Getting intimate after a cheat

About a year ago, Boston Globe film critic Wesley Morris and I made a list of our 16 favorite romantic movies and let you vote on them. We called it the Romance Rumble, and when it was over we screened the winner --- Wesley's pick, "Casablanca" -- at the Somerville Theatre.

Today marks the start of the second Romance Rumble. This year, Wesley and I opted to choose our favorite sexy movies (as opposed to romantic) and again, we're putting them to you for a vote. We'll screen the winner in Somerville on Feb. 10.

Vote and join us. No matter what wins, it'll be a fun night, and a great way to spend the Friday before Valentine's Day.

And now a letter ...

My husband and I are in our 40s and have been married for 15 years. We have 3 good kids, and both hold rewarding jobs. Over the years, things have been up and down, as I think is natural in a long-term relationship, but it really started to go downhill a few years ago, with neither of us really paying attention to the other, then feeling hurt because the other was not paying attention. I had been depressed and put on some weight and felt unattractive, and he did not seem to want me. He also felt that he was unwanted. The fact that he travels for his job also meant that he was not home during the week to help with the house, kids, etc. and by the time weekends rolled around, both of us were just too tired to take care of the relationship.

Several months ago, I discovered he was having an affair with a much younger woman. The "relationship" is over, and I am working very hard to get past it. To give him his credit, he is working hard on this too -- being more considerate and accessible when he is home. Of course, I have my doubts, but I really want to get past this and get to a better place in our marriage.

However, there is a sticking point. He wants a sexual relationship, like now. I agree with him that sex is an important part of a healthy marriage, and I too would like to have a good sex life, but he has actually set a deadline for when he expects sex to resume. I feel so insecure about making myself open and vulnerable -- I just cannot relax enough to even think about being physical, and the more he pressures me, the more tense and anxious I get. And yes, I even feel resentful.

We did try couples' counseling, but that did not work out. I still think that it's important to try counseling, but I have hit a brick wall. He completely refuses to try that again. I just don't know where to go from here. It seems unfair to put so much pressure on me to resume a sexual relationship -- I feel as though this part of our lives will grow back organically and should not feel forced.

– Rock and a Hard Place, Somerville

Well, I'm on your side about deadlines, RAAHP. You can't force physical intimacy, and deadlines don't work. You've only had a few months to process this betrayal, and it's going to take time. That said, the longer you go without being intimate, the scarier it might get.

My advice? Tell him that you want to meet in the middle. Sex is overwhelming right now, but maybe some cuddling and first base isn't. Maybe first base will lead to second on its own. Maybe you can stay there for a while. Maybe you can start with some simple making out in front of a movie, something you watched when you first got married.

This shouldn't be something you do for him. It shouldn't be something that you have to get through. It should be an act of love for both of you.

If you can commit to testing the bases (or even the cuddling in front of the TV), he should be able join you in in couples therapy, Part 2. And please, no matter what, go to therapy on your own.

Let him know that you're willing to test out the bases if he reconsiders talking to a professional (and drops his ridiculous deadline). Trust is built on first and second base -- and on open and honest discussion. He either wants that stuff or he doesn't.

Readers? Deadlines? How can she reestablish physical intimacy after a betrayal? Thoughts on getting him back to therapy? Anyone have empathy about his deadline? Will the physical intimacy just come back naturally? Discuss.

– Meredith