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Ask Dr. Zoe – I Have an STI, When and How Do I Tell My Man?

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‘Dreading This Scary Conversation’ Asked:

Dear Dr. Zoe,

I recently found out that I have an STI, and I am devastated. I made decisions in the past that I am not proud of, but over the past couple of years, I’ve changed my lifestyle dramatically. Unfortunately, there have been some lingering effects from my past, including a sexually transmitted disease. One of my biggest fears about this is that I just got into a relationship with someone I’m really excited about, but we’ve only been dating for a couple of months. Although we are not sexually active and hold similar beliefs on wanting to save that for marriage now, I do think it’s something that I need to share with him, but when? When is the appropriate time to bring this up?

Help!

Dr. Zoe Answered:

Dear Dreading This Scary Conversation,

Finding out you have an STI can feel devastating. First, please know that you are not alone. I read that you made some mistakes in your past and I hear that you may be judging yourself. The truth is that these conditions are very common and sometimes lay dormant and can be acquired or passed on years later, whether you are making a mistake or not. Yes, women in committed, married relationships get STIs too.

There’s also the reality that there are social stigmas surrounding STIs. I know you must be scared that your boyfriend will reject you when he finds out that you have one. STIs are not a topic that most people talk about, and because of that, there is so much shame surrounding it. Everyone feels like they are the only one.

Part of being in an adult relationship is talking about your sexual history. When it comes to disclosing an STI, there is a fine line between telling too soon and disclosing too late.

It seems you have made the right choice in waiting and not disclosing it immediately. This gives him a chance to get to know you as a person, not just the label of your STI. There does come a point though when failure to disclose becomes deceit. That point is different in every scenario.

Regardless, the longer you wait, the more emotionally connected the two of you become, and you run the risk that he will feel betrayed and you will feel more hurt if the relationship doesn’t continue.

Because you have been dating for a few months, now is the time to tell him.

Girl, get it over with!

I can only imagine what stress you have been putting yourself under as you grow closer to him, knowing that you haven’t shared this information with him, yet. Here are some tips for getting this monkey off your back:

First, you shouldn’t tell him in a text or even over the phone. This is an in-person kind of operation. Telling him in person demonstrates that you care about him and the relationship and that you are open and honest enough to have this difficult conversation in person.

So, where do you have “the talk?”

The best environment is a private one where no one can overhear the conversation, and he doesn’t feel pressure to hide his feelings—definitely not over a frappé at a coffee shop! It’s probably best to call him up and say that you want to meet in person to talk. His place may be best, so you can leave afterward and give him his space.

There is no better way than to be direct, with appropriate information. Start out with something like: “I feel like we are getting closer and learning more about each other and I feel like it’s time to talk more about my sexual history and share this with you. I recently got tested for STIs, and my results came back with…”

When you tell him, make sure that you have done your research and you can tell him exactly what you have, how you are treating it, and how you plan to keep him safe. You may even want to give him an article or a booklet, but also encourage him to do his own research.

Knowledge is power, and when you are confident and knowledgeable, the whole thing will seem a lot less scary to him. Don’t act like you have leprosy or you murdered someone. You are not confessing, you are informing. Be matter of fact, like all the other information you have learned about each other over the course of this new relationship.

Be open and honest about your sexual history and what you know about how you contracted the STI. Be confident in your knowledge that you are not the person that you once were. You have grown and changed. If he is a loving and mature man, he will not judge you.

If he judges you, then he is not the man you thought he was.

While you are having the conversation, now would be a good time to ask him about his sexual health and history. I know you said you have both agreed to wait until marriage, which is a beautiful thing, but if he is not a virgin, he should also get tested before you have sexual contact because there is a possibility that he may be a carrier of something too. 70% of Americans have some strain of HPV, and 28% of American adults have never been tested.1

Be prepared that after you tell him, you are going to feel at your most vulnerable. This may be a scary moment for you, and you’ll want reassurance and acceptance from him. This is totally understandable, but you need to give him some time. Don’t request that he give you an answer right away. Give him the information, encourage questions, and let him know that you want him to think about it and you two will connect later.

Afterward, you may be feeling a million feelings, and it’s time to take care of yourself. If you have friends that know, let them know so that they can support you afterward. If no one else knows, pre-plan some distracting self-care. If he cares for you, he won’t leave you hanging long.

The good news is that a recent survey from Elitedaily.com showed that only 4% of men and women would break up with their current partner if they found out they had contracted an STI. More than likely this is just a blip on the journey of your relationship.

You’ve got this! It just takes a little grit and grace.

Dr. Zoe


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Dr. Zoe is a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert who recently jumped out of a perfectly good plane just for the experience.

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