How Do I Not Hate Myself For Having Unprotected Sex?

Hey Ginzo,

I did something stupid last week and I am flipping out. Long story short I ended up hooking up with a stranger. The problem? We didn’t use protection. I know I am an idiot. So I am just really freaking out because even though there is no risk of pregnancy I have absolutely no idea whether or not this person had an STD. Like what if I just gave myself HIV? I am so mad at myself and embarrassed that I haven’t been able to tell anyone about it. I just feel so stupid because I don’t even have a way to contact this person. I didn’t want to use anything in the moment but now I realize THAT IS SO STUPID. I guess how do I live with myself while I wait out the time it takes to show up on tests?

I’ve Made a Huge Mistake

Dear I’ve Made a Huge Mistake,

First of all, solid Arrested Development reference. Second of all, please be kinder to yourself.

You made a mistake. You had a moment of poor judgment, and now you know that in the future, using protection, whether a condom, internal condom, or dental dam (for oral sex), is a must not only for your health but for your peace of mind. Remember this level of anxiety for the future so when you are swept up in the moment, you can pause and remember how nerve-wracking an experience it was. Learn from this that whether you are having sex with a stranger or someone you know well, you need to have protection on hand to prevent yourself from getting lost in the moment again.

Even if you do have an STI now, this doesn’t make you less smart, worthy, sexy, or deserving of love.

That being said, stop beating yourself up about it. You made a mistake, a mistake that is probably more common than you think. People have unprotected sex a lot; sometimes they contract STIs, sometimes they don’t. This does not change their value as a person. Even if you do have an STI now, this doesn’t make you less smart, worthy, sexy, or deserving of love. There is a terrible stigma in this country around having an STI, yet one in four people have one. This means that right now, you know someone (probably several someones) who has had or does have an STI. They haven’t turned into monsters or piles of human waste because of their STI; you probably don’t even know that they have one. They go on their daily lives, going to school, going to work, having relationships, eating tasty brunches, riding bikes, laughing at funny movies, and generally doing everything everyone else does. Regardless of the results of your tests, you do not have to worry that it is the end of your happiness or chance at a healthy sex life.

Also, it’s normal to worry about other people judging us when we make a mistake. But I think hiding in shame with this weight on your heart is doing more harm than good. Reach out to a friend who you consider nonjudgmental and supportive to talk to them about your concerns. Emotional support will do wonders for anxiety, and feeling the unwavering love of a good friend will help you not be so hard on yourself. So get tested, keep condoms on you, and don’t stop loving yourself, regardless of your results!

XOXO,
Ginzo

P.S. Though it sounds like you may have already researched this, I just wanted to link the information in case anyone who has stumbled upon this needs the information: here is an infographic from STDchecker.com that outlines how long after unprotected sex you should get tested for specific STIs. If you need to find free testing, you can visit https://gettested.cdc.gov/ to find a clinic near you.

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Am I Selfish for Not Wanting to Settle?

Dear Ginzo,

I have been with my partner for about 8 years. I can honestly say that he’s a great person (kind, generous, selfless at times and very loving). I feel like he loves me more than I love him. He always wants to be around me and spend time with me. I’m just indifferent. I feel like we’re best friends but for all intents and purposes, we’re glorified roommates. I can’t say that I’m in love with him anymore but I do know I love him, its more platonic than romantic. His family loves me and my family loves him. I feel like I’m settling and I don’t want to hurt him but I also don’t want to be unhappy and stuck in a relationship that does nothing for me. Am I being selfish? What should I do?

Scared to Settle

Dear Scared to Settle,

My heart goes out to you. It must be so difficult to contend with these feelings of doubt, to care for your partner but to feel like it is just not right. There is nothing selfish about that. I am sure you wish you could just magic those romantic feelings for him again instead of having to contemplate starting a new life without him.

I can’t tell you what to do, but to me, there are two options here: you either stick around and try to work through it with your partner, or you end the relationship. Reading that, you may have felt in your gut what you must do. Did one option make you feel relief, while the other felt like a weight on your chest? If so, go for the one that lifts your burden. If not, here are some thoughts to help you with your decision.

For door number one (staying and working it out), you will have to talk to your partner about how you are feeling. Being honest and vulnerable is terrifying, but it is the only way you can work through it. Of course, he will likely have a lot of feelings about it; he may feel hurt, rejected, or confused if he hasn’t picked up your feelings. Or he may surprise you by expressing the same doubts, or relief that you are finally opening up about yours. Trust that your partner can handle your truth, and accept his, whatever his proves to be. You may pursue couples counseling, or maybe go into counseling by yourself. Sometimes, unhappiness within ourselves manifests as unhappiness with others. Maybe your feelings of indifference in your relationship are not about your partner, but unhappiness within yourself. If that rings true to you, I encourage you to work through these feelings with a therapist.

On the other hand, your heart may be telling you that it really is over; that as much as you care for him, you just don’t want to be in a relationship with your partner anymore. And that’s okay. There’s an expression that is floating around the internet that goes like this: “Don’t keep making a mistake because you spent a lot time making it.” That is not to say I think your relationship is a mistake at all. I’m sure that you have gotten a lot out of it over the past eight years. Just because a relationship doesn’t last forever, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worthwhile and successful. On the flip side, just because a relationship lasts for a long time doesn’t mean it is a success, as is demonstrated by the many miserable marriages in the world. The point I am trying to make with this quote is that the length of a relationship is not a good reason to stay in it. You have a lot of history with this person, but that doesn’t mean that you have a future with him.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell

Eight years is a long time, and a lot has changed. It’s okay that you are not the same person with the same needs you were eight years ago when you first got together. Actually, it is better that you aren’t. Sometimes in relationships, you grow together, but often, you grow apart. There is nothing wrong with that, and as generous, kind, and loving as your partner may be, if he isn’t the person you want to be with, then it is the kinder choice to let him go. The selfish decision would be to stay in a relationship with him while he continues to think that everything is fine when it really is not. Being broken up with is a terrible feeling, but not as bad as waking up one day to find that your partner has spent years feeling indifferent about you, building up resentment that makes things impossible to fix.

Of course, breakups are the literal worst, and it means jumping back into the unknown that is being single. And I am sure you are not eager to break the heart of someone you truly care about, especially when you don’t know for sure if you will find someone who is better suited to you (though you’ll never know unless you try). Keep in mind that no one can predict the future. You may be catastrophizing, thinking that if you break up with him, you will ruin any friendship you could have with him while simultaneously fating yourself to a life of loneliness and cat lady status (at least, that is what my brain likes to do to me). In reality, no cities will topple if you end this relationship.

Alexander Graham Bell said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” If you decide to close that door, don’t spend too long lingering around it, wondering if you made a mistake. It may be hard for a long time, but one day, you will wake up and it won’t be the first thing you think about. Then a little while later, you wake up and you feel pretty good. As time moves on, you accept the change in your life, and you start opening yourself up to new possibilities. Suddenly, there are new doors everywhere, and you might find yourself willing to open one more than just a crack.
I hope that, regardless of what you decide to do, you find the happiness you seek. Best of luck, my friend.

XOXO,
Ginzo