Healing grace takes a different path for each couple. The following story isn't prescriptive as in everyone should do something like this. It's an example, an image. Some offer forgiveness right away and rebuild everything else after that, some offer forgiveness as they go and mine was more in a big leap down the road. However it goes the main thing is that it does indeed go.
Forgiving, and reclaiming sexual exclusivity are just two of the areas for couples to work through following an affair. The pace and images are different for every couple. Yet no person travels this road without being deeply changed. I thought the following image from the chapter on forgiveness in Reconcilable Differences was powerful and a great picture of both.
This is from Gabriella and Chad. Gabriella, "In the process of talking about when did you have this affair and where did you sleep, I discovered that he had been in my bed in my bedroom once. So the bedroom, the holy of holies, the sanctity of the marriage bed had been defiled."
Gabriella knew that she had forgiven him on one level, but how was she going to cleanse this sacred space? She gave that serious thought and prayer. She wanted her forgiving to be bone-marrow deep, and this included finding a way to restore the purity of their sexual life together. Gabriella believed that, "reclaiming the marriage bed was a symbolic spiritual act. I did it and it was hard. And when I described for you the whole cross scene and me clinging to that, (with arms and legs wrapped around--admin), it was a reclaiming of what Jesus had done for him on the cross. I was saying to Chad, 'You don't deserve this, but I'm giving it to you free. It's grace.'"
A few days after Chad's confession, Gabriella called him into the bedroom. Chad describes their experience this way: She laid herself across the bed, and she was completely naked and she had her arms...it was like she was in the shape of the cross. She said,
"Come, come here. Lie on me (I don't think it was intended but note the double meaning--BW)." and she said, "I forgive you." And it was almost like...it was almost a parallel to Jesus dying on the cross. Because I knew it killed her, really, in some ways it really killed her. And yet here was this hope of life after death, resurrection, and restoration and renewal. And so I always knew...I was assured of her forgiveness. I knew that trust wouldn't be there, and that would have to be rebuilt and it continues to be rebuilt.
Gabriella adds, "It was a sacred moment. It was an intentional moment. It was a recovenanting moment. It was telling him once again, 'I am going down the aisle with you.'"