Ever wonder what happens to couples on the first Valentine’s Day after the discovery of an affair?
She glared at me in disbelief, “What part of I don’t want you to get me anything for Valentine’s don’t you understand?” she asked. I stood there with flowers and card in hand looking at the ground not sure what to do. I knew she had said do nothing, but after the discovery of my affair three months earlier I couldn’t stand not doing something to let her know I appreciated her staying. If I did nothing, I was afraid she’d be hurt and bring up all the things I did for my affair partner on Valentine’s last year and remind me how I did nothing for her. I knew she’d take my doing nothing as a sign that I didn’t care. What could I do? I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.
That first Valentine’s Day after an affair presents a dilemma for all individuals recovering from a betrayal. What was once an opportunity to do something special for your mate, a way of saying I love you, is transformed into a burning reminder of what happened. Painful television commercials portraying happy couples reading Hallmark cards remind both parties of what they don’t have. Not many Valentine’s cards are written that express regret for cheating on your partner; and a hurt spouse will find it difficult to find a Valentine’s card expressing how they feel about being betrayed.
To make matters worse, even if the unfaithful spouse buys a gift for their mate, there is a good chance their mate won’t receive it in the spirit with which it was intended. Rather, that gift serves as an upsetting reminder of what happened or else it’s seen as nothing more than a guilt offering.
In an AffairRecovery.com survey, 425 individuals who have experienced infidelity agree that the hardest part about celebrating the first Valentine’s Day after the affair is the reminder of the infidelity. Both the betrayed and the unfaithful agree, 54% and 47% respectively. Interestingly, 30% of the unfaithful say the uncertainty of how to act is the hardest part, so one can imagine the turmoil faced by this holiday.
Holidays and special occasions such as anniversaries or Valentine’s present a challenge for couples during the first year of reconciliation. Both parties may see their mate’s efforts at putting things back together, but the pain of the betrayal is amplified when special occasions serve to remind them of what they don’t have.
It’s no surprise that 70% of individuals who have gone through infidelity say the first Valentine’s after discovery of the affair is worse than previous ones shared. Hurt spouses who reported that Valentine’s Day has indeed regained meaning stated that it takes an average of 2.7 years to become meaningful or enjoyable again. However, 60% reported Valentine’s Day is still not meaningful post betrayal. Perhaps the reason for such a long recovery for this romantic day has something to do with the mentality of people when approaching Valentine’s: 44% of individuals who are approaching their first Valentine’s Day post discovery of an affair say they will take a backseat and wait and see how to act.
But all is not lost. It is possible to navigate this difficult time, but it’s not business as usual, you can’t take a backseat with a “wait and see” attitude. Take control of your recovery with these tips for getting through the Valentine’s Day After Syndrome:
1. Keep low expectations: If you get to the other side of Valentine’s and you haven’t had a blow-out, consider it a victory. One reader who has survived infidelity agrees: “Have no expectations…you may be surprised but not hurt if it isn’t spectacular. Live each day for today.”
2. Create new ways of expressing care and appreciation: Old traditions may serve as painful reminders, new traditions can provide a reminder that maybe the relationship will blossom into something greater in the future. Another reader expressed: “Don’t have too many expectations and get into the hype of the day too much either, just do something real even if it’s only little.”
3. Don’t just say it, write it: Due to the pain, your mate may not be able to believe what you are telling them at that moment, but if you write it out they can go back later and see that maybe what you wrote did mean something after all.
4. List out 20 things you appreciate about your mate: Whether or not you give it to them, doing this exercise helps you to appreciate your mate, and helps you remember what’s good. It’s human nature to be aware of what irritates; we have to be intentional to remember what we appreciate.
5. Take a break: Ask your mate if they would be willing to put a hold on recovery for a day. Agree, for one day, to focus on what is going well and avoid thinking about the betrayal. Leave focusing on the affair for tomorrow.
6. Be sensitive to what your mate wants: Don’t make the occasion about you, rather listen to your mate. You may not know whether you want to move forward in this relationship, but you can at least treat your mate the same way you’d like to be treated.
7. Do something constructive: Something which contributes to finding a better life. Another survivor says: “Focus on the now, not…what happened. Find something you are grateful for in your relationship and celebrate that part of it.” You can further be constructive in your recovery by taking the free Affair Analyzer at AffairRecovery.com. Find what steps you can take to begin moving forward towards healing.
It’s understandable why Valentine’s Day is difficult, but it can also serve as a small step towards a better life. Whatever you do, find a way to avoid behaviors that continue the cycle of hurt and instead focus on behaviors that help you to move forward. Follow these tips and you both can have a productive Valentine’s Day after.
Affair Recovery specializes in helping people heal after infidelity. After recovering from his own affair 25 years ago and helping 2,000+ other couples do the same, founder Rick Reynolds and his team have developed research-validated, groundbreaking online and in-person programs for redeeming the losses created by infidelity, betrayal, and sexual addiction. To learn more, visit www.AffairRecovery.com
AffairRecovery.com, a national leader in offering personalized online infidelity support as well as the free Affair Analyzer, examines the impact of Valentine’s Day after an affair.