The only thing worse than finding out you have an STD is telling your partner about it. No one wants to be on either side of the equation here. But let’s face it, sex is not all rainbows and orgasms, unfortunately, it can come with some unwanted souvenirs. Below are some suggestions from our own personal experiences that may help you if you ever find yourself on the receiving end of such news.
Don’t break up with them right then and there. You may have pretty black-and-white feelings about being with someone that has an STD, and that’s fine. But if your partner is hyperventilating or is a sobbing mess, hold off on breaking up with them in that moment. Imagine you are in their position and what you might need most in that moment. It’s probably a hug. And maybe a shot of whiskey. Breaking up can wait a day or two if that is what you decide you need to do.
…Or stay with them? Maybe you thought you had strong feelings that you’d never be with someone that has an STD, but you’re really crazy about your partner and now feel torn. Breathe. Give yourself time to consider the pros and cons and educate yourself about their STD. Figure out what the risks are for you, and whether or not you’re okay with those risks. Every STD is different and manifests in each person differently: some STDs are easier to spread than others and some STDs still do not have cures and will affect a person’s quality of life. On the other hand, many STDs are easily curable or are difficult to transmit if protection is used. Who knows, you may already have the same STD but just not be showing any symptoms! That’s why it’s important to…
Go with them to the clinic. At this point, they probably need a follow-up visit to get another test done or receive medication. Offer to go with them and possibly stay in the practitioner’s room with them during their appointment. It would be a good idea to also get yourself tested while you’re there. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out there will most likely be someone at the clinic who can provide additional resources or counseling to help you and your partner figure out the next steps.
Make a plan. Obviously, you won’t have to make much of a plan if you’re planning on splitting up. But if you’re staying together, you will have to be more specific about how and when sex happens while it is being cured (if it can be). Also, talk with your partner about what emotions and concerns are coming up for you and ask them about their thoughts and feelings. See if you can agree on a way to handle individual as well as overlapping concerns by taking the perspective of a third party that wants the best for everyone.
What if they are calm and you are not? There are other conversations that may begin with your partner nonchalantly starting with, “I have to tell you something…” and you are finding yourself not prepared for the news! What do you do? How do you become a supportive partner while attending to your own needs? If they are calm it sounds like you might not have to do much to reassure them, but you might need some support around this issue. Ask yourself: what do I need right now and how can I ask my partner for it? If you are having trouble articulating, ask for a moment to just be with your thoughts.
The conversation does not have to happen all at once. You or they might need a little space or time to get emotions back in order. It’s alright to let the conversation be what is and then revisit it at a later date (once you have done more research, let all your emotions come to the surface, thought about your long-term relationship goals, etc). Whether you choose to stay or go, you can have a profound positive impact on a person’s long-term well-being by treating them like a human in a time where they feel like a disease. Even if it is giving them the courtesy of taking the time to think about it.
Don’t shame your partner. There are many, many people out there who have or have once had an STD. They are not bad people. We take a risk every time we decide to be sexually active. Even if it’s just skin to skin contact or oral sex. Even if you think you are being safe, sometimes they or you might have something that neither of you knew about. Remember to ask yourself how you would want to be treated.
Here at BetterSexEd, we want you all to have safe, healthy, and fun fucking. We always encourage people to share about their past and current sexual health, because that is how we have healthy sexual futures.
– Keeley & Nikita
Thumbnail image via WeHeartIt
Further reading: Having The STD Talk With A New Partner