Help! I’m having an affair, and I’ve got HPV, and my lover has no idea!
Q Dear Arm Psychologist: I am having a passionate affair with a man that is in a long-term relationship. I have never done this before (I’ve always been on the straight and narrow) and while we don’t see each other often, we have an amazing connection and have become very intimate, very quickly. Yes, that means unprotected sex. My birth control is on lock, so I’m not worried about that, but I do have HPV and worry if I gave it to him and, worse, if his partner would get it. To my defense, I did not know he was in a committed relationship when it all started, but since then I have obviously continued on with my own free will, which leaves me worried about my karma. I feel free when we’re together; I don’t yearn for him when we’re apart; and think we’ll be great friends in the future…. I am not the first person he has been unfaithful with, so that’s on him, but I’m also responsible for my actions. Anyway… should I continue? I know I’m not going to get attached; he can deal with his situation on his own, I’m not responsible for his actions; and also it feels good. I am not sure if I need to tell him about the HPV b/c everyone has it — I got it from having protected sex — and I’ve never had any other STD before, but what happens if his partner gets it? I can’t go back to having protected sex with him from now on.. that is no fun. How do I continue… or not continue. Please help. -TORNLOVER
A Dear Tornlover, thank you for sharing this dilemma, I am sure it must difficult to confront or discuss this matter. The circumstances you describe sound reckless and judging from your own conflicted reasoning, you’re well aware of this. Worrying about your karma pales in comparison to having to worry about infectious diseases from unprotected sex. There are two things to address here, HPV and the Extra Marital Affair. 1) HPV, as you correctly describe is extremely common, however some types of HPV can also be dangerous and cause health problems like genital warts or cancer. Due to the gravitas of potentially developing cancer cells from HPV, and because, if one were to develop precancerous cells due to HPV, there are preventative measures available like LEEP, it is only ‘karmic justice’ that you inform your lover that you have HPV in the hopes that he may inform his wife, so that she can take action and control of her body. 2) Your lover is a married man engaged in a high-risk lifestyle. You said yourself that you’re not the first person he’s been unfaithful with, leaving you open to contracting disease, just as he has left himself exposed to contracting HPV from you. It‘s great to have consenting non-monogamous relationships, but when it’s under the clout of deceit, rather than honesty, it will gradually get less fun and more complex. You said you aren’t emotionally attached to this lover and studies do confirm that individuals who can separate the concepts of sex and love are often likely to accept infidelity. However, since you’ve always been “on the straight and narrow,” it becomes important to explore why you’re deviating from this pattern. Some ppl commit adultery because it runs in their family history, others because of trauma, un-fulfillment, etc.- there are a myriad of reasons all worth looking into. In this Journal of Social Psychology study, researchers used 50 men and 59 women who were in dating relationships and determined that “need fulfillment and self-expansion significantly contributed to the variance in susceptibility to infidelity.” It worries me that you are making excuses about your own culpability in this affair. Though you’re not “responsible for his actions,” you’re an accomplice to his actions and the transgressions against his wife. In this article, Marc D. White, PhD, raises some great questions: “Perhaps the most important personal obligation that the single adulterer has is to herself or himself. Is such a relationship healthy for you? Does it fit with your goals regarding love, sex, marriage, children, etc.?” I recommend you turn to a therapist to explore your sexual desires, develop an approach to having an honest discussion about HPV and entangle yourself from this hot mess!