It was a typical fall afternoon, and I was playing with my kids. The phone rang, and I was surprised to see my OB/GYN on the caller ID.
“Ma’am? Your pap smear results came back with some abnormalities. You tested positive for gonorrhea.”
As a 30-something mother of two who has been married for almost 10 years, I was floored by this information. I had gone to the doctor for what I thought was a yeast infection and never considered that I could possibly have a sexually transmitted disease instead. After all, I was faithful to my husband and a virgin when we got married. I didn’t even really know what gonorrhea is.
I scheduled a follow-up appointment, where I learned the following information:
- Gonorrhea can’t lay dormant for years like some other STDs.
- The incubation period is generally less than 14 days, meaning symptoms appear within two weeks of contracting it.
- Gonorrhea can be treated with very strong antibiotics. However, some antibiotic-resistant strains are developing that are difficult to treat.
- You can’t catch gonorrhea from sharing a bathing suit, using a public toilet, or any other strange scenario involving your genitalia—just oral, anal, or vaginal sex.
I added this information to what I already knew, namely that I’d only had sex with one person, and that one person had been traveling for work on and off the last 14 days. I drew the conclusion that any sane person would: my husband had given me gonorrhea.
I can’t describe the overwhelming feelings that came over me during the doctor’s appointment and subsequent trip to the pharmacy to fill a prescription for very strong antibiotics: the shame of having my doctor tell me that I had an STD, and the anger when I realized that my husband had given it to me. I felt embarrassed when I admitted that it had to have come from him and asked to be tested for all other STDs. I felt afraid—that he could have exposed me to something even worse, and that he had fallen in love with someone else. I mostly felt disbelief.
If, 10 years ago, you had asked me what would happen if my husband gave me an STD, I’m sure I would have told you that I would kick him in the testicles, set his car on fire, or something similar. I was surprised when the time came and I didn’t do any of those things. Instead, I choked back tears and explained to my husband that he needed to be tested and treated, and that I would appreciate his honesty in explaining how WE contracted gonorrhea.
I almost wish he would have broken down and admitted to an affair, but he didn’t. He acted just as confused as I was, and despite the overwhelming evidence to suggest otherwise, he swore that he must have picked it up in a gross hotel bathroom or from a college girlfriend. We spent months going over what could have potentially happened and always arrived at the same conclusion: it’s a mystery.
Am I naive? Maybe. Is it likely that he had an affair and won’t admit it? Probably.
But I’m not willing to break up my family over something I can’t prove.
With God’s help, the STD is not something I think about daily anymore, and I have chosen to focus on the present and future of my marriage rather than the past. My best advice for wives: ask for STD tests during your yearly pap smear, even if you never think you’d contract one, and realize that what may seem like a black-and-white issue in your marriage may have varying shades of gray.