Finding out that a partner has a sexually transmitted disease is one of the biggest stress triggers in a relationship. Not only do you have to deal with the medical implications but also the probability that your partner may have been unfaithful to you. Here are a few ways to cope when your partner has an STD or sexually transmitted disease.
- Get the facts right.
Sexually transmitted diseases are as much a source of panic and mistaken notions as they are of a medical condition. So it is important to know the facts yourself before you can discuss the matter with your partner. Being armed with accurate information will not only help your partner - and you perhaps - to get the right tests and treatment but will also better prepare your relationship to cope with the consequences.
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- Don’t jump to conclusions.
Your partner getting infected with an STD isn’t always the consequence of infidelity. One of the reasons why STDs are such a great cause of concern is that they a few of them may lie dormant without producing any symptoms for several months or even years after the first contact with an infected partner. This means your partner may have been carrying about an asymptomatic STD infection even before you two got together. A common example is a person having a herpes outbreak or a woman being diagnosed for a pelvic inflammatory disease after several years into a marriage or a committed relationship. The first instinct in such cases would be to blame the partner for causing the infection or the disease which led to PID and which may even be true. But it is also possible that they may have been infected for years and did not realize it until something in heir body changed and caused the first noticeable symptom to appear.
- Get tested.
The first thing to do when your partner has an STD is to get you both tested. This will confirm any doubts about you having contracted the infection as well as find out the specific nature of your partner’s infection. If you happen to discover that both you and your partner have tested positive for the same infection and if there is a possible source, then you may need to sit down and talk. Still it is difficult to be completely sure about who infected whom and when unless you both were tested before you had sex. Even though in the majority of cases, the appearance of STD symptoms points to a relatively recent infection, there may be exceptions. So if you partner insists that he or she wasn’t having an affair, you have to leave it to your heart to decide how you want the relationship to move ahead.
- Find treatment.
The first choice for treatment in case of an STD infection should probably be the individual’s regular physician. This is because he/she is familiar with your partner’s health history and is best placed to decide the right treatment options for the patient. Most family physicians can effectively treat the common run of STDs but in case they have doubts, they can always refer your partner to a specialist. Women in fact are more comfortable talking about their STD symptoms to a gynecologist rather than their family medical practitioner. So if your partner is uncomfortable going to his/her family physician or if the cost of the consultation and treatment are not covered by health insurance, there are several choices of affordable or free STD treatment too. Most local health departments run a free or sliding scale STD clinic which offers anonymous or confidential testing. The easiest way to find this is to use the phone directory or do a web search for your county and “health department”. Yet another affordable option is your local Planned Parenthood clinic which apart from providing contraceptive guidance is an excellent resource for STD testing and treatment. Other affordable options could include the STD clinic in your local hospital or if the symptoms need prompt attention, urgent care clinics which are both more affordable and time-saving as compared to the Emergency Room services.
- Be prepared for changes.
When your partner is diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, understand that you both will be required to make some space for changes to your lifestyle. The most important of these is perhaps to avoid sex with your partner for the time he/she is undergoing treatment for the STD. Just because the treatment has started and even if the symptoms ease up, it does not mean that your partner is completely infection-free. The doctor will require your partner to be tested again at the end of the treatment to be sure that the infection is gone and that he/she is no longer capable of passing it on to anyone else. So resuming sexual activity before your partner has been given the go-ahead by the doctor may cause the infection to be passed back and forth between you both. Also don’t be under the impression that as long as you are not having vaginal intercourse, it is alright to go the oral way. Certain kinds of STDs can spread through the oral route as well and your partner needs to confirm from his/her treatment provider what is and is not safe for you both. Finally your partner needs to be consistent about the treatment and not leave it mid-way as soon as the symptoms disappear or he/she begins to feel a little better. Apart from developing drug resistance, this will leave the infection untreated putting the patient as well as his/her sexual partner at the risk of future infections or even complications.
- Discuss safe sex with your partner.
The very fact that your partner has a sexually transmitted disease implies that there has been a lapse in practicing safe sex somewhere down the line. No matter who was responsible, it is time for you both to discuss how to avoid something like this in future again. Talk about making STD screenings an essential part of your health regimen. Also discuss the advantages of using a condom every time you have sex, whether vaginal, anal or oral. Even though there is a tendency among partners to “get past” the condom after some time into a relationship, it is still the most foolproof way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.
The incidence of a sexually transmitted disease can change the dynamics of a relationship. But even though it is a cause for concern and a reminder to take future precautions, with treatment and patience, there is no reason why you and your partner cannot go back to a healthy sex life.