It is heartbreaking to realize that your physical safety has been compromised through the sexual behavior of your significant other. No one wants to believe that the person they love, who is supposed to have their back and protect them, has instead put their health and well-being at risk. The shock of this discovery deepens the betrayal and often ignites rage and anger for the partner whose health has been treated so cavalierly.
Sometimes this anger and pain can be paralyzing, blocking your ability to make decisions or take steps to help yourself. Sometimes, the idea that your spouse would engage in sexual behaviors that could cause you serious and life-threating health problems feels too big to even consider. It can feel easier to believe your spouse if he says, “I always used condoms,” or, “I never had sex with him/her,” because the alternative is too horrifying to let in.
Despite the enormous difficulty of facing this facet of betrayal, it is imperative that you, as the betrayed partner, allow yourself to know that your health has been put at risk so that you can take steps to protect and care for yourself.
The very first step to take is to get tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections. Even if you are being told by your spouse that he did not put your health at risk, it is still vital that you get tested. Your health may or may not have been put at risk, but trusting and depending on the word of the cheating partner is not a wise choice at this point. Your health and wellbeing are of vital importance and while you did not have a choice about the danger you have been put in, you do have the ability to pro-actively protect and safeguard yourself now.
Getting tested is not only about your physical safety but also about your emotional safety. Often getting tested can bring you peace of mind and reassurance by eliminating one more haunting ‘what if.’ It can also provide you with a sense of empowerment as you take action on your own behalf. Even if the results indicate that your health has been compromised, you will be able to advocate for yourself by seeking treatment and getting support.
The next step is to ask your cheating partner to get tested and to request that he allow you to see the doctor’s report of the test. You want to ensure that your physical health will not be put on the line if you resume sexual activity with your significant other.
For many betrayed partners, the idea of having to pick up the phone, make an appointment and go face a health professional to get tested feels daunting. There can be shame around being cheated on. There can be enormous anger over the price you are paying for the cheating partner’s behavior. There can be a sense of unfairness that you are experiencing consequences when you have done nothing wrong.
Sometimes these feelings can make it seem too hard to take the steps you need to take, bogging you down in procrastination. One way to help yourself with this is to remind yourself that while you did not get to choose about whether you were cheated on, you do get to choose about how you respond and move forward. Being cheated on can make you feel worth less and dent your self-esteem in serious ways. Taking steps to care for yourself, protect yourself, advocate for yourself and empower yourself affirms that you are indeed worthy, lovable, and precious.