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Help!  How to talk to your partner about STDs

Jul 05, 2008 - 14 comments
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STDs

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partner

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talk

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test

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scared

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helps

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Herpes

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telling

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HPV

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Molluscum

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HIV

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STD Testing



One of the most frequent questions people ask me is how to talk to a partner about std testing, or how to tell a partner that they have an std.

I can help.  :)

A new relationship -

You are just starting a new relationship, and want to talk to a partner about testing, in general, but don't know how to bring it up.  Will he think you are "easy"?  Will she think you've had a lot of partners?  Well, maybe, but that's not the point of testing.

You should bring this up before things start getting all hot and heavy, and NOT while you are in the bedroom, half naked.  Pick a quiet spot where you won't be interrupted.  DO NOT TEXT THIS.  If you find it easier to do over email, that's ok too.  But texting is often done in abbreviations, etc., and this is a discussion that deserves every chance to not be misunderstood.  :)

A good way to start this is to tell your partner that you can see things are headed towards sex (and you can insert your own terms here - it doesn't have to sound clinical), and you want to make sure both of you stay healthy, and want to test.  

Do not say things like "I know you were with that nasty girl, and we all know she gets around, so you need to test" or "I've heard rumors that you've slept with a ton of guys, so I want you to test".  This isn't about that.  This is about both partners making sure they test so that if they have anything, they can get treated, or they can take steps to manage an infection.  Do not talk about numbers of past partners.  First, its not really any of your partner's business at this point, and it doesn't make a huge difference, medically speaking.  If you've had 5 partners, and your partner has had 10, who cares?  Medically speaking, that's not a huge difference.  

Find a clinic, and go together.  Or, if you'd rather, go to your own doctor, but make sure you get copies of your test results to show your partner, and have your partner do the same.  This isn't to say your partner will lie, but you do want to make sure you were both tested for the same things.  

A word about people who don't want to test:  If someone doesn't want to test, then they don't want to have sex with you very badly, do they?   I ask all my partners to test, and I haven't ever had anyone refuse.  I figure sleeping with me is worth them going to pee in a cup and getting a little blood drawn.  ;)

Telling a partner you have an std -

This doesn't have to be as painful as you might think.  The important things are to be honest, factual, and remain calm.

I'll use herpes as an example, but this could also be the same for HPV, molluscum, HIV, etc.

When you tell a partner you have herpes, its important to remember this is NOT A CONFESSION.  Having an std is not a dirty, shameful secret.  Its an infection, much like the chicken pox, strep throat, etc.  It is NOT a moral statement or a value judgment, and it in no way reflects on you as a person.  

That's important to remember because telling a person you have herpes opens the door for the std discussion I talked about before.  It is as important for you to know what your partner has as it is for your partner to know what you have.  This is a DISCUSSION, with both partners having equal power.  

Have information handy, like transmission rates for the type of herpes you have, prevention information, etc.  Let your partner know if you would be willing to take suppressive therapy in order to reduce the risk.  Its ok if your partner asks questions.  That's a good thing - it means he/she is willing to find out more, rather than just running with no real information.

DOs:
* Have this conversation in person, if possible, or by phone if not.  Some people do it by email, and that's ok too, if you aren't ready to face this person.  However, it will probably help to be able to see your partner, and your partner might really want to support you, or hug you, and that can really help.

* Be calm.

* Have info handy to show your partner.  There are several good websites for info, and one of the best is www.ashastd.org

* Be able to answer questions.

* Remember that this is a DISCUSSION, not a confession.

DON'Ts:

* DO NOT, under any circumstances, text this to a partner.  I don't care how scared you are, this is not information you should be texting.  Can you imagine getting this in a text:  "I hve hrps, need to tlk."  Yeah, not a good thing.  With email, cell phones with email, blackberrys, IPhones, etc., you can at least TALK to or email the person.  

* DO NOT offer your partner "an out."  Your partner can leave this relationship at any time, for any reason, and doesn't need the reminder.  If you say that, you make it sound worse than it is.

* DO NOT use words like "terrible", "awful", "horrifying", "shameful", "hideous", etc.  STDs are none of those things, no matter how awful you feel about it.  Look at the difference in these examples:

"Hey hon, we need to talk about STDs.  Have you ever been tested?  Well, I have herpes type 2.  I've had it for awhile, and know when I'm getting an outbreak.  I take suppressive therapy, which means your risk is really low.  I'd like you to test for it, so we know what, if any, precautions we'd need to take, and I'm ok with answering any questions you might have about it."

or...

"Hey hon, I need to talk to you.  I don't know how to begin to tell you this, and I have no idea what you are going to think because its just awful.  I wouldn't blame you if you leave me, and you might, because this is horrible.  I know you are going to think I am a terrible person for this, and I can't blame you for that, either.  (break for crying and heavy breathing)  I can't believe I'd ever have to tell anyone something so horrifying, but..."  (more crying, heaving breaths, etc)  "...I have herpes."

By the time you got to the end of that, your partner is probably thinking you've cheated on him, or worse, something like you are a convicted ax-murdering child sex offender.  As your partner listens, he/she has now equated herpes with something terrible, and that's not an incredibly accurate thought.

Talking about STDs isn't easy at first, but its an important part of being sexually healthy.  If you can't talk about sex, maybe you shouldn't be having it.  :)

Aj





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by gracefromHHP, Jul 05, 2008
EXCELLENT Jess :)

grace

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by mayflowers, Jul 05, 2008
Jess,

This was a great journal and you give lots of great advice for talking about STD's and getting tested.  It's a tough subject but necessary these days.  And you're right, if someone won't go get tested, lose them immediately.  It means they are not mature, are in denial,  a player and don't plan on sticking around anyway (good riddance, bye-bye, CYA), or don't care about your health just their own selfish sexual needs.

I have known people with herpes who didn't tell their lovers, one-night stands, whatever, that they had herpes.  A little test would have protected those people.  One of my girlfriends told me that she knew if she told the guys, they would reject her.  She didn't care about their health, just her own need to get sexually fulfilled.  She also did not use condoms nor is she on any suppressive therapy.  She never gave them the chance to even tell her that they cared about enough her that it didn't matter.  Bottom line, she wasn't concerned about them at all.    It's not just guys that are selfish, there are some selfish women out there too.  

Unfortunately, the one I have, high risk hpv, a man cannot be tested for - only women.  So, in theory, the woman could test negative but the man could have it and not know and transmit it to her.  There is NO TEST for men!  How unfair is that ????  The only way he knows that he could possibly have it, is if one of his previous girlfriends calls and tells him that she got a abnormal pap.  Low risk hpv is easier to tell, b/c most people have warts however I've never had any warts although I am sure that I have been exposed.  I must have been with all the lovers I've had.  This is a very frustrating fact of HPV.  

I would never tell a guy how many lovers I've had and I wouldn't expect him to tell me either.  It would take way too long anyway. What I would more concerned with is what type of guy he is NOW.  I'm in a monogamous relationship now, and my boyfriend is like me, we've both been around the block a time or two.  I told him about my HPV b/c I had just found out myself from an abnormal pap.  He had already heard of it, and figured that he had probably been exposed a time or two so he didn't care.  He just cared that I was ok.  How sweet is that???  Awwwww.....anyway,  If I hadn't had that pap, I never would have known.  All my other STD test came out negative.  

I've read your posts, as well as Grace's, and I've learned so much from you two.  Not just about herpes, but how to manage a person's fear of the unknown.  Herpes isn't a big deal to me.  I have HSV1 so meeting someone else with herpes wouldn't phase me a bit.  I would just hope that they were honest about their status if only to show respect for me.

Thanks for all you do!!!
Andrea
  



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by LCFRavel, Jul 07, 2008
This has to be one of the most important posts in the forum. It provides excellent and useful information.

Thank you so much for helping me and countless others.


My best wishes go to you!

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by luli17, Dec 12, 2008
you are great thanks...i havent been in a relatioship and had to tell anyone yet since i just found out but its great advice and i was just wondering how can i deal with it i get very sad sometimes

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by Rahman, Dec 13, 2008
Dear Doctor

Re :Chlamydia and  Gonoria

me and my Wife is suffering Chlamydia and Gonoria, so can yu tell us do yu hv any Branch office in Toronto Canada ????  so i can go and hv medicine. or can yu give us some BEST medicine to cure .

Re :  Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment

i hv one more problem when i make love wth my wife my sex duration time not more than one minitue, i want to make my wife happy and i want to make love wth my wife atlest half an hour, do hv any safe medication to permanately can solve this problem.

awaiting your

Rahman
my email address :  ***@****


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by auntiejessi, Dec 13, 2008
This is a question for the forums, not here.  

Toronto has std clinics where you can get checked.  

Aj

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by jamiejackcorn, Sep 09, 2009
Thank you.. you made me feel better about my recent dilemma with Molluscum and dating.

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by cellfoam, Oct 20, 2009
Please extend the warning concerning texts to Instant Messaging as well.  Confusion over an IM conversation has put my partner at risk, and it will be a nerve-wracking time for us for awhile...


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by Nrg43, Oct 07, 2010
Thank you for all of the great discussion tips!  I was diagnosed with Herpes 13 years ago as a married woman....my husband at the time had cheated and only after I was diagnosed, confessed to having an affair.  I have been taking suppressive therapy for the past 13 years...from day 1 of my diagnosis.  Needless to say, this is still a very disturbing subject for me, personally.  

I am in a new relationship and I need to have this "Discussion" with my guy.  While I know that I should not be so judgemental of my self....I am very nervous & afraid.......of rejection!  The subject absolutely will be discussed......I know that I am doing the right thing, but I would appreciate any additional discussion tips.  We are currently communicating long distance via phone, but I would much rather talk with him about this in person.  We really care for each other.......I really hope that my std is not viewed as an obstacle.....  

Any advice or additional points are greatly appreciated!

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by adgal, Oct 08, 2010
Excellent advice and I hope more read this and take it to heart.  It's so important. Yes, it can be embarrassing, but in my opinion, a new partner who does not have more respect for you after this discussion is probably not someone worth your time.  People just need to remember that having an STD doesn't mean you have had multiple partners or anything else...it only takes once.  You do such a good job on educating people on this issue.  

I remember having this conversation with my now husband...he was relieved because he hadn't known how to bring it up.  I also had to tell him I have HPV and he had no issue at all with it. I just explained what it was, what it meant, etc.  In fact, he respected me more for being honest with him.  We married 2 years later.

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by AnnieBrooke, Oct 08, 2010
Nrg43, there would be nothing wrong with saying, "My ex was kind of a *******, he had an affair and then gave me herpes...."  and then go from there.  You can then tell him that it is a disturbing subject for you because it brings up that betrayal, but that obviously you want him to know because he (new guy) is so important to you and if you two are going to have a full relationship, he should know.  I doubt it will be a hard conversation, even if he has a little thinking to do after it.  (He'll doubtless want to know what to do to keep from getting herpes himself.)

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by gracefromHHP, Mar 15, 2011
bump

101028_tn?1348750963
by gracefromHHP, Jul 23, 2011
bump

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by shortie828, Apr 07, 2013
Thanks this has been so informational to help with myself telling my partner that i been in a realationship with for 6 years that i just found out that i have hsv2. I hope and pray that it will bring some comfort to thwm.

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