There are few things that can kill the mood like talking about an STI with your partner. It can leave you feeling vulnerable or at risk, especially if it’s still early days in the relationship. But we all know that it is so important to monitor our sexual health and to ensure the safety of our partners, and ourselves.
Open, honest communication is one of the best ways that you can fend off any unpleasant surprises and prevent any difficult conversations further on down the line. So, how can you talk to your significant other about STIs? Let’s have a look at some of the scenarios where a conversation is required, the feelings that might be holding you back, and the ways in which you can discuss the topic openly.
It’s not always easy in the heat of the moment to slow things down and ask your partner to use protection or ask them to stop for a second so you can use protection yourself. The former can obviously feel a lot more awkward, especially if it doesn’t look like they are planning on it. For people in a relationship, asking your partner to be safe can somehow feel like you’re saying you don’t trust them.
However, we all know that the best way to prevent STIs is to be safe during sex. We also know that there’s absolutely no excuse for not using protection if your partner asks you to. The best way to approach the situation is to be upfront about it and simply ask. It doesn’t matter how long you have been together, if one of you is uncomfortable having sex without protection, then there should be no need for discussion.
What if you have an STI.
As awkward as it can feel to ask a partner to use protection, telling a partner that you have an STI ranks a little higher. STIs are incredibly common and many of them are very treatable, but there is still a huge amount of stigma surrounding them. It is common to feel an unnecessary amount of shame and worry when you get that diagnosis. The most important thing for you to remember is that you are a couple and that you are committed to one another. If you want that relationship to continue, you need to be honest with each other.
If you are diagnosed with an STI, you need to tell your partner as soon as possible. The conversation may be uncomfortable, but you need to prioritise their safety. If you can, gather as much information as you can before the conversation. That way, you can explain to them exactly what the infection is, how it can be treated, and what the chances are that you may pass it on to them in future or may have passed it on already.
It’s important to stay calm and keep things in perspective. There are literally millions of people out there who have an STI, and hundreds of thousands of them in the UK alone. This is a health issue that you are suffering from, and nothing more.
If your partner tells you that they have an STI, remember that it will have taken a lot of courage for them to broach the topic. Remember that they are telling you because they care about you, and they don’t want to put you at risk.
The first thing to do is to make sure that both of you have been tested. Once you have done that, it’s time to start looking at treatment options. Take herpes treatments, for example. Genital herpes is one of the most common STIs out there and it can be contracted without penetration or ejaculation. It can also take a while for the symptoms to present themselves, which is one of the reasons why it is spread so easily. Although it is a lifelong condition, there are treatments available. Research herpes medication to decide whether an acyclovir or valaciclovir treatment would be best for you. Chemist Click has detailed information about the condition and they offer prompt, discreet delivery options for medication.
Getting tested for an STI.
We are all familiar with the deep breath that we need to take when we go to get tested for an STI. If you are sexually active, then you should be getting tested once a year even if you don’t have any symptoms. However, as routine as the process is, it can create a lot of anxiety and some people end up getting tested less frequently than they should.
If you want to go for an STI test but are feeling anxious about it, be open with your partner about how you’re doing. Talking to someone who has been through the same thing and may
have the same worries will always help to put things into perspective. Ask them if they would be willing to come with you to your appointment for moral support.
On the other hand, you may find yourself in a situation where you would like your partner to get tested and you are unsure how to bring it up. It is perfectly understandable to find this difficult. You might feel like you are suggesting that they have something that they need to be tested for, or that you don’t take them at their word when they tell you that they have a clean bill of health. The important thing to remember is that you are not asking them to do anything unreasonable. In fact, you are looking out for them.
We saw record numbers of cases of gonorrhoea in England in 2019 before the pandemic hit. The numbers of LGV (lymphogranuloma venereum) diagnoses reached their highest ever levels in the same year, almost exclusively in gay and bisexual males. What’s more, scientists are predicting that STIs will skyrocket in the coming months as lockdown restrictions are lifting and casual hook-ups become part of everyday life again. It is irresponsible to blindly assume that you are STI-free if you are a sexually active adult or teenager, regardless of your sexual orientation.
So, how do you talk to your partner about getting tested? Start by suggesting that you should both go in for a test. Tell them that you feel anxious talking to them about it and explain that this is something that you would like to face as a couple. Remind them that this is not about assigning blame or pointing fingers, it’s about looking after each other. Tell them that their health is a priority for you, and you hope that they feel the same about you. Alternatively, if you have recently been for a test, remind them that it is something that they should be doing regularly too. You don’t have to hit them with a load of statistics but explaining that they can never be too careful is not a bad idea.
In conclusion: keep talking.
Conversations about STIs become more difficult the more we avoid them. If you have found it hard to talk to your partner about testing, protection or a new or existing condition, don’t stop the discussion after that first conversation. This should be a safe topic for you as a couple.
Express your anxieties and your concerns. Tell each other how talking about STIs made you feel. Consider making an appointment with a couples’ counsellor if this topic raises issues that you can’t talk out with each other. Above all, remind each other that you are in this together, no matter what happens.
Meet the LGBTQ+ mental wellbeing expert here.