So, say you’re dating someone new, and you haven’t become sexually active yet. You really want to, but maybe it’s been a little while since you’ve been tested. Or maybe you’d feel a lot better if your partner got tested before you had safe sex. Perhaps you’ve been having sex for a while, you are on some form of contraception, and you’ve agreed to be monogamous, but you’d like to know that they’re STI free before deciding to have sex without a condom. All of these things are rational, smart, and common situations. The dilemma comes when you have to decide how to tell your partner that you want to get tested and that you want them to go get tested too.
The last thing that you want is for your partner to get defensive when you request a test. If they do get defensive, and refuse the test, or try to make you feel guilty about it, these are bad signs.
These are red flags
“I’ve told you I’m ‘clean,’ don’t you trust me?”, “What, are you afraid I lied?”, “I know I’m clean. You must be the one that’s worried,” are all signs of a defensive partner. These are red flags. If they ultimately agree to get tested, good. But you must be still leery. What are they hiding? Remember that their defensiveness might be coming out of fear. They may be scared that maybe they could have something, and the thought of hearing that scares them. There is so much social stigma in our society against those with STIs, even though a significant portion of the population has, or has had at least one.
However, if they refuse the test completely, it might be a good idea to reconsider the relationship. This is someone that has something to hide and cannot be honest with you. Therefore, they probably can’t be trusted in more ways than just this.
But how do you bring up such a touchy subject without your partner getting defensive? It’s not easy, and there’s no guarantee that they won’t take it in a different way than you hope. The way that they react to your request says a lot about them. Here are some tips:
- Don’t insist that they get tested alone. If you’re going to ask your partner to get tested, make it clear that you’re going to be tested right along with them. You’re both getting tested. This does two things:
- 1) it shows that you’re not accusing/suspecting them of having an STD and that you just want to make sure that you’re both on the same page;
- 2) it creates a bonding experience between the two of you.
- Make getting tested a date; go out for dinner or ice cream after. Whether you’re a new couple or partners that have been together for a while, you can get tested and wait for results together. If you both come back negative, you can be there to kiss and congratulate each other with safe sex. If one (or both) of you comes back positive, you can support each other in where to go from here.
- Explain why this is important to you. Maybe you’re disease-free and would like to remain that way. Maybe you’ve had an STD in the past, one that had few symptoms, but luckily, it was curable with a round of antibiotics, and you’d like to avoid that again. Not only are you protecting your own health, but you’re protecting your partner’s health from an STD that could have potentially no symptoms, but major consequences.
What if you know that you have an STD, one that can’t be cured by antibiotics?
You want to make sure your partner doesn’t have something else that they could possibly give you. You know how easily STDs can go undetected, and you want your partner to be as safe and prepared as possible. Also, you want to make sure that you don’t have something else that you weren’t aware of; some STDs (like HPV, the most common STD in women) can take years to show up on tests. Knowing that you have an STD doesn’t mean that you should never be tested again, and it doesn’t mean that your partner should not get tested, either. They also need to know if you’ve passed it on to them, even if you’re taking precautions. It can happen, and it’s best to be prepared if it does.
What do we get?
Getting tested isn’t something that you do when you suspect or doubt your partner. It’s something you do to keep you, and your partner, healthy. The conversation may not always be easy, but it’s an important one to have. The decision to be tested or not could be one that affects the rest of your life, and it’s not one to be taken lightly. It’s not one to be afraid of, either. Whatever the outcome, at least you are armed with the knowledge to prepare yourselves with where to go from there.