Valentine’s Day After the Affair: Pain or Passion?

Couple stands outside house, man with hands on woman's shoulders, looking into her eyesWhen someone discovers an affair, “the world no longer makes sense.” —Janis A. Spring

• • •

Dear Sam,

It’s been a month since I learned about your affair. I am still devastated and grieving for the marriage I thought I had. My world turned upside down when I saw your text to her: “I want to feel your body next to mine. Soon.” The words will forever be etched in my mind. “Sad” doesn’t begin to describe the angst I’ve felt.

I believe you want to save our marriage. You said you were in lust with her, but not in love. You broke it off the day I found out. You went to therapy. You’ve listened to my pain and validated the hurt you caused. I’m working to understand what happened in our marriage. I now realize I put the kids first and turned you away sexually for years. I understand you felt rejected by me. That must have been very painful.

Now Valentine’s Day is here. The union of pain and passion is so confusing. Our sex has been better than ever before. I feel our connection more deeply than I’ve felt in years. Maybe more than ever before. How ironic.

So how do we deal with Valentine’s Day after the affair?

I don’t want candy. I don’t want flowers. I want you to show you love me. I want you to look in my eyes and tell me why you love me, why I’m special to you, why you want our relationship to continue for a lifetime. I want you to look in my eyes and see the pain I feel as a reflection of my passion, my love for you, my hope for our future, my intention to never again allow you and our relationship to mindlessly drift away. I want to look in your eyes and see your sorrow for my hurt, your desire for me and our connection, the promise of the commitment we made to love each other forever.

Love,

Deb

• • •

Dear Deb,

“Sorry” can’t describe the profound feelings of guilt for how I’ve hurt you. Every time I look at your face and see your tears, I feel another cut in my heart. I wonder if the sensation I have is similar to your hurt from the devastating pain I caused you.

You didn’t deserve to have this happen. I really screwed up. I’ll do whatever it takes to fix this, to win you back.

It’s so odd that the passion between us has returned as a result of me almost losing you. Yes, the pain and the passion seem like flip sides of the same coin.

I appreciate you listening to how I shut down sexually in our relationship, even though that is no excuse for what I did. I take sole responsibility for that.

It’s so odd that the passion between us has returned as a result of me almost losing you. Yes, the pain and the passion seem like flip sides of the same coin.

I understand you don’t want Valentine’s Day to be superficial. I want to show you how much I love you and am so grateful you are willing to work on forgiving me. I promise I will work with you for the rest of our days to face our problems and communicate. Isn’t it strange this crisis has brought us to a place where we are closer than before? I love you.

Sam

• • •

These letters could have been written by many couples in therapy who are healing from infidelity. As a marriage and couples counselor, I am witness to a vast range of intense emotions—feelings of deep emotional and sexual love and passion, in addition to shock, devastation, anger, fear, guilt, and sadness. When I started my practice 30 years ago, I would have thought this impossible. Wouldn’t the partner who discovered the affair be stuck in anger? The answer, more often than not, is no. Feelings after an affair are tumultuous. They tend to fluctuate between great pain and deep connection.

After an affair, Valentine’s Day often brings a mixture of pain and passion.

What allows couples to let go and move beyond the pain is the experience of being guided through these intense emotions—walking right into them, feeling them, sharing them, and sitting with them. Some try to jump over them, deny them, swallow them, or go around them. They quickly discover these strategies don’t work. Helping people face, embrace, and journey through intense emotions is what therapists do. You are not alone. If you’re struggling in the aftermath of an affair, contact a licensed counselor.

© Copyright 2018 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lori Hollander, LCSW-C, BCD, therapist in Owings Mills, Maryland

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 4 comments
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  • Libby

    Libby

    February 13th, 2018 at 9:58 AM

    Ok. It’s possible to rebuild trust and for a husband and wife to rebuild their marriage, but you’re kidding yourself if you think it’s easy. It maybe won’t work also because a person who cheats might cheat again. You have to accept that fact before you decide to try again. BE PREPARED but good luck if you think it will work for you. But worry about the trust and things that are real between you, not some silly hallmark holiday.

  • Lori Hollander

    Lori Hollander

    February 15th, 2018 at 10:49 AM

    Libby, Thanks for your thoughts. You are right. Repairing and rebuilding a marriage after a major break in trust, like an affair, is not easy. And in our practice we have worked with many couples who have done just that. Rebuilding trust takes lots of time, patience, perseverance and therapy. When couples have their “family unit” at stake many choose to repair their union.

  • Cassie t

    Cassie t

    February 14th, 2018 at 6:32 AM

    I am dissolutions do about what our relationship of 45 years of marriage after finding out he is a serial cheater and NOW wants to commit. I am sad and angry..

  • Lori Hollander

    Lori Hollander

    February 15th, 2018 at 10:53 AM

    Cassie, Wow…45 years married and you just found out. What a traumatic blow. I’m sure sad and angry only begin to describe how you must feel. I would recommend you getting some individual therapy to figure out how to handle this. This is a lot to bear.

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