Why does Betrayal Kill your Desire for Sex with your Partner?

After betrayal, it can be hard to enjoy (or to even want to have) sex with your partner. You can feel there’s a wall that you just can’t break down. What are some possible reasons for this?

1. To really let yourself go, and enjoy having sex, you first need to feel safe and secure with your spouse. However, if they’ve cheated on you then it’s hard to feel safe.

Even if happened a long time ago.

Even if it wasn’t an actual affair, and your partner was addicted to online sex.

The fact, is we don’t feel safe anymore. And that makes it hard to be spontaneous now.

2. Related to this, if you’ve experienced betrayal then it’s likely you’ll feel some anxiety and doubt around having sex. There will be lingering questions: “Why wasn’t I enough?” “Am I pretty enough? “Is he happy with me?” “In his mind, is he judging and criticizing me?”  

Anxiety and safety can’t co-exist.

3. Sex has now changed from being a tease and a game, from something that is fun and which turns you on, to something with requirements, and a rating scale. (At least in the mind of the one who was betrayed).

4. When it comes to sex, we really want to feel desired. And we’d previously believed they had eyes for us alone. But, if our partner’s looked elsewhere, then we don’t feel we’re desired. Their actions sent the message that they wanted something else.

5. Eroticism is fuelled by curiosity, by a sense of the unknown, and of mystery. However, if we discover the unknown is betrayal by our spouse, then then this mystery and intrigue aren’t appealing any more!

6. If you contract an STD because your partner chose to stray, then self-preservation will prevent you wanting sex. There’s as instinctive response to protect your life and health.   

7.  Also, if your partner has deceived you, and has deeply damaged you, then abandoning yourself may now feel impossible. This resistance that you feel, and the lack of true desire, can be your body’s way of showing you your value and your worth. It is saying “Only give yourself to somebody who cares.”

Ask Us – Will I Ever be Able to Trust Again?

In this post we will briefly answer a question that was asked by one of our clients. Here is today’s question:

I am afraid to trust again. My husband was betraying me behind my back for years, and I had absolutely no idea. So, my question is how can I know it’s safe to trust another man.? I’m afraid that I’ll be duped again.”

When we’ve been betrayed, especially if it’s multiple times, or over a long period of time, then it absolutely natural to fear trusting again. It’s also natural to be afraid that you might miss something important – because you were successfully deceived in the past. It’s sad but it’s very understandable. Your fears here are normal, and are actually very healthy.

Let me beginning by saying : What you did in your previous relationship was right.

You were right to trust your ex-husband. We are meant to trust the people close to us. We can’t go through life constantly looking over our shoulder, or constantly checking to see if someone is trustworthy or not. It would be exhausting to live like that … And we would be very unhappy and insecure.  It’s not a good way to live.

The fact that your husband betrayed you is terrible. I can’t emphasize that enough. You should have been able to trust him. Period.

However, I want you to know that just because he was untrustworthy doesn’t mean all men are untrustworthy. I’m guessing that on some level you already ‘get’ that – because I imagine you already know guys who you think are trustworthy. It’s just that you’re afraid … Because it happened to you … And it was devastating …. And you’re not sure you could survive that kind of pain again.

It’s good that you desperately want to take care of yourself. You need to protect yourself.

I’m sure you also know that all relationships involve a leap of faith. No-one is completely knowable, and none of us has a crystal ball. We can’t have absolutely certainty about how anyone is going to behave in the future.

To a certain extent all relationships are a gamble. For all of us.

However, you can choose to engage your rational mind in the decision-making process. You can step back and try to objectively weigh up whether a new guy in your life really is who he presents as being. You can also ask other people for their input, as well.

And don’t be afraid to trust your intuition. It is looking out for you! Listen to any doubts you have.

Take them seriously.

Check them out.

Perhaps they are alerting to something important. But perhaps it’s also your fears that are speaking when you begin to feel wobbly and anxious. If that’s the case, thank them for wanting to protect you. Then, tell them you’ve done due diligence, and this man really does seem to be different from your ex-husband. 

Give yourself time. It’s a process. But if you’re willing to take things slowly, you may find it’s worth it in the end.

Trust is an active responsible engagement with the unknown. It is always a leap of faith.” – Esther Perel

Can Trust be Rebuilt?

Ultimately, the worst kind of pain does not come from your enemies, but from those you trust and love.”

What is necessary for trust to be rebuilt after you’ve discovered that your partner has betrayed you?

To be honest, you may never fully trust them again – and it won’t be the same kind of trust as before. However, there is still a place for hope. Often progress can be made. But the following are essential for rebuilding trust:

1. The betrayer must have made a total break with the affair partner, or be actively getting help for a sex addiction (if that is the cause of the betrayal). They should also have someone they’re accountable to, someone they check in regularly with. This must be someone you (the betrayed partner) trust as well.

2. The betrayed partner must believe in their heart that the offending partner is wholeheartedly and freely choosing them again. They have to really believe that the choice is genuine, and that their partner is unlikely to change their mind on this.

3. Related to this, the betrayed partner or spouse must really feel that ‘you love me’; ‘that you love me more than anyone, or anything, in the world’, and ‘you can’t bear the thought of life without me.

That is, the decision to hold on to the relationship cannot be because the betrayer:

– doesn’t want to be exposed,

– or to lose their reputation,

– or to lose the respect of their family or kids,

– or to lose the family home, or a lifestyle they enjoy.

4. The betrayer must take full responsibility for what they did. They must convey a deep and genuine remorse for hurting you, and for totally wrecking your life.  They can’t ‘half get it’, downplay it, or push some of the responsibility onto you, or anyone else.

5. They need to really get what this has done to you. This is quite different from being overcome by feelings of shame. Feelings of shame are often self-focused. They actually prevent us from getting inside our partner’s world, and from fully empathizing with their pain.

In fact, we can get so totally consumed by feelings of self-loathing and self-rejection, and shock at what we did and who we became that we can’t be there for anyone else.

However, the betraying partner has to ‘get’ what they have done, and broken, devastated and desolate you feel. This is absolutely crucial.

5. Part of processing and coming to terms with betrayal includes going over the same ground, and asking the same questions again and again.

For trust to be rebuilt, the perpetrator must remain patient and understanding, and be committed to not reacting to what is said (which could be hard at times!)

Also, they must honestly and fully answer any questions you have – and even encourage you to probe even deeper.

That is, they have to give you the time and space you need to process the betrayal – which could take some time! This is especially important in the initial months.

Some Questions to Consider if You’ve Been Betrayed

It’s difficult to know what’s the right thing to do after you’ve learned that your partner has betrayed you. Should you try again, or should leave and walk away? Not all relationships can (or should) be saved. And deciding the right course is extremely difficult.

Really, this is a decision that only you can make. And it’s wise to take your time, and decide what’s right for you. Don’t let your friends and family influence you too much.

So, what sorts of things should you take into account? Below are some questions that might help with this decision:

1. Is your partner willing to do the work you view as being crucial for recovery (both his recovery and your recovery)?

2. Do you feel he really ‘gets’ how hurt and traumatized you are? Does it upset him to see the pain suffering he’s caused? Or does he seem detached, and unaffected by your feelings?

3. Actions count much more than words. This is absolutely crucial. What exactly is he doing to show he’s different now? What steps has he been taking to deal with the temptations?

4. Do you feel this Is this enough? What else would help to rebuild trust?

5. Do you still want him in your life? This is a really crucial question. Even if he works on changing you might feel that it’s too late. Perhaps you can’t respect him after everything he’s done.

6. Do you enjoy his company? Would you miss him if you parted?

7. Can you imagine being close and intimate again? Perhaps you cannot picture having sex with him again.

8. What are the benefits of staying in the marriage? (You have a history together; your lives are deeply intertwined; you want to stay together for the sake of the children; you want to stay together because you actually still love him, and so on.)

9. What are the benefits of leaving the marriage? (You don’t have to deal with trust related to him possibly betraying you again; it would be easier to deal with all the fall-out on your own; you don’t want to be with someone who hurt you so badly; you would rather start again with someone else, and so on.)    

10. If you look back at your life 10 years from now, what different scenarios can you envisage? Which of those is the most likely to be the real scenario? Which would you choose, and why? Do you want to take a risk, and why? Do you think it’s wise to take a risk, and why?

Other readers may be able to add some other questions that could help you decide the right pathway for you.

But whatever you decide, please be kind to yourself, and make sure that any boundaries are respected and adhered to.          

You are not Alone

Betrayal … The details of our stories might be different but the pain we experience is the same.”

Sometimes we feel so isolated and alone.

Cut off by our pain.

Left to cope, all on our own.

But always remember you are not alone.

It is true – your experience is personal and unique.

But we get what it is like, for we understand that pain.

We have walked the road you’re on.

We have stared into the night.

We have felt the walls close in.

We have cried out in despair.

We know exactly how it feels when your future disappears.

When the past is all torn up.

And your truth become a lie …

We are here, and we care.

Please believe you’re not alone.

Don’t give up. You are strong.

We are with you on the road.

Boundaries 101

“She set her boundaries and rebuilt her life.”

What might healthy boundaries look like to you, if your partner has betrayed you in the past? Perhaps it includes some of the following:

1. Having your partner or spouse see a counsellor or therapist?

2. Requiring your partner or spouse to have an accountability partner?

3. You being the one who has administrative rights for the family computer?

4. Having all the passwords to his laptop, phone and other devices?

5. Having him remove all dating apps, and close down any accounts he has with companies like Ashley Maddison?

6. Being able to check his messages and texts anytime you want to?

7. Having access to all bank (and credit card) accounts – and going through statements together each month?

8. Having him accountable for his time so you know where he is, who he is with, and what he is doing, anytime you are apart?

9. To break all contact with (including ‘unfriend’) anyone he has previously dated/ had a relationship with?

10. For him to tell you if someone from a previous relationship ever tries to contact him again?

There are other boundaries you might want to put in place, specific to your partner, or to your relationship. Feel free to include these in the comments below.

Also, you will want to think about the way you’re going to respond if these boundaries and broken, and especially more than once.

The key thing is: you absolutely need to feel safe. Otherwise, that sense of trust can never really be rebuilt.

So don’t be hesitant to ask for what you feel you want and need. For having boundaries is crucial when you’ve been betrayed.

Boundaries are crucial. They are at the heart of every healthy relationship.”

“First, Do No Harm”

Doctors everywhere uphold the Hippocratic Oath:

Primum non nocere: “First, do no harm.”

And when you’re offering up your body into someone else’s hands, and trusting them to treat it with great tenderness and care, then “First, do no harm” makes perfect, rational sense.

For you’re making yourself vulnerable, and taking a great risk. Their actions and decisions can have life-changing effects.

Of course, doctors are just human, and they can’t fix everything.

But saying “they won’t harm us” is a crucial starting place.

How else can we feel safe, and freely trust ourselves to them?

What About Other Relationships?

Perhaps we should adhere to this in all relationships. It’s easy to do harm, and wound – quite unintentionally.  

And where this matters most is in our close relationships, especially with our spouses, or with those who share our lives.

We’re trusting them with everything – all aspects of our health, our reputation, self-esteem and, yes, our peace of mind.

This isn’t a small matter; we are taking a huge risk.

But we believe they’re safe, and they would never injure us.

The Impact of Betrayal

And that is why betrayal feels like twisting in the knife. We offered them ourselves; we offered everything we were.

How could they be so cruel; how could they trash this sacred trust?

We thought they would be faithful; that they’d love and care for us.

Primum Non Nocere

If only – like physicians – they had taken seriously the fact that we had trusted them when we had tied the knot.

If only they had cared enough to put our welfare first.

If only they’d been guided by the the Hippocratic Oath, and acted on the principle: “First, do no harm.”

Betrayal Trauma

What is betrayal trauma?

I think the following description sums it up pretty well[1]:

You certainly know it when you experience it. It is a gut-wrenching experience, a searing knife into your heart. You feel it before you even think about it. Then, when you start thinking about it, it plagues you day and night.

Betrayal is treachery, deception, and violated trust. It can appear as a broken promise, duplicity, lies, sexual affairs, and even affairs of the heart. The injury is so great that some people seem to never recover.” 

Betrayal is a trauma like no other trauma because it occurs in relationship.

It takes time to trust a person.

To weigh up who they are.

To take them at face value when they tell us that they care.

We watch the way they treat us.

We look for all the signs that indicate they’re safe.

That they’re consistent.


And when you trust a person you slowly drop your guard.

You let them see the part of you that’s hidden from the world.

This is a very sacred trust.

It is isn’t given easily.

You don’t give it to someone who is going to break your heart.

“Betrayal represents a traumatic death—not of a person, but of a relationship.”  

Betrayal marks the end of this ‘naïve’ relationship.

It shouldn’t be this way. We’re meant to form attachment bonds.

But once that trust is broken, life can never be the same.

You can’t turn back the clock.

Pretend that everything’s the same.

It’s true. We can rebuild. And over time we may forgive.

But always there’s the memory, and the truth of what they did.

Our brain has stored the trauma.

And the faded scars remain.

I wish that it was different

But betrayal changes things.

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/when-disaster-strikes-inside-disaster-psychology/201806/the-trauma-intimate-partner-betrayal