they are ashamed of this desire since they feel that they don’t have any right to ask this of you. Plus, they know that when you disrobe and begin to have sex, you might both be caught up in thoughts of him having sex with someone else, since that wound is so fresh. The thought of this might terrify him. And he might figure that it’s better to just wait to have sex than to try it now and have it be a disaster. Also, he may not want for it to look like he’s only interested in sex with you when he doesn’t really deserve it.
I know that this is painful and may feel like a rejection, but let’s look at the facts. Your husband and yourself were having a nice, light-hearted time laughing together. He was clearly into it when he was kissing you. And then something changed. Since he’s told you that he’d like to save your marriage, I highly doubt that he’s not attracted to you. In fact, I’m sure it was tempting to have sex. However, he was probably trying to avoid a potentially embarrassing or awkward encounter. And perhaps he didn’t want for you to feel taken advantage of in the morning or he did not want for you to feel guilty.
Many couples delay sex after an affair for a couple of different reasons. They want to make sure that it is the right time. They do not want to rush into it and potentially make bigger problems than they already had. Many know that if the sex was awkward and just not good then they would take that to mean that their marriage was doomed. So they wait until they are sure that it will be right, because they know that they are going to analyze it.
Your husband could have the same thought process. He may want to wait until you’re both sure that it’s the right time. He may not want to look like the creep who is pressuring his wife to have sex after his affair. And he probably knows that you might both have thoughts of the affair during sex. All these reasons are why it can truly make sense to wait.