The topic of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) needs to be addressed in any kind of relationship, especially if you are considering a polyamorous relationship. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. It is so important to be upfront with those you are going to be intimate with BEFORE you become intimate with them. By upfront, I mean to be responsible, get tested regularly, and share results. Be sure to request the same from everyone you play with sexually. The conversation may be awkward and you may feel uncomfortable; and, the sooner you have the conversation, the sooner you can relax in knowing that everyone has been informed. Practicing full disclosure allows people to choose what’s best for them.
Let’s walk through a scenario.
Let’s say you’re new to polyamory, you’re on a couple of dating sites, and you’re actively meeting potential partners. You have gotten tested every 6 months. You have never had a test come back positive. As far as you’re concerned, you’re in the clear, right?
What many people do not know is that one of the most common STIs (Herpes Simplex Virus 2 – HSV2) is not a part of the standard STI panel offered at most clinics. You have to specifically ask your doctor for the HSV2 blood test. This is not common knowledge. Many people assume that the standard STI test covers every sexually transmitted infection. It does not. What this means is that there are a lot of people who think they are STI free, when they may actually have HSV2. I’m not sharing this to scare anyone. I’m sharing this because knowledge is power. The more we know about our health, the more empowered we can be in making choices that best serve ourselves and others. There have been quite a few recent articles written on HSV2. One of my favorites is http://www.huffingtonpost.com/healthcom/everything-you-think-you_b_8578708.html. This article busts eight big myths about the herpes infection. I highly encourage you to read it and share it with any potential playmates.
Back to our story.
Let’s say you’re due for your full panel of STI tests and you want to cover all the bases, so you request a blood test for HSV2. When you receive the test results, everything is negative, except for HSV2. You’re stunned. You never had an outbreak before. There’s no explanation as to when you got it and from whom. You’ve just entered into the polyamorous dating scene. You’ve had a few hot moments. You were safe every time and so were your poly playmates.
You’re taken completely off guard with the news. You feel as if you have been branded as one of “those people”. You fear this is the end of the world or at least the end of your sex life. You’re not sure what to do. You have a date later that day. You’re really interested in this guy. He’s poly. You know there is a possibility you could be intimate with him. What’s a girl to do? Based on what you’ve read, you know that there are a lot of people who have herpes unbeknownst to them. You understand that being poly will likely increase the number of sexual encounters, putting you at risk for getting STIs. You’re aware that practicing safe sex can minimize the risk of transferring the STI’s and taking the recommended medication can decrease the chances of transferring the herpes virus.
You have all of this information in your head, and yet you feel stuck, scared, uncertain as to what to do with it. If you tell him, you risk having an unpleasant night. If you don’t tell him, you risk knowing that if he finds out he will feel cheated that when you had the opportunity to disclose all information, you lied. All roads seem to lead to an uncomfortable situation. And, the date is approaching. You have to make a choice. Will you tell him or not?
My advice: Tell him.
Yes, it may be uncomfortable. It makes sense to feel the way you do. You just found out. You chose to get tested because you thought it was the right thing to do. And now that you have it, you feel compelled to share, all the while knowing you may lose the opportunity to be intimate with a guy you are very drawn to. Breathe. It’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. There are plenty of people out there who have HSV2, and more still that are educated in knowing that those who carry HSV2 are probably safer in how they play with others (because they know the precautions to take) than those who have no clue if they have HSV2 or not.
The best thing to do is to sit him down and share with him what you know. It’s okay to get real. It’s okay to be vulnerable. By all means, express your concerns and your desires. In the end, he will see you as an incredibly strong person, who is brave enough to stand up with integrity, and offer important information for him to choose what’s best for him. When we offer information, we give others the opportunity to choose. When we withhold information, we limit other people’s ability to choose.
So please, regardless of what kind of relationship you are in (open relationship, polyamorous relationship, poly dating, monogamy, etc), get tested, share your results, offer full disclosure, and request the same.