Just Tested Positive? Should You Blame Your Partner?

If you've just tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease (STD), you may be pointing the finger of blame at your partner. After all, you two have been monogamous, and before you were together, there's no way you could have been infected, right?

Don't be so fast to assume it's your partner who is responsible for your STD. Some STDs can lie dormant for many months before making themselves known, and this can set the stage for some ugly accusations that very well may be unfounded.

"Many people come in and say, 'I think so and so cheated,' " says Stacy Kaiser, LMFT, psychotherapist and the author of How to Be a Grownup. "I hear it all the time." Yet, she says, this doesn't necessarily turn out to be the case. In other words, the partner may not be the culprit.  An STD that you contracted awhile back from another partner could have stayed dormant, or it could have presented early on with a few small symptoms that disappeared, only to come back, she says.

It's not uncommon for a woman who's been sexually active to meet the man of her dreams and marry him six months later, explains Mary Jo Rapini, LPC, an intimacy/sex relationship psychotherapist. Some months later, she's diagnosed with an STD. Chances are she contracted it from an earlier sexual partner and was unaware of it.

If you receive the unanticipated call that you've tested positive for an STD, you need a little time to process the news. One thing to keep in mind: your partner could have been carrying an undiagnosed STD when the two of you got involved, says Peter S. Kanaris, Ph.D. "It's important to get a timeline on things, and not jump to conclusions," he advises.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Before you ultra-serious with someone, both of you should consider getting tested for STDs. This testing entails more than a routine pelvic exam. The doctor will do blood work and conduct a more in-depth study, but then you'll have your answer. With STDs affecting more than 13 million people a year, it's worth getting tested for the reassurance.

  • If you discover you have an STD, take care of yourself first. Discuss and go over all the findings with your doctor. Jot down all the questions you want answered and let your doctor counsel you about treatment. But don't confront your partner until you are feeling calm. "Then go home and present the facts to your partner without getting defensive," Rapini says.

  • Take every precaution until you are sure your partner does not have an STD. Keep in mind that it's harder for a man to get an STD than a woman, Rapini says. "Women are more susceptible to STDs," she says. "The vagina is warm and wet - the perfect environment for germs to grow, while the penis is exposed to air and is dry, so it's harder for germs to grow."




Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health.