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What is Intimacy Anorexia and How to Handle it in Marriage

If intimacy is lacking, you'll want to find out why.

A healthy marriage is built upon connection and intimacy, but intimacy and sex are not the same. Connection in six types of intimacy (emotional, physical, recreational, spiritual, financial, and sexual) leads to a healthier, happier, more fulfilling marriage. But when one type is missing, it can have a serious negative impact on your relationship. After all, a big part of being married is sharing thoughts, emotions, and physical affection, right? So what happens when one spouse withholds some of those connections?

Every now and again, a new term, condition, or theory creates a buzz in relational and mental health communities. It trickles into social feeds, inboxes, and even everyday language. “Intimacy anorexia” is one of those terms right now. It’s been searched for on Google 345,000 times since January 2021. 

Psychologist Dr. Doug Weiss coined the term. He says intimacy anorexia (IA) is the “active withholding of emotional, spiritual, and/or sexual intimacy from a spouse or significant other” without regard to how it affects the other spouse. 

Before we dive into the characteristics defined by Weiss, let’s address his use of the term “anorexia.” 

First, anorexia can be a deadly eating disorder. Withholding intimacy can be a serious thing. Next, Weiss suggests that those withholding intimacy choose to do so. Let me be clear: I’m not suggesting that anyone chooses an eating disorder or mental health condition. Please understand that I don’t take the term anorexia lightly. 

Now, let’s look deeper into intimacy anorexia.

So what exactly does intimacy anorexia mean? And what do you need to know about it?

Weiss calls it a hidden addiction. Weiss has identified four characteristics to help someone figure out if a lack of intimacy is caused by IA.

1. Busyness.

We’re all busy, especially parents. The difference is that anorexics intentionally stay busy to avoid intimacy. They may fill their time with the kids’ activities, housework, home projects, hobbies, or work. While these are good things, an intimacy anorexic will intentionally exclude their spouse from participating. They’ll do so much that they’re exhausted.

2. Withholding Love.

We all have a way that we like to be loved: our love language. Anorexics withhold that love language from their spouse. For example, a spouse may desire to spend quality time together, hold hands often, or hear affirming words. So what will an anorexic spouse do in that case? They will intentionally withhold affection in those ways.

Withholding Praise.

In a healthy marriage, couples celebrate each other’s successes and accomplishments. They praise their spouse in private and in front of others. An anorexic spouse will withhold this praise. They either won’t see the good in their spouse, or they see it and choose not to acknowledge it.

Withholding Sex.

Sexual intimacy is an integral part of a healthy marriage. Withholding sex is the most apparent characteristic of IA. According to Weiss, withholding sex is “avoiding sex, sabotaging sexual encounters, or not connecting emotionally during sex.” If you question whether your spouse is intimately anorexic, think about the last time you had sex. What was the experience like?

These are just four IA characteristics Weiss has identified. Others include blame, not sharing feelings, withholding spiritually, criticizing, anger or silence, money, and treating their spouse as a roommate.

So, what do you do if you think you or your spouse is suffering from intimacy anorexia? 

It hurts when your relationship isn’t all you want it to be. I would highly suggest finding an experienced marriage counselor to help you address intimacy issues. Note: Not all therapists recognize IA as a condition, and this is not a diagnosis. You or your spouse may not be suffering from this. Other problems may be causing decreased intimacy, such as abuse, toxic behavior, health issues, or past trauma.

All of the characteristics that Weiss lists are damaging to a healthy marriage, but this doesn’t mean they are symptomatic of this condition. 

Achieving a healthy, intimate relationship isn’t always easy. Just ask anyone who’s married, and they’ll tell you. It requires partners to be intentional and vulnerable. If your relationship is lacking the intimacy you crave, intimacy anorexia seems like a valid explanation. Keep in mind, though: it isn’t a formally recognized condition. The best place for you to start may be counseling. I want you to have the happiest, healthiest marriage possible, and I’m sure you do, too. It’s ok to ask for the help you need in your marriage.

Other helpful blogs:

Feeling Lonely in Your Marriage? Here’s What to Do.

I’m Trying to Save My Marriage, but My Spouse Isn’t

How to Deal with Manipulation in Your Marriage

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

Ready to raise the temp in your relationship with some hot summer date nights? These 10 dates to heat up your marriage during this summer of love can really turn up the thermostat in your relationship. (And you won’t even want to cool off.

1. Be a Kid Again 

When I think of the summers of my childhood, I remember endless games of tag and hide and seek. Now we have adult responsibilities that prevent us from being footloose and fancy-free. How can you bring some of that joy back? Be a kid again. Activities can include mini-golf, bowling, roller skating, visiting an amusement park, or an arcade. 

2. Group Date Nights 

Remember when you used to hang out with your friends? It may have been at the mall, a park, or the local eatery. There was nothing better than spending time with your friends, talking, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company. Get a group of your favorite married couples together. Go on a walking tour of your town, go ax throwing, or even participate in an escape room together. 

3. Retro Date night

You know the saying, “What’s old is new again.” Think about the clothes, music, or hairstyles from the past. Find a thrift shop that has clothes from the 50s, 60s, 70s, or 80s. Select an outfit for each of you. Host your own Retro Date Night with friends, or you all can dress up and have a date like they would have had in the past. For example, 50s Date: Go to a drive-in movie and then hit a hamburger spot or ice cream shop where you can share a milkshake together.

4. Future Date Dight 

Think about what your life might look like in 30 years. Would you be retired? Would you own that boat or lake house you’ve dreamed about? Would you have grandchildren? Would you have an RV? Try renting an RV and go camping near your home. Or go ahead and rent a lake house for the weekend.

5. Enjoy Your Town

You may have lived in your town for years but have never experienced it like a tourist. It may be fun to go on a walking tour. Enjoy the sights and sounds of a local farmer’s market.  

6. FTF Summer of Love

Summer of Love is a FREE experience for couples. Just sign up and get an email each week from FTF. In that email, you’ll find 6 days of LOVE for you and your spouse to enjoy through games, conversation starters, Virtual and DIY Date nights, challenges, and activities. All of this combined will help you learn skills, create new habits and make your marriage HOT, HOT, HOT!!!

7. Music of Your Life

Do you and your honey have a song? This summer may be a great time to take in an outdoor concert. One of my favorite local concerts is when our local symphony plays on the 4th of July. Classical may not be your favorite. However, see if your town has any music festivals or local artists playing your favorite genres. “Sometimes music is the only medicine the heart and soul need.”

8. Expand Your Mind 

Maybe the thought of heat or crowds of people doesn’t seem like fun to you. Instead, you may enjoy quieter moments together where you stimulate your brain, which is the largest sex organ in the body. Seek out art or history museums. If your town has public art, find it. Go see a play performed by a theater group. Find and watch a lecture by your favorite poet or writer.

9. On the Road Again 

Take a short drive, a weekend trip to the beach, or even a planned 2-week road trip that allows you to see and experience something other than the ordinary. While together, be conscious of talking to each other, not spending so much time on your phone or device. If you feel like you run out of things to talk about, here are a few conversation starters. 

10. Let’s Get Physical

Being physical with your spouse creates a deeper level of intimacy and greater bonding to each other. Participate in a virtual race and train together. Or, take any outdoor exercise class like walking, yoga, kayaking, etc. (If you run out of ideas, you can always do a bedroom date!)

Let this be your summer of love!!

Other helpful blogs: 

3 Great Dates To Enhance Communication In Your Marriage

5 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Fit

6 Exercises to Strengthen Emotional Intimacy in Your Marriage

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

How to Have More Sex in Marriage

Keeping these things in mind can help it to happen.

I know it ain’t easy to keep things rolling in the bedroom. 

Life happens. Marriage goes through seasons of busyness and stress. Not to mention—one of you may be “in the mood” or tired more often than the other. And finding time to have more sex may not be at the top of your list.

But healthy sexual intimacy in marriage is a good thing. It can enhance and stimulate other parts of your marriage, like emotional intimacy, too. And vice versa. (Related: 4 Reasons Why Sex Matters in Marriage

But if there’s conflict, well… chances are, sparks aren’t flying in the B-E-D. 

So then… how do you go about having more sex? Here are some thoughts:

1. Don’t make more sex the goal.

Wait, what?! Isn’t the title of this article How to Have More Sex? Yes, but here’s the deal. 

Quantity and quality are not the same. And sexual intimacy doesn’t equal emotional intimacy, either.

Emotional intimacy involves understanding each other. Learning and growing together. Caring for and knowing each other well. When each spouse feels valued and understood, that closeness translates into a more satisfying sex life for you both. (Try these 6 exercises to strengthen emotional intimacy.)

Quality sex is where emotional and sexual intimacy meet. It means realizing what goes on in the day to day affects how much you enjoy your sexual experiences. Don’t underestimate the impact that considering your spouse’s needs in AND out of the bedroom can have on your sexual fulfillment. 

So what is your goal? It’s being aware and working toward that emotional connectedness, which naturally leads to  (you guessed it!) some pretty awesome sex. Who doesn’t want more of that?

(Up your Emotional Intimacy IQ here: What Is Emotional Intimacy in Marriage and Why Does It Matter?

2. Don’t let your kids get in the way. 

We’ve all been there: the heat is rising in the bedroom when KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK… “Mommy? Daddy? I can’t sleep. I’m thirsty.

And just like that, the mood is shot.

No doubt, kids can unintentionally hinder sexual intimacy. Over the years, my wife and 

I have established a lockdown procedure. 

Lock door. ✅

Minimize the noise level. ✅. (There’s a closet door close that rattles if it’s not cracked. TMI? Well, now you know…) 

If my wife thinks our activity could draw our kids’ attention, the deal’s off the table. Can you relate? 

So, set up some lockdown rules. 

  • Install locks. 
  • Teach your kids that the bedroom is your room, and knocking is required. 
  • Establish “closing time” for both your bedroom and you; if it’s after closing time, don’t drop by. (Double Bonus: Kids learn respect and boundaries.) 

If they’re old enough, you might bribe your kids to leave the house sometimes. Here’s a dollar; if you go play in the yard and don’t come in for half an hour, I’ll give you another. 

Or, if you’re like a friend of mine, throw 99 pennies in the backyard and tell the kids they can’t come in the house until they find all 100 of them. ; )

3. Talk about sex (more). 

Studies tell us that couples who talk about sex have more satisfying sex lives. 

  • What turns each of you on or off? I mean, what if you’re doing something you think your spouse LOVES, but they don’t (or the other way around)? 
  • That thing they did that drove you crazy? Tell them.
  • Discuss your favorite positions or things you’d like to do that you’ve never done.
  • Send a sexy text, write a racy Post-it note or leave a steamy voicemail to build anticipation for your next rendezvous. 

These ideas can be beneficial if one of you is more like a crockpot that needs to simmer and get ready for sexy time. If one of you is more like the Instant Pot, building up the pressure beforehand will make the release that much sweeter when it’s time to get down to business.  

4. Schedule it.

Seriously, get a room. Or find a sitter. Have some “alone” time that works for both of you. 

  • Getting the kids to bed is a great incentive if you know prime time comes afterward. 
  • Are your kids late sleepers? Just might be worth it to be the early bird.
  • Kids in school? You won’t have to worry about interruptions or those lockdown procedures if you take a long lunch here and there… just sayin’. 

5. Get busy with dates.

Couples who have regular date nights report greater happiness. It’s true! 

  • Use what you learned from your sex talks to creatively plan something new and exciting for each other. Finding ways to please each other outside of the bedroom can help you score inside the bedroom. 
  • Invest in conversation and activities that help you connect more deeply.  
  • Plan it or be spontaneous! Dating your spouse doesn’t have to be expensive, but NOT dating your spouse can cost you some of the closeness you crave. (These date nights can make it easier!)  

Doing these things will not only improve the quality of sex you have—it also sets you up for more frequent romps. You’ll be well on your way to more (and better) sex.

So what are you waiting for? Don’t you have some lockdown procedures to take care of?

More Resources:

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.

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.***

Help! Our Intimacy is Gone

Rekindling the passion may be easier than you think.

You expect a campfire to burn hot and then turn into ashes. But you didn’t expect the fire to die down in your marriage, did you? Love… sex… connection… You expected them to go through ruts, maybe. Highs and lows? Sure. But nobody expects to wake up one day and realize the intimacy is gone.

And we’re not just talking about sex. Intimacy is way more than sex. It happens when you and your spouse fully know and experience each other—sexually, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. 

If your intimacy is gone, there are some things you can do to understand why—and find ways to reignite the flames. These questions and “fire starters” may heat things up a bit.

Has your marriage become child-centered? 

Before kids, the backseat was for… you know. (Oh, don’t act like I’m the only one!) But maybe now the backseat is full of car seats. Does your marriage feel like it’s taken a backseat to the kids?

Children can be exhausting. (I know. I’ve got seven of them!) They keep you awake, and they require a lot of energy. It’s hard for parents to be intimate. It can be different, though!

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Schedule kid-free time.
  2. Give kids a bedtime that allows you to be friends and lovers.
  3. Schedule a good babysitter for date nights.
  4. Teach your kids to do some things on their own.
  5. Intentionally put the married back in married parents.

Where’s your focus? 

It may seem logical to you that if intimacy is gone, more sex will help—but it doesn’t work that way. I said this earlier, but it’s worth repeating: Intimacy is about so much more than sex! In fact, there are 6 different types of intimacy in marriage. (If you want to learn what they are and how you can grow them, check out this toolkit.) When intimacy is gone in your marriage, focusing on emotional intimacy is a great place to start rekindling the flame.

Fire Starter Tip: 

Schedule 15-20 minutes daily to learn about each other’s thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, emotions, etc. 

No technology. No kids. And no interruptions. 

This consistency will reignite and deepen your intimacy. If you’re too busy, cutting something out of your schedule to focus on each other will help. (Try these marriage conversation starters.) 

Are you holding back? 

Being vulnerable is hard. I get it. Especially if there’s been hurt, distrust, or betrayal. But hiding parts of yourself from your spouse (or feeling unsafe) can smother the fire of intimacy. Without transparency and vulnerability, the disconnection grows and blocks the airflow.

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Breathe life into your relationship by identifying why you may be holding back.
  2. Discuss why it’s hard to open up. A good marriage counselor can help.

Are you both at your best? 

I feel like I’m a better husband when I’m:

Esther Perel, author and marital intimacy expert, says we can offer our best when we are most connected. Different seasons of marriage—having a new baby, caring for a loved one, or working an intense schedule—call for different responses. Being sensitive to extra stress your spouse may be experiencing can increase intimacy.

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Look at your schedule together and prioritize your marriage. 
  2. Talk about how you can help each other.

What do you expect? 

The early stages of marriage can make you think intimacy is natural. There’s a 2-year honeymoon phase when your body naturally produces chemicals that drive your passion. After that, your body stops producing those chemicals, so it may feel like the natural intimacy is gone. It can hit you unexpectedly. You wonder if you married the right person or if you’re just not in love anymore. More than likely, you’re just moving to a different season of marriage. Perel tells us that our desire for our spouse increases as we see them in their element. It reminds us why we fell in love and increases our curiosity about them. 

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Don’t look at what you’ve lost; look at who you’re missing. 
  2. Acknowledge and appreciate what your spouse does well. 
  3. Stay curious. 
  4. Do something different.

Intimacy dies when we stop exploring each other (in all the ways) or put up walls. But sometimes, fresh eyes or fresh adventures can get that flame burning high and hot once again. Don’t give up!

***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.

How can you love your spouse and be thinking about having an affair? Is that even possible? The whole thing is super confusing. 

Well, believe it or not, there may be a logical explanation.

Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, says couples need both closeness and distance to sustain a level of sexual intimacy or gratification. 

Many couples have been together 24/7 with very little time apart since the pandemic began. Time apart helps create sexual energy while you think about being with your spouse later in the day. 

COVID has taken away a lot of the opportunity for anticipation. With the lowered level of sexual energy, many couples are bored. And they may not feel much attraction toward each other at all. 

Since our brains crave novelty and excitement, the lackluster sexual energy at home may open the door to looking elsewhere for that excitement you used to experience with your spouse.

If you love your spouse, but you’re thinking about having an affair, consider these things…

“When you are feeling some emotional impulse, as in entertaining the idea of an affair, you have an opportunity to examine the impulse rationally, says Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of The Secrets to Surviving Infidelity

“Stop. Consider the consequences. The very same muscle you exercise when you consider the consequences of running a red light—smashing another car, getting a ticket, dying, can be exercised in this instance,” Haltzman says. “Thankfully, we don’t just live on instinct. We can think through the risks of our potential actions.”

Haltzman suggests considering all the things that could happen, such as contracting a disease and giving it to your spouse. 

Plus, think about the hurt your spouse will feel when they find out.

“In my experience, most affairs are discovered,” Haltzman says. “Maybe not immediately, but at some point. You need to consider the impact on the person you have an affair with and the impact on your own body because you are keeping a secret from your spouse.”

There’s also the moral and practical issue, according to Haltzman. You made a promise to your spouse and to yourself to be faithful as one of the pillars of your marital relationship. And you promised that when nobody else was vying for your attention. 

You have to guard against rationalizing your thought process. 

Haltzman believes it’s possible to bring the sexual energy back into your marriage, even if you’re thinking about having an affair.

He also suggests taking the energy you were putting toward considering cheating and putting that energy back into your marriage. 

Here’s how!

  1. Do new things together. When people are exposed to novel situations, exciting things, or new challenges together, it draws them together. New experiences with your spouse will increase your sense of attraction to each other.
  2. Create space and anticipation. Agree that you’ll spend the day apart—even if it’s on opposite ends of the house. Consider only communicating during the day by cellphone, so you can look forward to seeing each other at the end of the day.
  3. Play dress up. Staying at home all the time may lead to staying in pajamas or sweats and not caring for ourselves. Do something different. Consider what would be sexy to your spouse. 
  4. Use your imagination for your marriage. Use your imagination to focus on and create sexual energy with your spouse instead of someone else.
  5. Get back to the basics. Do the things you did when you were apart and looking forward to being back together. Tease each other with text messages. Create adventure through the element of surprise. Laugh together. Write love notes and leave them in unexpected places. 😉
  6. Be willing to be playful. Go outside and stamp a message in the snow, go camping, or create art together. Make a funny video, create a themed date in your bathroom or somewhere else that’s fun.

While the idea of an affair may seem exhilarating, it’s a pretty risky business with potentially lasting and damaging consequences. Find out why you might be entertaining these thoughts. Then turn toward your spouse and be intentional about creating something different. These things could be the key to changing the sexual climate in your marriage.

Here are some other blogs you might find helpful:

***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.

Why People Really Have Affairs (It’s Not Always Just About Sex)

Protect (and maybe even save) your marriage by being open with your spouse and talking about these ideas.

Marital affairs are kind of like rust. On the surface, it’s apparent that a single, ugly event has happened. But underneath is a complex process of chemical reactions and driving forces that have built up over time. Affairs are complicated like that. And finding out why people really have affairs can be even more complicated.

Therapist Esther Perel describes an affair as having three essential elements: 

  • A secretive relationship
  • An emotional connection
  • A sexual chemistry

The word chemistry is used here because actual sexual activity doesn’t have to be involved to be a marital betrayal. To paraphrase Perel, the mere thought of a single kiss can be as powerful as hours of lovemaking. 

It’s essential to understand emotional affairs-—when one is getting their emotional needs met by someone other than their spouse—are just as damaging to a marriage as sexual affairs. Not to mention the fact that emotional affairs often quickly escalate to sexual ones. 

But what causes a spouse to stray? It’s tempting to want to peg the blame on a single factor. He just wasn’t getting enough from his wife, so we went hunting in the bars. She didn’t feel loved at home, and another man showed her attention. 

Rarely do affairs boil down to one single reason. What leads up to the one-night-stand or the seductive conversations over text is usually a mix of ingredients that have been simmering for a while. To understand this, it might be more helpful to think of affairs as having contributing factors rather than reasons.  

Let’s look at five of these contributing factors to help explain why people have marital affairs: 

1. They let their guard down. 

Good marriages do not prevent affairs. Just when you think, “I could never do that,” or “Our marriage is much too healthy for infidelity,” is when you are the most vulnerable. Anne Bercht, director of Beyond Affairs Network, writes that the keys to affair prevention are realizing your marriage is not immune because it’s good, and being informed. She says there is no such thing as affair-proofing your marriage. But “developing open, honest, respectful communication in your relationship, including the ability and commitment to give and receive constructive criticism” is a strong foundation to keep your guard up. 

2. They let their marriage go out of focus. 

We often become hyper-focused on work, stress, hefty schedules, or even kids. Especially kids. Life happens. It’s easy to fool ourselves and say we do this for our marriage. The problem is our marriage suffers because it’s not being focused on. It’s in these circumstances the doors to infidelity crack open. You can minimize this factor by ensuring your focus remains on your spouse. 

3. They give a NOD

Infidelity and marriage expert Scott Haltzman explains in his book, The Secrets to Surviving Infidelity, that an unfaithful partner gives a “NOD” toward an affair: Need, Opportunity, Disinhibition. The Need is something they feel is missing in their life, such as love, respect, attention, or emotional support. The Opportunity for the affair might be a business trip, an office party, the gym, or being alone with someone in your circle of friends. And the Disinhibition can be alcohol or drugs, but perhaps more often something such as resentment, depression, or a sense of entitlement. 

What is interesting is the NOD can also be the key to avoiding infidelity. The more two people seek to meet each other’s needs in marriage, it minimizes the opportunities and disinhibition that leads to betrayal. 

4. They were seeking something they feel they didn’t have. 

Esther Perel says that affairs are less about sex and more about desire. “At the heart of an affair you will often find a longing and a yearning for an emotional connection, for novelty, for freedom, for autonomy, for sexual intensity…” The problem here is that often the other spouse doesn’t know these things are missing because they are never told. A healthy person communicates needs to their spouse. 

5. They aren’t happy with themselves. 

Many times, the affair is more about the unfaithful person than it is about the marriage or the other spouse. Perel, again, offers lots of wisdom here: “When we seek the gaze of another, it isn’t always our partner we are tearing away from, but the person we have ourselves become… We aren’t looking for another person as much as we are looking for another self.” Experiencing something missing from your marriage and seeing the NOD at work requires a hard inward look at yourself. It begs the question, “Am I happy with who I am? Am I about to let dissatisfaction with myself damage my marriage with this choice? 

The truth of the matter is we are all capable of having an affair. However, every spouse has the ability to say, even though I am capable, I will make the conscious choice not to walk through that door. As Anne Brecht puts it, be informed. Be aware of the contributing factors that can be at work and work to reverse those. Be open with your spouse and talk about these ideas. Together, make the conscious choice to remain steadfast in your marital 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 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.***