Mistress Day

Guest post by Scott D. Haltzman, M.D.

I’ve been writing about marriage for quite some time now, and just about every year, about this time, I’m prompted to write some inspiring words about love and marriage, not just because it’s Valentine’s Day, but because the second week of February is also national marriage week.

But this year I’m going to write about the evil twin sister of Valentine’s Day called “Mistress Day.”

People who are in romantic relationships want to celebrate their connection to each other. While each pair may celebrate its unique day in the form of an anniversary, in Western culture only one day is devoted to in-love couples: Valentine’s Day.

But what if you don’t happen to be coupled with the person you’re involved with, and, worse, you are married to someone else? For those people, the day before Valentine’s Day, February 13, has become an unofficially recognized day for sharing time together. According to merchants, restaurant owners, and innkeepers, there is a pre-valentine’s day bump in dating behavior by married individuals who wish to keep their extramarital relationship secret. This has unofficially earned the name “Mistress Day,” because, more often than not, it’s the married man arranging the date.

I suppose it makes sense for people who wish to formalize their bond with each other to seek some way to celebrate love. It’s certainly understandable why they would need to do it on a day other than February 14. That day, after all, is reserved for more socially sanctioned couples. It’s hard not to look at this day and pass judgment, as some have done with the nickname, “Valenswine’s Day.”

But I’ve studied infidelity long enough to know that people who engage in affairs are not happy with having to sneak around; they don’t love themselves for what they are doing; and many find themselves not knowing how to make sense out of the split allegiances. Many report that they still feel strong love for their spouses. While some individuals who cheat do so without regard to the feelings of their mate, many tell me the affair is something that they wish had never happened; these people want to find a way to meet their commitment to share a lifetime together with their spouse.

Infidelity can rip apart a marriage. If you’re in an affair, you need to choose between ending the marriage or finding a way to heal the marriage. The first step in rebuilding is breaking free of your affair mate. It may be harder than you ever imagined, because attraction to someone you’re cheating with can be like an addiction. However, by cutting off communications with that person, and putting energy back into your marriage, you can start to get more clearheaded about what you really want. What would happen if you showered your married mate with the attention and time you gave your affair mate? What would happen if you could begin to do exciting things together again, and really talk? Sure, there will be rough spots, because you’ve had lots of tough times, but the closeness you will gain with your mate will trump anything you can get in an extramarital fling.

So, if you’re tempted to take your mistress out this February 13, take your wife out instead! Every day should be devoted to the same thing that February 14 is: maintaining a commitment to improve your marriage and foster a deeper love with the person you pledged to be with for life.

haltzmanA distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Scott D. Haltzman, M.D., is internationally recognized for his work in support of building and maintaining committed relationships. His latest book, The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity, is due out in May and is available for preorder now. This blog post originally appeared on From the Desk of Dr. Scott