Does cheating = GAME OVER?

This week, hackers targeted adultery website, Ashley Madison, threatening to post details of sexual fantasies and activities site users thought they were sharing privately online. Confidentiality is absolutely critical to our service and we take security very seriously. Hosted within the NHS N3 secure network, we exceed NHS standards. Unlike other STI testing services, we use 32 digit encrypted user IDs instead of any personal information (no names, dates of birth are on our packs or samples), we use GlobalSign ExtendedSSL (the green padlock in the address bar you see when arriving at our site) and periodically pay professional hackers to put our security to the test.

But back to Ashley Madison and adultery. It got us thinking about how infidelity can affect people who use our service - some may use our service as a result of their or a partner’s infidelity and we’re sometimes asked about how to tell a partner when a result is positive.

Views on infidelity can be very charged - we’re not here to judge; instead, we teamed up with relationship specialists, Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships, to provide people on either side of the equation with objective advice as to how to deal with infidelity.

“I had a one night stand, it won’t happen again but I don’t know whether to tell my partner”

A  2007 Maxim survey reported that 71% of people would rather know if their partner was unfaithful. Someone who has been unfaithful, however, might prefer to keep the activity quiet so it doesn’t have a lasting affect on their relationship. If condoms weren’t used during the encounter, it would be a good idea to get tested and abstain from sex with your partner until you get an all clear. If you don’t get the all clear and you have had sex with your long term partner or have just decided to tell them anyway, Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships (TCCR) CEO, Susanna Abse, offers the following advice in speaking with your partner about the infidelity and the infection:

“Sharing with your partner that you have broken the bond of trust is always an extremely tough thing to do, but if for whatever reason you have decided to come clean, then creating a safe space that is uninterrupted is often very helpful. At TCCR we frequently find that partners either share this information during counselling or approach us for help soon after the infidelity has come out. Therapists find that couples need to have a safe shared space where all the upset feelings can be brought out but also contained.”

“I got tested recently and even though I have only had one partner for the last year and was clear before we were together, I’ve been diagnosed with an STI”

Try not to jump to the obvious conclusion. While your last test could have been negative, this could be because you tested during a window period. A testing window means the length of time it takes from catching an infection to it showing up on a test. If you’d had sex and been tested within the window period you may have got a negative result before the infection developed. If this is the case, you may not have got the infection from your partner. Another thing to consider is that if your partner had the infection before you got together, this could be how you got it. The window period would also apply to any STI tests they may have had. You will need to tell your partner about the infection so they can get tested and treated if necessary. If you are sure the window period did not apply to tests you had before having sex with each other, Susanna Abse recommends the following when raising infidelity with your partner:

“Discovering that you have contracted an STI can lead to enormous confusion and upset particularly in the context of a supposedly monogamous relationship. Challenging one’s partner about this is hard but you should try and be straight with each other to ensure you both can begin to work out what has gone wrong between you and get the medical help needed. If you’re worried about having contracted an STI, get checked and ask your partner what has been going on?

Sometimes a couple don't agree on the sexual boundaries of their relationship, with one partner feeling it's ok for them to have sexual encounters outside and the other feeling it’s not. Couples need to talk to each other to work out these boundaries, though of course, this does not mean that boundaries are then never broken or that things don’t change.

Open, honest conversations about these things are what can help protect you both – emotionally and physically"

“My partner had an affair but wants to save our relationship, is this possible?”

Infidelity is often symptomatic of other problems in a relationship; one or both of the partners could be experiencing difficult circumstances that have led them to seek connection outside of their relationship. While the cheating partner may be extremely regretful about the affair and willing to work to regain their partner’s trust, their partner may need more time and reassurance to go on after the incident. It can be helpful to address the circumstances that led to the infidelity, so both partners can work together to address problems as they arise in future. Counsellors and mediators such as Relate and The Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships can be a great neutral support in times like these, giving both partners a secure space to express their feelings and thoughts. TCCR CEO, Susanna Abse, adds:

“If the relationship is to survive the key things are to understand why it happened, to reassure your partner of your love and commitment and to be able to say, truthfully that the affair is over over over”

If your relationship has been affected by infidelity, there are services that can help: Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships (London-based) Relate, national provider of relationship support

5 tips for tough conversations with your partner: