10 Tips to Follow When Your Partner Gives You a Sexually Transmitted Disease
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are at an all-time high due to increasing popularity of social media and dating websites such as Tinder, Plenty of Fish, Zoosk, Ok Cupid, etc. These websites make it easier for people to be discreet and “hook up” even if you are in a committed relationship. Thus, infidelity is also on the rise. And because communication on a dating website is typically done online via the privacy of a computer, or through your smartphone; it is also easier to hook-up and disconnect with no strings attached. However, what may start out as just a “fun sexual hook-up” may turn into a nightmare, especially if your partner brings home an STD from what they thought was a discreet adventure. I can share with you from personal experience, that the worst way to find out that your partner is cheating on you is by finding out that you have an STD. So many emotions go through your mind such as shock, dismay, disappointment, anger, sadness, fear, disgust, disbelief, etc. It is a big deal, and can be a shock to your soul. Here are some tips that can help you get through this stressful time.
1) Go to your doctor.
If you feel like something is off “downstairs,” such as odor, pain, color, smell, discharge, bleeding, or irritation – then you should “run” to your doctor’s office. Do not hesitate to get a check-up. You are the best expert on your body, and if something looks, feels, or smells different to you; there is a good chance that something may be wrong. Listen to your gut, and then make a beeline to your doctor’s office. Be sure to request a full physical, gynecological exam, or an STD workup.
2) Listen to your doctor.
Your doctor is the first line of defense, and is a medical expert. If your doctor tells you that you have an STD, be prepared to ask a lot of questions about symptoms, treatment, transmission of the disease, short and long-term effects, and other potential risks. Follow your medical doctor’s advice – remember they are experts at what they do. If you are skeptical about the information that your doctor gives you, then seek out a second opinion from another doctor. Anyone who you are sexually involved with should be told about the disease, so they can be checked out and treated by their medical doctor. Remember, your health and the health of others could potentially be at risk by keeping silent.
3) Talk to your partner.
If your partner transmitted the disease to you, then at the very least, you should discuss this with your partner. Getting an STD from your partner is a serious violation of trust, not to mention a serious risk to your health. This may not be an easy conversation to have with your partner, especially if this is how you found out about their infidelity. You may want to have a close friend or family member who is able to remain neutral and keep things from escalating accompany you when having this discussion. It may also help you to google your condition, and print out the information prior to the discussion to present as evidence. Your most powerful weapon when having a discussion about a sensitive topic such as this is knowledge. It is not uncommon for a partner who is unfaithful to deny being unfaithful, or exposing you to an STD. They may say something like, “you must have caught it from a toilet seat,” or give some other excuse. You may fall for your partner’s excuses and untruths, if you don’t fully educate yourself about what you have and if you are in denial about your partner cheating on you. After all, how many of us want to believe that the person we love is cheating on us with someone else?
4) Avoid catastrophizing the situation or stamping an expiration date on the bottom of your foot.
Getting an STD doesn’t mean that you are going to die or that your life is forever ruined. Even if you get an STD such as herpes or HIV, medicine is now so advanced that you can live a relatively healthy lifestyle without symptoms. What you initially go through is a period of adjustment to having anything. Most STDs are treatable if they are diagnosed within an appropriate period of time.
5) Try to avoid going crazy.
Easier said than done…. I know. What this means is, try to avoid confrontations with your partner or the other people that your partner was sexually involved with. Keep yourself busy with other things, such as going to work, talking with your support system, or engaging in other productive activities. Further, continuing to be verbally or physically aggressive with your partner creates additional stress, increases negative energy, and nothing can be solved by engaging in ongoing confrontation. Furthermore, conflict will continue to hurt you and damage the relationship that you have with yourself and your partner.
6) Seek out emotional support.
After going through the motions of talking to your doctor and your partner, you should seek the comfort and safety of those that are supportive to you. Your close friends, family, support groups, therapist, etc. can help to process all of the emotions that you may have around dealing with this kind of stress. Finding out that you have an STD can leave you feeling like you are dirty, unable to trust others, all people are bad, you have a death sentence, or you can’t understand what you did to deserve this. Doom and gloom is not uncommon when you learn of traumatic news. Your support system can help you stay motivated.
7) Take time for yourself.
Understandably, this can be a emotional time for you. You should take time to yourself to process things, breathe, cry, be upset, write down your thoughts and concerns, and gain personal clarity. Most importantly, take the time to heal yourself and recover from the physical and emotional wounds. Try to get a grasp on what your needs are, and avoid extra stress or pressure to make decisions (especially about the status of your relationship) until you feel you are ready. Try to avoid ruminating about the relationship, feeling sorry for yourself or your partner, blaming yourself for your partner’s infidelity, or playing detective and trying to figure out who your partner cheated on you with. Also try to avoid acting on rash or extreme emotions. Figure out what your immediate needs are (for example: space from your partner, more support from friends, or time off from work to deal with the stress emotionally, etc.).
8) Make a decision about your relationship.
After you have taken the time to yourself to process everything that has happened, and had discussions with your support system, you should evaluate your relationship. Your partner has engaged in sexual relations with other people without using protection and has jeopardized your health. Your partner was deceptive, and brought a disease home to you. Is that another risk you want to take? Can your relationship be rectified? Can you learn to trust your partner again? These are all questions that you will have to ask yourself in order to consider what you want to do about the relationship. Make a list of pros and cons of how this relationship has affected your life. Evaluate yourself as well. How much have you changed since being in this relationship? If your partner has given you an STD more than once, you may want to consider ending the relationship. How much does your partner really respect you and your body if they continue to be unfaithful and jeopardize your health?
9) Act responsibly.
Your health and your livelihood are your own responsibility. The saying that “your body is your temple” demonstrates how valuable your physical health is. When you respect your mind, body, and spirit; others will also act accordingly. Because you don’t want a repeat situation of getting another STD, you can ask yourself what you can do differently to avoid situations like this in the future. For example, should you use birth control? Should you have stopped having sex with your partner when they came home late or smelling like another person’s perfume/cologne? Learn from this situation. Ask more questions. Be more cautious. This is your health.
10) Recognize that you are not alone.
There are billions of people that are put in the same situation every day. While they may not talk about it because they are ashamed, and don’t want to be stigmatized or judged; understand that most people have or have had an STD at one time or another. Unfortunately, what happened to you is not a rare occurrence.
While getting an STD from your partner is probably one of the most stressful things that could ever happen to you. Surrounding yourself with a good support system and getting the appropriate treatment from your doctor are essential. Seeking the assistance of your therapist can also help provide you with additional emotional support.
© Natalie Jones, LPCC, PsyD.