Q. Should I try to regain trust with my husband? I went for my annual gyne exam and was told I have an STD. I’ve been with him since college. He was my first partner. We’ve been married 12 years. We have kids. When I told him about the STD, he accused me of cheating. I’ve not been with any one else. He won’t get tested. He won’t use protection. He either ignores the situation or calls me horrible names. I left with our kids and went to my mom’s. He hasn’t tried to connect and it’s been a week. I think this is over. I want to get an attorney and file for divorce. My mom says I should give him another chance. She says we should go to counseling. I think she just wants me and my kids to go home. I don’t know if I can trust him again. I’m not sure I want to try. A friend of mine followed him. It seems he’s been having an affair for about six months. I remember you from high school and I didn’t know who else to turn to. I should be able to figure out this relationship stuff by now.

Old enough to know better

Mary Jo’s response: Relationships are tough at times. I don’t believe there’s an age when we figure it all out. Long-term relationships have hills and valleys. Trying to regain trust can be one of the most challenging low points in a relationship. Be kind to yourself. You didn’t ask for this situation.

Most questioners who seek me out already made their decisions when they write to me. You appear to be on your way to ending your relationship. You’ve left your home. You list some situations that may be deal breakers for you. The STI (sexually transmitted infection, often referred to as an STD) isn’t the biggest red flag in your relationship challenge. I’m concerned with your husband’s refusal to get tested or use protection (which would increase your chance of reinfection), his denial of an extramarital affair, and his emotionally abusive treatment. These are all strong negatives. The STI is simply the catalyst for your discovery of his cheating.

I’m concerned about his verbal abuse and with his lack of connection for a week. Trying counseling is only a viable option if both people are willing to communicate, attend sessions with an open mind, and work on the relationship. Do you think your husband is even interested in salvaging what you once had together?

I’m very sorry you’re facing this difficult life challenge. Feelings of anger and sadness and grief are all normal. Seeking legal help may be your next step. I also suggest counseling for you and your children. Moving forward after betrayal can be rough.

Please take care of your health. Follow your doctor’s recommended treatment for the STI. Remember an STI is an infection, not something to cause shame. You can and will move forward. It’s up to you how and when.

Talk with your children; you don’t need to share details, but, dependent upon their age and development, they need time with you to process their own feelings.

It’s always a joy to be remembered. Thank you for reaching out. I wish you a speedy solution. Good luck.

Q. My friends all tell me my girlfriend cheated on me. I don’t have any proof and I’m afraid to bring it up to her. What if I lose her?

– 17-year-old

Mary Jo’s response: You cannot lose what you don’t have – if you’re not able to talk with her, your relationship isn’t solid. Communicating suspicion of betrayal is difficult. Did you promise one another to be faithful? Are your friends reliable?

If you don’t confront her, you will always wonder. The possibility of broken trust will color your relationship going forward. I suggest a respectful conversation. Don’t accuse as much as share your worry. Tell her what your friends told you. Watch her reaction. Listen to her body language – what she says without speaking – as much as her words.

Good luck. I think young relationships help us discover who we want in an adult relationship and help us grow ourselves. That doesn’t mean young relationships don’t hurt if they fail.

Peer Educator response (to both questions): Cheating is horrible. The old saying, “once a cheater always a cheater” may be cliché but it seems it can be true. The STI and the first questioner’s husband’s reaction sounds like their relationship is over. The younger questioner needs to analyze the trustworthiness of friends as well as sort out the relationship. This is why some of us avoid relationships right now! Too much work!

Have a question? Send it to Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski’s email, podmj@healthyteens.com/.

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