According to research from Drs. John and Julie Gottman, there are three phases a couple must work through in order to repair a major breach of trust: atone, attune, and attach. If you’ve been following along with my last few blog posts, you’ll know we’ve discussed those first two phases here and here.
Today, we’re wrapping up this series with the step many couples find incredibly difficult: attach.
In our previous article, we discussed attunement and what that entails. In all relationships, the ability to attune to one another is essential to building trust, and that extends to your physical relationship, especially after a breach of trust.
If a couple is determined to stay together, that ability to attune must reach the bedroom as attachment. Dr. Gottman explains that, “Without the presence of sexual intimacy that is pleasurable to both, the relationship can’t begin again.”
After step two, your attuned relationship needs to lead to deeper intimacy — in all areas of the relationship, including but not limited to sex. In order to attach again in your relationship, both partners need to make a serious effort to rebuild the friendship, learn how to play, flirt, and entice each other again. This means continually turning toward the needs of your partner and rebuilding fondness and admiration for one another (which is essential to sustaining your relationship).
It also means making new rituals of connection. That might look like a weekly date night. Better yet, consider establishing a daily time to connect and share each other’s life’s ups and downs (Eric and I are huge fans of the stress-reducing conversation). Help each other feel like you have one another’s back. Be explicit about the fact that you matter to each other, a lot! Find out what your partner’s dreams are and if you can help make them come true.
Attachment can be reestablished, but it may take some time. Sexual intimacy needs to be entered into wisely and thoughtfully. Perhaps you’ve realized that prior to the affair, some patterns had crept into your relationship that hurt your bond and kept it from being resilient.
The Gottman Institute offers a host of great tools and resources that can help you rebuild your sexually intimate relationship — and make it much more resilient. Or perhaps you’d like to see a sex therapist. And of course, it’s always a good idea to reach out to someone on our team here at Core Values Counseling. Get in touch with us today.