Last Updated on August 6, 2021 by Jenelle Marie Pierce, CSE, Executive Director
This guest post was written by P. Nickle who loves someone who has an STD – The STI Project’s admin, Jenelle Marie.
Gentlemen, I’m going to give it to you straight, finding out your potential girlfriend or significant other has an STD is kind of a shocker.
I’m not about to try and sugar coat or simplify the decisions you are going to have to make about continuing the relationship. There are many, and not all of them will be easy ones to make. But, rest assured, with a little background knowledge, and some research of your own, you will be better equipped to tackle those questions.
The STD Reality
Let’s be real. As men, the question always pops into our brains. What if this woman has an STD? Is she going to tell me about it, or am I just going to have to kick back and wait for blisters to start showing up on my junk?
Honestly, in a healthy relationship, intimacy should be talked about before you engage in sexual activities, not after the fact, or while you are taking your clothes off. For me, the talk – after the fact – my girlfriend at the time, and still current, called me up and said we need to talk. Instantly, my mind started going a mile a minute: is she pregnant, was I terrible in bed, does she have an STD? In this case my prize was behind door number 3: she had an STD, herpes, to be exact.
Truth be told, I was kind of relieved. No kids on the way, and no, I do not suck in bed.
Okay, so now what do I do? First and foremost, I had to decide if ‘the juice was worth the squeeze’, as I like to refer to it as, or in laymen’s terms, is this woman worth continuing a relationship with now that I know she has an STD?
Guys/Gals, do some thinking and research on this one.
Find out as much information as you can on the STD in question and get the facts from your significant other. Ask them, do you have break outs, where are they and how often do you get them? Most importantly, what steps can we, as a couple, take to minimize the risks of contracting/transmitting the STD to each other?
Finally, do some research on your own about the STD in question and get the facts. DO NOT just settle for his/her side of the story and what they tell you. I stress this last point, because more often than not, there are three sides to any dilemma, theirs, yours, and the facts.
Now, all of that being said, you still have to ask yourself, knowing what I know, and knowing the facts, can I still love this person and not have their STD affect the way I feel about them? If that answer is yes, then bravo, you passed the hardest part of your STD test.
If you are still unsure how this STD could get in the way of your relationship, then take some time and think about how you really feel about that person. Ask yourself:
- Could I one day love this person?
- Can we still be intimate and see where the relationship goes?
Or, if you just don’t want to risk it, then tell them and be done with it. Better to do it early on, rather than just putting the STD in question on the back-burner till later, which, only makes it harder when, months from now, you decide you just don’t want to deal with the risk of contracting an STD.
Overall, my experience in a relationship with someone who has an STD has been fantastic. I know how to manage her outbreaks and minimize the risk to myself of contracting said herpes.
The STD does not hinder our sex lives, nor do we let it define our relationship.
That being said, don’t let an STD define your relationship. Figure out if you can have a healthy relationship with that person, then tackle the STD part.
In short, the juice was well worth the squeeze.
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This guest post was written by P. Nickle who loves someone who has an STD – The STI Project’s admin, Jenelle Marie. P. Nickle has a BA in Business and is currently working on his Masters in Criminal Justice and Psychology. He served in the United States Air Force and is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. He believes he has always had an open mind, an open heart, and he welcomes all walks of life regardless of sexuality, creed, or race. He is looking forward to sharing his views, knowledge, and experiences with STDs with you guys, our audience. He encourages all comments and questions.
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Are you also in a relationship with someone with an STD? What did you think about the author’s perspective? Did this help you work through your feelings? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
I’m a bit confused with the section starting “Let’s be real. As men, the question always pops into our brains. What if this woman has an STD?”
This really rubbed me the wrong way. How is this exclusively something men think about, which the whole “as men” thing implies? Oh, so women are the dirty whores knowingly transmitting STDs to poor, unknowing men? God, that must suck, having to wonder if every person you date has an STD! I wonder what that’s like! The statement also implies a sort of objectification, like the woman is this vessel carrying around this horrible infectious disease. God forbid she be treated like a human.
Also, from what I’ve experienced and observed, it is the male partners in heterosexual relationships not telling their partners about their STD status (if they even bother to get checked). Frequently it is women stressing over the disclosure process and also frequently women who are the ones who have to insist on condom usage. In my opinion, women are at the most disadvantage in the popular discussion on STDs. At least men don’t have to contend with being called horrible names. Rejection, perhaps, but not being considered sluts, whores, or the other multitude of things you can think of.
I do like having the perspective of someone without an STD in a relationship with one who does, and I admit that perhaps my own personal experiences are affecting how I interpreted the text, but this is my opinion nevertheless.
Hi A. –
I have to tell you, initially, I laughed at your response in an endearing, ‘oh my, that’s not at all what we had hoped to elicit’ kind of way. I really appreciate your candid opinion though, because when he wrote his post a couple of days ago, we chatted about it at the kitchen table and thought his perspective would be really well received.
I hadn’t even considered some of his language, because he was hoping to appeal to the people who read my website but aren’t entirely buying into what I’m saying about being able to have great relationships with an STD, because, well, I have an STD, and my opinions are going to be a bit subjective inherently. So, the reason he asked me if he could write his side of the story was in an attempt to appeal to the guys reading all of my girlie, life with an STD is sunshine and rainbows, just love yourself type of posts, and we also thought both sexes could benefit from reading about how someone without any STDs we’re aware of lives, loves, and enjoys sex with someone who has an STD. He has a couple additional posts coming up (I’m actually editing one of them right now about sex with someone who has an STD, in particular), so, maybe you’ll have a different impression after reading more of his writing? We’ll have to see. 🙂
Anyhow, that you read something entirely opposite of what he intended to convey is both a simple misunderstanding and an excellent lesson in how the written word can be viewed in different ways based upon one’s own experiences and not knowing the individual behind the message. Thankfully, I can tell you, my bf is not at all one to call women sluts or whores – that’s why your comment was held for moderation, actually, as we are incredibly sensitive to name-calling and bigotry on The STI Project; so much that any comment containing those words (and others) gets held for moderation until I’ve been able to determine its intent. This is especially true for him as he’s witnessed my having been called a slut (among other things) and how horrible that experience can be. I certainly understand why you’d take offense though – I’ve known and dated (unfortunately) some of the men you’re referring to (which, was how I contracted scabies), so there are plenty of them out there, he just doesn’t happen to be one of them, despite what seemed like an overtly male or chauvinistic approach. 🙂
That being said, I’ve seen an equal measure (now that I’m running this website) of women and men who have not disclosed their STD status before putting someone at risk (in full disclosure, I have not always let someone know in advance either), along with both men and women at a loss of how and when to tell someone before putting them at risk – so much that they are not sure whether to consider a relationship at all. I think you’re right though about condom usage; I painstakingly answer question on top of question about how to convince a new beau to wear a condom…something which shouldn’t require ANY convincing or persuasion. Women are also more susceptible to STD transmission via our unique (and, of course, fabulous) physiology, and women experience some additional repercussions which are very rare for men as a result of untreated STDs and STD complications. So, yes, we certainly do have a disadvantage and undergo the lion’s share of major issues resulting from STDs. However, I have to make certain I emphasize, there are sooo many men suffering from issues as a result of an STD as well.
I really appreciate you acknowledging a potentially biased perspective – we all have biased perspectives. That we can understand and account for our assumptions means we can also learn and grown from them – something I wish more people would be conscientious of and open to.
Again, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts – controversial or not, your opinion is always welcome here! 🙂
Hi Jenelle, thanks so much for your reply. I see what you said and appreciate the viewpoint of a partner without an STD. Also, I just want to say I love this website and it’s my go-to resource now, especially when I’m feeling particularly down. The information and stigma-dispelling facts help to keep me level headed by this whole thing.
My pleasure! What a fantastic compliment; I’m truly delighted to hear this has helped you! That’s the primary purpose behind the website, although, it’s also been a wonderful component in my healing process as well. Receiving messages like this encourage me to continue and indicate I’m headed in the right direction with the articles I’ve written, the resources I’ve linked to, etc. Thanks so much for reaching out and letting me know!
A… I dont see how the person who wrote this aricle rubbed you the wrong way. Ok that’s how guys think “I wonder if she has a std” what’s wrong with that, your sensitive for no reason. So you mean to tell me that you have never looked at a guy and wondered if he was clean or not?????? Get grip please. Anyways good article Nickle
Excuse me? Why are you even here if you use the word “clean” to refer to someone without an STD? How was this comment even accepted?
My point was that men are not the only ones. It is not exclusively a “male thing” to wonder if a potential partner has a STD, especially considering women are often the ones who, in heterosexual relationships, have to insist on condoms being used, and are, as Jenelle said, more susceptible to STDs in the first place.
And no, I don’t usually look at people and wonder if they are “clean” or not, because that is extremely degrading and dehumanizing. You’re the one who needs to get a grip.
Hi A –
I actually deleted the comment and then thought better of it and accepted it (it initially hit my spam folder), because I thought you’d like an opportunity to reply. 🙂
That others still use the antiquated description of ‘clean’ for those without an STD shows how much work is yet to be done to create the paradigm shift I’m attempting here. You are absolutely right, we don’t refer to anyone without an STD as ‘clean’, because that would imply that someone with an STD is ‘dirty’ – much like we no longer refer to people with a mental disability as ‘retarded’ or black people as ‘colored’. It’s all a process of changing the way we think about these things.
Education helps. No one can ever know for sure whether they are entirely without any STD, because there are not tests for all STDs. As sexually responsible individuals, we can take as many precautions as are available to us, and then we conscientiously make decisions with our health accordingly – accepting a certain level of risk at all times. From there, we learn to treat all people, infection or not, with the level of respect and dignity we also expect in return – which excludes referring to people as ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’. Realizing those kinds of titles further deter people from being responsible, getting tested, and communicating their status to others helps us to extract them from our vernacular. Once we start to change the way we think and subsequently talk about STDs, we can really begin to reduce their spread and help those who are living with an STI/STD (like I am) to feel loved, respected, and desirable despite having a manageable infection.
Great discussion, guys, I appreciate your willingness to respond; even a bit of heated conversation such as this is healthy and can begin to change misconceptions – one interesting conversation at a time.
This comment thread is amazing. I love the forum for discussion that you’re providing here! I *do* think there are differences for men and women when it comes to living with an STI/STD, but that’s perhaps another discussion for another article.
Thanks for all you’re doing here!
Hi Haley –
Thanks so much for your reply! I’ve actually just written down this topic as a new post to write in my every-growing post-to-write to-do list! Definitely an excellent topic to touch on, which, I could certainly devote an entire post to. When I do, I’ll link back in this comment thread as well.
Thanks for the kudos and a great suggestion!
I recently found out I have herpes. It has been pretty challenging to adjust to. Telling my boyfriend was one of those hard task. This has been of some help to me! I alo sent this to my boyfriend to read! Thank you so much!!!!
Hi Jay –
I’m so happy to hear this was helpful!
While he may not feel identically, I think, it will be nice for him to know he’s not alone as well!
Thanks so much for your response.
I really appreciate this post on being the partner of someone who has HPV.
I’ve had a hard time finding resources about how to protect the uninfected partner in a long term relationship with someone who has an STD. I am interested in hearing more about your partner’s management. What steps do the two of you take to protect him – aside from the obvious, don’t sleep with someone when they’re having an outbreak? How do you two handle snuggling in bed knowing that the virus could shed from skin to skin? Is it reasonable to ask the infected partner to take medication? How do you show love and affection to a partner when they are having an outbreak? How could the uninfected person show their support without risking their health?
Best wishes, any thoughts are appreciated.
Hi Stephanie –
So, you wrote HPV, but I’m guessing you meant to write HSV – herpes simplex virus… That’s what he was writing about here, so I’ll answer your questions with HSV in mind, in particular, but I think this will hold true for a lot of other STD/non-STD type of relationships as well. 🙂
For us, as you’ve mentioned, we abstain from sexual activities when I’m having an outbreak. We also use a lot of lube always – I’ve always been a big fan of lube, and in terms of STDs, lube reduces friction, and, in effect, reduces the likelihood of contracting an STD (see one of our recent posts for additional details why using lube reduces STD risk)… What might be surprising to some is what I have to say next: Even though he could totally ask me to take suppressive therapy (which, would mean I take an anti-viral daily as opposed to reactive therapy which means I take an anti-viral when experiencing an outbreak), he does not. He also does not prefer we use barriers. *cue gasp* Here’s the deal: I would respect and happily accommodate any request he would like to incorporate to reduce risk – I’ve explained and encouraged taking suppressive meds, using barriers consistently and correctly for all sexual activities, and type-specific blood testing to determine which strain(s) we’re carrying (if any) – see my post on why I have not done type-specific testing yet. He decided barriers were not for us, and he’d also prefer I not have to take a prescription daily – if any of those were hard and fast rules on my end, he’d also be happy to oblige, but they’re not. From there, I should also clarify – my outbreaks now occur on my buttocks – they have moved locations, which is not uncommon – and their location helps reduce his risk. Albeit, they were vaginally originally, and the virus does shed and is transmissible when I do not have an active outbreak as well, of course, so he is still taking a risk regardless. Interestingly, all of my partners have responded similarly (without knowing that of one another – I let them make choices entirely independently), and I’ve dated a variety of different types of folks… I know this will not hold true, nor should it, for everyone. I guess I should also clarify, as this could be very different for some, I’m kind of a ‘serial monogamist’…meaning, the relationships I’m referring to have been monogamous, and have lasted at least 2 years… I could very easily see why a different situation would elicit different aversions or concerns about risk.
My thoughts outside of my relationship specifically? It’s not at all unreasonable to ask someone to take suppressive therapy – medication daily – as that will greatly reduce a partner’s risk. It’s also not at all unreasonable for them to say no, and then for the other individual to chose not to be with that person, because they are not willing to consider the risk without a prescription present. Really, each relationship is as unique as the individuals who contract STDs… Being concerned about risk, wanting to negate it as best as possible, and seeking resourceful information is commendable. I mean that, sincerely.
In terms of cuddling with the HSV virus, in particular, it sheds where it breaks out, unless it moves locations (which, of course, you might not know right away or ever know it has)…so, there’s a risk on any location of the body (in theory), but generally, the risk on places other than where it typically breaks out is very very very low. Scientifically speaking, genital HSV lies dormant in the nerve endings at the base of the spine, and oral HSV at the base of the neck. It’s possible but not probable that someone with oral herpes would be shedding the virus on their leg or that someone with genital herpes would be shedding the virus on their arm. Knowing these things, I think, helps partners decide which risks they’re comfortable accepting, and which risks they’d rather avoid.
As my response might seem a bit dry, P. Nickle is going to reply as well. 🙂
Thanks so much for some incredibly thoughtful and understandable questions!
First off, Kudos to you for wanting to protect your partner as well as educating yourself on your sexual health. Luckily the answer to your question(s) are pretty simple really. Yes, no sex during outbreaks, while yes we could have sex during a outbreak due to the location of them, we have chosen to just abstain all together from sex during a outbreak. However, to answer your second question, Yes, we still snuggle and do all the other normal physical contact stuff one could expect in a loving relationship. The way we have worked around the skin to skin contact part is easy. She wears a bandage over the outbreak during the night as well as underware. This prevents the skin to skin contact. While yes I get it, that a bandage may not be the most sexy or comfortable option, it works as a great physical barrier. Furthermore, you can still show the same love and affection you normally would while the outbreak is present.
The whole thing really boils down to a personal choice about ones own health. What are you comfortable with and what is your partner comfortable with? For me, I am comfortable in the fact that yes, there will always be a risk that I may one day contract Herpes from my significant other but in the big picture of life, if I had to chose between the possibility of getting Herpes or not being with my girlfriend, I would chose the Herpes. In a matter of fact way you have to ask yourself, is the juice worth the squeeze? In our case, it is.
I think there is nothing harder than to disclose you have an STD to a person you are interested in. Let’s face it, it can be just awkward. It’s not a conversation that you are trained in having either so usually you are winging it.
I find though as you get older and realize your comfort zone with the STD and become comfortable in your own it becomes part of who you are. I have a beautiful story in that when I told my husband, when we were initially dating, he said he had to think about it. He went to his doctor and said the girl I am seeing has an std and the doctor said, do you love her? My then boyfriend now husband said yes. Then the doctor said well then it shouldn’t matter should it? We have now been together for 13 years. I really feel that this website is great because I do not think all doctors would be so positive with their response. I truly am grateful to that doctor as his response really changed the direction of our relationship.
I agree with the Clean comment and it is terribly negative stigma building language but it is part of our society unfortunately. Too sensitive? Perhaps but how can you judge if you haven’t walked in that person’s shoes? A chronic STD certainly builds character, can be a pain in the ass…play on words and can really be a relationship builder. There is life after a chronic STD and I am proof!
Hi andy –
Thanks so much for sharing your perspective.
You make some excellent points – nothing is typically harder for those who’ve been recently diagnosed than that first conversation they have with a potential partner. Character-building is exactly as I would have described it! 🙂 I too wish more doctors responded as practically as yours did…time and additional, more current training will help.
I hope your positive outlook is infectious – pun intended – it’s not always easy to ascertain and time always makes a diagnosis seem much less daunting, of course, but you’re right: there is definitely life after a chronic STD.
Thanks again for your comments.
Thanx so much for this article, it really made me happy to see others dealing with STDs in a mature way. I have been in a relationship with a guy who has HSV2 for a few months now( he was my bestfriend of about 6 years before we started dating) and at first I must admit it was confusing to decide if herpes was something I could deal with, I appreciate him for telling me upfront and giving me the choice as to whether I wanted to be at risk or not (a girl purposely gave it to him) but I love the guy and after lots of research and I mean LOTS I decided he was worth the risk, he takes valtrex daily as a suppressient and is healthy and so far I have not contracted herpes. I saw all that to say this STDs are a part of life and no one should be stigmatized and treated badly because of something like and STD.
Hi Amber –
Good for him for telling you first – that’s an excellent indicator he’s also handling the infection and the associated stigma maturely, or, at least, he’s reconciled the misconceptions with the actual implications of living with an STI/STD (often, they’re much milder than all of the negative perceptions). It’s not an easy thing to do – to overcome the emotional impact and to tell a partner before putting them at risk – so, that’s the first step. Education is the next, and cheers to you for being diligent and doing your research.
While it doesn’t always happen that a partner is willing to take the risk (and that’s ok that not everyone will make that decision), I believe, in a well-developed relationship, and with the right amount of information-gathering, there is certainly hope for a healthy and happy sex life even when one partner has an infection and the other does not.
Thanks so much for further supporting that theory and, more importantly, being willing to seek additional education before making your decision. 🙂
I love this article… definitely a good thing to present to your significant other or future boyfriend/girlfriend if you have an STD. it eases the stress.