Friday, April 19, 2024

The Divorce Diaries: ‘I Found Out He Was Cheating on Me When I Tested Positive For An STI…’

“I caught an STI from my husband,” tells this week’s Capsule reader, Mel.

Welcome to the Divorce Diaries. In our past instalments over the last year we’ve covered everything from when you’re most likely to divorce to whether they’re contagious to whether being on the contraceptive pill can effect your chances! and have now spoken to dozens of women – including one whose husband announced he was leaving her to have an open relationship with a 19-year-old, another who was quite literally ghosted by her own husband and one who discovered the real reason her husband divorced her was because he had a baby with her SISTER.

If you have a topic you’d like to discuss, share your thoughts, experience or advice about, drop a line to [email protected].

Mel first laid eyes on Max when they were teenagers. He was three years older than her and was one of the more popular kids at her high school, when she started at 13. Like everyone in her year, she had a crush on Max, but was aware that he had a girlfriend – a girlfriend who was older than him – so she knew her crush would never eventuate into anything.

Then, 13 years later, she was in an overcrowded bar in London when she saw a familiar face across the room. She knew it was Max immediately – he had barely changed. He spotted her and immediately flashed her a wide grin of recognition.

“He came over and said, ‘You went to my school, right?’” says Mel. “And that was it. We didn’t stop talking for about seven hours!”

The two were pretty inseparable from then on – living it up in London, making the most of their visas, taking several trips together around Europe, before coming back to NZ, just after Max proposed in the snow before Christmas.

“We got married within a few months – we didn’t get jobs for the summer, so we ended up with plenty of time to plan it,” says Mel.

They’d been married for five years, when they felt like it was time to start trying for a baby.

“I was 34,” says Mel. “Everyone said that it gets trickier after 35 to get pregnant, so it felt like it was time to move on it. We definitely wanted kids – we just had so many other things we wanted to do, and places we wanted to travel to, that we’d kept putting it off. Having 35 looming, kinda forced my hand.”

Mel assumed because she was under 35 that it would be relatively easy to fall pregnant, so was disappointed when six months in, they hadn’t even had a ‘maybe?’ moment. Her period arrived right on time every month. Her GP said not to worry, and that if it did get to a year, she’d refer them to a specialist.

“I figured we’d be pregnant by then, but instead, six months later I was at my GP’s getting a referral,” she says.

Her GP noted that she was due a pap smear, and suggested they do some other tests at the same time.

“She ordered the AMH test, which I had to pay for, some other blood tests, and then, before she did my smear, she asked if I wanted to screen for STIs,” says Mel.

“I said yes – I mean, I’d been married for five years, and had my last STI test a few months into meeting Max. He had one at the same time before I went onto the pill, so I figured it wasn’t necessary, but wondered if maybe something might not have shown up before and maybe it might be why I wasn’t getting pregnant? It seemed like a reasonable thing to rule out.”

Fully expecting an all-clear on the screen, Mel instead got a shock when her GP called her at the end of the week to say that all her blood work looked great, but unfortunately, she’d tested positive for chlamydia.

“She asked me if I’d experienced any of the common symptoms of chlamydia,” says Mel. “But I didn’t even know what they were. I knew nothing about chlamydia.”

It’s very, very common not to experience any symptoms while being infected (that’s why testing is so important), but those who do experience symptoms of chlamydia often feel a pain or burning while peeing or having sex. It can also cause bleeding between periods and lower belly pain.

“When my GP ran me through the symptoms, I remembered having a UTI in the last year – and now wondered if it was the chlamydia, not a UTI after all,” she says.

Her GP said she was sending over a script for antibiotics and gently explained that longterm, unfortunately chlamydia could cause fertility problems, but this was all good information to be armed into seeing a fertility specialist.

Mel then asked the question she was sure she already knew the answer of, but should make sure: was it possible that Max could have passed this onto her from a past relationship – despite the all-clear STI test more than six years ago – or would he have had to have been unfaithful since then for her to catch it.

The GP explained that it was possible that Max could have caught chlamydia from a past relationship, but not have shown any symptoms.

“She said that while it typically showed up in only a few weeks, she’d heard of it taking months or years to test positive,” says Mel.

Interestingly, Mel chose to sit on this information. She decided to tell Max what had happened, but say that it wasn’t possible for her to have picked it up unless he had unprotected sex with someone else in the last six years.

“I don’t know why i did that, because I did trust him 100% at the time,” she says. “I knew before the GP said it was possible it was from an old relationship, that it would have to be the case. The alternative seemed impossible.”

And yet, she still omitted that important bit of the story when she told her husband. Max didn’t have time to Google whether Mel was telling the truth and he began floundering.

“His neck went bright red, and I knew then he’d cheated on me,” says Mel.

Max quickly confessed that during lockdown – when he’d been an essential worker – he’d had a bad night, had too many drinks after working and made “a poor decision” and slept with a co-worker.

“He said he was so drunk and it was a surreal time that he’d convinced himself it didn’t happen,” says Mel.

She, of course, demanded to know who that co-worker was and then told Max she was going to stay at a hotel for a few days – after some serious cursing and crying.

But as soon as she got away from Max, she hopped on Facebook and sent the co-worker a message.

Then, as she poured a glass of wine at the hotel, she saw her phone ping with a new Messenger message. It was Max’s co-worker. Mel was shocked – once more – to discover a very, very long message that was not at all what she had expected to receive.

“I’ve kept the message, so I should go back and read it to you, but I don’t know that I can go there again,” says Mel. “Essentially though, she said that she was really sorry to do this, but it wasn’t her who had a one night thing with Max. It was another woman they worked with – and it certainly wasn’t a one night stand. They’d been sleeping together since lockdown. She’d wondered whether to message me or not.”

What had started as a regular day, had unfolded into the worst of Mel’s life.

“I woke up to a normal day, but by lunch time I had chlamydia that had potentially seriously damaged by ability to have a child,” says Mel. “And by dinner time, my husband had told me he had a one-night stand affair, which by bed time turned out to be a lie and that woman had told me he was actually having a full-blown affair that everyone seemed to know about.”

To say she was crushed, is an understatement.

“There are so many layers to this,” says Mel. “It’s like I’ve lost the past, because my husband isn’t who I thought he was, but I’ve lost the present of having a husband and the future. I’ve probably lost my chance of ever having a baby now too.”

Mel says she is booked in to see a fertility specialist to understand if she still may be able to have children in the future.

“I have to be honest and say it feels really hopeless at the moment though,” says Mel. “Hopefully it’s medically possible. But, I’m not far off 36. I don’t know what the odds are that i’ll get over this relationship, be ready to start a new one, find someone who wants a child and then have enough time to?”

Mel says Max denied he’d been having an affair, but now, curiously is living with his co-worker.

“She’s only 23 – he’s turning 40 soon – so I wonder if that’s one of the reasons he didn’t tell me,” she says.

Mel says she has started seeing a therapist through her work EAP system, and is doing her best to look for silver linings.

“Thankfully, we’d saved up a pretty good house deposit and had been half-heartedly looking for a house,” she says. “Thank God we didn’t, obviously. Now I have a little bit of savings to help cushion everything that’s happening. And my friends and family have been such a support.

Mel says she’d read a lot of the Divorce Diaries in the past. “Oh man, I thought they were kind of good entertainment?” she says. “But since this has happened I’ve gone back and read every one. I’m really grateful people have talked about their stories, because I get it. It’s horrible and nice to know there are other people who have been in your shoes.”

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