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Is Screening for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Necessary If I am in a Long Term Relationship?

Monogamy suggests the practice of staying with the same sexual/romantic partner
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Definition of monogamy

Monogamy suggests the practice of staying with the same sexual/romantic partner; in other words, a monogamous relationship involves being sexually and romantically exclusive to a single partner. A monogamous relationship can involve people from any sexual orientation. 

Other types of relationships include open relationships, casual dating, and polygamy. This usually involves more than 2 persons with no expectation of exclusivity. 

When a person transitions from one monogamous relationship to another after their previous relationship ends, it is called “serial monogamy” [1]. Despite each relationship being exclusive, it is important to note that this pattern can come with drawbacks and risks to sexual health. However, awareness about these potential disadvantages is often lacking among many individuals engaged in serial monogamy. 

Sexual relationships are often believed to be much safer when they are within monogamous relationships. However, numerous health red flags related to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in monogamous relationships have emerged over the years. 

STI couple
STIs are becoming more common in monogamous relationships.

Monogamy is not full-proof against STIs

When both individuals in a monogamous relationship undergo STI screenings, the chances of transmitting STIs are relatively low. However, this scenario is not very common. In most cases, those in monogamous relationships do not get tested for STIs before starting their exclusive journey together. As a result, many are unaware that they might have STIs prior to entering the relationship. 

Unfortunately, in many relationships, one partner may believe that both parties are practising monogamy, but this might not be the case. The expectation of exclusivity may not be mutual, leading to situations of infidelity or one partner being non-monogamous. This aspect relates to the concept of “serial monogamy”. In such cases, one may unknowingly contract STIs from their current or previous partner(s) who may have been carrying undiagnosed infections. To exacerbate matters, individuals in these relationships may still believe they are practising monogamy and fail to take proactive measures such as undergoing STI screenings. As a result, the risk of STIs in a serial monogamy relationship can be higher than what is commonly perceived. 

Can you get STIs if you are married?

The answer is, yes! It is an untrue fact that only people with multiple partners will get STIs. STIs do not infect a person based on the individual’s personal virtues and morals. STIs can affect anyone who is in a sexual relationship whether one is monogamously married or in an open relationship. 

So, don’t get into false assurances that one is safe from STIs as long as one is married.

married STI infection
Even married couples can suffer from STIs as some infections can remain dormant for years.

 STI symptoms can be silent for years

Some STIs may cause overt symptoms, while others can be indolent, and live in an untreated host for months or even years. This gives the untreated person a false sense of assurance that his/her health is at its pinnacle pink and thus, unintentionally leaving STIs untreated. 

This, therefore, leads to the spread of untreated STIs when the individual moves on to a new relationship. Although STIs are generally not life-threatening, one can develop complications such as infertility or even cancer over time. 

Certain STIs have long incubation periods and present themselves many years later

An incubation period is the time required for the body to develop a response following an infection, this is the time between a person being exposed to an infection and the time when abnormal symptoms start appearing. STI viruses, such as herpes or the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), can go unnoticed for years. STIs can even be mistakenly presented as other medical conditions, which delay a person from getting the right treatment for their undiagnosed STI.

Many married couples may easily assume that they do not need to undergo STI testing since they trust their spouse’s faithfulness and the monogamous nature of their marriage. However, as mentioned earlier, certain STIs can be present in individuals without any noticeable symptoms, leading to asymptomatic individuals. This false sense of assurance can lead the couple to believe that everything is fine until years later when evident signs of STIs start to emerge. 

Do consider speaking to your trusted physician as different STIs may have different incubation periods and they can guide you on further tests depending on your individual risk of exposure.

What are the STIs symptoms I should look out for if I am in a long-term relationship?

You should consider consulting a doctor if you are experiencing unusual symptoms such as:

  • Painful urination
  • New growth, lumps, or bumps over the genital or mouth region
  • Open wounds, blisters, and/or sores over the genital and mouth region
  • Unusual discharge from your vagina, penis, or anus
  • Itchy genital region
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding 

Bear in mind, some STIs may have longer incubation periods or may be asymptomatic. It is worth speaking to your doctor if you are in a relationship and considering STI screening.

painful urination
Painful urination may be a sign of STIs.

What are the STI tests that I should consider if I am in a long-term relationship?

Speak with your doctor regarding your previous medical and sexual health histories. In some cases, your doctor may also inquire about your partner’s sexual history (if available). Your doctor will then guide you on the STI tests that are suitable for you. 

Tests available to screen for infections include:

  • HIV
  • Hepatitis
  • Herpes type 1 and 2
  • Syphilis
  • Chlamydia and Gonorrhea 

Your doctor may advise you on additional or customised tests based on your risk factor(s). For women, your doctor may also recommend you get a Pap smear and HPV test to screen for HPV infection and cervical cancer. 

What vaccination I should consider if I am in a long-term relationship?

If you fall within the age range of 9 to 45 years, it is worth considering getting vaccinated against the high-risk strains of HPV. This vaccination offers protection against these strains for both men and women, helping to reduce or prevent the risk of various HPV-related conditions such as genital warts, cervical, vaginal, penile, anal, and even throat cancers. 

HPV infection is highly prevalent, with approximately 80% of sexually active individuals encountering it at some point [2]. This includes those who are in committed relationships or married. It is important to note that most people infected with HPV do not show any signs and symptoms, making it easy to unknowingly transmit the infection to others.

You are encouraged to speak to your doctor if you are considering HPV vaccination.

HPV vaccination
HPV vaccination provides protection against genital warts and some types of cancer.

How can I communicate with my partner about getting screened for STIs?

Discussing STI testing can be a stressful and daunting topic for couples. Most people feel uncomfortable discussing STIs with their couple— this can be a mixture of embarrassment, fear of the implication on the relationship, or simply having no idea how to broach the topic.

It is worth doing a little research or even consulting your trusted physician on STI test options and what are the recommended tests based on your own health history and risk of exposure. With a better understanding of STIs yourself, you will be better prepared when conversing with your partner.

It is always important to be open, empathetic, non-judgmental, and relaxed when discussing sexual health with your partner. It is also important to keep in mind that STIs as with any medical infections, can affect anyone regardless of a person’s background, religion, or socioeconomic status.

Finding a suitable time and place for discussion and thinking through the words to say is important. Discussing such topics in person, and avoiding text messages or over the phone can be useful as non-verbal language (such as body language or reactions) has an important role in communication. 

Here are a few examples to discuss your conversation:

  • I am considering STIs screening, and I would wish for you to get tested as well, your health is important to me.
  • By understanding our sexual health status, we can enjoy sex better as we know we are both safe and well taken care of.
  • Let’s make sure we are both protected.
  • Let’s get tested together. 

You are recommended to discuss with your doctor to obtain first-hand and accurate information on STIs, as this would aid your discussion with your partner. 

happy relationship
Open conversations free of negativity and judgement will encourage trust in a relationship.

Can a faithful couple get STIs?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [3], around half of adults aged 18 to 44 have never been tested for STIs, apart from HIV. This includes individuals in monogamous relationships. Additionally, couples who believe they are practising monogamy may be less inclined to prioritise STI screenings, assuming there is no need for such tests.

Certain STIs can be indolent or take months and even years before showing any symptoms. Consequently, even faithful couples may be at risk of contracting STIs due to untreated past infections.

If you have concerns about STI transmission or are considering getting screened, it is advisable to consult with your doctor. 

Better safe than sorry

While monogamous couples generally have a lower risk of acquiring STIs compared to those who are single or in open relationships, it is important to recognise the possibility of asymptomatic STIs that may go unnoticed and untreated. Engaging in proactive measures such as undergoing regular STI screenings with your partner is a beneficial practice for maintaining good sexual health within couples. 

By breaking the taboo surrounding sexual health and prioritising open communication, understanding your own and your partner’s sexual health status can foster trust and enhance your sexual experiences. 

Feel free to reach out to your trusted physician to discuss further on STI screenings.


  1. Andersson, C. (2015). A Genealogy of Serial Monogamy. Journal of Family History, 195-207. 
  2. Michel D Wissing, K. L.-Z.-P. (2019). Human Papillomavirus Viral Load and Transmission in Young, Recently Formed Heterosexual Couples. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 1152-1161. 
  3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, February 23). How You Can Prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Retrieved from Center for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/default.htm 

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