Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

The Valentine’s Day After Syndrome

valentines day syndrome

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.

It’s a fair question. Just what do you do for Valentine’s Day after infidelity? It becomes one of the most dreaded holidays a couple can face. Does the unfaithful attempt to redeem the holiday and buy anything or do anything? Is it better left unaddressed and you just forget the holiday altogether. What do you tell the kids? How do you fend off the depression associated with a miserable Valentine’s Day?

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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.

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.

But all is not lost. It is possible to navigate this difficult time but it won’t come through a business as usual approach.

Here are a few tips for getting through the Valentine’s After Syndrome:

  1. Set low expectations. If you get to the other side of Valentine’s Day and you haven’t had a blowout then it truly is a victory.
  2. Create new ways of expressing care and appreciation. Old traditions may become painful reminders. New traditions can provide a reminder that maybe there can be something new in the future.
  3. Don’t just say it, write it: Due to the pain and upset your mate may be feeling, they may not be able to believe it at that moment, but if you write it out they can go back later and see that maybe what you wrote did mean something.
  4. List out 20 things you appreciate about your mate: Whether or not you give it to them, listing 20 things you appreciate about your mate 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 for a day: Ask your mate if they would be willing to take a break from recovery for a day. Agree, for one day, to focus on what is going well and avoid thinking about the betrayal. They can begin focusing on the affair the next day.
  6. Be sensitive to what your mate wants: Don’t make the occasion about you and what you think is supposed to happen; 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, which contributes to finding a better life. Perhaps you can find something fun to do without heavy romantic expectations.
  8. Have open lines of communication between you both. If you’re a betrayed spouse, communicate that you’re in pain and state what may make you feel better about the holiday and day in general. If you’re an unfaithful spouse, share your heart to just make your spouse feels safe on that day. Share you’re willing to embrace the day whatever it looks like.   

It’s understandable why Valentine’s Day is difficult, but it can also serve as a small step toward 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.

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Thank you for these helpful

Thank you for these helpful tips. It must be hard writing for a variety of circumstances, but thank you. This ministry is so needed. God Bless you and all who are reading as we remember how much God loves us in this hard season of life!

valentines day

my husband walked out during his affair. he never came back. but he expects me to act like we are friends or something. my whole world was turned upside down, it caught me off guard, i had no idea he was even unhappy. the holidays were hard, this happened in oct. and by now i should be done crying right? but i find myself bawling at the thought of valentines day. i have so much anger and resentment and hatred for him! i dont know how to get past this. is it going to hurt this much every holiday?

Valentine's Day after syndrome

Find this very very hard to comprehend.  Before the affair my husband used to say that he didnt believe in St Valentine's day  and as a result I never got anything. I got used to it as a way of life.  When he had his affair, he went full throtle, bought expensive gifts, flowers, dined out at expensive hotels with his affair partner things he never did for me.  Now he still maintains and continues with his former tradition - I get nothing.  Its been 5 years since the affair ended but it sure hurts to know that I dont get treated well when a mistress got it all.

Valentine's Day

I am a betrayed spouse, and we are trying to work on recovery. I didn't get my husband any Christmas gifts this year, but I did take the kids and let them get something for him. He also got a few things for himself to put under the tree, I guess so the kids wouldn't know that something was wrong. (of course they do know something is wrong) I just don't feel ready to buy my husband a card about love, commitment and dedication. And I agree, I think if he gets me anything, it will upset me which I know is not his intent. I am struggling with expressing how hurt I am with my desire to recover our marriage and move forward. I don't want to push him back into her arms.

The Day After Valentines Day...

My husband was the unfaithful party and we just passed our 29th Anniversay.  It was a difficult day, but my approach was to acknowledge this day in a very small way.  Coming right after Christmas was difficult too, but we were able to acknowledde that we wanted to do something for each other that conveyed a thoughfulness for the others interests.  Now, Valentines Day doesn't seem as daunting.  Still don't know if I want to stay together with him but can stand to see his face now!

Valentines day

My spouse cheated on me over 2 years ago. He has been wonderful to me since discovery. I've been given gifts, flowers, and love and attention throughout the years. However, when it came to pick out a valentine card for him, tears came to my eyes and I struggled to find the right card with the right words. I laughed at the cards that said "true love", "cant live without you".. What a joke. I know I'm bitter, but it's hard to give 100% of your heart again when the wound is still deep.

I feel you

I know exactly how you feel. How can you say “oh we are soulmates” when my soulmate would not do that to me. I resent him. I feel like he wasted too many years of my life and now i’m Supposed to dote on him for a stupid holiday.

I just want to pretend it is just another day....

This is the 2nd Valentine's day since the affair was discovered.  Last year I made my husband leave and go to a hotel.  We are "separated" right now, but still living under the same roof.  I struggle with this day because I found out about the affair right after Valentine's day.  He bought me all kinds of stuff for Valentine's day, while all the time having an affair.

Last year it was completely ignored and I want this year to be the same way.  I can't speak for everyone, but from my perspective, when I tell him I don't want anything - I truly don't want anything.  I'm afraid he will come in with presents and while I'm trying to be calm, I know that will evoke a fight.

For those of you that have betrayed your spouse and think going overboard will help, it will probably make it worse.  You should ask what he/she wants to do and then honor that.  It will be appreciated far more than lavish gifts.

my affair

I betrayed my wife and I admit I was so wrong for hurting her and our children. I have gone to a marriage counselor and she has too. We sometime with have a couple's session. I am trying so hard (maybe too hard) to prove to my wife that I am changing for the better. I continue to pray daily for the strength for us to make it through the very difficult time in our life. She shares all the AR newsletters with me and for that I am greatful. I would like to recommend a book called After the Affair. It is a very goo dbok for both parties. You can even download it to you Android phone or Kindles. Thank you the great article and look forward to continuing to read them.

The 1st year was a blur but it gets better.

My husband (the betrayer) was living 3 hours away from our home/family due to his job. I had suspected an affair for several months and finally confronted him a few weeks after Valentine's Day in 2009. He was finally truthful with me.. We went through counseling as a couple and he individually and I took the affair recovery course. He was able to move back home eventually. The first year back together is a blur - I have hardly any recollection of holidays, except to think that this time last year he was with his mistress for Halloween and Valentines. Even when he was with me for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's the phone records show he was calling and texting her - even on our 29th anniversary. We have just celebrated our 33rd anniversary and although I still have fleeting thoughts, I am back to making new memories with my mate. Hang in there and if the betrayer truly wants to change, life will get better. It takes prayers, forgiveness, and lots of open communication.

After the affair

Just prior to discovering my husbands second affair, my father died suddenly.
I saw later that while he was with me and the family during the funeral, he was constantly calling and texting his AP.
Even during the viewing and reception. Even during the burial.


I am the unfaithful spouse and my birthday falls on Valentine's day. This is really a difficult one. I am also out of the house. I would like to do something for her but I know she would not accept it. Your thoughts

VD after

Just wrote her a nice note expressing your sorrow and tell her a few things you appreciate about her. Ask her to dinnner or a walk if you think she will want to go.

I'm the betrayed and I think

I'm the betrayed and I think the suggestions in this article are good. Start with low expectations knowing she very well might not receive what you're offering how you hoped but the gesture will still be appreciated eventually. Whatever you choose to do make it different from previous years to avoid triggering her and definitely include a letter or note expressing apology and your thankfulness for her second chance. Make it about her and not you, even if it's your birthday. Sorry to say it but the last thing she'll want is to celebrate the one who broke her heart. She'll most likely just want to survive the day but a small gesture on your part that she was thought of could help.

Advice from a betrayed spouse

I'm a bit confused by what you mean by "out of the house", but I'm assuming that you mean you and your spouse separated. Whatever the case, try your best to spend as much of the day with her as you possibly can. Ignore all calls and texts, make the day all about her... even though it's also your birthday. Try to do something with her that you know she's wanted to do but for some reason you haven't, like a particular restaurant or attraction. Even though it's also your birthday, have a gift for her; and if she gives you one also be sure to open yours last. Women are far more emotionally involved with Valentine's than us men, but I know I would be impressed if my wife took such efforts to make amends.

Setting low expectations is probably the best advice

Its sad but as the unfaithful Im learning that setting low expectations for things like this are probably what is best. We are almost 6 months past D-Day and still almost every time we go out on a date my wife struggles. I end up feeling let down and like the date was a mistake trying - dammed either way as this article points out. I asked my wife on a date this Friday. I plan to put my best foot forward and not feel rejected if she struggles again. I know its because she is still mourning the loss of the marriage/husband she thought she had. But doing nothing I think suggests Ive given up or don't care. The last thing I want her to think now is that I don't care. She is the love of my life (even though my past actions don't suggest that) and I won't give up. I will keep getting back up as I know one day we will get through a date with all smiles and no tears.

setting low expectations to pwrwagn

You go for it, as the betrayed I think you are doing the best you can and that is absolutely the thing to do. It has taken me 10 months to shift my pain and it is slowly happening now that my partner has finally stepped up to the line to talk of his actions and to own them. Every little bit he does to make things better helps even if the pain doesn't go away immediately. Your partner will look back once she has recovered and will remember the kind things you did each step of the way through your recovery so be brave and keep doing them no matter the rejection. Doing small but thoughtful acts will make a difference. good luck.

Response for pwrwagn

I as the hurt spouse applaud your thoughts and hope that you carry through on them. I for the longest time did not respond in kind to offers for dinner and such. This was because when we went out, I only could envision how my husband had taken her out. Did he hold her hand like he did mine? Did he lead so gallantly as he does with me? I suspected so. As I knew he would be on his best behavior and trying to impress. It took me a very long time. (Years) but I am now finally able to accept an invitation and not see before me a moving picture of what my imagination had conjured up regarding his past affair. My husband did not give up either. And I applaud your resolve in not doing so either. It will surly take a while, but your spouse will cone around eventually. It takes whatever it takes for each of us to work the whole thing through. There is an end to the tunnel. Even if you are not quite seeing the light as of yet. Carry on!

Not good.

Valentine's Day is also our wedding anniversary. Since my H's affair, 4 years ago, neither is a cause for celebration for me. I was always the one, for the 11 years before Dday, that went over the top celebrating...not anymore. If he comes up with something, fine, but I no longer feel like trying. All the joy of that day is gone. It means nothing to me and it's just another day...just like he told me when he was in the affair. Feb 14th, 4 years ago, I received an anniversary card, not from him, but from the OW (who was my supposed friend). Nope...don't like that day anymore.

Valentine's day during the affair

Facebook has a way of reminding me of the past. A "memory" of Valentine's Day came up a year after the affair. It was a picture and a comment about my husband being so sweet to me on V-day. He was making chocolate covered strawberries. He was also in the midst of his affair. I asked him how he could do both. He replied that it wasn't about me. He is good at compartmentalizing.

My partner’s main form of

My partner’s main form of explanation for his many betrayals is also for him to say that he’s “good at compartmentalising”!

Valentines Day discovery

I found out he was cheating because on Valentines Day 2012 there were numerous calls and texts to one number. A number I didn't recognize on the itemized phone statement. He was texting and calling her all day and even through our Valentines Day dinner, most likely when I stepped away to go to the ladies room. I googled the number and her information came up, instantly putting things together for me. it was an emotional affair that had been ongoing since the beginning of our marriage and physical for 2 years prior to discovery. This 'holiday' has been extremely difficult but I have come a long way. We have divorced in the last 4 months and while I've healed to some extent, it still stings a bit. It's difficult to trust any new men I meet that may be genuine, because I've heard it before. I'm intentionally trying to move beyond it and these blogs help to understand things. A lot. To those that posted that you've been unfaithful and don't know what to do - DO EVERYTHING. Don't just say things. FOLLOW THROUGH with actions. Maybe instead of a store bought card, give her a home made coupon book with all of your passwords. Buy both of yourselves new phones and phone numbers, or personalized license plates for everyone to know you are hers; Don't do something you've done in the past because you'll just be proving you're still the same unchanged man. For the man with the Valentines Day birthday, be careful to not make it about yourself. She's probably secretly thinking she wished you weren't born as you are the source of such pain. I never celebrated his birthday since the discovery. Probably not the best way to make amends, but when your actions as the unfaithful don't match your words, it's basically impossible to regain the trust. The words and the actions cannot differ. I pray you get the strength to be vulnerable and humble, and show your remorse. That's the best Valentines Day gift a hurt spouse can receive. Blessings.

Valentines or any other important day

I'm 3 years post D-day since I found out my wife had an affair. I choose to stay in the marriage for a number of reasons but when it comes to Valentines Day, Birthdays, Holidays or Anniversary I find it very difficult to want to get her anything. She's done everything she can and continue to try and make up for her mistake. To be 100% honest I prefer not to get her anything or that she gets me anything. I'm not sure if this will be forever but it's definitely how I feel now. Don't get me wrong the pain lessons everyday and those "special days" continue to come but I don't think they'll ever have the meaning they once had.

Just found out

My wife and I had been struggling for while, and I just found out a week before Valentine's Day that she had an affair. Valentine's Day was also the day we started dating. We worked together, and on that first Valentine's Day, I left a single rose at her workspace so she would find it when she arrived in the morning.

I am determined to keep us together, but I don't want to seem like I'm rewarding her behavior with candy and flowers. I know she got me something (she purchased it before I confronted her about the affair). She's currently sleeping on the pull-out sofa in the living room. I intend to leave a single rose on the bed by her so she can see it in the morning, just like our first Valentine's. I bought her candies, too, but they're going to be from our son (3yrs old)

My DDay was VDAY

30 days ago my wife dropped the nuclear bomb on me. For whatever reason, I needed to learn about her 2-year affair and 13-year cover-up on our way to dinner at our favorite restaurant on Valentines Day. To make it more special, she did the three-week slow reveal - what started as a one night oops has evolved into basically a two-year affair living with another man.
I can't wait to see my flooding next Feb 14.

What does the betrayed want?

Thank you for your vulnerability in writing this. I know many out there need to hear this.

What I would like to offer as a betrayed partner and as an APSATS certified partner coach, is for the person who betrayed to really hone in on #6, #7, and #8 above. Ask what their devastated spouse wants in regards to Valentine's Day. (Going a few steps further, if you have anniversaries coming up, ask what the betrayed spouse wants.)

Part of re-earning her trust is for you to take what she says seriously and not assume, nor overdo. (A wholehearted yes to the "guilt offering" when it comes to gifts after a marriage completely void of such things before.) For so long the betrayed partner was not heard. She will continue to feel unvalidated, unheard, and unseen if a betrayer doesn't honor what she asks for when trying to heal from betrayal trauma.

For the betrayer, there is a possibility of being in a "damned if you do/damned if you don't" scenario. To avoid this, after asking what she wants, tell her that you will honor what she says and also give her permission to change her mind. Maybe at the last minute she will want something. But, do not assume and treat her needs and wants as precious.

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