Last Updated on July 29, 2021 by Nancy Carteron, MD, FACR
STIs/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 STI/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 STI or living with an STI/STD will ever be completely carefree, it certainly generates more worry and fear than it should.
No one wants an STI. Heck, I don’t want additional STIs, 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 all sexually active people. Most of those people have no idea they have an STI, very few ever get tested for STIs, and the ones who do are, generally, only getting tested for 3-4 out of the 30+ STIs out there.
In any case, dating and relationships do not have to come to a screeching halt as a result of an STI/STD.
The complete and utter hysteria surrounding STIs/STDs and possibly dating new people after having contracted an STI is just ludicrous. I understand why people feel this way – the stigma is nothing short of immense – but the actual reality of living with an STI is far less dramatic.
Sex is great, relationships are fabulous, and I encourage both – responsibly! And both are possible with an STI.
I’ve been lucky enough not to experience rejection as a result of my STI (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 STI already.
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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, STIs 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 STI/STD statistics. The shear numbers indicate that there’s no way only specific types of people contract STIs.
So, be choosy with whom you share your body. Be choosy with how, when, and why you are choosing to share your body with someone else (safer-sex methods). Be choosy with who you decide to tell you have an STI (I’m not saying you should withhold your status if you’re going to engage in activities with someone – here’s how you might be putting someone at risk – and here’s a post about when to tell someone you have an STI/STD). I’m simply saying, be choosy, because you are worthy and valid, and you do not have to settle.
You deserve to be discerning.
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, how well you trust someone else and their risk mitigation strategies, and where you think the relationship is headed.
From there, remember the 4 staples to comprehensive safer-sex…
- Full STI/STD Screenings – get STD testing and sexual health exams at least once a year and more often if you have new or multiple partners. Consider getting one new, full round of STI/STD testing done before engaging in activities, then again at 3-6 months into a relationship, if it continues for that long, and then continue testing around once per year.
- Communication – discussing when/if ever STI/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 – consider reducing or being selective in your choices about concurrent partners, and be discerning in who you choose as partners.
- Properly Use Protective Barriers (dental dams, internal condoms, external condoms, gloves, LUBE LUBE LUBE) – consider using barriers for any and all oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
Understand that People Get Rejected for all Sorts of Random Reasons
Frankly, I know how depressing contracting an STI/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 when you are first diagnosed. At least, they went through mine in rapid fashion and on repeat. Those feelings are further amplified by the media’s stigmatization of STIs/STDs, the shear fear everyone has in talking about STIs/sexual health/safer sex, and the overall lack of knowledge surrounding STIs.
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.
It helped that partners did not choose to stop dating me once I disclosed my status. It helped that I began finding others who had felt as I did.
But more importantly, it helped that I started caring about my health, the people I chose to date, and mentally deciding an STI wasn’t going to define me.
Albeit, I made some mistakes, I don’t attribute any of those mistakes to having an STI. Rather, I attribute them to life’s lessons, and contracting an STI/STD was just one of the many.
To get back to the point, having an STI IS NOT the end of your dating life.
It will change how you approach relationships, possibly 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(s).
A rejection shouldn’t be the catalyst to your sitting in your bedroom moping for the rest of your life.
Really, I mean it.
I also think knowing why someone is choosing not to connect with you anymore is better than not knowing at all. Who cares if it’s because of your STI?! Most people never get to know why someone stopped connecting with them. They go about thinking it was their hair, the way they said something, their sexual performance, their obsession with cats (maybe that’s just me), etc….. They simply never know.
Quite honestly, it’s better to know it was your STI/STD than something you simply can’t change about yourself – who you are as a unique and awesome individual! 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.
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… In the meantime, that’s what masturbation’s for!
Seriously, though, self-pleasure is self-care, so go do you, take a nap, brush off your shoulders, and then 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
- How to Not Give an Eff about Having an STI
- All about Herpes Disclosure
- STI/STD Stigma
- When Do You Have to Tell Someone You Have an STI
- How To Tell Someone You Have an STI/STD
- Thoughts About Finding Out My Sig. Other Has an STD
- A Healthy Helping of STD Hater-Aid
- Anger and The Person Who Gave Me Genital Herpes/Scabies
- STI/STD Stigma
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