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5 Tips To Keep Sex Healthy In Your Marriage

Build intimacy, connect and do life well together.

How’d you get stuck in a sex rut? It’s just life. It’s normal and to be expected. More importantly, how do you get out? You know, fun, passionate, surprising, and playful sex!

Here are some tips to keep sex healthy, hot, and happenin’ in your marriage.

1. Talk About Sex. 

This is the gateway right here. Many people just aren’t comfortable talking about sex with their spouse. Create an environment where it’s safe for both of you to be honest and vulnerable about your sexual thoughts and feelings. Easier said than done? Probably. 

Here You Go:

Option 1. Make a game out of it. Sexual Truth Or Dare

Option 2. The internet. Is full of questions. To help couples. Get talking. About sex.

Pro-Tip: Keep it positive. No complaining. No judgments. Take turns listening.

2. But What About The Kids?

Isn’t it ironic that you (typically) have kids by having sex, but by having kids, it’s harder to have sex? Again, totally normal, but Kids-In-The-House-Sex: Quick. Muffled. Vanilla. It’s like Splenda. Sure, it’s sweet, but it’s not that pure raw sugar.

The Workaround:

Option 1. Hotel Sex. It doesn’t have to be a vacation or your anniversary. It can be because it’s Thursday and you have a babysitter. You don’t even have to go out of town or somewhere nice. Make it part of the family budget. Best money you’ll spend. Repeat a couple of times a year.

Option 2. Stay-At-Home Synchronized Sick Days. Or take vacation days. Go through your typical morning routines and dress for work. Take the kids to school or daycare like a typical weekday. Nothing going on here. Then meet back at the house. Take your time. It’s not all about sex. Talk through some “get to know you” questions. Go for a walk, then shower together. Have a great day of which sex is just a part.

Pro-Tip: Tell your spouse to take such and such day off. (Don’t tell them why. Plan a fun day.)

3. Don’t Have Sex. Yet.

Anticipation is a powerful stimulant. 

Wait For It:

Option 1. Agree to have sex in 24 hours. Spend that time flirting. Leaving love letters. Texting what you’re looking forward to doing. Engaging in some non-sexual touch. Teasing. Then, finally, pleasing.

Option 2. Same as above, but 72 hours. (Yup.) Crank up that sexual tension. Enjoy it. Don’t neglect the biggest human sexual organ — the mind. Have some great conversations. Do some fun things together. Strengthen your bond. Talk about your relationship.

Pro-Tip: Put your energy into connecting with your spouse in non-sexual ways. Pressure, or wondering if sex is on the table, is off the table. (But you know it’s coming.) Get emotionally intimate in the meantime. When you do connect sexually, it will be more profound.

4. Roll Play.

Equipment Needed: Two dice. You. Your spouse.

The Roll Rules:

Option 1. First dice: (1.) Caress. (2.) Kiss. (3.) Tickle. (4.) Lick. (5.) Nibble. (6.) Roller’s Choice. Second dice: (1.) Neck. (2.) Hands. (3.) Mouth. (4.) Chest. (5.) Tummy. (6.) ???

Roll the dice, feel something nice. Time limit per roll? Hey, this is your game.

Option 2. (I think you can see how this game lends itself to modification.) 

Pro-Tip: Roller with the highest score after 4 rounds gets to “make a request.”

5. Play Doctor.

Sorry, not THAT playing doctor. Have weekly or monthly “check-ups” or “check-ins.” Coming full circle, talking about it is the best way to improve sex and keep it healthy in your marriage. Connecting on levels beyond the physical enhances sex. Connected couples who talk about sex have more satisfying sex lives. Talk honestly about your sexual health. Discuss sexual frequency. Talk about what’s working and what might need to be modified. 

Don’t turn to the internet with questions like, “How much sex should couples have?” Turn to your spouse. Sex is best when you don’t just focus on “doing it,” but doing life well together. 

Other helpful blogs:

How Often Should We Have Sex?

7 Questions Every Couple Needs to Ask Each Other to Improve Their Sex Life

3 Ways Good Communication Can Enhance Sex In Marriage

4 Reasons Why Sex Matters In Marriage

Married, yet hiding from your spouse. Such is life when you don’t feel emotionally safe in your marriage. There are parts of you, your personality, dreams, feelings, or thoughts, locked inside, unavailable to your spouse. Exposing them puts you at risk for rejection, criticism, or neglect. You don’t wanna live like this anymore. You want the freedom to be your whole self – vulnerable, imperfect, flawed, and all.

So what do you do?

Self-Check

There are two people to look at: you and your spouse. Let’s start with the easy person to look at first – you. (I know, it’s easier to look at your spouse, but you know you. You’ve been with you all your life.)

Sometimes we have our own personal barriers to being emotionally safe with others, even in marriage.

  • Traumatic event(s) in our past
  • Personal insecurities
  • The false belief that you and your spouse should always agree
  • Personal control issues
  • Past relationship experiences

Without understanding how your past experiences and current mindset may affect your ability to be totally open with someone, these barriers can hold you captive. They can cause you to go into “self-protective mode” anytime you feel challenged or feel vulnerable.

  1. Ask yourself what you may be fearful of.
  2. Talk to a friend or possibly a professional counselor.
  3. Ask your spouse for help. 
  4. Be honest with yourself and forgive yourself.
  5. Speak the truth about you to yourself. Your past doesn’t have to determine your future or define you.

Processing what holds you back emotionally can strip the past and any insecurities or control issues of their power to sabotage your relationship.

Talk to Your Spouse

Now let’s look at the second person in this equation – your spouse. When they aren’t being emotionally safe for you, what do you do? 

1. Name it.

Be aware of what you feel makes it unsafe. Do you feel talked down to, dismissed, inferior, etc.? It might be worth writing your feelings down before you talk.

2. Create an opportunity to talk.

Set aside a non-threatening time to discuss with your spouse. Without attacking or accusing (because you want to be an emotionally safe person, too), ask…

  • “What does emotional safety in our marriage mean to you?” Obviously, this may not be something your spouse has thought much about. Still, it’s a worthwhile conversation to have. A good follow up question is, 
  • “What causes you to feel emotionally unsafe?” After your spouse shares, share your answers to those questions and go from there.

3. Agree.

Work toward agreeing about what emotional safety is and why it’s a good thing. (Read 4 Things to Know About Emotional Safety to learn more.) Discuss questions like,

  • “What makes you feel safest, most free to be yourself, and willing to be totally transparent or vulnerable?”
  • “What makes you shut down and go into protection mode?

Listening to each other can help you both understand how to create a safe environment. 

Affirm what you like about each other. Remind yourselves why you wanted to marry each other. Take turns sharing the strengths each brings to the marriage. Knowing that your spouse likes you for you increases emotional safety. 

Model

You’ve probably heard the golden rule: “Do to others as you’d have them do to you.” It’s also true in marriage. Sometimes others are emotionally unsafe because they need to self-protect. Listen to your spouse. Foster an environment where they can be vulnerable and their full selves. 

Revisit

This is not an issue you’ll address only once. (If so, consider yourself one of the lucky ones.) Come up with code words to communicate when your spouse is doing something to make you feel unsafe. Freely acknowledge if you’re struggling because of your own issues. (Full disclosure: I do this with my wife. Sometimes I can go into conflict-prevention, self-protection mode, where I don’t share my full thoughts and beliefs because I know my spouse will disagree. That’s a “me” issue, not a spouse issue. Acknowledging it helps me name it and work through it.)

Not every spouse will embrace talking about being emotionally safe. At times, contacting a marriage counselor is the best route. If and when you talk about it, be prepared for the rewards of working through marriage challenges; it will build trust, resiliency, and deep commitment. Who doesn’t want that for their marriage?

Other helpful resources:

How to Be An Emotionally Safe Spouse

Set your spouse free to be themselves.

You want to be your spouse’s hero? Their most trusted confidant? The one who supports them and helps them flourish? The one they share their wildest, most audacious dreams with? None of it happens if you aren’t the emotionally safe person your spouse needs. When you’re emotionally safe, you’ve removed yourself as a barrier to your spouse freely being themselves. With you, they feel safe to be transparent, vulnerable, authentic, flawed, and emotional. They’re free to be themselves.

Side note: Just because you’re emotionally safe doesn’t mean they will always feel safe. Your spouse may have their own barriers to work through. You can’t control that. But the safer you are, the more space and freedom your partner will have to clearly see themselves and even grow through their experiences. You’ll be the hero who stuck by them through their imperfections, missteps, and all.

How do you become that emotionally safe spouse your partner needs?

Be secure within yourself.

Start with loving and accepting yourself. When you feel comfortable in your skin, you’re more likely to be emotionally vulnerable

Show genuine curiosity about your spouse.

You’re in it to learn. You can talk to your spouse as if you know them and you know all the answers… or you can try to learn more about their thought process, how they see things and understand them better. Because you’ll never stop learning about one another.

Express honesty with humility.

Being emotionally safe doesn’t mean you don’t express your true thoughts, even when they are different or you disagree. You just express your thoughts with the caveat that you’re on the same team. You share with mutual respect and a desire for you to be on one page, not to prove that you’re right.

Ask, “What makes you feel emotionally safe with me?”

What makes your spouse feel most comfortable at being their whole self with you may differ from others. The fact that you asked with the desire to know should mean you’re willing to hear their whole heart. Don’t defend yourself. Just listen to understand.

Communicate with gentleness and gratitude.

Try making sure that every negative interaction with your spouse is balanced by five positive interactions. Get in the habit of being generous with your spouse just because. Be aware of how you speak to your spouse. Is your tone one of criticism and contempt, or one of kindness and love? An emotionally unsafe person will communicate using a tone that lacks love and gentleness.

Be Inviting.

You don’t have to be talking about serious topics to be inviting. Look forward to being with your spouse after work. Create opportunities to hear their heart and dream together. Remind them of the things you admire and appreciate about them. Invite them to be themselves. And show them that you love who they are. 

Emotional safety is a process that builds.

Being an emotionally safe spouse doesn’t guarantee there won’t be disagreements or that you won’t (at times) cause emotional pain to each other. In fact, being emotionally safe may increase your willingness to deal with those very things. 

You’re different people with your own thoughts, opinions, and ideas. Sometimes those differences clash, and one of you will say or do something hurtful. Suppose either person in your relationship has been perpetually unsafe. In that case, it may take time to reap the benefits of the newfound emotional safety. And that’s ok. 

Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” Imagine how your spouse will feel when you are being the emotionally safe spouse that encourages vulnerability, transparency, and beyond. 

Other helpful blogs:

6 Ways to Agree to Disagree With My Spouse

7 Ways to Increase Trust in Marriage

How to Build Empathy in Marriage

Understand Your Spouse and Deepen Your Relationship
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Why Generosity Matters in Your Marriage

Hint: It impacts how you feel about each other.

You know that couple. The one who has been married for many years and seems just as madly in love today as when they said, “I do.” You know who I’m talking about. Do you ever sit back and ask yourself how they do it? I do. If you could sit down and talk to them, you might be surprised if they told you that it takes more than love. That kind of love takes effort. It takes intentionality. But there is one other component present… generosity. 

What is generosity in marriage?

The National Marriage Project defines marital generosity as “the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly.” It’s giving without expecting anything in return. Giving with no strings attached. Their survey of 1,365 married couples explains that generosity is small acts of kindness, displays of respect and affection, and a willingness to forgive each other’s faults.

This doesn’t mean we view marriage as 50/50. If you’re married, you know you have to give way more than 50%. You’re all in. 

It means that we give generously, not to receive. It’s giving without expectation. Maybe that means you go above and beyond with the household chores. When your spouse has a rough day or a work deadline, you take on more responsibility around the house. You don’t expect them to repay you. Your actions are genuinely rooted in love.

According to Brad Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project, generosity in marriage is “signaling to your spouse that you know them, and are trying to do things for them that are consistent with your understanding of them.” 

Why generosity matters in marriage…

In an interview with the New York Times, Wilcox frames it this way: 

“In marriage, we are expected to do our fair share when it comes to housework, childcare and being faithful, but generosity is going above and beyond the ordinary expectations with small acts of service and making an extra effort to be affectionate. Living that spirit of generosity in a marriage does foster a virtuous cycle that leads to both spouses on average being happier in the marriage.”

Researchers found that spouses who show generosity view their marriage as more satisfying. These spouses were the ones who gave, not received, the acts of kindness and appreciation. When we shower our spouse with selfless acts, we’re more satisfied with our relationship. 

Does this mean that more generous spouses have a happier, more satisfying marriage? Is the secret being more generous? Maybe. It sure doesn’t hurt! 

Researchers did find a correlation between generosity and marital satisfaction, but they couldn’t pinpoint which came first. Does being more generous lead to more satisfaction? Or is it the other way around? 

I can’t answer that question (and they couldn’t either), but both are a good thing. What matters is that these spouses genuinely love and care for each other.

So, where do you go from here? 

You can express radical generosity toward your spouse. You don’t have to shower them with gifts or a trip to a tropical island. (Although, who doesn’t love both of those?) You can start today with small gestures. In marriage, it’s the little things that mean the most. Make their coffee. Send a text to show your appreciation. Show genuine affection. Forgive them. 

Ready to get started? Ask your spouse to finish this phrase: “I feel loved when you…” Then find ways to be generous in making them feel more loved than ever.

Great articles to help you be more generous with your spouse:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

How to Talk About Sex in Marriage

It may be uncomfortable at first, but it could be a great thing for your sex life.

Awkwardness. Uncertainty. Embarrassment. Shame. These common emotions (and others) can keep married couples from talking about sex. You’re not alone if talking about sex with your spouse is uncomfortable. But let’s get real: you’re more likely to have satisfying sex if you talk about it together. 

Most couples want to enjoy their sex life, but learning how to talk about intimacy in your marriage can take it to the next level if it’s not where you want it to be. The experts agree. So do most couples who’ve found a way to make the uncomfortable a little more comfortable

So, how do you talk about sex in your marriage in a sexual-healing-kinda way?

1. Make the sex talk a priority. 

It may be uncomfortable or awkward. You may have baggage (most of us do). Your feelings are real, but don’t let your emotions keep you from having a better sex life.

2. Pick a good time to talk. 

This isn’t the time to surprise your spouse. Calmly say something like, “I’d like for us to talk about some ways we can improve our sex life. When do you think would be good?” Initiating the topic will give your spouse time to get ready to talk. Then, nail down a time.

*Note: Many experts speak against having this conversation in the bedroom. Take a walk in a park. Sit in a coffee shop. Send the kids outside and find a cozy spot at home.* 

3. Eliminate distractions. 

This may already be a delicate topic, so you’ll want to be fully engaged and tuned in to each other—no cell phones. And set aside plenty of time.

4. Be specific about your goal. 

Maybe you could start with, “I want us to have the best sex life we can have. I’d like for us to talk about understanding each other’s sexual needs.” (You could also say, 🎵🎵 “Let’s talk about sex, Baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be…”  🎵🎵 Thank you, Salt-N-Pepa!)

The Gottman Institute reminds us, “The less direct you are about what you want, the less likely you are to get it.” Tell each other what you want (what you really, really want)!

5. Don’t rush the conversation. 

Your spouse may need time to think and express their thoughts, feelings, and desires. Be patient. This leads us to the next point.

6. This isn’t a one-and-done conversation. 

You don’t know how many times I’ve replayed conversations with my wife because I thought of something later that would help her understand me. I’m sure she’s done the same. You won’t cover everything in one talk. 

7. Listen to understand. 

Feeling valued will always be a part of having good lovemaking experiences in your marriage. One way to ensure your partner feels like they matter is to genuinely try to understand them.

8. Encouraging and positive statements will go further than critical or negative ones. 

For example, “I like it when you do this” is more helpful than “I hate it when you do this.” Or saying, “I need this from you,” is probably more effective than, “You don’t meet my needs in this way.” Think “I” statements instead of “You” statements. 

Talking about sex is not about being right or wrong. It’s about sharing what works, what you like, and what helps you both have fulfilling sexual experiences. Respecting each other’s differences is a must. Different is not deficient—it’s just different. 

The more you talk, the better you connect, the less uncomfortable it becomes, and the clearer you’ll understand one another. As the experts say, talking about sex in your marriage increases the likelihood that you’ll be doing something worth talking about later on. But shhh, we don’t kiss and tell.

More great stuff to read about sex in your relationship:

DISCOVER DEEPER INTIMACY IN YOUR MARRIAGE

READY TO HAVE AMAZING, MIND-BLOWING SEX?

A better sex life is totally possible.

Your marriage goes through ups and downs, highs and lows, crazy passion and mundane routine-filled days. But sometimes you can get stuck in that monotony. Not only does your sex life go out the window, you may find conversations are lacking and that you’re both just generally not connecting with each other.

Discover Deeper Intimacy in Your Marriage offers simple, practical strategies to help you reignite the passion and connection with your spouse in 5 intimacy-building modules.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

But we’re only just friends!” or “I have to talk to Karen in Accounting for work!” These can be the typical responses from people having emotional or “virtual” affairs. According to several sources like psychologists Kristina Coop Gordon and Erica A. Mitchell at The University of Tennessee Knoxville, data indicates that emotional or “virtual” affairs are rising. Big time.

So, how do you protect your marriage from an emotional affair?

It’s worth noting that with so many people working strange hours from home and using texts, phone calls, Facetime, and Zoom, the separation of work and home life has become muddled. Emotional affairs crackle across electronic devices as conversations easily slide from a work project to personal problems, usually innocently at first.

Working from home can be contributing to the rise in emotional infidelity in another way. You may be spending a lot more time at home with your spouse. This can quickly lead to conflict, taking each other for granted, or just plain boredom—making you more susceptible to an emotional affair without even knowing it. Some researchers are concerned this surge in virtual emotional affairs could lead to a surge in sexual infidelity when things get back to “normal.”

Many couples are on guard against sexual infidelity but don’t give as much thought to emotional infidelity. This is dangerous for several reasons:

  • Emotional affairs often escalate to sexual affairs.
  • Emotional affairs are often easier to justify because they blur the lines between co-worker/friend/someone you have an inappropriate connection with.
  • Connecting emotionally with someone other than your spouse means disconnecting emotionally from your spouse. That spells all kinds of trouble.
  • Co-workers, exes, and “friends” are just a click away.

Here are five ways to protect your marriage from an emotional affair. Pay attention.

  1. Invest in your spouse and your marriage. Schedule routines that keep you communicating and connected. Get creative—schedule a stay-at-home date night and dress fancy for your favorite dinner. 
  2. Have an honest talk with your spouse about boundaries that will protect your marriage. This isn’t about your “rights” or even trust. It’s about what your spouse needs to feel secure in your love. Include electronic devices in the conversation. Check out these resources for this ongoing convo: Help! My Spouse HATES to Talk About Boundaries! and 4 Steps for Setting Good Boundaries.
  3. If you have come close to or crossed the line, have friends for your marriage who ask you the hard questions and keep you accountable if necessary.
  4. If you can’t avoid someone altogether, keep everything professional, to a minimum, and your spouse in the loop.
  5. Seek professional marriage help if necessary.

Stay connected to your spouse. Do your marital work with them. Don’t let conflicts or disagreements turn into bitterness or resentment. Handle that stuff quickly

Where you invest is where you’ll get your returns.

If you’re both working from home, don’t take this opportunity for granted. Flirt with that hottie at your home office! Schedule times to have coffee breaks together, “working” lunches, and maybe even some activities in the afternoon that would make HR blush. 

You got this!

5 Ways to Protect Your Marriage

Am I Having an Emotional Affair?

Warning Signs of an Emotional Affair

Affair-Proofing Your Marriage

How to Move Past an Emotional Affair

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

AFTER I DO | THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO NEWLYWED LIFE

SEX. CONFLICT. IN-LAWS. OH MY.

Tired of no one talking about how hard those first years can be? Well, buckle your seatbelt. We’re here to embrace the awkward (sex!), talk through the hard stuff (in-laws!), and give you everything you need to ace your newlywed years and beyond.

After I Do is a COMPLETE guide for those first 5 years of marriage, when everything is new and sweet… and freaking difficult. Even if you’ve dated for years, going from ME to WE is a huge transition and sometimes you just need a little (or a lot) of sage wisdom so that you don’t completely go off on your spouse. (But if you already have, no judgment. We’re here to help.)

Our relationship experts will guide you and your spouse through 12 modules covering all the hot topics like communication, conflict, sex, in-laws, money, etc. Get practical solutions you can put into practice! So if you wanna turn up the passion and connect with your spouse on a whole new level, get this marriage course, stat.

Your marriage has been blindsided by an emotional affair. One of you is struggling with thoughts and feelings of betrayal, shock, and hurt. One of you is struggling with thoughts and feelings of confusion, guilt, and sadness. How can your marriage move past this? The good news is, your marriage can not only move past this emotional affair; it can grow stronger because of this difficult circumstance—but both spouses need to be willing to to navigate the aftermath well, both individually and together.

The Spouse Who Had The Emotional Affair

Maybe you weren’t even sure you were having an emotional affair. You might have slid down the slippery slope of innocent friendship to emotional dependency and intimacy with someone who’s not your spouse. Maybe there were issues in your marriage that made it easier for you to begin to disconnect from your spouse and build a relationship with someone else. Maybe this is all about you and the little spark you got from the novelty of someone new and the secrecy of your interaction with them.

Bottom Line: You were doing marital work with someone who wasn’t your marriage partner. You crossed the boundary of faithfulness, exclusivity, deception, and betrayal.

Please read this account of how this individual was able to move past an emotional affair and how their marriage survived and grew stronger. ★ Note the steps that were taken.

[Information in brackets is mine.]
  • I admitted it: Shame can only exist in secret. When I was able to voice what was really going on, all the complexities of why I allowed it to go as far as it did and how I had realized the line had been crossed, the shame that surrounded the entire situation dissipated. [This is the first step. Friendships that are innocent don’t have to be kept a secret from your spouse and are nothing to be ashamed of. Come all the way clean with your spouse.]
  • I stopped it: I wrote my ex co-worker a lengthy email telling him our friendship had crossed a line and that I felt it was unfair to ourselves and our spouses to continue it. I let him know that I had told my husband and encouraged him to tell his wife and take time refocusing on his marriage too. [Inform this person that your relationship is over. Full stop. Your spouse might want to read your email or listen via conference call. This is one of the first steps in rebuilding trust with your spouse.]
  • I set personal boundaries: Hindsight is 20/20, so I was able to look at my mistakes and create a guide for boundaries in future opposite-sex friendships.  Such as, I will never write another man something that I wouldn’t want my husband to read. [Your spouse will likely have input for the boundaries to protect your marriage. Be willing to do whatever it takes.]
  • I reinvested in my marriage: Obviously no marriage is perfect. There is always work that needs to be done. With my energy and attention refocused on my husband, we grew stronger, together. [This is the key. Your marriage is in the ICU. The “what came first” question doesn’t matter. It’s time to reconnect with your spouse and pour your energy and attention into your marriage.]

I would only add to that excellent advice that you need to apologize to your spouse, ask for their forgiveness and express your commitment to them and your marriage.

If you want to move past the emotional affair, communicate your willingness to do whatever it takes to rebuild trust and your relationship. ☆ You may need professional help to break out of the fantasy world you created and to deal with the addiction-like dynamics of your experience. You may also need professional help to reconnect with your spouse and to pour yourself into your marriage. 

Emotional affairs can be just as shocking and damaging to a spouse as a sexual affair. Your spouse might bounce back and forth between hurt, anger, and normalcy. Be open to their needs, whether it is to answer questions or be alone. Understand it will take more than words and it will take time.  

You need to be open to and compliant with any accountability related to your phone or other devices as you begin to rebuild trust. You need to accept any other accountability that your spouse deems necessary, including whatever else they need to feel secure, heal, and continue to rebuild trust (even if you think they’re going overboard or being unreasonable). They are probably navigating severe anxiety and hypervigilance. This is not the time to try to negotiate; it’s the time to live out true self-sacrificial love. 

This is when you need good friends who are for your marriage and accountability.

THERE IS HOPE FOR A BETTER MARRIAGE.

Sometimes we settle, we coexist, we go along to get along, or we just try to keep the damage to a minimum. There are no perfect marriages. Maximize Your Marriage is a 7-module online course that helps you and your spouse work through obstacles and get practical solutions to issues for when…

✅ You CAN’T STOP FIGHTING!
✅ The spark is… gone
✅ You just don’t connect anymore
✅ You can never seem to get on the same page
✅ You feel totally misunderstood
✅ Trust has been broken and it’s really hard to rebuild it
✅ You want to throw in the towel

PLUS! You’ll have exclusive access to relationship experts every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement!

The Spouse Who Was Betrayed By The Emotional Affair

You didn’t make your spouse have an emotional affair. Know this, believe this, feel this, but it is also true that affairs do not happen in a vacuum. There is always a context to infidelity and betrayal. The marriage and the affair are usually connected. 

Often, the marital context allows for a better understanding of the emotional affair. As marriage therapist Esther Perel points out, “The victim of the affair is not always the victim of the marriage.” As the therapist puts it, “The betrayed spouse, to one degree or another, can be one dimension of the infidelity—just like narcissism, low self-esteem, addiction, or a mid-life crisis can be a key for understanding your spouse’s [emotional] infidelity.”

But make no mistake, your spouse chose to have an emotional affair. Probably in a series of little choices. It all could have been avoided by choosing to ignore a text, to not eat lunch with a coworker, to unfollow someone on social media, to not divulge things to someone that only a spouse should hear. They could have chosen to work on your marriage.

At a minimum, you should know the following:

  1. Who the emotional affair partner was.
  2. How long the affair lasted.
  3. How often they met.
  4. Where they met.
  5. How they communicated. (Email, secret texting apps, phone or burner phone, etc.)

If the marriage survives, this information is essential to avoid future affairs and for appropriate accountability and to put boundaries in place. Take time to think about what would be most helpful for you to know. Sometimes when affairs are uncovered, the betrayed spouse says they want to know every single detail of the relationship, only later to discover that all that information wasn’t really helpful.

Understand that men and women generally view emotional affairs differently. In fact, according to a survey by VictoriaMilan.com, an online affair dating site (the U.K.’s AshleyMadison.com) for people who are already married or in relationships, there are some clear distinctions between how men and women view emotional affairs.

Here’s what they discovered:

  • 72% of men said sexual affairs were worse than emotional affairs.
  • 69% of women said emotional affairs were worse than sexual affairs.
  • 76% of women said they would forgive their partner for a strictly sexual affair
  • Only 35% of men said they would forgive their partner for a strictly sexual affair.
  • 80% of men said they would forgive an emotional affair.
  • Only 30% of women indicated they would forgive an emotional affair.

According to this and other research, women are much more unforgiving of emotional connections while men are much more unforgiving of physical ones. Again, understand that, in general, men and women look at emotional affairs very differently

This is important to acknowledge as you work toward understanding what happened, heal, rebuild trust, grow in security, and strengthen your marriage. Take care of yourself so that you are physically and emotionally healthy and whole.

When you’re ready, you need to offer and communicate true forgiveness. Be open and willing to change as an individual and in how you relate to your spouse. You can’t “dance the same dance” anymore. This is your new, second marriage even though it is with the same spouse. Be intentional about making it strong and healthy!

Expect good and bad days, ups and downs, three steps forward and two steps back. Healing as an individual, healing for your spouse, and healing as a couple is a process. Don’t be discouraged by bad days or setbacks. Have a friend who is for your marriage who can keep you accountable, and you can be honest with and vent to. 

Don’t blame and focus on their affair partner. This is understandable but completely counter-productive, can re-traumatize you, fuel intrusive thoughts, and impede healing. 

Find resources that work for you. Don’t hesitate to seek out professional counseling for yourself and marriage counseling for you both. 

★ Only about 15% of marriages break up directly because of infidelity and end in divorce. According to counselors, couple’s therapists, and marriage coaches, whether the marriage will survive is based on how each spouse responds to the emotional affair.

Some Other Helpful Resources:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Many things don’t really matter (or at least shouldn’t matter) in marriage. If a dinner gets burned every now and then, it doesn’t matter. One person likes the beach and the other likes the mountains? I can speak from personal experience: doesn’t matter. 

One cheers for the Yankees and the other for the Red Sox…well, some conflict resolution may be necessary. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter

But emotional intimacy… boy, does it ever matter. And here’s why. 

Intimacy in marriage is the ongoing, intentional process of fully knowing your spouse and being fully known by your spouse. There’s a lot packed in this definition, but what you need to know right now is that emotional intimacy is an ongoing pursuit. Why? Because there’s always more to learn and understand about the person you love the most—plus they are constantly growing and life throws different circumstances at them. (And you, too.)

Emotional intimacy is understanding what’s going on inside your spouse (and being understood in the same way). It’s knowing all their feelings, hopes, dreams, vulnerabilities, fears, motivations, and desires. It’s gaining a better sense of what drives your spouse, what moves your spouse, what interests and intrigues, enthralls and enchants that person you’ve committed yourself to. Emotional intimacy is simply growing deeper in your understanding of your spouse.

Unfortunately, many couples get stuck in a cycle of operating with a severe lack of emotional intimacy. 

That’s what happened to Jack and Diane, two American kids growing up in the heartland. The first two years of their marriage were utter bliss. Intimacy seemed to come naturally: staying up at all hours of the night talking, being in each other’s presence as much as possible, and of course, lots of newly-married sex. 

However, real life started to creep in as the busyness of work, the drama of in-laws, the stacking of bills, and the arrival of children took center stage. Emotional intimacy was no longer so natural. There were fewer opportunities to spend time with each other; they no longer spent the weekends enjoying chili dogs at the Tastee Freez like they used to. When Jack and Diane did talk, it was either about their schedule or finances or shuffling the kiddos from one place to another, but never anything deeper. Disagreements quickly grew into all-out fights. It was difficult for Jack or Diane to feel safe in the relationship, and there was often the feeling of walking on eggshells when they were in the same room. 

Fortunately, Jack and Diane started reading wonderfully helpful marriage tips from First Things First (shameless plug…) and learned that emotional intimacy can be built up again, but it takes being intentional. Emotional intimacy requires couples to take on the role of a compassionate detective—an invested student of each other. Emotional intimacy is a continual process of learning, understanding, and empathizing with who your spouse is on the inside. 

And they figured out, by golly, emotional intimacy matters. Why? 

Couples with emotional intimacy experience a greater connection and enhanced communication. 

Here’s what people in marriages with strong emotional intimacy may say: 

  • Whenever we talk, it feels like I’m heard, even if we don’t agree. 
  • When we’re together, we’re not just two people in the same room; we really connect. 
  • He doesn’t try to fix things when I’m explaining a problem, unless I ask for it; he simply listens to try and understand what I’m feeling. 
  • When we have a disagreement, it doesn’t feel like we’re on opposing sides necessarily; it feels like we’re on the same side trying to solve the same problem. 
  • We’re busy, but we do find time to carve into our schedule to just spend time with each other. That’s important to us. 

Couples with emotional intimacy

  • Have a stronger sense of trust and security. Knowing and being known chips away at the need to wonder how much you can really rely on your partner to be on your team. You can feel safe, secure, and accepted just being yourself.
  • Are more accepting of each other’s faults. Understanding what goes on on the inside (and why it goes on) gives you a better appreciation and compassion for your spouse, warts and all. When that’s a two-way street in a relationship, it’s a beautiful thing. 
  • Have a stronger physical intimacy. If you were to look up the research, you’d find that emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy have a strong effect on each other. I like to think of it like pedaling a bicycle. One pedal is emotional intimacy and the other physical intimacy. When you push one pedal forward, it will bring the other around to be pushed. Repeat the cycle (see what I did there?) and you quickly gain momentum and acceleration.

The great thing about understanding more about emotional intimacy in your marriage is you come to understand it’s never too late to make it matter and take it deeper. It’s within your power. And with some work (such as these exercises), you can begin to build a strong emotional intimacy with the one you love the most. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

DISCOVER DEEPER INTIMACY IN YOUR MARRIAGE

READY TO HAVE AMAZING, MIND-BLOWING SEX?

A better sex life is totally possible.

Your marriage goes through ups and downs, highs and lows, crazy passion and mundane routine-filled days. But sometimes you can get stuck in that monotony. Not only does your sex life go out the window, you may find conversations are lacking and that you’re both just generally not connecting with each other.

Discover Deeper Intimacy in Your Marriage offers simple, practical strategies to help you reignite the passion and connection with your spouse in 5 intimacy-building modules.