NOTE: This archive only contains Carolyn Hax columns through March 2011. Her more recent columns are located here.

Carolyn Hax: Be honest about reasons for getting tested for STDs

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By Carolyn Hax
Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dear Carolyn:

Last week I mentioned to my on-again off-again boyfriend that I considered getting tested for STDs while we were apart. (We broke up for about two months; I thought it was completely over and testing seemed wise, if a bit late in the process.) His reaction was very defensive and angry. He said it made him feel like I was accusing him of being unfaithful, having a disease, etc., which I was not. The reason I was considering it was two of my overly paranoid friends kept encouraging me to, and I felt like it was a generally beneficial thing to do. Should I be concerned about his reaction? I haven't been with anyone besides him while we have been on or off.

D.C.

Actually, you were accusing him of being unfaithful, having a disease, etc.

Before I get into that, I'd like to make a general plea to remove the "accusation" element from sexual-health conversations. Here's what it takes to get infected with something: sex, once, with a non-virgin (or, heck, sex with a boundary-pushing virgin). Protection helps but isn't perfect. So can we please shake hands that this is about positive/negative, not dirty/clean?

Thank you.

Now, about what you "mentioned." If you thought both of you were perhaps being a bit lax about your health, given that either of you could have picked something up from a previous partner (not that the results say, "positive for Julie's virus," but you get what I mean), then I hope you said so. That's a reasonable idea to share.

If that was how you mentioned it and he flipped his lid regardless, then I hope you explained that you see sexual health as matter-of-fact, and assured him that you weren't accusing anyone of anything. If you backed that up by urging him to get tested for his own good, too, then he'd have had even less cause for defensiveness.

And if you so removed these basic causes for alarm and he still flipped his lid, then the possibility strengthens that you're with someone too immature to handle sex, or you inadvertently busted him for cheating and that's why he's so defensive.

On the other hand, if you really just "mentioned" a test because your "paranoid friends" did -- shifting blame to them instead of owning your own concerns -- and you did so confident you were blameless in the event of a positive test, and you didn't offer further thought or explanation, then you did indeed sucker-punch your guy. Better just to say what you're trying to say.


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