Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Nancy Carteron, MD, FACR
STDs and Relationships
You mean to say, they can coincide harmoniously?! Yes.
Of all the different types of relationships one can have in which an STD may cause anxiety, relationships with a significant other cause, by far, the most trepidation.
On first review, this seems a completely understandable cause for concern.
And while I don’t think contracting an STD or living with an STI/STD will ever be carefree, it certainly generates more worry and fear than it should.
No one wants an STD. Heck, I don’t want additional STDs, if I can help it.
But the fact of the matter is, they happen – well, they can happen if you engage in any kind of sexual activity with someone else. In fact, they happen to a vast majority of sexually active people. Most of those people have no idea they have an STD, very few ever get tested for STDs, and the ones who do are, generally, only getting tested for 3-4 out of the 20 or so STDs out there.
In any case, dating and relationships do not have to come to a screeching halt as a result of an STD.
The complete and utter hysteria surrounding STDs and dating new people after having contracted an STD is just ludicrous; I understand why people feel this way – the stigma is nothing short of immense – but the actual reality is far less dramatic.
Sex is great, relationships are fabulous, and I encourage both – responsibly!
Both are possible with an STD as well.
I’ve been lucky enough not to experience rejection as a result of my STD (in all 15 years of living with one); not everyone is always that lucky, but it can happen with a little bit of forethought. So, here’s how you can proceed whether or not you have an STD already.
This sounds like a simple directive, but I think, it’s easier said than done.
Some would argue they are already being choosy, the people they date are ‘clean’ (a horrible way to describe someone, by the way, as hygiene has very little to do with transmission), they come from ‘good homes’, they are of a certain sub-set of people, etc., etc.. Unfortunately, STDs are NOT choosy, and they can happen to all kinds of people: rich, poor, any race, any sexual orientation, any career, any country, you get the point…. Don’t believe me?
Check out some of these STD statistics. The shear numbers indicate that there’s no way only specific types of people contract STDs.
So, be choosy with whom you share your body. Be choosy with how you share your body with someone else (safer-sex methods). Be choosy with who you decide to tell you have an STD (I’m not saying you should withhold your status if you’re putting someone at risk – here’s how you might be putting someone at risk – and here’s a post about when to tell someone you have an STD). Be choosy.
You deserve to be discerning.
Gone are the days you can just willy-nilly run about having one-night-stands expecting them to turn into fruitful relationships – especially if you already have an STD. So, be choosy about all of it! 🙂
It’s imperative, for your own mental well-being and, obviously, for your physical well-being, you take a moment to gauge what level of risk you are willing to accept before engaging in any activity. Only you can decide if the risk is worth the reward (or, like my boyfriend likes to say, ‘if the juice is worth the squeeze’), how well you trust someone else, and where you think the relationship is headed.
From there, remember the 4 staples to comprehensive safer-sex…
- Full STD Screenings – get STD testing and sexual health exams at least once a year and more often if you have new or multiple partners. All partners should get one new, full round of STD testing done before engaging in activities, then again at 3-6 months into a relationship, if it continues for that long, and then keep testing once a year.
- Communication – discussing number of previous partners (with and without protection), when/if ever STD tests were taken and what tests were performed, whether you are mutually exclusive, and what safer-sex practices you’d like to utilize.
- Limiting Partners – try to be thoughtful and selective in your choices about partners, aiming to choose fewer rather than more, and to be careful in who you choose as partners.
- Properly Use Protective Barriers (dental dams, female condoms, male condoms, gloves, LUBE LUBE LUBE) – for any and all oral, vaginal, or anal sex for, at least, the first six months into any sexual relationship.
Understand that People Get Rejected for all Sorts of Random Reasons
Frankly, I know how depressing contracting an STD can be!
Things like, ‘no one will ever want me again’, ‘I’m dirty’, ‘I’m damaged goods’, ‘I’ll never get married, have kids, or meet a good partner’, all go through your head. At least, they went through mine in rapid fashion and on repeat. Those feelings are further amplified by the media’s stigmatization of STDs, the shear fear everyone has in talking about STDs/sexual health, and the overall lack of knowledge surrounding STDs.
It wasn’t until some time after being diagnosed – quite a few years, but I don’t remember an exact date – that I stopped feeling that way.
But more importantly, it helped that I started caring about my health, the people I chose to date, and mentally deciding an STD wasn’t going to define me.
Albeit, I made some mistakes, I don’t attribute any of those mistakes to having an STD. Rather, I attribute them to life’s lessons, and contracting an STD was just one of the many.
To get back to the point, having an STD IS NOT the end of your dating life.
It will change how you approach relationships, how fast you choose to share your body with someone else and it could, at some point, be a reason someone chooses not to develop a relationship with you further.
That shouldn’t deter you in your search for that special someone.
Of course, the saying is true: you need to love yourself before anyone can truly love you in the way you deserve (that is true for people without STDs as well), but a rejection shouldn’t be the catalyst for your sitting in your bedroom moping for the rest of your life.
Really, I mean it.
In a sense, I think knowing why someone is choosing not to call you anymore is better than not knowing at all. Who cares if it’s because of your STD?! Most people never get to know why someone stopped calling them. They go about thinking it was their hair, the way they said something, how they performed in bed, their obsession with cats (maybe that’s just me), etc….. They just never know.
Quite honestly, it’s better to know it was your STD than something you simply can’t change about yourself – who you are as a unique and awesome individual! Sure, you might have a life-long STD that’s also unchangeable, but their rejection is the result of fear, a lack of knowledge, and a reflection of where your relationship is and where they thought it was headed – not a result of who you are as a person. The relationship wasn’t developed enough for them to take a risk – you were just a sexual opportunity and not being viewed as the potential long-term love of someone’s life.
I think it’s great you’re able to find that out right away!
You should celebrate that revelation and move on to better, more open-minded, educated (or willing to learn), people who actually want to be with you…not just have sex with you. In the meantime, that’s what masturbation’s for!
Yup. Totally just said that.
Seriously, though, go masturbate, take a nap, brush off your shoulders and go meet someone new! 🙂
- Part 1 of: STDs and Relationships – The STI Project’s Guidebook – Friends
- Part 2 of: STDs and Relationships – The STI Project’s Guidebook – Family
Did this help you with your new/established relationship? Do you have some advice or a different perspective you’d like to share with our readers? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!