Dating can be a daunting experience for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for those living with an STI. It's important to remember that you're not alone and that there are ways to find support and stay safe when dating with an STI. Wallace advises setting limits when dating someone and being honest with your partners. The best time to talk about your STI is before you have sex, ideally face to face.
This can be a vulnerable conversation, but it's essential when you want to be intimate in a relationship. Joining the dating scene with an STI can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be if you have the right knowledge. Some STIs are considered chronic diseases, such as herpes, HIV, and some types of hepatitis. Since these STIs stay with you as you age, it's important to learn how to date safely while living with one.
Before having sex with someone for the first time, it's recommended to talk about your STI status together. This helps both of you to ensure that you are on the same page about your health and well-being, and provides an easy transition to discuss your diagnosis. Some people may have preconceptions about STIs and believe myths about them, so having an open and honest conversation is key. When you're talking about STDs with a new partner, it's important to think about how you want the news to be taken.
You probably don't want them to see your diagnosis as the worst news they've ever heard, so be careful not to present it that way. Be direct, impassive, and be prepared to answer their questions. The disclosure should be done soon enough to avoid the possibility of infecting the other person, but not so soon when you share your condition while shaking hands with them, said David Khalili, LMFT, a San Francisco-based sex and relationship therapist. When talking about an STI diagnosis with a current partner, try to handle the conversation with the same care and candor as you would if you were sharing the news with a new partner.
If you've been together for a while, this news may surprise your partner. If needed, suggest getting tested and talking to your doctor about treatment options in the future. The Dr. Michael Mahgerefteh, an integrative psychiatrist specializing in STIs, points out: “Once a connection is established, both you and your partner will understand and appreciate these STDs for what they are: an incredibly common and easy to manage nuisance that, in fact, can become a vehicle for showing vulnerability with the partner, which can help form an even deeper bond.”One of the biggest sources of anxiety you may feel when dating with an STI is when and how to “talk” about your diagnosis. While it all comes down to a personal choice and when you feel most comfortable discussing some serious medical news, it's generally recommended to tell your partner before your first sexual encounter together.
Withholding this information until after sexual intercourse could not only harm your relationship, but it could also be dangerous to your health and well-being. Once you've discussed your status with your partner, you can both feel ready to introduce sex into your relationship. Having an STI adds another reason to use protection, but this shouldn't prevent you from having safe and pleasant sex with your partner. While there is no method of protection that is 100% safe and prevents your partner from testing positive, there are some methods you can use to keep each other as safe as possible. Dating means meeting a lot of different people, and with the increase in STI diagnoses, you're likely to date at least one person who's been diagnosed with an STI. If you don't have one but someone you're dating says yes to you, it's important that you know how to respond.
Be sure to listen carefully when your diagnosis is explained to you and ask any questions you may have regarding their STI. Keep in mind that this is a very vulnerable time for your partner, so how you respond is very important. Put yourself in their shoes - how would you like your partner to respond? Let them know that you respect and appreciate them for letting them know and discuss whether or not you feel comfortable continuing your relationship or exploring a sexual relationship. A new STI diagnosis has the potential to affect many aspects of your life from your confidence to how prepared you feel to date someone but it doesn't have to.
Mahgerefteh recommends that before starting dating someone after a diagnosis first accept and be comfortable with your own skin (especially with skin for life such as herpes). In short this means learning about the disease its risks and how it may affect any future couple including the risk of transmission. Once you've accepted your new diagnosis then you can be confident in yourself to start dating again. Learn more about ways to feel safe entering (or re-entering) the dating group with just a few first-date nerves.
Dating is difficult for everyone STI diagnoses aside. Being constantly vulnerable and honest about your condition can be mentally draining so it's vital to take care of your mental health and practice self-care while dating an STI. Dating can be difficult for everyone especially if faced with rejection “cheated” or a series of bad dates. It's important to remember that you're worthy of love and that you're complete without a partner even in the midst of discouraging dates.
Khalili suggests: “If feeling shame or guilt about having an STD remember that you are much more than this infection - just because you have an STD doesn't mean it's who you are!”.