Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
My partner and I of seven years had a trial run of an open relationship, so to speak. I slept with one person during that time, and I asked them before sleeping with them if they had tested themselves for STIs and HIV. They said they did, and the results were negative. We slept together once. Six months later, I went in for a random STD test, and it turns out I have chlamydia.
How do I tell my long term partner that I got chlamydia from sleeping with someone in this open relationship?
I took antibiotics and gave my partner the antibiotics as well, claiming I had a yeast infection instead of an STD and that my doctor said my partner needed treatment as well for this “yeast infection.” They believed me.
Now I’m stuck in this hole of guilt. I want to tell my partner that it wasn’t a yeast infection but chlamydia. We are both STD free now, but I still want to tell them.
I’m afraid that they’ll break up with me or see me as a disgusting person.
I don’t want seven years to go down the drain. I know I should’ve told them when I was first diagnosed, but I was so afraid of what could happen.
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Well, my first thought is that I am confused. You both agreed to try out an open relationship. What is not clear is what “rules’ or boundaries you had both established. Were you allowed to have sex with others? Did you agree to tell each other, or did you agree to keep it private? There are all sorts of arrangements people make in that broad concept of an open relationship.
An open relationship only works when everyone is in agreement about what that means, what the boundaries area, and then commits to them.
Since you are asking this question, I’m going to guess that you didn’t adhere to whatever agreements you’d initially set forth. So what to do now?
I hold no judgment over decisions people make about the truth in regards to their relationship. Sometimes that desire, to tell the truth, is more about alleviating one’s guilt, than doing the right thing. But when it comes to physical health like this, I think you have no choice but to tell your partner.
You owe it to them.
They deserve to have that information, because it affects not only whatever commitments you’ve made to each other, but also their physical health.
You cannot control their reaction. They might be mad or hurt. They might look at you differently. But in my experience, the trust is already damaged there; they just don’t know it yet. If you don’t tell them, your anxiety about it is likely to continue to eat at you and affect your relationship.
I also need to remind you here that whatever type of sex you’re having, in whatever context, PLEASE use protection.
A person telling you, “yeah, I’ve been tested; I’m fine” is not practicing safe sex. The outcome could be a whole lot worse than chlamydia.
Your best course of action here is just telling the truth. As someone who ran from telling the truth for a long time, I can tell you that your anticipation of the truth being out there is a million times scarier than actually telling it. Hopefully, the two of you can use this as an opportunity to have an honest dialogue about what you watch want moving forward.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Albite, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my newsletter, which contains a behind-the-scenes look at STRUNG OUT and the publishing process, exclusive extras and book giveaways only for newsletter subscribers, recommendations to get you through the week, extra Ask Erin content, and more… XOXO