I never would have imagined these things happening in my marriage.
For a long time, I was blissfully unaware of the deep, silent battle being waged by my husband. He was in the midst of taking many small steps in the wrong direction. Illicit images on screens eventually led to an actual affair, which led to him being kicked out, which led to both of us walking through the divorce process.
I never thought I could heal from wounds so deep. When you face sexual betrayal from an affair or pornography, the healing process can seem daunting at best— or impossible, at worst.
Our story was hopeless from the world’s perspective. But not to our Heavenly Father.
God took us from that broken place and began a healing work in both of us— in all things, but especially in the integral area of our sex life.
This didn’t happen overnight or by accident. It has required actionable steps and clinging to Jesus.
In hindsight, and with a strong cup of coffee in hand, I’m able to list several key points this healing and renewal process required— but rest assured that, in actuality, it was a long, messy, often-circuitous journey that God graciously led us on. It’s truly only by his grace that I can stand in a different place today and look back at all.
With that in mind, here are six key points to healing your sex life after betrayal:
Realize that God wants to go there
It’s one thing to invite someone back into your home after betrayal— but it’s another thing entirely to invite them back into your bed.
Sometimes we feel like we’ve done enough by piecing together the facade of our marriage after betrayal, even if our hearts remain broken and cold. But, friends, Jesus lived, died and rose again to give us abundant life. He wants to heal your marriage and make it whole, a beautiful reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church.
I imagined that our sex life would always be a fractured piece of our marriage, but that’s not how our God works. He delights in taking the broken and making it beautiful.
Realize that God wants to go there. He cares about the deepest parts of your heart and marriage. He wants to redeem even your sex life. He’s ready and willing to go there— are you?
I can honestly say that our sex life is better now than it was before the affair— but the first step in that healing process was realizing that God wanted to go there.
Acknowledge what has happened
Before we could move forward, we had to look back. I had to walk through the pain and shame of my sexual past— as did my husband. I had many scars I needed to heal from— and the first step to getting something treated is acknowledging there’s a wound in the first place.
This is a not-so-fun part of the journey. No one likes being sinned against and experiencing the accompanying negative emotions. So, in Christian circles, we often gloss over this step and move to forgiveness. We try to move forward while functionally remaining in denial.
When we fail to really acknowledge what has happened— including letting ourselves feel how we feel, communicating that to our spouse, and turning to the Lord in lament— we’re effectively letting a scab form over an infected wound.
Thankfully we have a Good Surgeon who loves us too much to let us succumb to infection. He carefully and compassionately cleans our wounds— and although the experience might be painful for us, it’s ultimately for our good.
So acknowledge what’s happened— both what you’ve done and what’s been done against you. Take it all to the Lord.
Leave it at the cross
I began to pray that God would remove the shame and scars my husband carried deep within him.
This was a hard prayer. Part of me wanted him to pay a price for his betrayal.
But that’s the thing— there was no price he could pay! There was nothing he could ever do to make up for what he’d done. He couldn’t make it better for me.
So I could choose to live with this chip on my shoulder— and make us both miserable for the rest of our lives— or I could dedicate myself to our decision and desire for reconciliation.
The truth is that my husband could never pay the enormous debt he created with his sin— but there is One who paid it all. We decided daily to leave the mess of our past at the foot of the cross.
Fight for something new
I wanted us to have something new with one another. I wanted a sex life designed by our Heavenly Father— something that drew us closer to one another, something that didn’t continually remind us of the brokenness of the flesh.
I had to draw a new starting point in the sand and remember that we were starting new. This starting line meant I couldn’t continually drag the things of the past forward. This wasn’t done perfectly, but it was an important starting point on the beginning of the hard road to healing our sex life.
Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ
Often, I found myself battling images in my head of things that I never actually saw. I found myself in a comparison game. I heard the enemy whispering lies about all that I lacked and struggled to remember the truth of what God says about me.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 became a lifeline for me:
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does… On the contrary, [we] have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV).
I used this passage to combat the lies of the enemy. I began to take captive the thoughts and images that assaulted my mind and turn them into prayers instead.
- I asked God to give me a renewed mind (Romans 12:12)
- I asked God to remove the images from my husband’s mind so we could move forward and delight in one another.
- I asked God to bring Proverbs 5:18 to life in my marriage, that my husband would rejoice in the wife of his youth.
Nothing is impossible
Jesus has proven himself faithful to heal as only He can. What was once used to fracture us is now what we use to breathe hope into others. Nothing is impossible with Christ!
Our sex life now, 10 years later, is a beautiful reflection of what God intends for marriage. Through the process of moving forward and working to win the battle in our minds, God has delivered us both. He has brought us freedom! Freedom to love each other and explore each other in the beautiful intimacy God offers us within marriage.
I want to encourage you, wherever you may find yourself in your sex life, to surrender it before God. Pray over your sex life. Be ruthless in getting rid of the things that are hindering your sex life. Don’t allow pornography, emotional or physical extra-marital connections— or anything else— stop you from experiencing true intimacy within your marriage.
We can tell you it is SO worth doing it! Pun intended!
Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?
Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?