How to talk to your partner about STDs
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for sexual indiscretions to occur within the context of a committed relationship. And when they happen, the physical and emotional repercussions can feel overwhelming.
A patient of mine recently shared with me that he’d had unprotected sex with a woman other than his wife. Soon thereafter, he began to experience discharge from his penis…a common symptom of chlamydia. A urine test confirmed that he was infected with the bacteria.
Now the tricky part: should my patient tell his wife?
Medically-speaking, the answer is an unqualified “yes.” Since chlamydia is easily spread from person to person through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex, there’s a good chance that my patient’s wife is also infected with the bacteria. And while chlamydia is curable with antibiotics, it’s possible to get reinfected again and again…that’s why sexual partners should be treated at the same time so that an untreated partner still carrying the bacteria doesn’t reinfect the treated partner.
Not to mention, if chlamydia goes undiagnosed and untreated, it can eventually cause fertility problems and other health complications. As well, people with chlamydia are more susceptible to other STDs.
Emotionally, however, the answer isn’t as obvious. My patient was faced with the prospect of a difficult conversation with his wife that could potentially end or mar their marriage.
I suggested that he first come to terms with his own diagnosis and become knowledgeable about chlamydia before sharing the information with his wife as soon as possible. Role-playing the conversation with a doctor or a trusted friend can also be helpful.
Then, once you’ve taken care of your partner’s health as well as your own – with both of you being tested and treated at the same time – I encourage counseling to help couples work through trust issues and other emotional concerns that generally arise when a sexual indiscretion comes to light.
While it may feel daunting to open up to your partner in this way, not telling your partner could put you both at risk for health problems down the road.
University of Guelph Study: Infidelity Linked to ‘Sexual Personality’