Talking about sex can be awkward at the best of times, but talking about STIs can be even tougher. Truthfully, we all just need to be more open about talking about sexual health. It’s 2018, people, let’s get better at it. From discussing our previous partners to demanding that someone wears a condom to sharing with someone that we’re having some worrying symptoms, we need to open up the dialogue. Because STIs are far more common than you think — in fact, they’re at a record high in America. And yet there’s still such a stigma around discussing them.
So if you have an STI and need to tell your partner, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are not alone — not even close. The first thing to remember is that it’s an infection, like any other infection, and that the stigma is a largely a social construction. “We need to counteract the stigma associated with STIs,” Psychology Today explains. “Even in the most comprehensive sex education programs, STIs are often presented as a dark side of sex. A thing a person dare not ever have. To illustrate how common the shame is surrounding STIs, one need only look to herpes. While up to 80% of adults have Oral Herpes (aka, cold sores), the mere thought of contracting genital herpes has led some people to thoughts of suicide. Similar virus, similar nuisance, and similar (often) harmless side effects.” It’s time to make a change.
Some of the most common STIs are curable and, even the ones that can cause recurring problems, most others can be kept under control. If you do find you’ve got something, there’s really no need to panic, so try to keep some perspective on the situation. Here’s how to talk to your partner.
Know the facts first
Firstly, make sure you know the facts before you talk to your partner. You want to present them with all of the relevant information, rather than just panic them. Even though they might not have an STI just because you do — and you should reiterate that— you want to be able to provide answers. When did you find out? Is it treatable? Is it curable? What does treatment look like? Make sure you can present them with all of the information they need in a reassuring way. The more you know, the less scary the situation is — for example, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis are all curable, which not everyone realizes. Explain that it’s an infection, just like any other, and that you know what next steps need to be taken.
If you cheated, be prepared
If you’ve acquired the STI through cheating, you need to be prepared for even trickier conversation. (And even if you haven’t cheated, but you’re in a long-term relationship, you’re going to need to reassure your partner that this wasn’t the result of cheating). If you have been unfaithful, do your best to keep the two conversations separate. Obviously, your partner is going to want to talk about both issues— and you do need to talk about them— but try to keep the emotional conversations about cheating out of the STI discussion. Keep that more focused more on practicalities.
Let them ask questions
They’re going to have questions. A lot of questions. And part of your job as a partner is going to be to listen and to give answers when you can. Remember how it felt when you found out you had an STI— because, even though your partner may not actually have it, they’re going to feel like they do. Give them some room to vent. And then, without minimizing their feelings, remind them that it’s just an infection and there are steps you can take.
Talk about safe sex going forward
Finally, you’re going to need to work out a game plan. They’re going to have to get tested– that should go without saying. But beyond that, how are you going to keep your sex life safe? Maybe you’ve been good at practicing safe sex before now, maybe you haven’t. It doesn’t matter. Going forward, you need to be committed to a safe and healthy sex life. That may mean figuring out how to deal with outbreaks or just being more committed to condom use and fidelity. Work out what it means for you and how you’ll get there.
Side note: If you think they gave it to you
One other possibility is that you have an STI and you need to tell your partner– because you think that they are the source of it. If they have a history of cheating or you don’t know them that well yet, it’s natural to think that they may have given it to you. And you have every right to ask them if they did. In fact, you need to ask them. But try not to go in with all guns blazing. That’s not going to get you very far— and there’s always the chance that they weren’t where you got it from. So if you do suspect them, you still need to take a moment and come at it from a calm and collected place. Don’t try to catch them out— tell them that you have an STI and be honest about where you think it came from. Then give the floor over to them.
There is a lot of stigma around having an STI but, with how prevalent they are, there really shouldn’t be. Many of them are completely curable and, for the ones that aren’t, treatment and maintenance have come a long way. So if you find you have one and you need to talk to your partner, just remember that you are not alone. Come armed with the facts and ready to answer questions. If your relationship is strong, you guys can get through this.
Originally posted on Bellesa Collective