*Amanda, 28 and *Neils, 34 have been dating for a while now. Although they are in love with each other, they are not ready for a relationship and they still want to see other people.
On top of that, the two have decided to sleep together unprotected on the condition that they have to use protection with anyone else they sleep with.
Recently they are back and things are going well between them. Or so I thought.
A few weeks ago, Amanda sent me a particularly disturbing text.
Amanda: I don’t know if I should go out with Neils anymore.
Amanda: I think he gave me chlamydia.
It turns out, however, that Neils wasn’t entirely honest with Amanda about the people he was seeing. And after a night with another woman, Neils discovered a discharge that became a source of concern for him. After getting a quick test at a clinic, he discovered he had chlamydia and sought treatment.
Rules around sex
While their arrangement is by no means traditional, this really isn’t the first time I’ve heard people make rules around sex like this.
Once, when I was single and dating, I dated a guy who offered to sleep together without protection, despite the fact that we weren’t exclusive.
It only takes one person to be infected for this method of protection to fail.
Here’s how he explained it:
Person A and Person B can sleep together unprotected as long as they have been tested and are free of any sort of sexually transmitted disease or infection. Persons A and B can then sleep with other people without protection if the people they choose to sleep with are also tested and clean. In short, think of it as a human string of sexually active people who have all been tested and come clean.
Essentially, the success of this man’s strategy depended on the honesty and reliability of people. While it’s great that he has great faith in humanity, people are rarely honest and it only takes one person to be infected for this method of protection to fail.
Needless to say I disagreed. The risk was too high for the reward. Even if the reward was an attractive man.
Other elements of sex could lead to infection
According to Amanda, Neils may not have realized that other elements of sex, like oral and foreplay, could also lead to infection. After all, STDs and STIs can usually be transmitted through bodily fluids. Maybe, in their excitement, Neils and the girl he was with forgot that this could happen.
Personally, I would be too traumatized to continue dating someone who would put my health at risk in this way. While I absolutely wanted to tell Amanda never to see him again, I also understood the complexity of their relationship and what it means to her. So instead of telling her to stop seeing Neils, I told her to get tested immediately before deciding anything else.
This whole incident got me thinking about the possibility that other people might be in the same boat as Amanda and might not know the best way to approach the situation. In order to give Amanda the best advice (and educate myself in the process), I enlisted the help of Myisha Battle, a clinical sex therapist, dating coach, and educator based in the United States.
“I think it’s fair to say that most people who are told they’ve contracted an STI will be disappointed, and maybe even angry or sad. Whatever your initial reaction to receiving a diagnosis, just know that diagnosis is the first step to treatment. Fortunately, there are antibiotics that can treat chlamydia,” Myisha said via email.
“Many STIs (like chlamydia) are transmissible through skin-to-skin contact, so barrier methods are not enough to prevent them. This means that even well-meaning people who practice safer sex with partners can still be at risk of contracting and then transmitting an STI to a partner,” she continued.
Many STIs (like chlamydia) are transmissible through skin-to-skin contact, so barrier methods are not enough to prevent them.
After learning she might have chlamydia, Amanda went straight to a clinic to get tested and started a course of antibiotics that lasted three days. Still, the stress and anxiety that occurred while waiting for her test results was enough to make Amanda reconsider her relationship with Neils. Fortunately, Amanda tested negative. She, however, had to pay almost $400 for a swab test which also tested her for various other infections.
Even I wasn’t sure how to respond to Amanda when she asked me. I had never been in such a situation before, and it’s hard to know what to do when feelings and a complicated past are involved.
“How someone reacts when asked to take extra care with other partners will be very telling. If the person reacts angrily or defensively or resists any changes, this is a good indicator that they may not be a good long-term partner. If they are friendly, apologetic, and agree to ask new partners to test themselves before having sex, that’s a good sign that they respect your health, safety, and well-being,” advises Myisha.
A few weeks after the incident, Amanda decided she was going to stop seeing Neils for good because the episode was too scary for her.
“I don’t think the pain or the anxiety or the high bill was worth it,” she finally told me.
(*Names have been changed and details have been amended upon request.)
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