09/26/2013 09:47 am ET Updated Nov 26, 2013

6 Steps Back to Sex


One of you cheated. And now, you are wondering if you can ever get past the hurt and betrayal. You miss each other. You want to stay together. You are not sure you can ever get back to the sex you once had together. Normally, you would turn to your partner for sex, for comfort, for love and support. Yet, they are the one who hurt you, so you turn away from them instead of toward them. It is a lonely and confusing time.

Yet, if you are lucky and committed, the two of you have made a decision to stay together and have decided that you want to work on your relationship and heal your intimate life. Together, you want to move past this affair and create a new life together. You both realize that your relationship was going off-track long before the affair derailed your intimate connection and that the affair, although devastating in some ways, may be an opportunity to focus on moving forward; this time in a way that will work for both of you.

Getting back to Sex

Whether you were the cheater or the cheated upon, these six steps can help you get back to a sex life that can work for you. Unless you focus on erotic recovery, your relationship can not move forward. How can it? An affair is an erotic injury and has to be healed both emotionally and sexually.

These steps might sound counter-intuitive. In other words, you might have to stop and re-read them and say to yourself, "Wait, what? This is not what I have read in every self help book ever written about sex?!" And you would be correct. But you are not trying to have great sex. You are trying to have great sex after an affair. With these six steps, you will learn how to have sex that focuses both of you on reconnecting with one another, increasing your sensual connection and changing your relationship for the better.

Six Steps Back To Sex

1. Don't Be Spontaneous.
If you wait until you are both in the mood, or until neither of you feels resentment or sadness, or until all the dishes are done and all the stars are in alignment, then guess what? You will both be waiting a long time. And waiting until you are both ready for sex only breeds resentment. Waiting for one of you to make the move, or to initiate sex and then be rejected because the other isn't ready, or because the timing is bad, is a set up for failure. Plan your sex. Make a date for sex once a week. Make the date at the same time every week. Mark it on your calendars. Put it in your date book. If you were going to your therapist every week, you would commit to the same date and time. If you were taking piano lessons, you would show up every week at the same hour. Make your sex date the most important commitment in your week, and show up. Let your partner know that this is a priority for you, and make it a sacred time for both of you that nothing else can interfere with. If you are mad, frustrated, tired or busy, show up anyway. This is how you show your partner the importance of your relationship. You need to make time to heal your sex life, otherwise, when is it going to happen? Spontaneity can happen too, as long as you plan it ahead of time.

2. Don't focus on Intercourse as the Goal.
Sex is not about putting Tab A into Slot B and reaching the finish line. Sex, especially now, at this new juncture in your relationship, should be about reconnecting, focused on how you come together as a couple. You will want to make sex an exercise in learning all over again how to touch one another, and discovering how it feels to be touched. You can use this incredibly exciting and fragile time together by finding ways to share your desires and your fantasies as well as your bodies with one another. The goal is not the orgasm, although that is certainly a wonderful part of sex. Try taking intercourse and orgasm off of the table as the ultimate goal, at least for a few weeks, and free up both of you from the pressure of performance. This will give both of you the freedom to focus on just being together.

3. Don't Talk.
Communication is important. Of course it is. And at this point in your relationship, there is probably nothing more crucial to creating a new monogamous commitment going forward than communicating your needs and expectations. But communication and talking are two different things. Talking during sex can trigger many emotions, and not all of them will be positive. Sometimes, when partners try and give feedback during sex, it is interpreted in ways that are hurtful and can cause more damage. Years of critical comments, a jab here or something said in anger there, can all damage the ego of the person who is on the receiving end of the verbal feedback.

For example, if you say "Oh, baby..." during sex and you have never said it before or in that particular way, your partner may interpret your comment as something you could have used with your lover in the past. It is easy after infidelity to make up stories and assign meaning to words during sex that may not be true, but nevertheless can create doubt and fear.

Sometimes, not talking at all, but giving feedback through sighing, moaning or with your body language can be a new challenge to increase the type of sexual communication in bed. It can also prevent the verbal signals from being misread.

4. Use Appreciations.
After sex, give your partner an appreciation. Tell them what you appreciated about your sexual experience with them. It might be something small, particularly if the experience was not all that successful. Or it could be something that really has a lot of meaning for you. But make it sincere. It could sound like, for example, "I really appreciated that you were naked next to me, I loved the feel of your skin next to mine, you have such soft and beautiful skin." This appreciation puts all of the focus on what is working during your erotic recovery and takes it off of what is not working.

If you want to change your sex life, you always get more of what you appreciate. Instead of telling your partner after they make love to you that you hated it when they touched you on the left side of your face as they kissed you, tell them instead how much you enjoyed it when they touched you on the right.

5. Stay Present to whatever is happening.
Whether you had the affair or they did, both of you will be a tendency to drift into thoughts of the past. This is normal. Whether you are thinking about how your relationship was prior to the affair, or you are focused on intrusive thoughts of the events of the affair, try and bring yourself back to the present. Being totally present to your partner will make them feel like you are really seeing them, that you are with them totally and that you are not drifting outside of the relationship.

Sometimes, when people feel conflict, they avoid it by going into memory or fantasy to avoid being in the moment. If you feel an inner conflict coming on, bring yourself back to the moment. Take a deep breath, feel your body from the top of your head to your toes, and focus on something pleasurable that you feel in the current moment. Notice what is happening in this moment, right now. See if you can track your partner's movements or what they are saying in this moment, imagine mirroring them exactly. Be aware of them as closely as you can be and be present to them and to your own feelings in response.

6. Start Over.
Remind yourself that the relationship you have had with your partner up until this point is over. The monogamy agreement you made with one another has been broken. Now you have a choice -- you are making a new monogamy agreement going forward. This is a powerful bond that you are making with one another and it is a new beginning and a new start. You are creating a new vision of a new relationship going forward. And you are creating this future together. Focus on starting over and the new beginning that you are bringing into your lives. And let your new sexual relationship be a crucial part of that new vision, of a new erotic monogamy as well.

Erotic Recovery
If you use these six steps, you are well on your way back to a connected sex life. Find your future together by creating a weekly sex date, focus on sensuality and touch as the goal instead of intercourse, use nonverbal language to connect during sex, appreciate what is working in your sex life and stay present. An affair can be a devastating set back in a committed partnership or it can be a wake-up call to a whole new. more passionate monogamy agreement. Your erotic recovery is a practice, keep it sacred and honor it.

Dr Tammy Nelson is a licensed psychotherapist, author, and a sex and relationship expert who works with couples on erotic recovery after infidelity and speaks worldwide on global relational change. For a free eBook on Six Weeks to Erotic Recovery, go to and sign up today. For more info or for more books on increasing your intimacy or to find Tammy Nelson's books: Getting the Sex You Want: Shed Your Inhibitions and Reach New Heights of Passion Together and The New Monogamy: Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity go to To find a workshop, retreat or set up a session or Intensive, eBooks, mini-books, worksheets and to sign up for Tammy's monthly newsletter go to