*Amanda, 28 and *Neils, 34 have been dating on and off for a while now. While they’re in love with each other, they’re both not ready for a relationship, and they still want to see other people.
In addition to this, the two have decided to sleep with each other without protection on the condition that they have to use protection with anyone else they sleep with.
Recently, they’re back on and things have been going great between them. Or, at least I thought.
A few weeks ago, Amanda sent me a particularly worrying text.
Amanda: I’m not sure if I should be dating Neils anymore.
Me: Why? What happened?
Amanda: I think he’s given me chlamydia.
As it turns out though, Neils hasn’t been fully honest with Amanda about the people he was seeing. And after a night with another woman, Neils discovered discharge that became a cause for concern for him. After doing a quick test at a clinic, he discovered he had chlamydia and sought treatment.
Rules around sex
While their arrangement isn’t by any means traditional, this really isn’t the first time I’ve heard of people setting rules around sex like this.
Once, while single and dating, I dated a guy who proposed that we sleep together without protection, despite the fact that we were not exclusive.
All it takes is one person to get infected for this protection method to fail.
Here’s how he explained it:
Person A and Person B can sleep together sans protection as long as they’ve been tested and are clean of any sort of sexually transmitted disease or infection. Person A and B can then sleep with other people without protection if the people they choose to sleep with are tested and clean, too. In short, think of this as a human chain of sexually active people who have all been tested and are clean.
Essentially, the success of this man’s strategy was contingent upon people being honest and trustworthy. While it’s great that he had a lot of faith in humanity, people are rarely honest, and all it takes is one person to get infected for this protection method 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 have failed to realise that other elements of sex, like oral and foreplay, could also lead to infection. After all, STDs and STIs can be generally transmitted through bodily fluids. Perhaps, in their excitement, Neils and the girl he was with forgot that this could happen.
Personally, I’d be too traumatised to continue dating anyone who would put my health at risk that way. While I definitely wanted to tell Amanda not to see him ever again, I also understood the complexity of their relationship and what he means to her. So, instead of telling her to stop seeing Neils, I told her to get tested immediately before deciding on anything else.
This whole incident made me think about the possibility that other people could 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 sought help from Myisha Battle, a US-based clinical sexologist, dating coach, and educator.
“I think it's fair to say that most people who receive the information that they have contracted an STI will be disappointed, and maybe even angry or sad. Whatever your initial reaction to receiving a diagnosis, just know that getting diagnosed is the first step in getting treated. Luckily, there are antibiotics that can treat chlamydia,” Myisha said over email.
“Many STIs (like chlamydia) are transmissible through skin-to-skin contact, so barrier methods aren't enough to prevent them. That means that even well-intentioned people who practice safer sex with partners may still be at risk of contracting and then spreading an STI to a partner,” she continued.
Many STIs (like chlamydia) are transmissible through skin-to-skin contact, so barrier methods aren't enough to prevent them.
After getting told 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 came while waiting for her test results was enough to make Amanda reconsider her relationship with Neils. Thankfully, Amanda tested negative. She did, however, have to pay almost $400 for a swab test that tested her for various other infections, too.
Even I didn’t quite know how to respond to Amanda when she asked. I had never been in a situation like this before, and it’s difficult to know what to do when feelings and a complicated past are involved.
“The way someone responds to being asked to take additional precautions with other partners will be very telling. If the person responds angrily or defensively or is resistant to making any changes, that is a good indicator that they may not be a good partner in the long-run. If they are sympathetic, apologetic, and agree to ask new partners to test prior to having sex, this is a good sign that they respect your health, safety, and wellbeing,” advises Myisha.
A few weeks after the incident, Amanda decided she was going to stop seeing Neils permanently as the episode was too scarring for her.
“I don’t think the pain, anxiety, or the expensive bill was worth it,” she eventually told me.
(*Names have been changed and details have been modified upon request.)
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