The other day, I saw an advertisement for the Orient Express, a luxury train that travels across Europe.
The ad promised passengers the ultimate romantic experience.
The journey begins when you and your beloved fly (first class, of course) to Paris where you board a luxury Pullman, which then whisks you in comfort and luxury across Europe, from the Alps to Innsbruck to Italy to Vienna and back. By day, you’ll watch as the glorious scenery slips soundlessly by, from snow-capped mountains shimmering like white frosting in the distance, to the deep sensual greenery of the wine regions of France.
By night, you’ll be lulled to sleep by the clattering of the train as it passes over bridges, lakes, and rivers, while you and your beloved snuggle close in the heavenly comfort of your private luxury car.
Each new day brings new sensual experiences.
Imagine waking up to the scent of fresh French roast coffee and the tantalizing aroma of freshly-baked sweet pastries and assorted buttery croissants hot from the oven.
Now imagine how it would feel to know the biggest decision of your day would be choosing what to have for dinner that evening.
Will you stick to the more traditional and order the “coq au vin” (rooster in red wine) or “blanquette de veau” (stewed veal)? Or will you feel more adventurous and opt for the “boudin blanc” (delicately flavored sausage similar to Buckhurst) or “foie gras” (fatty duck or goose liver)?
Doesn’t it all sound wonderfully romantic?
It sure does to me!
As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to romance, the marketing people at the Orient Express certainly know how to sell it. They’ve tapped into all the necessary ingredients: travel, exotic locations, newness, relaxation, luxury, sensuality, comfort, fine wine, and good food.
As delightful as all that sounds, alas, there’s one key ingredient in a romantic experience that even the most genius advertisers can’t provide.
What’s that one thing?
Well, here it is: they can’t provide couples with that loving feeling. And that’s the thing. No matter how romantic the place, how relaxing the environment, or how expensive the trip, if you’ve lost that loving feeling, you might as well be on vacation in Dubuque, Iowa in the middle of January.
The bottom line is this.
There’s no love, intimacy or romance without an open heart. If the heart is closed, then so are the doors to the bedroom. The heart is the engine that drives your positive emotions. When it’s open, it has the capacity to generate affection, warmth, intimacy and loving feelings. When it’s closed (or blocked), you’re left frozen, numb, bitter, and hardened.
So, what can you do if the hurt and pain unleashed by infidelity has caused you (or the person you love) to shut down? That’s a great question. And that’s exactly what this article will attempt to answer.
Here’s the beautiful truth:
To love is to open your heart; to hate is to close and harden your heart. The reopening of your heart after infidelity is a lot less mysterious than you’d think, yet many will find themselves stumbling around in the dark for a long time.
Why is this?
Well, here’s my theory: I believe it comes down to the fact that most people look for answers to this problem in all the familiar but wrong places.
For example, have you ever misplaced a set of keys and then spent most of your time looking for them where you think they should be rather than where they actually are? Do you ever find them where they are not? A similar thing happens to a lot of couples seeking ways to reconnect and rekindle those loving feelings. They often stumble around in dark futility because they are seeking answers in all the familiar but wrong places. They don’t know where to look for solutions.
But this doesn’t have to be your experience.
In the next few minutes, I’m going to point you toward a three-step process that, mixed with sincerity, can lead you back after infidelity to love and intimacy.
FAIR WARNING: I must caution you.
Chances are these steps won’t be exactly what you were expecting, and they’re not necessarily going to feel comfortable at first. And yet if you’re willing to test them and give them a chance, I guarantee they won’t disappoint. And I say that not from theory but from experience.
I don’t just think they work… I know they work.
Not only have I seen these steps restore love, affection, intimacy and connection to other people’s relationships, but I have seen them do it for my own. But before we get into that, let’s clear up two of the questions most frequently asked at this point.
First, there is no “normal” timeline. The answer is always what feels appropriate for you. Some couples find that the affair actually sparks sexual desire, while for others, it seems to kill it. Some couples go back to making love right away, while others take a long time to resume. Both timelines are OK.
Here’s what’s not OK.
It’s not healthy (for you or your partner) to withhold sex as punishment — that manipulative tactic can only make things worse. And it’s not a good idea (for you or your partner) to have sex to prove something or to compete with the affair partner — that’s self-destructive. What’s healthy is to resume sexual intimacy because you feel naturally inspired to it. (More on this later.)
My answer to what the normal timeline for sex after infidelity is… when you feel naturally inspired.
What determines that inspiration?
That’s a great question, and you’ll find some clues in step 1 and step 2 of my three-step process for returning to love and intimacy after infidelity. Here’s the second most frequently asked question:
What should you do if you know you love (and even have forgiven) your partner, but you still don’t feel like making love?
This, too, is common in the aftermath of infidelity. For the partner who’s been betrayed, finding out about a loved one’s betrayal can undermine confidence and stir up insecurities and anxieties. And for the partner who’s been wayward, acting out of line can lead to feelings of guilt, self-loathing and shame.
Since sexual desires begin in the mind, whenever these types of anti-loving thoughts broadcast themselves, they act like sex-negative Super Bowl commercials that disrupt your sexual game.
Imagine watching a romantic movie only to have it interrupted every few seconds with commercials, propaganda, newsflashes about terrorist activities, pictures of Armageddon, war, flood, and famine.
Just how much of your romantic mood would survive? Well, that’s exactly what your thoughts can do — they can shut down or diminish sexual emotions.
What can you do about that?
I’m glad you asked because this is what the third step is about in my three-step process to guiding you back to love and intimacy after infidelity.
Your 3 Best Steps Back to Love and Intimacy in Your Relationship
Let Love Win
The first thing you should know is that as you return to love, you actually move forward. This means that there is no reason to fear love. And yet, once we’ve been hurt, that’s exactly the wrong conclusion many of us reach, believing it’s love that hurt us, and therefore it’s love we need to fear.
Reason with me for a moment…
Ask yourself this question: what really caused the pain, hurt, and sabotage of your relationship? Would you say it was love, or ego? Take time to think about that one because your answer is going to make a whole lot of difference in the years to come.
Here's why I say that...
There are only two thought systems guiding our decisions: love and ego. The two are like oil and water — they don’t mix. This means that decisions (choices, actions, behaviors, thoughts) that come from ego can’t come from love, and those that come from love cannot come from ego.
Here’s the kicker…
At every moment of your life (including this moment), you’re choosing which thought system to side with — love or ego.
Now at first, this can be a difficult concept, so just consider it a tool for thought. What it means is that there are two thought systems that are like two opposing teams in a soccer match. One team is called “Love” and the other team is called “Ego”, and at every moment, you’re choosing which team you believe will win.
Now, for some further clarifications.
What is “ego”?
It’s the thought system based on fear. Thoughts — as well as actions, behaviors and decisions — guided by the ego are fear-driven. How can you recognize them? Well, when it comes to romantic and love relationships, here are just a few of the ego’s favorite calling cards.
How the ego behaves in relationships:
- The ego believes forgiveness is a sign of weakness (fear of letting go).
- The ego is afraid of love (fear of what it can’t control).
- The ego believes dishonesty is the best strategy (fear of truth).
- The ego believes that intimacy is a trap (fear of transparency).
- The ego believes relationships are about getting needs met (fear of giving).
- The ego is always on the lookout for “BBD” or “bigger, better deals” (fear of happiness).
- The ego keeps constant score of injustices, hurt and flaws (fear of compassion).
- The ego is heavily invested in the past (fear of the present).
- The ego constantly seeks unearned advantages (fear of hardwork).
- The ego treats sex as a sport, and the number of partners determines the score (fear of intimacy).
Keeping this in mind…
Let’s go back to the question we began with. Was it love that put you on a collision course with betrayal, or was it ego? The obvious answer, of course, is ego.
SIDE NOTE: There’s no need to bash the ego, because everybody has one. Therefore, the ego isn’t the enemy — it’s simply not the right guide to turn to when it comes to making love and relationship decisions.
Think about it this way:
Imagine the ego is a tool, like a machete. You can use a machete to chop wood, clear a path, split coconuts for food, or hack a poisonous snake to pieces. When used with awareness and skill, the machete is a useful tool. However, if a machete is used without attention or skill, it becomes a dangerous weapon. It can harm, maim, hurt and kill. The ego is like this: when tempered by your awareness, it’s useful, but when used unconsciously, it becomes extremely dangerous to you and to those around you.
Now that you have an idea how the ego operates in relationships, maybe you are curious to know how love operates? Great question. Here are some of love’s relationship calling cards.
Here’s something I firmly believe:
It’s the love in you (not the ego) that led you to this website, and it’s the love in you that is seeking to recapture that sense of wonder, newness, and intimacy in your relationship.
It’s the love in you that is willing to:
- Let go of the past
- Fall in love again
- Bring the romance back to life
- Live and love transparently
- Be the example of happiness for your kids
- Begin again
The ego, on the other hand, wants no part in this.
The ego is resistance, unwillingness, hesitation, fear, and cowardliness. It’s the voice for doubt that whispers “keep those defenses up,” “don’t go all in,” and “hold back a little.” It will argue like a lawyer and defend its negative turf like a mob boss.
One of the ego’s favorite arguments is: “Love is dangerous because it leads to pain.”
But today, I’m going to blow the whistle on the ego’s game. I’m going to ask you to take a hard and rational look at that statement and ask yourself… is it true?
Is it love that causes pain and leads us to harm each other? It only takes a minor amount of common sense to unmask that argument. This exposes something important about the ego.
The ego doesn’t solve problems. It creates problems because it is the problem.
In a way, the ego is like a corrupt cop committing the same crimes it’s pretending to protect you from. It’s the problem trying to convince you it’s the solution.
Don’t fall for that trick.
We only get hurt (and hurt others) in relationships when we let our egos take over. Should that scare you off? Nope. Because the love in you is NOT afraid of the ego. And that’s exactly why the ego is so afraid of love, because love isn’t cowed by fear.
Key Insight: Ego is afraid of what it cannot control (the love in you).
The ego simply cannot understand why there’s a part of you that isn’t cowering… why there’s a part of you that isn’t anxiety-ridden… why a part of you doesn’t go to pieces when everything else does. Because the ego doesn’t speak the language of love, it cannot understand the love in you. Therefore, the ego is terrified of love.
A few reminders…
Anything that comes from love is NOT understandable to the ego. The ego understands logic and reason, and it’s extremely clever. And yet, because its laws are based on fear, acts of love are simply beyond its comprehension.
The ego can’t tolerate forgiveness because it can’t see that compassion increases power, and mercy produces strength. This is because the ego is like bacteria: it can only flourish in dark places.
To the ego, power comes from “getting”. Therefore, winning through deception is just another standard operating procedure. Love, on the other hand, knows that power comes from “giving”, so love always extends itself transparently.
The moment of decision…
Now, you’ve come to a key moment. You have a choice to make. You must decide with which team you are going to align. Will you listen to the voice of ego or to the voice of love? That’s a choice only you can make.
More things to keep in mind…
Above all, remember this:
The return to Love is a decision.
You decide for it or against it.
Those who are against love are playing for the opposing team: the ego. Think about this carefully. Which team you choose determines whether you create relationship heaven or relationship hell.
For your sake…
I hope you choose to listen to that voice for Love that’s in you.
Because by making the simple choice to let Love win, you’ve already taken the first (and most important step) on your path back to Love and intimacy.
Now let’s move on to Step #2…
Allow the Past to Be Over
Are you willing to rediscover love?
Here’s why I ask:
The turn in the road is never the end of the road, unless the driver fails to make the turn. Although the affair signals a turning point in your relationship, it doesn’t have to signal its end. The question facing you now is how to make this into a turning point rather than a breaking point for your marriage or relationship. That’s what step two is all about. It’s about transforming a tragedy into a turning point by embracing a new beginning.
How do you do that?
By allowing the past to be over. Why should you allow the past to be over? Because it is. (Read that again.)
What happens when you allow the past to be over?
You’ve embraced true forgiveness. This is job #1 for creating a new beginning because nothing changes until you forgive. In fact, the definition of true forgiveness is allowing the past to be over. Only then are you free to move forward.
You know you have embraced forgiveness when…
You can look past the past and overlook the hurt, not because it didn’t hurt, but because it’s over. When you allow yourself to let go because you realize that holding on is more painful… when you can see your partner’s mistakes as being as much worthy of forgiveness as your own mistakes… when you stop making an idol out of a single moment of betrayal… when you realize that your relationship is way bigger than any one mistake… and when you decide to NOT let a negative event define or confine you.
But perhaps most importantly…
You know you’ve embraced true forgiveness when you give up all wishes to change the past (because changing the past is impossible).
And in that moment, you are free… free to embrace a new beginning.
So far, we’ve covered the first two steps for returning to love and intimacy after infidelity: (1) let love win; and (2) allow the past to be over.
Now, it’s time for the third step… removing the obstacles to intimacy, which makes it safe to reopen the door to sexual intimacy.
It’s important to note: if you haven’t taken the time to do the first two steps, the next step will seem very scary. This is why I strongly advise you take the time to complete the first two steps before attempting to reopen the doors of your heart and mind to intimacy.
Whenever you’re ready, let’s take a look at the final step…
Remove the Obstacles to Sexual Intimacy
I’m going to fire the first shot by pointing out that sexual intimacy is not the seat of Love.
It can be an expression of Love.
Just like the computer keyboard is not the seat of creativity, but it can be used to express creativity.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Sex and sexual intimacy (in my opinion) aren’t the same. Sex is the “mechanics” of intercourse — just the appropriate body parts are needed. Sexual intimacy, on the other hand, brings in another element — it involves the mind.
In other words…
- Physical closeness doesn’t automatically achieve intimacy.
- Physical joining doesn’t automatically produce intimacy.
Only when two minds + two bodies connect and communicate sexually can you experience sexual intimacy.
Which brings us to the tricky part. Once we’ve been hurt (or if we’ve hurt someone we love), there’s a tendency to shut down on some level, to close off our hearts in fear of being hurt, and to numb our emotions so we don’t feel the pain. Therefore, before you can even embrace true sexual intimacy, it’s important to remove the obstacles that block the way.
What are the two biggest obstacles to intimacy?
They are resentment and anger.
Let’s begin with anger. Anger is usually a “cover” emotion. In other words, whatever you think you’re angry about is NOT what’s actually upsetting you. In fact, when we take a close look at what’s behind our anger, we often find other emotions such as fear, loss, guilt, shame, and grief. But rather than face those more unpleasant emotions, many times we reach for anger instead. But sadly, anger is not just a “cover”, it’s also a “blocker”. And not only does it block us from feeling the emotions we don’t want to feel, it also blocks us from feeling the ones we DO want to feel — emotions like compassion, gratitude, and connection. And without being able to feel connected, you won’t be able to give or receive love.
Here’s the secret to diffusing anger:
Keep in mind that you’re not really upset for the reason you think you are. Remind yourself that anger is a “fraud”. It’s a cover for another type of emotion. So rather than reaching for anger, reach for courage. The courage to look within and find out what’s really causing the pain.
Now, for the second obstacle to intimacy: resentment.
Resentments are buried grievances. When we bury our hurts (rather than forgive them), they don’t die. They grow into resentments.
Here’s the thing about resentments: they take a lot of energy to maintain because those who have buried resentments have a lot invested in keeping them alive. To release resentments, remind yourself that buried pain never dies — it simply builds up, like plaque on teeth or cholesterol in arteries. So make it your mission to “empty” your resentment bucket of any injustices and hurts that you’ve been dealt. Don’t do it for anyone else; do it for yourself.
What does releasing resentments and neutralizing anger have to do with love and sexual intimacy?
The answer is… everything.
Think about it. If you’re riddled with resentment or controlled by anger, how open to intimacy can you really be? Not very. Because the sound of the word itself — IN-TO-ME-SEE — tells you what it is. Intimacy is the willingness to be SEEN. It’s about transparency. Vulnerability. Connection. This means your heart must be “free of resentment and clear of anger” in order for that type of connection to happen.
If you don’t believe me, ask yourself this question: how much more more sexually open and intimate with my partner would I be if I wasn’t being hindered by anger or resentment?
Hopefully the answer to that question gets my point across to you.
Some final thoughts…
Have you noticed that the return to intimacy after infidelity isn’t about better sex techniques, stamina, tricks or gimmicks? (These may have a place, but that place isn’t center stage.) Instead, the return to intimacy is more about releasing fears and removing the obstacles to intimacy. It’s more about “undoing” than doing anything.
Because as the poet Rumi once said, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
Are you willing to do that?
Think about that question. Many couples say they are. But when it comes down to it, neither partner wants to be the first to “let go”. I’m going to call you on that. Since you’re the one reading this article, I hereby appoint you as the one to lead in this area of your relationship — regardless of whether you are the woman or the man, the wayward or the betrayed. Since you’re the first to learn this information, you must be the one to teach it.
Now, remember how I told you I would talk more about inspiring desire in a person who seems to have no desire left?
Well, here’s the secret: it’s the desire in you that inspires the desire in your partner. But when I say desire, I don’t mean the desire for sex. I mean it’s the power of your own desire to reconnect with them, mentally and emotionally, that inspires their desire to do the same in return.
This is an important insight.
The questions that then follow are:
- Will you let the Love in you win?
- Are you willing to let the past be over so that you can rediscover each other?
- Are you willing to reopen the doors to sexual happiness?
- Will you take the mental and emotional risks called for by true sexual intimacy?
Even if those ideas scare you…
Remember that when you return to love, you actually move forward. If you do want to return to love, then that desire must NOW be accepted as a strength and not a weakness in you.
Will you allow that strength to be your guide?
I know you can.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!