Dating and Relationship Advice

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnosis brings a rush of emotions. You may feel like you’ve failed in some way by contracting an STI. You may feel relieved to put a label on the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. You may feel hurt or betrayed by a partner. But one of the most common thoughts someone has when they learn they have an STI is: what is this going to do to my dating life?

STIs are far from uncommon. About half of all sexually active Americans will contract one by the time they turn 25. Most of these are simple infections that are easily cured with a course of antibiotics. But some STIs are chronic conditions, such as herpes, HIV, certain strains of HPV, and others. Because these infections persist, they need to be considered as a factor for the rest of your dating life.

That doesn’t mean that your dating life is over, though. It just means that you have to go at it more deliberately.

When to Disclose

It’s absolutely vital that you tell a potential partner about an STI before any sexual activity. Otherwise, your partner cannot give fully informed consent.

That said, it is up to you how soon you have the conversation. Some people choose to get the information out of the way early on, as soon as the first date. This can allow them to weed out potential rejections early.

For others, discussing sex too soon is a dealbreaker in its own right. Because of this, many people wait until they are sure that the pairing has relationship potential. But waiting too long also has its drawbacks. If someone gets too invested before receiving what they consider a key piece of information, they may feel misled.

For most people, talking about it a date or two in is the best choice. Answer questions about your condition and any precautions that are necessary to protect your partner. The more open you are, the less stigmatized STIs become.

You Don’t Owe Anyone Your Story

While sharing your status is required, you are not obligated to explain the circumstances in which you contracted an STI. You can discuss what happened if you feel comfortable doing so. But no one is owed an explanation or confession if you don’t.

Put It in Context

Someone with a persistent STI like herpes is probably more aware of their sexual health than average, and this is a good thing. After all, someone who hasn’t been tested doesn’t necessarily not have an STI. There are many that can be present for months or years without causing symptoms.

By showing that you are educated about your health and dedicated to protecting your partner’s, you show that you are conscientious and caring.

I won’t lie; an STI is going to be a dealbreaker for some people. But there are a lot of factors that can throw off a potential relationship, from work ambitions to disparate sex drives. This is no better or worse than any other dealbreaker. You will certainly find people who are willing to give you a chance. And when you do, the communication and openness you present early on will serve you and your connection well.