This is part of my three-part series around sexual health communication for Health Literacy Month.
Although Health Literacy Month is geared towards spreading awareness about the importance of communication between patients and health providers, I want to focus on the communication people can have with friends and sexual partners about STI’s.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, therapist or medical physician. Please consult with a qualified professional to figure out an approach to this topic that works best for you.
Read the first installment of this series below
About a year ago, I met a guy through mutual friends and colleagues. I’ll call him Gabe. Before we started having sex, he and I were friendly acquaintances. We would flirt, laugh and talk about our dating lives anytime we were in the same space.
While Gabe isn’t usually the type of guy I date or “mess around” with, I gave him a chance because we seemed to have a genuine connection. I was also told by a dear friend of mine that it’s good to “try something new” when you’re dating.
Although brief, I started forming an emotional attachment to him, despite his lack of emotional availability. After a couple of hot sessions in his car, my vagina started to feel different than normal.
I’m prone to yeast infections after being with a new partner, so I decided to head to my GYN to make sure my vagina was okay. After a quick swab, my doctor confirmed signs of yeast, but she also wanted to test me for STI’s since I had a new partner. A few days later, Chlamydia came back positive.
The next day, I reached out to Gabe to tell him my status so he could get tested. The conversations following my status lead to a heated argument, a fallout, a reconciliation and a fall out again.
A couple of months after my experience with Gabe, I met another guy, let’s call him Lamar, who gave me Trichotomies (Tric). While he wasn’t as rude when I told him my results, the conversations after the shock wore off wore me out.
I was constantly initiating discussions about testing in the future, since we wanted to explore polyamory, and was met with lackadaisical requests to remind him of appointments and follow-ups.
In an attempt to help shift conversations about Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) (and how to work through the aftermath of having one), I’m sharing 6 ways I wish my partners would’ve responded after learning they gave me an S.T.I.
Honor my request to speak on the phone or in-person
When I called Gabe to tell him my status, he was at work. So, I asked him to call me after work because it was important. After a quick back and forth, he made it clear that if I didn’t tell him what was going on via text, I shouldn’t even bother bringing anything up to him at all. So, begrudgingly, I told him.
What Gabe may or may not have realized is that giving me an ultimatum like that was extremely controlling, especially when I gave him the option to call me after he got off work. It put conditions and hostility on our conversation before we even had a chance to talk.
Don’t assume I gave you a S.T.I
When I told Gabe I tested positive for Chlamydia, I suggested he let his other partners know so he could get tested. His response was something around the lines of, “I’ve only had sex with one person before you, but I don’t think she would do something like that to me.”
First, STI’s aren’t a punishment. They are a byproduct of having sex. ANYONE sexually active is susceptible to getting an S.T.I.
Secondly, saying “I don’t think she would do that to me” implies that I purposely and knowingly gave him an STI, which is flat out insulting.
Lastly, I get tested every 3 months when I’m sexually active and when I’m nonmonogamous. I wish he would’ve just said, “Okay, I’ll let my partners know” and left it at that. He could’ve kept everything else to himself.
Ask me how I’m doing daily and if there’s anything I need during this time
I’ve heard some people say that getting Chlamydia isn’t that big of a deal since it’s just a matter of taking a pill to be cured. While getting cured is pretty straight forward, I physically felt a difference in my vagina even after I took the pill. So, I wanted some comfort.
A day or so went by without Gabe initiating conversations with me, so I asked him if he could check up on me. “No problem,” he texted.
The next day when he checked on me, I told him I was doing okay, but I also mentioned my friend was going through something similar. He responded something along the lines of, “I really don’t want to talk about the situation anymore. It already happened, so why can’t we can just move on?”
His words made me feel alone, disregarded and discarded. A few months later, he told me he reacted that way because he was embarrassed and just wanted the issue to go away. I wish he would’ve told me at the moment or simply said he wasn’t in the space to check up on me.
Respect my decision to be cool with you but not keep in touch
After Gabe and I talked in person about the things he said when I told him my status, we were on good terms. If he reached out to say hi, I would respond. When he asked a question about getting into kink, I responded – thoroughly. But when he asked to take me out, I respectfully declined.
He then texted me a few days later but when I didn’t get a chance to respond right away, he flipped. I’ll spare you the details of his long and incorrectly spelled rant, but long story short, he told me he’s just trying to be nice, so I needed to get over what happened between us.
Now, I forgave him and moved on from the situation. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have even acknowledged his previous texts. I wasn’t angry or upset with him. I just didn’t feel obligated to keep in touch with him after everything happened.
I wish he understood that I didn’t HAVE to hang out with him to prove that I forgive him and simply said, “Okay, no problem. Let me know if you change your mind” and simply WAITED for a response instead of going on a texting rampage.
Don’t blame me for not asking the “right questions” prior to our sexual encounter
A few months after the catastrophe with Gabe, I met Lamar. When we first started dating, I asked him about his sexual history. He told me he hadn’t had sex in a year, and I told him about my experience with Gabe. We decided to take things slow.
While we didn’t have intercourse, we gave each other head (oral sex). So, when I found out I had Trichotomies, I let him know immediately and encouraged him to get tested. After he got tested, he confessed that he might have gotten Tric from a girl he had received head from six months ago.” -_-
“WHERE WAS THIS INFORMATION WHEN I FIRST ASKED YOU ‘WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU HAD SEX?!’,” I screamed. He calmly responded, “you asked ‘when was the last time I had sex, not the last time I got head. Oral sex isn’t sex.” *insert anger emojis* News flash, oral sex is sex. It has SEX in the name!
Besides knowing that oral sex is sex, I wish he would’ve been clearer in the beginning when we were discussing sexual histories. I wish he would’ve said, “I fucked a girl last year, but I got head six months ago.” This may not have changed me giving him head, but it would’ve helped me make a more informed decision AND made me urge him to get tested sooner.
Don’t rely on me to remind you about your follow up appointments
After I calmed down, I told him to make sure he goes to his follow up appointment because some S.T.I’s can be antibiotic-resistant. He asked me several times to remind him.
If we both have phones with calendars on them, there is no reason why I needed to remind him to check up on his sexual health. To be honest, I just wish he didn’t ask me to remind him at all.
Having a healthy sex life goes beyond sexual health. It’s also about being able to communicate healthily.
If you read this and automatically thought about someone, please reach out to the person (if you’re on good terms) and see if you could have the conversation you know you probably should’ve had a long time ago or re-do the conversation you already had.
It could heal some wounds or at least bring clarity to the forefront for one or both of you.
Have you ever had to have a conversation about S.T.I’s with your partner(s)? How did it go? Do you wish anything went differently? Please leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading.