Question: “Dear Anne – In your book you wrote that you realized your husband was having a full-blown sexual relationship with another woman, yet, you also allowed him to have intimate relations with you while you knew the affair was going on. Did you not think or did you wonder if it was still “safe” to have sex with him in the age of so many STDs? Since you didn’t know exactly the health history of this other woman, did you ever worry about your own health safety or getting your spouse tested for STDs?
Answer: First of all, I had been having sexual relations with my husband for 2 full months, pretty much every night, while the affair WAS going on AND I DIDN’T KNOW. I didn’t have a clue. He was often having sex with her at lunch and sex with me at night. So if he had contacted an STD from her, I had most likely already gotten it.
After disclosure of the affair, I wasn’t thinking rationally at all. No, I wasn’t worried about my health. I was questioning whether I even wanted to live anymore. Everything I valued, everything that mattered to me had been stripped from me. My life was shattered. It had become nothing more than a heap of ruins. I was in a state of emotional trauma. Having my spouse tested for STDs just wasn’t on my radar.
This is illustrated by the fact that after my pastors warning the other woman might be pregnant, I worried about that for at least 2 months, adding unnecessarily to my already heartbreaking trauma, when in fact, I myself had not used birth control in over 12 years and Brian had a vasectomy. I worried completely in vain. I was unable to process information logically at the time due to the extreme emotional trauma I was under.
Another fact that illustrates this is the day I forgot my car, and “came to” walking around in a strange subdivision wondering where I was, what I was doing, and where I was supposed to be. People can forget a lot of things, but your car?? It’s kind of a big item! In this traumatized emotional state, a logical thought process such as “I might get an STD” completely eluded me. As betrayed spouses, we all worry over different things during this time of trauma. The common denominator is the inability to make rational decisions in this heightened emotional state. That’s why it’s so important that we don’t make major decisions during at least the first 3 months following disclosure.
An extramarital affair has a huge effect on the couple’s sex life. It goes either one way or another.
Option 1 – You can’t bear to have sex with them again and whenever you try, all you can do is visualize them having sex with the other person in obsessive ways, and you are unable to enjoy sex with your partner, if you are able to have sex at all. It’s a real struggle. In my experience, more people go this way.
Option 2 – You go into super sex goddess or super sex god mode. It’s as if you are out to prove you are better in bed than the affair partner, and your sex life is better in a certain deceptive sort of way, but really not, because the pain of having to “prove” yourself is very sad, totally unfair, and in reality, misguided.
I’ve never found a couple’s sex life to be the real issue that led to the affair. Sometimes the couple had sexual problems in the marriage before the affair (most couples today have sexual difficulties, whether there are affairs or not – our culture is generally completely misinformed about how to have amazing, wonderful, intimate sex). Hollywood is just not a reliable authority on lasting love, great relationships or mind blowing sex.
If there were sexual problems in the marriage pre-affair, the root of the sexual problems is the real issue, not the sexual problems themselves. The sexual problems are only a symptom of something deeper going on either in the marriage or with one of the spouses in the relationship.
I obviously reacted to my husband’s affair with option 2. It was a misguided effort. I was trying to prove my womanhood to myself, gain back my shattered self-image, and seduce my husband back to our marriage.
In my book, I told my story as it happened, not necessarily how it should’ve happened. The way we did things is not meant to be the standard of what people should do. I want people to learn from our story, mistakes and all. We did many things right and we did many things wrong. Although we had some very caring people in our lives, they were basically uninformed about affairs and much of their “help” was misguided.
In the end, however, we did sort our way through the mess and heal our marriage. It even became much stronger than before (even though we were not having marriage problems before the affair.) Much of the reason why our marriage became stronger is because we both pursued personal growth post affair. As my husband often puts it today, “we grew up.”
Since that time, we have had the privilege of sitting under teaching from today’s top marriage experts. As we learn from them, it confirms to us, the steps we finally took in the end, were right on. There are principles that work in marriage, and once you learn and apply them, you will not only heal, but move on to an even better relationship beyond. Had we had informed help during our healing journey, we could have circumvented the unnecessary trauma and healed quicker. This is why we encourage couples to get good help, help from people who do understand affairs.
We advise couples today that: The unfaithful spouse should get tested for STD’s before you resume sexual relations. Your concern is very valid. Half of the couples we deal with deal with an STD as a result of the affair, so yes it’s a rampant problem today.
That being said, there is no one size fits all answer on how to handle yourself after discovering a spouse’s betrayal. In the final end, only you will live with the outcome of the decisions you make from this point forward, not me, not your counselor, not your pastor, not your friends, not your extended family (as much), but you. If you are worried, ask to have your spouse tested for STDs
Sometimes if you try to make your unfaithful spouse jump through too many hoops right after the affair, they think:
“If I go back to the marriage, I have a whole list of things I have to do. I don’t know if I can ever meet all of my spouse’s expectations. I don’t know if I can ever be truly forgiven. I don’t know if I can ever have the love I want in my marriage. If I go with my affair partner they accept me as I am and I don’t have to do a thing.”
Unfaithful spouses are very confused until they have been completely removed from their affair partner for at least 3 months. Thus my article: Are Unfaithful Spouse’s Impaired?
Who knows if Brian would’ve found his way back to our marriage, had he not re-experienced intimacy with me so quickly, after all the OW was phoning him for sex at every opportunity. He says he would’ve returned to our marriage anyway, but I’ve learned through all of this that we really don’t know what we would do unless we’ve actually been there.
In conclusion, yes you should be concerned about STD’s and we recommend to couples who come to us today, that the unfaithful spouse tested for STDs before they resume sexual relations in the marriage. Otherwise you do put yourself at a very real risk. I was lucky. I could easily have been infected.
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