How To Approach Your Partner About Getting Tested For STIs

As much as our culture is so sex-obsessed, when it comes to the more serious end of it, people tend to clam up. Sure, we can tell someone we want to take them home and do a whole boatload of things to them, but trying to broach the STI subject remains tricky. However, it's a conversation that needs to be had.

According to an April 2022 study published by the Centers for Disease Control, STIs have been on the rise since 2016, with 2.4 million new cases reported in 2020. Among those that saw a significant increase in diagnoses are gonorrhea, syphilis, and congenital syphilis — the latter being up a whopping 235% from 2016. Considering we know how to prevent STIs or at least minimize our exposure to them with condoms, these numbers are far too high. If anything, STI rates should be decreasing instead of increasing. Although the CDC cites social and economic factors as contributors to these numbers, those certainly aren't the only reasons.

"The stigma surrounding STIs is harmful to everyone, whether or not you have an STI. Stigma doesn't prevent STIs," director of digital education and learning strategy at Planned Parenthood Julia Bennett tells Allure. It's this stigma that prevents people from having the potentially awkward conversation with their partner(s) about STIs and how paramount testing is. But, awkward or not, it needs to be done. A happy sex life is a healthy sex life.

How to bring up the STI topic with your partner

Although no one wants to have the STI conversation, if you're going to be a responsible, sexually active person, then you need to bring it up; that's just a fact. Before you even get into the STI testing leg of the topic, laying the groundwork with your partner by letting them know there's no judgment and your intention is not to offend is a good place to start.

"Anxiety about the topic can stem from people being afraid to offend their partner or concerns about being judged for making the request," associate psychiatrist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston Ashwini Nadkarni, M.D., tells Men's Health. "People often have a tendency to personalize what they get anxious about, when in fact, the issue at hand is merely a practical matter."

While you don't have to disclose to your partner, unless you want to, any STIs you've had in the past that have since been cleared up, you might find that being honest about your own diagnosis can help the conversation (via Cleveland Clinic). If the possibility of judgment is such a concern, leveling the playing field can make the chat easier.

How to bring up getting tested for STIs

Once the dialogue about STIs is started, you can then tackle the next step: asking your partner if they'd be willing to get tested. If your partner is hesitant or tells you that they've always used condoms, that's your chance to give them a lesson about condom use — like how condoms don't protect against infections that are spread via the skin. Those STIs are herpes, HPV, molluscum, pubic lice, and syphilis (via Self). If there's still pushback, then it's time to be assertive about the topic and communicate how important it is to you.

"I really come from a school that's like, 'Look, I want to have sex with you. And it could be great. But when was the last time you were tested?'" sex and relationship therapist Dr. Deb Laino tells StyleCaster. "The reality is: It's a serious question... things need to get serious. [Otherwise], you're taking a risk with your own health... People need to ask themselves, 'Is sex worth the risk?' What's worth more — your body or the momentary embarrassment?"

Although one would like to hope that it wouldn't be difficult to get their partner to agree to STI testing, fear of the results and possibly finding out something they're not ready for is often what stands in the way. But as Dr. Laino asks, is it worth taking a risk with your body? Getting tested for STIs isn't just about self-respect but respecting your partner. If someone can't give you that, then in the words of the very wise Ariana Grande, "Thank u, next."