Sexual Sin in Marriage: Sexual Betrayals

It can be very difficult for couples to know how to talk about their concerns and struggles in the aftermath of a sexual betrayal. If you are wondering if your spouse is still struggling, do you ask? If you are struggling, do you tell? When and how is this kind of openness beneficial, helpful, and healing?

When I, Jennifer, first see a couple involved in a sexual betrayal, there are a number of communication needs that should be addressed, some of which we have already mentioned. Another practical that is helpful is giving the couple a tool to talk about the process of sexual recovery, expecially with those dealing with pornography. This is called the Daily Trust Conversation, and is from Timothy OFarrells' work on Behavioral Couples Therapy for Alcoholism. Each day, the offender initiates with their spouse and says something like, "For the last 24 hours, I have not __________ and I will not ____________ for the next 24 hours. Thank you for supporting my recovery." The spouse's response is simply, "Thank you for sharing with me. Let me know if there is any way I can be helpful." This simple, daily (or sometimes couples choose weekly) conversation may be a little weird and awkward at first but can be quite supportive during the process of healing.

As a couple, decide if this would be beneficial for you. The offender would then initiate the conversation each time. Make sure you are also speaking with the couple or individuals who are helping you about how this particular part of your rebuilding is working for you.

The Impact on the Sexual Relationship

A big question that comes up is "when and how should we resume our sexual relationship?" The revelation of a sexual betrayal often leads to a complete stop in sexual interactions, sexual intercourse, and sexual, sensual, and affectionate touch. There is no easy answer to the question of where to go from there. Some women are able to engage sexually soon after a confession or discovery. This may be prompted by the desire to communicate mercy and forgiveness. Some may do this out of fear that they may loose their spouse if they do not. Some may engage sexually in order to keep their husband from seeking sexual gratification elsewhere. The second two of these possible reasons can be quite problematic to genuine recovery. It is incredibly important to get the help and guidance from wise others in your life to examine the reasons for and appropriateness of immediately engaging in sex soon after discovery.

Most offended spouses have the need and right to work through the pain and grief of a betrayal before they can entrust their body to their spouse. For most, this will be important before they can experience the joy of sexuality again. There is no one-size-fits-all answer for how long this takes. However, the offending spouse's response should always be one of humility.

Ultimately, sexual betrayals have a strong impact on the sexual relationship. The offended spouse of someone involved in pornography may wonder during sex "is he seeing those pictures in his mind" or "is he asking me to do this because he saw this in something he watched". The offended spouse of someone involved in an affair may wonder if their partner is comparing them to others they had sex with. There is also the reality that for some couples, if they hadn't had sex in a long time even before the sexual betrayal was discovered, restarting the sexual relationship can be particularly difficult with the added pain of betrayal.

So what do you do if this happens when you are in the middle of sex. It may be that you start to notice that while you are having sex together, you start to become reactive and thoughts and pictures and wonderings start filling your mind. Do you just go on and push through, ignoring what is happening inside of you, or do you tell your spouse, or do you just shut down and turn off and stop?

In general, especially if the relationship overall is in a better place, it can be quite beneficial to slow things down sexually, and share what you are feeling. However, it is important at this point that you have gotten comfortable with having the type of conversations mentioned in the above section on "Are you Keeping a Record of Wrongs?" If you have had some safe, healing conversations during your regular day when you get triggered, then you can apply this to when it comes up during sex. There may be times where praying internally and taking your thoughts captive may work. But for most, this is not helpful until they've had a few honest, healing conversations in the middle of engaging sexually. So when you notice that you are reactive, let your spouse know. "Honey, I'm starting to have a hard time." Yes, they might be aroused and it might bring about disappointment, maybe even frustration. But continuing to engage sexually when you become flooded is very counterproductive to genuine intimacy. So, share what is happening for you with your spouse and hopefully they have put things into practice in their response to you when you share these triggers during the day that will help them now.

After you share, and they validate you, you may need to do something healing but nonsexual. Check inside yourself and see what you need. You may want to just hold each other, spooning or cuddling. You may want to pray together. You may want to return to light affection, playing a game, watching a show, or giving each other a massage. This kind of genuine, real sharing in the middle of things sexually can be an important step in building or rebuilding your intimacy on a true foundation.

What Do You Need

For all couples who are impacted by sexual betrayal, this section is primarily included to prompt you to get the support and help you need to work through: 1) the betrayal, 2) how to reengage sexually when the time is right, 3) communication about the feelings and thoughts that come up when reengaging sexually, and 4) the challenges to the sexual relationship that are unique to couples recovering from sexual betrayal.

Further Resources

Setting Captives Free - online bible teaching, mentoring, and accountability
Covenant Eyes - internet filtering program
Dave and Robin Weidner website -
Robin Weidner: "When Grace Calls"
Mark and Debra Laaser website:
Mark Laaser: "Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction" and other books
Debra Laaser: "Shattered Vows" and other books
Other Books:
Out of the Shadows, Carnes
Torn Asunder, Carder
His Needs/Her Needs, Harley
Hand in Hand with God; Finding Your Path to Forgiveness, Brumley