I am sorry for the hiatus, everyone. We had some setbacks late in 2015, and it took some time for us to process all the things that happened. I still do believe this lifestyle is the correct path for us, and even if we choose someday to stop our sexy adventures I want to continue the friendships I have found with these wonderfully open people. I love attending meet and greets, just to chat with people for whom discussing non-monogamy is completely normal and sane. I love the honesty and camaraderie I find with other people who like to explore sexuality and sensuality in all its many variations.
However, the lifestyle doesn’t come without some risk. I decided a couple of years ago, as I was looking for a new gynecologist, that I was going to be absolutely frank with her. We had recently moved away from my previous doctor, and we had also stepped up our swinging game. We use condoms for intercourse, but I wanted to be tested for STIs just in case. To request those tests as a married woman, I knew I would have some explaining to do.
I found a gynecologist on my insurance plan and made an appointment. I decided to be honest from the start and if she was judgemental I could just find another new doctor the next time. When I arrived at the office, the perfect opportunity presented itself in the medical history form they asked me to fill out. One question asked my marital status, and the very next question asked how many sexual partners I’d had in the past year. I happily marked my status as married and then wrote the number four in the next blank.
Sure enough, when the doctor went over my form with me in the exam room, she paused. She asked if the information was correct, and I said yes. She smiled and asked if my spouse was aware of my other sexual partners, and I smiled back and said yes. I explained that we are non-monogamous and that I did want to have a complete panel of STI tests done. I also told her we use condoms with other people, but not with each other, and that I also have an IUD. She seemed relieved that I was taking my health seriously, but she admitted it seemed like an expensive hobby.
I don’t want to mislead all of you reading this. I was not cool and calm throughout this little chat. I was sweating like crazy, admitting to a stranger/medical authority figure that I regularly engage in activity that would be shocking to many people in the public. I knew I was protected by privacy laws and policies, but I also didn’t want to face any shaming from this woman who I already respected simply because she was a doctor. I also didn’t want the nurses gossiping about me or giving me judgemental looks as they gathered samples for testing. I was teased a lot as an adolescent, and I didn’t want that sinking feeling of being talked about unfavorably, or the sense of weighty stares in the middle of my back. But this was more important than any of that. Even though I was reasonably certain that everything would be negative, I wanted this baseline. I wanted my doctor to know, because if there was ever any inkling of a problem, I didn’t want to have this conversation on top of the one about the problem. If she already knows that I have sex with other people, I don’t have to tell her that plus explain a broken condom after I’ve already gotten used to her as my physician.
That first appointment went very well. She took the samples she needed and we discussed if I wanted to continue using an IUD or progress to more permanent contraception. I went home with a bunch of pamphlets, and my tests all came back normal. Now, I’d love to say that I continued to be tested every six months, but I didn’t. I’m actually terrible about going to see my doctor. I forget all the time. We also don’t swing all that often. There are a few friends who we swap with, and we have gone to clubs but we are much too shy to approach anyone. That part is a work in progress. But at any rate, do as I say and not as I do. I did not go back to my gynecologist until early this past December. It had been two years, but she did remember me very well. I am sure she doesn’t have that many patients who admit to being in an open marriage, and she asked me pretty quickly if I was still seeing other people. I said yes, but it was the same people as before and actually one had moved away by then, so it was only three men in the past year. We decided on the same tests as before, but because I didn’t need a pap smear that time, she’d have me visit the lab and give samples of blood instead of using cervical tissue. She also told me that, during the first set of tests, she had not included Hepatitis C because it needed a blood test. Since we were already drawing blood this time, she advised we do it this time. I agreed because I did want all the tests possible to be done.
About a week after my appointment, I got a voicemail on my phone to call my doctor’s office. They usually send results in the mail, so I was nervous, but I thought it was possible my insurance didn’t want to cover the expense of the tests. I called, and that was not the case. I was transferred to my doctor, herself, and she told me that the Hep-C test came back as positive for the antibodies that fight Hep-C. This could mean that I had the virus in my bloodstream, or that I had already had Hep-C and fought it off. However, if I’d had symptoms I probably would have known it, since they can be pretty severe. The doctor had already sent my blood to the lab for further tests to see if there was virus present. I would only be contagious if they found the virus there. If I already had it and killed it myself, I would have the antibodies but not be a danger to any of my partners. The other possibility was a false positive result, which looking for the virus would also determine.
I was scared. Hep-C is a serious deal, of course. I was imagining all sorts of liver damage, and although there is a treatment for it I didn’t want to have that conversation with all my previous play partners. I couldn’t imagine where it had come from, since it is usually a blood-borne pathogen and I’ve never used intravenous drugs or, as far as I know, had sex with someone who did. It can be spread sexually, but it’s rare. Needless to say, the next week was a pretty stressful freak-out time for us. We didn’t have any dates set up, but we explained to our friends that we were going to be sticking close to home because of a possible health issue and we would explain when we knew more information. None of them had plans to go out, either. Right before the holidays we were all broke anyway, so we were certain that we could explain after we got the more specific results.
Finally, after a crazy wait, I got another voicemail on my cell phone. I had given permission to the doctor’s office to leave my results on voicemail because I’m not allowed to answer my cell phone at my desk at work. I heard my phone vibrate, and I took it to the restroom to listen to the message.
The lab found no virus in my blood at all. The liver specialist my doctor consulted with said it was most likely a false positive result, and they did not need to see me. Because there was no virus, there was also no chance I could endanger any of my partners. I leaned my head against the restroom wall and sighed with relief. I went back to my desk and emailed my husband, who then told our friends what had been happening and that it was resolved in the best possible outcome.
One of our friends has also had a false positive result for Hep-C in the past, so they were very understanding and all of them were just glad that I’m okay. I think I have the best friends in the world, and I found them from having sex outside of my marriage.
My experience remains positive regarding my doctor. She seems to think non-monogamy would be expensive and needlessly risky, but she doesn’t judge me from a moral standpoint and just does what is necessary to ensure my safety. She was very quick to assure me that treatments for Hep-C have come a long way recently, and she was ready with recommended specialists and research. She is knowledgeable and efficient, and best of all non-judgemental. I cannot recommend testing enough. Everyone should get tested for STIs if they are going to be non-monogamous. If your health insurance won’t pay for it, there are clinics that will do it free or very low-cost, and the internet is a great resource to find them. I know it can be embarrassing to discuss, but the people taking your samples got into this business for a reason. They really don’t care about your personal life beyond a possibly interesting case to change up their monotonous day. They are not allowed to tell other people your results, and that is not their main concern anyway. They want to help you be healthy, you want to be healthy, and the only way for both of you to make sure that happens is through testing.
We took a few weeks off after our experience, even though my tests came back all negative. I was pretty stressed by the concept of having an STI, and we were already short on time and money from the holidays. Hopefully, we are going to get back into the swing of things (pun intended) very soon.