03September

Ask Dr. Christina: The Risk of Infidelity

Dear Dr. Christina,

My husband and I have been married for 5 years. We began to have marital problems due to the long hours my husband spends at work and him not paying attention to me. We separated for one month — let’s just call it “a cooling off period” — and then we decided to try to work out our problems together. We both apologized and promised one another we’d try to make our marriage work. Last week I had my annual physical exam and was told by my doctor that I needed to come back to her office to be treated for a sexually transmitted disease called “Chlamydia”. I was then shocked to my senses when my doctor told me Chlamydia was not only a STD (sexually transmitted disease), but it was a reportable disease to the Department of Public Health. I will be honest with you; during the time I was not living with my husband, I had only one affair but the guy used protection, so I know it couldn’t have been him. I want to kill my husband for bringing this awful thing into my life and into our marriage especially when I trusted him. How am I going to handle the embarrassment of others knowing that my husband cheated on me, as well as endure my private business being reported to the Department of Public Health? My husband needs to be told about this because the doctor explained to me that if he doesn’t get treated and I do, I would be re-infected by him. I have to tell him to get treated immediately, but I’m mortified.

Signed,

Confused

Dear Confused,

I can totally understand your dilemma. As you know from your doctor, it is important now for you to get treated as well as for you to tell your sexual partners to get treated. Thankfully, Chlamydia is one of the STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) that can successfully be treated and cured. In order for you not to pass it on to anyone else and assure yourself that you will not be re-exposed to it, you need to make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions and treatment advice, and tell your husband and anyone else you have had sexual contact with to get treated.

I know you are angry, and you have every right to be angry. The way you choose to handle this situation can make or break your relationship with your husband. The way you decide to approach and confront your husband about this is something that is extremely important for the future of your relationship. I am not trying to make any excuses for him, but because there was a separation, or as you said, a “cooling off period”, and the fact that you said you had only one affair but that person was using protection doesn’t mean this is something to point fingers about at your husband just yet.

I want to help you step back for a moment and let you know that during your affair with another man during the “cooling off period”, if any of the condoms he used had a hole in it or were defective in any way, or for that matter if one of them came off and he had to replace it during your sexual relations, you are the one who may have contracted the Chlamydia from your affair, instead of your husband giving this to you because of any affairs he may have had. It is possible that this could be a situation where your one-time fling went wrong. Either way, you are still going to need to address this with your husband, so clarify your information and your own activities for yourself first before talking with him. Then you can find out about his activities while you were separated and find out if he was exposed to any other woman from whom he could have contracted the disease and then given it to you.

You must be aware and understand that this is such a delicate matter. Contracting this sexually transmitted disease and your treatment of Chlamydia all depend on you on how you handle this situation because there is no way getting around it or hiding it, due to the Public Health Department’s involvement. There isn’t much to be concerned about regarding the Public Health Department’s report. They are only interested in making sure that all of the people who have been exposed to this disease get treated. It will not be in any newspaper; no one in your town will know about it as a result of the department completing its report.

I want you to focus instead on how to move forward from this situation. The infidelity has to be confronted in one way or another in order for you to go on with your life.

Here are some suggested ways to handle the delicate matter of the infidelity that occurred, no matter who is at fault:

1) The best and most important question to ask yourself at a time of crisis like this is: how much do you want your relationship with your husband to work? Do you want the relationship to continue or not? Everyone, and I mean everyone, makes mistakes and wishes that they could turn back the clock to a new beginning.

There are times when some people drink, use drugs, get mad, or listen to others and succumb to peer pressure because they want to get back at someone who hurt them. Many other reasons make us do some pretty stupid things without thinking about the repercussions of our decisions before we act on them. It’s best for all involved if you can admit to your mistake and ask the other person for forgiveness, and vice versa, and hopefully that other person will try to make a new beginning. If not, you will be hurt; but being honest to one another is extremely important, and if the other person does not reciprocate, then it is best to let him/her go. It is better to know the truth about your relationship now than to go on living a couple’s relationship that is filled with lies.

2) I know this question may sound dumb but…do you love him? Are you able to get in touch with your true feelings about him, beyond the initial anger you may be feeling right now?

If you’re not sure, give it a bit of time and give yourself some space to find out. Perhaps a different question to consider might be: do you love yourself? Is the embarrassment of this situation affecting your self-esteem and your own feelings about yourself? If it is, you might want to start with you first and get in touch with how you feel about you and how to regain your confidence in you first.

If the answers are NO for any of these, or if you need help sorting these out, then the way to handle this situation may require couple’s counseling and perhaps a bit of individual introspection and counseling in order to get to the root of your feelings about yourself, each other and your relationship.

3) If you do not tell him about the Chlamydia, much less the affair you had, believe me when I tell you, the Public Health Department will step in and inform him of the STD exposure in order for him to get treated – and anyone else who might be infected. Make your best effort to forgive that person and move on with your life — and be thankful that this STD was not life threatening.

4) Now, if you choose to be dishonest and not tell anyone about your fling and only point the finger at your husband, then harm may come to your future relationship — and to yourself and him. You wouldn’t be getting to the bottom of it; you’d potentially be digging yourself into a deeper hole with your own dishonesty by keeping essential information from the discussion that could actually help both of you get to the bottom of the situation at hand, honestly and with integrity on both sides. You would also possibly be condemning a person that may not have done anything wrong. This relationship would then be doomed, just based on the principles of marriage, integrity and honesty.

5) There are times when one person cannot take the pressure of being accused of any wrong doing, so that person may get so angry that he or she may introduce physical and mental abuse into the relationship, consciously or unconsciously.

No matter who committed the infidelity, abuse is a cruel and harmful way to treat any person in any relationship. Most of us strive to find someone in our lives who feels like our ”soul mate”, a person who we can share our good and bad times with. It is that person with whom you want to feel you can trust and share your most intimate thoughts, goals and dreams. It is about growing old together, knowing that that person will remain faithful to you and give you his or her love and understanding despite your flaws and illnesses. He or she will think you are beautiful, no matter how old you become, and he or she will remain with you because in his or her eyes, “You are beautiful.”

There is a lot to consider, Confused, but it is all in the way you look at life — and your relationship. My thoughts will be with you, as will my hopes for the best resolution possible for you and your husband.

Dr. Christina

  • Posted By: DRC Editor
  • Tags: affairs ask dr. christina better marriage Chlamydia honesty in relationship husband gave me STD infidelity life advice marriage advice STDs unfaithful husband
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