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came for therapy because he was having an affair. I felt compassion for Harry when he revealed at the next session that his wife had discovered his affair. I felt for his wife Alice, too. Being sexually betrayed by a spouse is especially devastating and cuts to the core of our sense of safety in our world. After Harry·s wife discovered his affair, his ambivalence about giving up the other woman was resolved. The awareness of his wife·s pain and the fear of losing his marriage changed everything for him. The thought of trysts with Sally were no longer tempting. Once the stark light of day shined upon his fantasy relationship, he saw that it was full of flaws. Harry asked me to meet with him and his wife to help save his marriage. The next several months of therapy were focused on helping them work through the anger, pain and grief attached to the affair. This can be a very challenging process (which I will address in a future column. In the meantime, a helpful book is, ´After the Affairµ by Janis Abrahms Spring). Once the initial crisis abated, we started doing the marital and sexual work that they should have done years earlier. Harry and Alice needed to find the courage to move beyond emotionally safe sex; they needed to bring hot sex back into their marriage. Thankfully it was not solely up to Harry to bring back the passion: as a joint project it had a higher likelihood of success. We started talking about their parent·s sex lives. Harry·s father had left his mother for another woman, only to end up with another stale (and likely sexually dead) marriage. While Alice·s parents were still married, her mother had indicated that sex was not an important part of the marriage. Clearly both of them had to commit to building something different and better than what they had seen. Further, they needed to confront complacency and embrace change. Complacency leads to emotionally safe sex which runs the risk of becoming boring, stale and eventually killing the sex drive of one or both participants. When I asked them each to describe emotionally safe sex they painted the same picture: brief kissing leading to cursory touching, etc. Her goal was to help him get erect. His was to help her lubricate so that they could have intercourse. There was little passion or drama, just the following of a mutually agreed upon and predictable script that read: Touch here first, then here, then do this, then do that, and then it·s over.
When I asked Alice what she preferred, her description surprised her husband. With some prompting, she admitted that she wanted him to ´take chargeµ and be ´more assertiveµ with her. I went out on a limb and asked her if she really meant that she wanted him to be more aggressive and dominating. At first she protested, but when she defined ´assertiveµ she agreed that her description sounded more like ´aggressive and dominatingµ than assertive. This drama was what Harry had found so appealing with Sally during his affair. He had wanted to enact this with Alice, but because they had not risked sharing their deeper desires with each other, he assumed that she would not be interested in this kind of sex. Harry and Alice gradually became honest and open enough with each other that they were able to bring some real passion back into their marriage. The affair had shown them that they needed to hold hands and leap out of the ´comfort zoneµ that nearly destroyed their marriage. Gerald Drose is an Atlanta-based couples· sex therapist. He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. Visit Dr. Drose at Powers Ferry Psychological Associates, LLC. More Gerald Drose articles, click here.