How to survive Valentine’s Day as a sex or porn addict

It’s that time of year again.  Time for hearts and frills on everything. On chocolates, on flowers, on TV, on social media, and of course, on underwear! Yes, February 14th is for lurve – and there’s no way to escape it, no matter how much you may want to.

In the past, this day may have been one when you and your partner celebrated your relationship. A day when you proclaimed your undying love and shared kisses, cuddles and maybe quite a lot more. But for couples recovering from sex addiction or porn addiction, Valentines will be awkward at best, and quite possibly, heart-breaking. If it’s the first Valentine’s day you’ve faced you may feel totally unprepared, maybe you’re just gritting your teeth, saying nothing and desperately waiting for Feb 15th.  Or if it’s the second, or third, or more, since the discovery of sex or porn addiction, then today may be a sad reminder of what’s been lost. 

In my experience the biggest mistake that couples make is to ignore these events and hope they’ll just slip by unnoticed. Actually, correction. If ‘both’ of you ignore it, then maybe it will be fine, but the problem is that you don’t really know if your partner is ignoring it, or waiting to see if you’ll say something. Will you notice? Will you acknowledge the pain the day will cause?  Will you show empathy? Will you be proactive and pre-empt the difficulty? Or stick your head in the sand?  The only thing worse than Valentine’s day, is a partner who pretends it’s not a problem, or knows that it will be a problem, but does nothing about it. Below are some suggestions for how to make the day easier: 

How to survive

  • Plan ahead. There’s no excuse, Valentine’s is the same day every year, so are other potentially painful anniversaries, so talk about it now. 
  • Talk about it.  Assume it will be painful and difficult and ask your partner how they feel. Share how you feel about it as well, your anxieties and your pain.  
  • Keep talking about it. Just because you raised the topic last week, that doesn’t mean that the subject is now closed. Ensure the door is always open to more conversations. 
  • Empathise. As well as listening to how your partner feels, make sure you show empathy. In other words, you demonstrate that you understand how painful it is.
  • Reassure. Valentine’s day may be particularly triggering for your partner, particularly if your acting out included affairs. Ensure you do whatever you can to reassure your partner that you’re working on your recovery. 
  • Do something different. For example, if you’d normally go out to a restaurant, maybe go to see a film instead. If you would normally buy presents, agree to buy something joint or give the money to charity. Ideally you don’t want to be sat in front of the TV feeling awkward, so what can you do to make the day go quicker. 
  • Don’t do it alone.  This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. If you’re not already part of a support group for addicts and partners, join one. Others have walked this path before and they will also have advice and suggestions. Most importantly, they’ll be able to comfort you that you’re not alone and encourage you that it does get easier.  

Helping your partner

If you’re in recovery for sex or porn addiction, you’ll know first-hand the pain it causes your partner. The betrayal, the confusion, the trauma. It’s really difficult to see how devasted your partner is, especially when you’re the one that caused the pain. But ignoring it or hoping it will go away will only make things worse. For more advice and help in how to help your partner cope and move on from your betrayal, you can join one of our online workshops – https://thelaurelcentre.co.uk/courses/understanding-partners-needs/

Or you can download the self-help podcast series from Pivotal Recovery – https://www.pivotalrecovery.org/helping-your-partner/

The good news is that time really is a great healer and celebrations, such as Valentine’s Day do get easier as time goes on. It’s hard to believe it in the early days, but it’s true. For more help in surviving as a couple, do have a look at my book – ‘Sex Addiction – A Guide for Couples’.