Valentine’s Day is a huge romantic day supposed to be filled with love and romance. For couples recovering from infidelity, it often is a holiday couples would rather skip. Infidelity rips apart relationships and hearts and those couples who choose to work through the pain and the breach in trust, find that holidays trigger the pain all over again. Valentine’s Day can be extremely hard for both the injured spouse and the person who had the affair. For the person who had the extramarital affair, it’s a holiday filled with “getting it right” with the spouse they hurt. For the injured partner, it’s a day filled with “am I enough?” and “how do I know that you REALLY love me?”
How do you navigate? Here are some tips for both the injured spouse and the spouse who had the extramarital affair.
For the partner who had the affair: You can’t heal the hurt and speed the recovery with flowers and cards alone. You too may be grieving the pain you have caused and feeling like you won’t be able to get it right with your partner. You’ve been a source of hurt in the relationship in the past, and you want to be a source of healing now. You can! Here are some tips how:
1) Be sensitive to your partner’s pain. Don’t make the holiday about you and don’t pressure your partner for anything.
Ask your partner what they might be feeling about Valentine’s day. Be prepared for the hurt that may come up. Your best response is to let them know you understand and want to be a source of healing. Ask them what their expectations of that day will be like. TAKE NOTES.
2) Share your love for your partner. Perhaps it’s been difficult. The hurt and pain you see in your partner’s eyes triggers your guilt and you feel that your love won’t be received. Don’t despair. Share you love openly and willingly. Your partner is trying to learn to trust your love for them and while they may not be able to take it in completely, don’t stop sharing. While I’m not a big proponent of the commercialism of Valentine’s Day, after asking what your partner expects for the day, go all out. You know what they like…most times it’s the thought and time put into your gift (whether it’s a hand made card or something you buy) that matter. Your partner wants to know they matter. Write it out. It doesn’t matter if you are a beautiful poet or can barely form a sentence. Make the effort and find the things you love about them and write them down in a hand made card.
3) Don’t do what you’ve always done. Do something different. Old traditions and patterns can trigger new hurts because they’ve been tarnished by the infidelity. Ask your partner about creating a new tradition together and be open to their needs and suggestions.
4) Offer to go to that couples workshop or get into therapy support if you aren't already working with someone. It's hard to navigate regaining trust and working on the relationship alone. This could be a huge gift to your partner and will send the message that you want things to work out and are willing to do the work with them.
For the Injured Partner—your partner has been a source of hurt. No denying that. They can also be a source of healing now. Will you let them?
1) Take a break from recovery and talking about the relationship*. It’s okay to put the recovery process aside for a day. The hurt and pain may not subside, but nurture your relationship and take a break from the recovery work and get back to it the day after. It’s okay to get some respite and connect with your partner and enjoy them and their commitment to working through this (assuming they are engaged in the recovery process).
2) Communicate what you want clearly. Think about what you want for the day and communicate it clearly to your partner. Be reasonable and set your partner up for success. Don’t ask for a 5 carat diamond that you can’t afford just to test to see if you matter. Think about what is meaningful to you—cards? Time? Think about it and share it with your partner. Be open to your partner's ideas too.
3) Make a list of things you are grateful for in your life. Post infidelity, we often cannot think about anything else but our pain. Make a list of things that bring you joy and find some pictures online to post on a private Pinterest board or in a document that you can go back to that may settle your heart. It might be very hard, but you will feel better having done so…even temporarily.
4) Plan something active. Movies, TV can often trigger hurt feelings as many movies and shows contain affairs. Activity can help any anxiousness you may feel and sharing the activity with your partner, even better.
*If this is a recent discovery this will be hard—this one is more for the couple in recovery with therapeutic support.
Repair is possible and you CAN get through betrayal together. If you are in the San Diego area, I am specially trained to work with couples recovering from infidelity and would be happy to speak with you about support. Even if it's been a while since the affair, therapeutic support can help deepen the repair and recovery. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.333.6382.