Ghosts in the Bedroom
Ghosts in the Bedroom
“Issues that we have in general, we will also have sexually. No technique or method will change that.”
Sex with another man or woman is a thundering tempest to the soul of a marriage. This violation assaults a foundation of trust and rips apart walls of safety leaving gaping holes. What once felt permanent is suddenly exposed as vulnerable by the jagged light and bass rumblings of the revelation of an affair.
In one way, the revelation carries real trauma for both in the marriage. For Ann, the exposure of her betrayal cracked the denial she carried; she convinced herself the affair would only minimally affect our marriage. However, I received the revelation as an ultrasonic blow shattering my illusion of a somewhat idyllic relationship.
In another way, the revelation exposes truth. The betrayal existed for a while; the lies were not new. The affair partner didn't just appear the moment of the revelation. Issues with closeness and intimacy impacted the relationship for a while. As Carnes says, those issues - those wounds and walls and fears - impact the sexual aspect of the relationship, too, which is now laced with the trauma of the revelation.
Couples respond in a variety of ways to the chaos of affair recovery. No right or wrong answer exists as to how much sex to have, if any, following an affair. Striving to learn the meaning of sex to each spouse and what it has meant in the marriage becomes key to eventually developing healthy sexuality.
Some couples enjoy sex often after the revelation. They may not have hopped in the sack naked this much in years. Perhaps it is a reaction of the betrayed spouse trying to hang onto the spouse or an attempt to measure up to the affair partner in some perceived standard.
Other couples have little to no sex. I’ve read that about 15 percent of all marriages are sexless. The thought of being that vulnerable with someone who just imparted a brutal wound is inconceivable to some.
Virtually, all couples will deal with the ghost of the affair partner. For the longest time, I sensed his presence in our bed. The truth wasn't that I couldn't enjoy sex with Ann. I did. God created sex to feel good. Still, the haunting sense of Ann’s affair partner hovered around our marriage bed. I lamented: “How long, O Lord, will this go on? How long until the vapor of his presence will disappear from my enjoyment with my bride? Will this persist the rest of my days? How long, O Lord?”
Of course, there was no answer to how long. The ghost of the affair partner appeared and disappeared. It seemingly departed and then stealthily returned, sending us back down a chute after climbing up so many ladders. After a while, I mostly dealt with this unwelcomed presence on my own. Discussing it only served to stir shame for Ann.
Ann and I had experienced much healing before we attended a conference together on the West Coast. When we arrived, I realized most of their encounters took place at this particular chain of hotels. The betrayal emerged fresh. The ghost showed up instantly like Spock and Kirk transporting from the Enterprise to a targeted planet.
But all those ladders gained were not lost. We had really done the work on our wounds, walls and fears; so tumbling down this chute didn't negate all that work. We just didn't foresee this challenge. We recaptured lost ground through a vulnerable discussion of our feelings, desires and commitment.
How long, O Lord? For you, I can't say. But I do know that understanding the issues you have in general, as an individual and as a couple, and understanding how those issues play out in your sexual relationship is a significant factor in the healing and growth and enjoyment of your sexual relationship.
What general relationship issues have you uncovered, and how do they relate to your sexual relationship?