First, let’s talk about why you need to discuss STDs with your partner — or partners, if you have multiple. The primary reason is that it shows you care about your partner(s) and their health.
The best time to talk about STDs is before you start having sex. It can feel a bit awkward to bring up, but your partner may appreciate your ability to be proactive.
Since STDs are spread through sexual contact, it’s important to discuss the subject before getting intimate with your partner to prevent either of you unknowingly transmitting an STD.
Remember: getting tested for STDs isn’t about not trusting your partner or thinking they cheated on you. People can have an STD for years without knowing it, since many types don’t have symptoms. An STD test is the only way to know for sure whether you or your partner have one.
Believe it or not, STDs are actually quite common. According to the American Sexual Health Association, there are approximately 20 million new cases of STDs each year in the United States, and about half of those occur in women ages 15–24. In 2017, a total of 1,708,569 cases of chlamydia were reported among females in the United States, and 97.4% of those were among women aged 15–44 years old.
According to the American Sexual Health Association, there are approximately 20 million new cases of STDs each year in the United States, and about half of those occur in women ages 15–24.
Every couple entering into a relationship, whether it’s serious and long-term or more casual, needs to have a conversation about STDs if they want to protect their own health and the well-being of their partner or partners.
As mentioned above, the best time to have a conversation about STDs is before you start becoming intimate. This is especially true if either or both of you have had multiple partners in the past, since STDs are spread through contact with bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, or vaginal fluids.
Other things you may want to discuss along with getting tested for STDs include:
- Both of your sexual histories, including what kind of protection you’ve used in the past when sexually active
- Individual risk factors, such as whether either of you has had sex without a condom or used drugs with needles
If you receive a positive test result for an STD, such as chlamydia or syphilis, and you’re fairly certain your partner gave it to you, then it’s important to talk with them about it as soon as possible. Don’t wait or put it off — the longer you wait, the harder it may be to tell them about it later.
When discussing STDs with your partner, it’s important that you maintain an open, approachable attitude. This requires doing your best to stay calm and avoid being accusatory. Remember that millions of people have STDs, and plenty of them are in relationships. Testing positive for an STD is simply a health issue, and it doesn’t say anything negative about you as a person.
Likewise, you should be careful not to blame your partner for your positive test results. Many STDs have no symptoms, so people are often unaware that they even have an STD until they get tested.
Prepare for the conversation
To prepare yourself for the conversation with your partner to let them know they may have given you an STD, do some research on the subject. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about STDs out there, so it’s important to read up on the topic and be ready to answer your partner’s questions.
But that doesn’t mean you have to become an expert on the topic — there may be questions you both have, and in those cases, you can do your research together.
Pick the right tone
Approach the conversation in a really straightforward manner without being angry, frustrated, or upset. You should also pick a time when you won’t be interrupted and a place where you can have a private conversation with your partner without others overhearing.
Remember that millions of people have STDs, and plenty of them are in relationships. Testing positive for an STD is simply a health issue, and it doesn’t say anything negative about you as a person.
If you’re nervous about how to approach it, practice talking about it out loud to yourself or a friend you trust. It may feel awkward to do this, but rehearsing what you want to say first can help you sort out your thoughts and think about exactly what you want to say.
Put yourself in your partner’s shoes
Try not to play the blame game when you talk to your partner. Getting a positive test result during a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean that someone cheated, because STDs often take a while to show up on a test, and many people don’t have symptoms.
If you put yourself in your partner’s shoes, imagine how you would feel if they came to you and said, “I tested positive for an STD.” How would you want them to react? What would you do? Thinking about how you would react can help you think about how to approach the conversation and what to say. Here are some ideas:
- “I got some test results back, and I tested positive for _____. Can we talk about how to move forward? I may have passed it on to you, or I may have gotten it from you, but I’m not sure. I just want us to both be healthy so we can continue to have a relationship. Here’s what I’ve found out about it.” Then you can list some facts.
As you start expressing your concerns and relaying what you know, remember to let your partner talk too, so you can find out what they’re thinking as they process the information. In these types of difficult situations, listening is just as important as talking openly.
Make an appointment
When you’ve finished discussing the matter, and you’ve let your partner know what’s going on, be sure to make a doctor’s appointment with your gynecologist or primary care physician to let them know about your test results and discuss treatment options for managing it. Your partner may want to attend this appointment with you, and it’s definitely a good idea to bring them along.
Maintain a healthy perspective
Remember: an STD is only a health issue, the same as a cold or the flu. The negative connotations surrounding it can make it difficult for some people to talk about it with their partners for fear of being judged. However, millions of people in the United States live with STDs. And half of all Americans will get one at some point in their lives
When you have to tell someone that they may have given you an STD, be honest, open, and direct. Stick to the facts, be understanding and supportive, and you and your partner can hopefully find a way to work on this health issue together.