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5 Tips to Rebuild Intimacy After an Affair (or other Marriage Problem)

couple in bed together

For couples who are emerging from the storm of an affair or other serious marriage problem, one of the biggest challenges can be how to reclaim their intimacy—specifically their sexual intimacy—once the crisis has passed and they’re basically on the road to recovery.  

This is something I talk about in my books and programs, but here I’d like to offer more “hands on” (if you’ll excuse the  pun) advice on to how to approach your love life after an infidelity or other issue that has strained your marriage.

I’ve had betrayed spouses say that sex with their spouse, even after they’re well into the healing period, “feels wrong” or “feels dirty” or “feels mechanical” or some sentiment that similarly expresses the feeling that intimacy isn’t….well, intimate.  That’s why instead of focusing on the mechanics of sex, you may wish to focus on the bonding aspects of it, specifically those delivered via the principles of Tantric sex.  Years ago, Don and I penned a couple-friendly basic guide to Tantric sex, one that we found really resonated with couples who were trying to reconnect after an infidelity.  You can check that out if you wish (see below), but you’ll also find a wealth of other really good guides on Tantric sex out there. Here, I’m just going to distill what is obviously a very large area of practice down into five of its most essential elements.

Tip #1 - Have a "Sacred Space"

I always encourage couples to ensure their bedroom is a sanctuary and that concept comes from Tantric sex and the idea of having a “sacred space” within which to be intimate—because as far as Tantra is concerned, sex is a sacred activity for a couple to engage in. While you don’t need to drag a marble altar into your bedroom, you do need to make sure its design sets an intimate mood. When you know you’re going to be close, ensure your bedroom is free of distractions, including anything that chimes with a notification or has a tendency to claw at a closed door (translation: put the cat out!).  Prepare in advance for uninterrupted couple time.

Tip #2 - Have a "Pre-Sex" Ritual

Like any sacred activity, there’s a role for ritual. Instead of just jumping into bed and getting down to business, you can bring more meaning and intimacy to the experience by consciously preparing.  Share a bath or take a shower together, perhaps giving each other head-to-toe body shampoos, literally and symbolically “cleansing” yourselves for what is about to happen.   

flower petals on bed

Tip #3 - Engage Your Senses

Tantric sex is very focused on the senses. Therefore, try to engage all five of yours:

Sight: Try dim lighting like candlelight, or even a softly colored light bulb in your bedside table lamp.

Sound: Play some soft music or spa-type music.

If you have a TV in your bedroom, you can combine sight and sound by finding a romantic video online: I’m not talking about pornography or erotica here (although that’s fine if you’re both into it), but rather one of those “love frequency” videos that have soothing tones and pleasurable lighting.

Touch: The feel of new bed linen (satin feels great) to rest on, combined with a few nicely textured luxurious cushions, can quite literally change the way your bed “feels” against your skin.

Smell:  If you happen to share a shower as part of that pre-sex ritual, wash your hair with a strongly scented shampoo for lingering and pleasurable scent.  Afterward, also apply lightly fragranced body lotion.  Burn incense, fragranced candles or another type of aromatherapy in your bedroom. 

Taste:  Rinse your mouth with strong minty mouthwash before meeting in bed or glide some tasty lip gloss over your lips.  Flavored body dust can also add a delicious extra to the taste of your skin (don’t skimp here—invest in a high-quality brand).

Tip #4 - Get Into Position

The “lotus” is the classic Tantric lovemaking position. The man sits cross-legged and his female partner straddles him: in this seated position, they can wrap their arms and legs around each other (if you’re not familiar with this position, look for an image online—a picture says a thousand words).  This position emphasizes closeness and eye contact in a way that no other position really does.  It also creates an aura of loving intimacy, since your bodies are so close.  Importantly, the lotus position naturally keeps the pace of thrusting and lovemaking slow and steady, thus avoiding the rush to reach climax.  So keep eye contact, focus on your breathing, keep talking and feeling that skin-to-skin contact, and let nature take its slow course.

Just a little more on this: many betrayed spouses feel that if they have sex with their partner they are somehow “rewarding” them. Betrayed spouses also regularly express the concern (or sometimes resentment) that their partner is only interesting in “getting off.” These concerns can be greatly allayed by the sweet, slow, and steady lovemaking that the lotus position creates.

Tip #5 - Post-Coital Cuddling

If you both want to fall asleep immediately afterward, great.  Do it.  However, if you’re the one who has broken trust in your marriage, you should ensure that you’re not falling asleep first.  Take your cues from your partner.  If they want to stay up for a while and cuddle, or have some pillow talk, or even share a snack and watch a little TV, then follow their lead. This is all about reconnecting and reclaiming your intimacy as a couple, and there are many ways to do that.  Sometimes it’s sex, and sometimes it’s a snack tray.

How Long Will It Take To Reconnect?

That’s an impossible question to answer. Yet even here we can take a page from the ancient book of Tantric wisdom: keep looking into each other’s eyes, keep breathing, keep talking to each other. Focus on spending quality time together in a loving, intimate way. Don’t rush the process, since some things – and most things when it comes to love – simply can’t be rushed.

Regardless, I hope this article has given you some practical tips and some inspiration to prioritize your intimacy as a couple not just as a way to repair the damage of an infidelity or other marriage problem, but as a way to prevent those things from coming between you in the first place.