STDs and relationships; you mean to say, they can coincide harmoniously?!?! Yes.
Lately, I’ve had quite a few discussions about the topic of telling one’s parents or extended families about their STDs and how to deal with any adverse or unanticipated reactions.
Starting this series months ago, I had nearly forgotten that I hadn’t finished it until I’ve recently had my own, let’s say, interesting experiences with my family. So, now I feel better prepared to tackle this subject while shedding some light on the myriad of responses inevitable when sharing your story with a family member (or anyone else, for that matter).
Family is the part of your support system, or maybe the lack thereof for some people, whom you have no control over – you can pick your friends, you can pick your mates, but you certainly cannot pick your family.
That being said, a family’s reaction to your STD, should you choose to tell them, isn’t always horrible and even when it is, can be incredibly helpful when it comes to understanding other’s reactions and healing emotionally.
One reaction I’ve had recently that I’m personally not a fan of is the poor poor you response.
This has come from family members only and it seems friends are less inclined to hand out the sympathy card (empathy’s an entirely different thing, of course) as my friends see more clearly, for me anyways, that there’s no reason to feel sorry for me. This is not because they think I am reaping what I sow or I deserve to have an STD. Rather, they see I’m strong, happy, and otherwise no longer horribly affected by my STD.
So, there’s no real reason to feel sorry for me. It’s just something I deal with occasionally and for the most part, it has not inhibited anything in my life.
This may be confusing to some, I’m sure, as it would first seem the poor poor you/you poor thing perspective would be a much more welcomed reaction than, ‘You’re a damned whore,’ right!?!? For me, that’s just not the case.
Feeling sorry for me indicates the person sees having an STD as a terrible thing, something no one should have to endure, something that will affect my life forever, or will possibly limit my future. It means they accept the stigma, believe the stigma, or otherwise really have no idea how common STDs are, how mild they can be, or how little they make a difference in most people’s lives.
Don’t let this take you aback entirely.
I completely understand this reaction requires a person to have some caring for the other; I’m just not a big fan of it myself, and am not a big supporter of people feeling sorry for themselves either – at least not for any length of time anyways (we all have our sad moments – those are totally ok).
Rather, I want to see people empowered, educated, fearless, and living their lives without apologies or self-deprecation. This kind of reaction doesn’t do a lot to get someone there.
You’re a Whore/Sinner/Got What You Deserved/Etc
To me, the extreme and/or name-calling responses are the most entertaining to embrace (mind you, I’ve had an STD and have contracted others along the way for the last 14 years…I’ve had a lot of time to work these things through), and it’s the easiest for me to understand and combat.
Nonetheless, this is going to be the hardest for most people to weather – especially early-on and coming from one’s family.
How hard these kinds of responses can hit is not at all lost on me, just to be clear – quite frankly, I recently received a very similarly pathetic knee-jerk response from a close family member (the first of this type in quite some time). But most importantly, these reactions are one of the main reasons I launched the STD project – so people don’t have to face the insensitive feedback alone.
As an eternal optimist, I implore you to take a page out of my book of STD hard knocks and let these types of reactions, from your family members especially, roll off of your shoulders – at least initially.
Coming from a family member, this is especially hard to do, so, I think it helps to understand why they are acting so adversely.
Most people are incredibly afraid of what they don’t know and don’t understand. These same people have religious, cultural, and media influences simultaneously encouraging them to react negatively and form an uneducated opinion.
Simply, these reactions come from people who know very little about STDs.
If you’d like to help curb their opinion, facts and statistics are great for this.
Albeit, a strong reaction such as theirs will take time to evolve and in the meantime, you can reassure yourself that their opinion is unwarranted (no matter how much you are temporarily hating yourself) and is much more a reflection of their fear and lack of knowledge than of anything you did or any treatment you deserve.
The best response and the one I wish for all people is a genuine worry for your health and happiness and/or an overall nonplussed unconditional love approach.
I’ve placed these two in one category, because, from what I’ve seen, they usually come together and are the most welcomed of possible reactions.
It’s true and very likely that whomever you tell will know very little about your STD, what the implications are for your future, or how it will affect your health and longevity. Yet, when those family members do react, it will be with open minds and open hearts.
I was blessed to have this sort of reaction from my parents – not everyone is this lucky – but I am telling you this now, because it is certainly possible. If not from your parental figures, it is possible from extended family and friends as well.
So, do your best not to embrace any of the miserable reactions you hear. Rather, know it’s quite possible for someone to be concerned in a constructive way, want to learn more, and choose to love you despite your STD and sans the little information they’ve heard in the media or otherwise about sex and STDs.
Lastly, remember, it’s also quite possible for those incredibly crappy responses to leap into this category over time.
It’s amazing how minds change and become more permeable when faced with an issue inside a family’s walls – generally, it just takes time.
When this does happen (not if, remember, I’m an optimist), do your best to be as loving as possible as it’s likely you too once believed some of the same things they did (I did too)…. :)
- Part 1 of: STDs and Relationships – The STD Project’s Guidebook – Friends
- Part 3 of: STDs and Relationships – The STD Project’s Guidebook – Partners
Did this help you share the news with family members? How did your family members react? Do you have some additional advice for our readers? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!