How To Tell Someone You Have A Sexually Transmitted Infection

couple inside
Love, Sex

Your STD doesn't have to be the end of your dating life. Here's how to surmount the stigma.

So you have an STD or STI... now what? For many women still in the prime of their dating lives, an STI can feel like a huge, blinking road block standing between them and Mr. Right. But it doesn't have to be. Yes, you'll have to tell them about your situation, but it doesn't have to scare them away. Here's how to do it.

(Ed. note: STI stands for sexually transmitted infection; STD stands for sexually transmitted disease. You can be infected and infect others without showing outward characteristics of a disease, so STI is the more accurate term in this case.)

When To Tell A Potential Partner About Your STI

Perhaps the most difficult part about living with an STI like herpes or {{ genital warts is that no matter how safe your sexual activity, there will always remain a risk of transmission. As such, YourTango Expert and relationship counselor Dr. Erica Goodstone urges that, "your only ethical and fair choice is to be open and honest with a partner with whom you want to share sexual intimacy." 

That, however, is the definition of a tricky situation. When it comes to dating with an STI, communicating your status becomes a balancing act of conflicting priorities.

"You certainly don't do yourself any favors if you wear a sign declaring your status before people get to know you," says YourTango Expert and relationship coach Veronica Monet. "And if you wait too long, your potential partner can feel misled and manipulated."

Disclosing early is important. "Just don't make it one of the first conversations you have," Monet cautions. "You don't want to communicate that your STI status is the single most important thing there is to learn about you, because it is not. If you think it is, then you need to readjust your attitude."

You are, after all, more than your STI. So when do you tell?

As a general guideline, Monet recommends you inform your partner before there is any oral-to-genital contact and certainly well before there is any genital-to-genital contact. Some STIs are less easy to contract, so you can kiss on the mouth or manually stimulate the genitals without risk. But even if you know this is the case, your partner might not.

"If your prospective partner is inexperienced and uninformed you will probably need to educate a great deal and it would be best to bring up the topic well before there is any contact of any kind," says Monet. This is the safest option under any circumstances. Keep in mind that even if you've been safe and are sure your partner knows there's been no risk of transmission, she or he might still feel misled. Use your judgment and err on the side of caution.

How to tell a potential partner: