My wife and I both had affairs. Now we don’t have sex’

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Welcome to Relationship Rehab, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all your romantic problems, no holds barred.

This week, our resident sexologist Isiah McKimmie coaches a married man who is afraid of cheating again.

QUESTION: I’ve been with my wife for 15 years and we’ve both had affairs – and have forgiven each other. We realised the affairs were down to us neglecting our marriage and not having enough sex so we worked on improving our sex lives. The issue is, our sex life has dried up again in the past year and my eyes are starting to wander. How do I tell my wife I’m thinking of cheating without it seeming like a threat?

ANSWER: I honestly don’t think sex – or the lack of it – is the problem here. It’s incredible that you’ve been able to forgive each other and work through some of the challenges that you we’re facing, but it sounds like there are underlying issues that still need to be addressed.

A lack of sexual intimacy is painful

I do understand that a lack of sexual intimacy is painful and frustrating. It’s an awful feeling when you think that your partner isn’t attracted to you anymore, doesn’t desire you or doesn’t want to be intimate with you.

But what leads to infidelity isn’t the lack of sex – it’s an inability to deal with those emotions underneath.

Great relationships have a solid foundation

Fifty years of research on happy, lasting relationships has shown us that strong relationships have a number of different elements. The absence of any of these can predict divorce.

Strong relationships have a great friendship, respect, admiration, excellent communication and conflict management and shared dreams and goals, among other factors.

It sounds like the growth you still have to make in your relationship is around emotional connection and communication. When couples learn to do this well, they’re able to give each other feedback and talk about what isn’t working for them without it being a threat or starting an argument.

Communication can build understanding and connection

I hear that you want to talk about this with your wife so that you can work on it together. That’s a great attitude to have. And I understand that raising sensitive topics isn’t easy.

When raising a sensitive issue with a partner:

• Reassure them that you love them and value the relationship.

• Let them know that you’re bringing this up because you want to work through it together.

• Share your own feelings and emotions without blame or criticism.

• Be willing to listen to what they have to say too.

Take it step by step. You don’t have to agree on everything in one conversation. You can take a break and resume the conversation or make a decision about what to do later.

Emotional connection helps maintain passion and intimacy

The groundwork for great sex in long term relationships starts outside the bedroom. Lasting passion and intimacy needs a foundation of a strong, loving and emotionally safe relationship.

Couples who maintain passionate intimate lives throughout their relationship:

• Say ‘I love you’ everyday

• Trust each other

• Feel safe with each other

• Kiss passionately for no reason

• Share physical affection that doesn’t lead to sex

• Offer genuine appreciation for each other

My concern for you is that if the foundations of your relationship don’t get the attention they need, you’ll keep drifting apart and be tempted to stray.

Consider seeing a counsellor or getting support online

You have done so well to make it this far together. You’ve already overcome a lot and have no doubt put in a lot of hard work to make that happen.

Consider reaching out to a professional or doing an online course to support you further. There are some great, cost-effective online courses that can support your relationship, including some that I have.

Most of us weren’t taught the tools that help maintain strong, loving relationships. It’s okay to reach out for support to learn those tools. You don’t have to figure it all out alone.

Isiah McKimmie is a Couples Therapist, Sexologist, Sex Therapist and Lecturer. To book a session with her, visit her website or follow her on Instagram for more advice on relationships, sex and intimacy.

Read related topics:Isiah McKimmieSex Advice

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