Question: My husband has done everything a man could do to make it up to me for his brief affair. He is extremely remorseful. He has willingly opened up and answered all my questions about the affair, and we have developed the kind of honesty in our marriage that gives me confidence in our future together, BUT my husband gave me an STD. How can I heal when I have to live with this STD for the rest of my life reminding me of his unfaithfulness?
Answer: I’m sorry to hear that you have contracted an STD. If it’s any consolation, you are not alone. In about 50% of the cases of affair survivors we support this is the case. In spite of all the education today, people are so unaware of the epidemic of STD’s. Everyone thinks it won’t happen to them.
I remember when Brian and I discussed STD’s during our healing journey. He said he knew I wouldn’t get an STD because the other woman was monogamous!! I had to remind him that she wasn’t. He had put me at tremendous risk. He could not be sure of her sexual history, much less her husband’s sexual history!!
One woman I know was a virgin when she got married and contracted an STD from her husband on their honeymoon. Nice reward for waiting!
When bad things like this happen, there are unfortunately no miracle solutions to make it all go away. Yes, you have an STD now, no it won’t go away, and yes, it’s likely to remind you of the affair.
When bad, unchangeable things like this happen, it’s normal and healthy to go through stages of emotion, first denial – we don’t want to face it ... "I don't believe husband gave me an STD", then anger ("I can't believe my husband gave me an STD") – and so we should be mad. Anger expressed properly is a good emotion that helps us to heal properly, then depression ("I can't go on because husband gave me an STD")– we withdraw, feel upset, sad. This is also a healthy and necessary part of the healing process. In the end, comes acceptance. Not unlike the popular poem:
God grant me the serenity,
To accept the things I cannot change,
To change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
- Reinhold Niebuhr
Your STD is not unlike cases where a child is born as a result of an affair. Talk about a constant reminder – the child may even look like the affair partner! Yet, even in these situations I’ve seen amazing examples of grace, forgiveness and genuine healing.
In another situation a wife had an affair with a popular television news anchorman. The other man’s face is everywhere including the grocery store check out and the side of buses!
Your situation is also not unlike other unfair situations that don’t involve affairs, like the person who lives in a wheel chair for the rest of their life because of an accident caused by a drunk driver. Whatever the situation, people suffer as a result of the wrongdoings of others, and in some situations like yours, forgiveness won’t take the disease away. It’s unfair, and so is life. You have a new reality to live with.
Yet, what can happen for you in the future is your emotional healing, understanding of your husband’s affair and your ability to forgive and accept can become so complete that although you have a reminder, when you remember you will no longer feel deep emotional pain attached to that memory.
You and your husband can go on to create an even stronger love and bond, an even greater friendship on the other side of this affair, and that will be where your focus is. You can be very happy with your life on the other side of this emotional pain.
Remember also that there are no easy answers. If you were to leave your husband over his affair, you would still have the STD, so either way you live with it … unless you receive a miracle.
Another principle that is helpful in any painful situation is to count the things that are right in your life. You would think answering our affair questions as my husband did and as your husband has done would be the least a spouse could do after an affair … apparently not. As I continue to work with affair survivors, I find spouses like ours are an exception, not the rule. Most spouses are unwilling to talk about the affair. Also thank goodness it was only a brief affair. I work with many husbands and wives whose spouses affair/s have lasted for years, some even the entire duration of their marriage!
I share these things because when bad things happen it’s sometimes helpful to think of others who are worse off than ourselves, like the saying:
I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes, then I met a man who had no feet!
I wish I could write a magical solution and take away the STD for you, but of course I can’t. I do hope these thoughts will be helpful and provide you with some comfort and encouragement. You can still have happiness in your life. Knowing 'my husband gave me an STD' does not need to rob you of all your future joy.
©Copyright 2010 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.