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  • Paula Thompson
    Paula Thompson

    How do I tell my partner that I've been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection?

    When a person finds out that they have contracted a sexually transmitted infection, asking their partner to listen, understand, and respond in a supportive manner can feel unbearable. Finding the courage to share this diagnosis with the person closest to them takes an immense amount of bravery — as it touches on deeper feelings such as self-doubt, fear, anxiety, and guilt.

    No one should have to confront this alone, yet disclosing these words can be difficult and make them feel isolated. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding STIs can cause judgement and misunderstanding. But following a few simple steps can help individualsfeel more empowered to share their story.

    The first step is to know the facts. Educating oneself regarding their particular STI can reduce their distress and allow them to form healthier relationships with their partner. It is also important to recognize how they got the infection and to reflect on what the next steps will be for prevention. This process should be done with understanding and without judgement.

    The second step might be the most daunting: finding the right words to communicate the information to their partner. Due to fear of rejection, or fear of their partner’s response, they may want to keep the diagnosis a secret. Although keeping it quiet might feel like the easier route, it is essential to communicate the diagnosis, no matter how hard it is. It is important to remember that communication is key in maintaining a healthy relationship and that silence surrounding an STI will ultimately hurt more than telling the truth.

    When feeling ready to share the news, seek connection rather than criticism. If a person discloses the diagnosis when their partner is angry or busy, they likely won't be able to attend to their emotions fully. Ask their partner to skip multitasking and clear their head before bringing up the difficult conversation. Instead of accusing or blaming, focus on discussing the feelings in the moment and setting boundaries for protection. This will also show their partner that they respect and value mutual decision-making and consent.

    Take time and space to ensure that solutions are discussed in a comfortable and supportive atmosphere. This conversation should not be rushed and their partner should not be subjected to any pressure or judgement. The person should be heard and talked through any potential changes in the relationship that might have to be made, such as safe sex practices.

    Finally, the individual should remain focused on rebuilding trusting and open communication between both parties. It is important for them to remain flexible and patient as they both work through different reactions and emotions. Should their partner become scared, angry, hurt, or feel betrayed, they should continue to practice calming conversations and reassuring body language, such as holding hands, embracing, and speaking in a gentle but firm tone.

    No one should have to carry the weight of an STI diagnosis on their own. Telling their partner may seem unimaginable, but sooner or later they will have to find the strength to reach out and foster connection. With the right attitude and by cautiously recognizing the tension and concerns, they can start to break through the barriers associated with stigma and shame. Communicating openly and honestly is never easy, yet it's one of the most needed and powerful steps in building an honest and sincere relationship.

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