William Congreve in The Mourning Bride 1697
February 14th, that special romantic day for those who love and who are loved, heralds a pinkfest of flowers, chocolates, hearts, romantic dinners and loving gifts. Saint Valentine’s day: celebrating loving and being loved.
There can be fun for single people too: match-making parties, anonymous Valentines, mystery lovers. You may not have a special love right now, but one day you will have.
But for those who’s hearts have been broken, and who remain alone, injured and rejected, Valentine’s Day is the reminder of the painful shadow lands they inhabit, of betrayal and the cruelty that drives it. The emotional dynamics for the broken hearted are different: not, I am loved; not, I am not loved now but I will be. Instead, I thought I was loved, but I discovered I wasn’t, not at all; what I thought was love was its opposite: hate.
One perspective from psychotherapy asserts that most acts of marital betrayal are, at some level, a display of aggression towards the spouse. Moments of cruelty in other words; or of hatred.
Suzi Godson recently reported in The Times that 31% of marriages survive an affair. But do those marriages flourish, once one partner knows of the cruelty that the other has displayed? “When as cared about and safe as you thought you were is as uncared about and unsafe as you turn out to be, you can never completely forgive or forget” Mark Goulston MD
Here are three fictional examples of scorned women, dramatic illustrations of Congreve’s quote, an alternative reading list for Valentine’s Day.
In The Mistresses Revenge by Tamar Cohen, Sally Islip takes revenge after she is dumped by her married lover of five years, by stalking his family, with devastating consequences.
Fay Weldon, in The Life and Loves of a She Devil, tells the story of Ruch Patchett who reaks diabolical revenge on her wayward husband.
In Honor’s Shadow, Tisiphone (named after a goddess of revenge) tries, and fails, to resist the power of her namesake’s fury.
For the broken hearted, Valentine’s day is a reminder of the anguish they experienced in love. Many of us may know someone so injured that they never again risked themselves in love. For that to happen, a step of trust must be taken once more, and not everyone can find the courage.