There is a lot of stigma and misinformation about STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections), and so, it can be extremely uncomfortable for patients to discuss them.
Yet, we do need to talk about them.
It is agreed that discussing sexual health openly is not what we are taught to do. Hence, we need to break down the stigma associated with STIs as it has only led to a rise in the incidence of these diseases. It can prevent patients from receiving timely treatment and affect their health adversely.
Let’s make a new beginning towards understanding the need for discussing sexual health without hesitation or embarrassment.
If you have been diagnosed with an STI, read this carefully to learn the right ways to tell your partner you have an infection.
1. Know the facts
Talk to your doctor and do your own research instead of believing what you have heard by word of mouth about the STI you have been diagnosed with. This will help you feel confident about the symptoms and treatment and allow you to take proper precautions to prevent the spread. Having a clear understanding about your diagnosed STI will also mean that you are more equipped to answer any questions that your future and previous sexual partners may have about the infection and how it potentially may affect them.
2. Talk before sexual contact
The right time to talk about STIs is before having sex.
Whether your relationship is casual or serious, discussing your sexual history with the partner and asking about theirs is extremely important.
Depending on your STI diagnosis, you may need to tell your partner earlier before getting intimate to avoid unnecessary and unwanted transmission.
As an example; if you have oral herpes, tell your partner before you kiss or perform any oral sex. Similarly, if you have a genital STI, tell your partner before performing any sexual activity involving the genitals.
3. Decide where to communicate
You can meet your partner and talk face to face or discuss this over the phone. If you decide to meet in person, choose a place where you feel comfortable and safe.
If you do not find it comfortable to meet your partner in person, you may message or have a video chat. The right mode of communication primarily depends on your relationship.
4. Prepare to talk
When you disclose to your partner that you have been diagnosed with an STI, do it at a time you feel confident, especially when you are not sure how he or she will take it.
It would also help to make plans about how you want to talk.
Think about how your partner would react to the information and try to make the conversation as gentle as possible. Be calm and relaxed while discussing this.
Go step by step by first creating a set up where you tell your partner you want to tell something important but not too serious. This will enable him or her to be prepared to hear patiently and accept the information in a positive way.
5. Opening the discussion
The best way to start the conversation is to tell your partner you care about them and would like to do everything to protect them.
You can, then, open by asking about their sexual health history. You can also ask if they had had an STI in the past or have one currently.
You may tell them that you have an STI and ask whether they have any questions that you may be able to answer. This is where your understanding of your diagnosis is helpful. It might help you to go over what it would mean to your relationship and health in terms of precautions and medications.
It is normal to feel embarrassed at first. However, you will feel much better and relaxed once you get over with it. Your partner would also feel grateful that you brought this up without making attempts to hide facts. Being honest and upfront is the best method and being secretive and lying about your diagnosis could hinder your relationship.
6. Anticipate possible reactions
Well, it can be difficult to know beforehand how your partner will react to the information.
Your partner may just thank you for letting him or her know and reassure you that their relationship will remain the same. Your partner may also get impressed by the fact that you discussed this openly. The response may bring both of you closer than ever.
However, it is possible that the partner may not take it in a good spirit. He or she might express disbelief or be afraid. It is possible that they may become judgmental and express rejection.
In case you get any unpleasant reaction, it is normal to feel disbelief and guilt. You can choose to reply to your partner with facts and let them know they are misinformed or being judgmental. However, be very thoughtful in your response. You want them to understand that you feel that they are being judgemental in this very moment, but they are not a judgemental person overall.
If you feel the need to not respond at that moment, you can leave and contact them later. This may give your partner enough time to think about the situation and this might change their attitude towards the circumstances.
Even if you are hurt with the reaction and would prefer to end the relationship, that again is your decision. These types of unpleasant responses let you know more about your partner and understand their beliefs and values as a person.
By being honest about having an STI, you will be able to add a feather of trust and more love in your relationship or get to know the other side of your partner that you were unaware of.
The bottom line
Whatever way you choose to tell your partner that you have STI, be proud when you do it!
It might be scary to open up! You may also feel vulnerable to share something so private about yourself or your sexual history.
However, the difficult conversation may ease your relationship by allowing both of you to build trust and show your partner that after its all said and done, you just want to protect them!