Being diagnosed with an STD is everyone’s worst nightmare. It’s embarrassing, terrifying, and really depressing. Even worse is finding this out when you’re dating someone. You know you can’t keep it to yourself, but how in the hell are you supposed to break the news? First of all, take a deep breath. Then, read on to find out why you simply have to share your diagnosis and some tips on how to tell your partner you have an STD.
Why it’s so important to share your STD diagnosis
- It’s important to protect your partner’s health. If you haven’t slept with anyone else lately and the infection only could have come from your partner, it’s likely they don’t know they’re infected. After all, not all STIs are symptomatic. Telling them you’ve been diagnosed will prompt them to take control of their own health. They’ll need to go and get tested and treated, and they can’t do that if they’re unaware.
- You don’t want to spread the infection. This should go without saying. If you have an STD, the last thing you want to do is pass it on to your partner (or for either of you to spread it to anyone else in the future if things don’t work out).
- It preserves the trust and intimacy between you. Keeping something as vital as a sexually transmitted infection from a person you’re sleeping with isn’t just irresponsible, it’s unacceptable. It could place their health in danger, yes. But it will also erode any trust you share when they find out the truth. It’s better to be upfront and honest from the beginning.
- It encourages open and honest communication. By telling your partner you have an STD, you’re practicing good communication skills and radical honesty. It takes balls to just come out with something like that. However, there’s literally no other option here. You have to be straight about this.
When to tell your partner and how to prepare for the conversation
There’s only one answer to this question: you have to tell your partner that you have an STD as soon as possible. If you had the STD before you began dating someone new, it’s vital that you let them know before becoming intimate with them. If you’ve been dating for a while but have only just been diagnosed with an STI, the conversation should be had immediately. It’s a conversation that should never, ever be delayed under any circumstance.
Prepare yourself for the conversation by making sure you have resources and information to offer your partner when they ask questions. Being armed with knowledge that you can share is vital. It’s also important that you’re ready to be honest and that you’re prepared for them to react negatively, even if only temporarily.
How to tell your partner you have an STD and what to say
- Stick to the facts. There’s no need to provide a lengthy backstory or a list of excuses. All your partner will want to know is that you have an STD, what the infection is, and what can be done to treat it. The more direct you are about it, the better.
- Be honest and upfront. When you tell your partner you have an STD, it’s just as important to be completely honest. Making up a story about how you became infected won’t soften the blow. If you had an affair and contracted the infection, fess up. If you know you’ve been 100% loyal and were clean before meeting this person, say that as well. Honesty is always the best policy, but especially now.
- Be empathetic but never apologetic. Unless you contracted an STI via an affair with someone else, you should never apologize for it. No one wants to get an STD, and it’s not a conversation anyone wants to have with a partner, either. Empathize with them and acknowledge that they might be feeling anxious or upset. However, don’t put yourself down or blame yourself.
- Be willing to answer questions. Your partner will likely have questions when you tell them about your STD diagnosis. Be ready and willing to answer them. It might be an awkward conversation to have, but you’ve come this far. Be willing to see it through.
- Offer up further resources and information. If you’re well-versed on your infection (and you should be!) and they’re not, share the information with them. For instance, chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV, syphilis, HIV, and other STIs each come with their own symptoms, treatments, and prognosis. Know what those are and communicate them to your partner.
- Reassure them that you care about them and their health. They should know this, of course, but it’s not always clear in the moment. The fact that you’re having this conversation with them and being so upfront and honest shows how much you care. However, a bit of verbal reassurance is never a bad thing.
- Let them know what you’re doing to deal with the STD. Are you in the process of getting treated? Great! Is the condition you’re dealing with totally curable? Let them know that, as well. Telling them how you’re taking control of the situation and how and when it will be solved should put some of their fears to rest.
- Encourage them to get tested. Testing for STIs is a great way to stay on top of your sexual health in general. Now that you’ve shared your STD diagnosis, your partner should be calling their doctor at the next available opportunity for a test and treatment of their own.
Dealing with your partner’s reaction
- Expect a strong reaction. No matter how understanding your partner might be, their reaction to hearing you have an STD may not be very cool and collected. This is more likely to be the case if you were unfaithful or if it’s a new relationship but you’ve already slept together. Know that this is a knee-jerk reaction and that they will cool down.
- Try not to take it personally. Chances are, their anger and upset are largely down to shock and fear. It’s not a reflection of your self-worth or whether or not you’re a good person. As difficult as it may be, try not to take their reaction personally.
- Avoid blaming or shaming them or anyone else. If your partner is the one who gave you the STD, avoid blaming them or putting them down. Same goes for if you got the STI from an ex partner. Who gave whom what doesn’t matter how. It’s important to stick to the facts and stay in the moment.
- Discuss what you’ll do moving forward. Having a plan of action is important. While how your relationship will proceed is very much down to a mutual decision and you’ll need to let your partner have their way, knowing how you’d like to move forward and how you plan to protect yourself and them will be a welcome addition to the conversation.
- Be patient. While there’s no excuse for your partner to berate you or insult you for having an STD, they may be angry, upset, or even standoffish for a while after you break the news. Try to be patient and give them time and space to think. You can come back together once they’ve had time to process.
Safe sex practices to follow
While you likely already know about safe sex, sometimes we get caught up in the heat of the moment or otherwise become neglectful of the things we know we should do to protect ourselves and our partners. Here are a few things you can do moving forward when having sex (or being sexually intimate in any way) with someone.
- Use condoms/dental dams. These are entry-level ways to practice safe sex and are a total must, especially when having sex with someone whose sexual history you don’t know. They can also come in handy with a long-term partner if you have an incurable STD such as HPV or HIV.
- Get treatment where possible. Many STDs are curable, including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis, according to the WHO. However, curing them means going to treat treatment for them. See your doctor as soon as possible and fulfill the full treatment program to its completion even if symptoms disappear. Other treatments are available for the management of STIs that can’t be cured, such as HPV or Hepatitis B.
- Avoid intimacy when you’re having an active breakout. This is a no-brainer. If you have a long-term STI, avoid sexual contact with your partner when you’re experiencing a breakout.
- Consider if pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is right for you. PrEP is a medication that can reduce your chances of contracting HIV via sexual contact. If you think this may be necessary or right for you in your relationship, talk to your doctor.
- Get tested regularly. Just do it.