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Dublin: 15 °C Tuesday 20 August, 2019
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Dear Fifi: I think my boyfriend gave me an STI but he won't admit it

It’s that time of the week.

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I’m writing this a little bit in advance again, so I won’t take a punt on speculating about the weather or current affairs. When this is published, I’ll have a week left in northern Vietnam before I head down south. Aside from that who knows? 

If you’re also stuck for answers, you can tell me or ask me anything. Any time. Get at me right here.

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I’ve been with my boyfriend for just over a year now, everything was great until recently I got told I have chlamydia. He says it can’t be from him, but I haven’t been with anyone else without a condom so I pretty much know for sure it was him. I’m pretty upset and angry about the whole situation. It also doesn’t help that my mam has hated him from day one, and even more so now. She wants us to break up ASAP.

The whole situation breaks my heart and I don’t know what to do in regards to our relationship. I love him to bits but this has changed my opinion of him. I’ve never had the “I want to break up” or “I’m not happy” thought but now I really don’t know what to do. Should I end things or try move past it?

Ah you poor thing. Sorry to hear you’re dealing with this, but fair play on being conscientious enough to be getting checked and being vigilant about your sexual health. It’s the right thing to do, putting you and your health first. That will stand to you, no matter the outcome of this current situation.

Let’s look at what’s happened. If you had a screening before you got together, contracted an STI during your time together, and have not been intimate with anyone else, then this seems quite cut and dried.

However, if you were unsure of your status at the outset of the relationship, then his denials might hold a bit more weight. I’m not sure from how you phrased your letter which is the case – it seems like you’re certain, but your use of the words “pretty much” also seem to raise some doubts. Condoms are extremely effective at helping to prevent STIs, but nothing is 100% sure to stop them spreading because condoms, like everything in life, are not 100% perfect or used perfectly. 

The solution to eradicate any doubt (if indeed you still have any) is to ask him to get a sexual health screening to see if he also has this STI. Is he willing to do this? It’s definitely something he should do anyway, especially if he has never had one before or doesn’t have a recent one to fall back on.

Everyone who is sexually active should be prudent about their sexual health, especially as some STIs like chlamydia are frequently symptom-free in women but can go on to negatively affect fertility. 

It’s surprising the amount of young people you meet who have never had an STI screening but “just know” they don’t have an STI. You never, ever “just know”. The only way to know is to get checked.  You can’t tell from just asking your partner (as you’ve discovered), you can’t tell from their behaviour or what they tell you, you can’t tell from anything but going into the screening room. He may have something he genuinely does not know about from a previous relationship and simply had it all along. Is that possible?

It’s time to have an open and frank conversation with him. He needs to get tested. He needs to get sight on his sexual health. And he needs to be honest if he has cheated on you. Tell him you’re worried. See how he reacts. If he refuses to engage on these important but difficult questions, can you really see a future with him?

If he has put you at risk by having unprotected sex with other women and also with you, this is a serious breach of trust – for so many different reasons, not least the health ones mentioned above. It’s a big betrayal and only you can decide if you can move on and forgive that betrayal. 

Do you believe him when he says he hasn’t cheated? Is there a reasonable explanation for how you would have contracted chlamydia in this time period otherwise?

Go with your gut on this. Try not to let your mother affect how you feel too much, but equally don’t be too rash to dismiss her out of hand. She has your best interests at heart – try to figure out if her concerns about your partner have merit. Why does she dislike him? Is it reasonable? Be honest with yourself, even if it’s tough. Listen to what she has to say, but in the end, decide for yourself. 

If you’re sure he gave you this STI and he refuses responsibility, then I agree it would be difficult to move past this. To forgive, there must first be an acceptance a mistake was made. Moving on with no explanation for this situation would be rough or nigh-on impossible for you, I think. It would always be there in the back of your mind.

You need to discuss with him how he thinks this STI came about and resolve the issue if you’re going to remain together, and not let this simmer and boil over again as resentment and anger later on down the line – which it almost certainly will if there is no satisfactory resolution for you on how this happened to you.

You caught the STI early and you can get antibiotic treatment for it, so that element is fixable. But has this raised other issues that may not be so simply cured?

This might be a wake-up call about other aspects of this relationship that you had not been open to seeing previously – is he a good, responsible person whose word you can 100% rely on? Do you trust him? Can you talk about challenging topics without conflict? How does he react to this kind of conversation? Have you doubts about the future? 

At the end of the day, no one else – not me, not your mother, not anyone – can tell you what to do. Just make sure that you go into this with your eyes open. This might have been a blessing in disguise. It’s a chance for you to take a step back and take proper stock of how things really are between you two. Use it wisely.

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