[Question #7797] Dr Handsfield of Dr Hook— please help!

1 months ago

I am a 32 year old woman. I have been in a monogamous relationship with a 34 year old man for about 9 months. We were best friends in high school and reconnected last summer in 2020 and began dating. I went out of town last week and yesterday I was looking through his phone and saw a photo of an anus with something placed inside it. At first it looked like a woman’s anus but I think my mind began playing tricks on me and convinced me it was his. I confronted him and accused him of being secretly gay. He denied it was his anus in the photo. He swore it was an internet meme but refused to show me the photo saying ‘it wasn’t meant for me to see’ and quickly deleted it.


We have an honest relationship. We tried anal play on him once earlier into the relationship: his penis went flaccid and he didn’t like it and asked me to stop. He told me he’s been with 5 women before me (4 of those being a monogamous relationship) and I have no reason to believe he’s ever cheated on me. We’ve been having unprotected vaginal sex the duration of our relationship and have had anal sex twice (first time for me). He’s never been in prison, or an intravenous drug user and, like I said, to my knowledge he’s only been with women. When I met him, he had condoms in his room (so he practices safe sex) and he has hypochondria because he beat cancer 4 years ago. My anxiety is telling me he’s secretly gay, has HIV and now I have it. We’ve spoken since then and I’ve told him we need to talk about the situation and he’s just said there’s nothing to discuss.


I do suffer from anxiety and I catastrophize situations often. I was just going through a depressive episode yesterday and then I saw the photo so I don’t know if it’s a real threat or my mind is getting the best of me. Please help.

1 months ago
I live in the United States if that helps.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
1 months ago
Welcome to our forum and thanks for your confidence in our service. Before I do offer a few thoughts, let me remind you that both Dr. Handsfield and I are infectious disease specialists with extensive knowledge of sexually transmitted infections. Issues regarding relationship dynamics are not an area which either of us has specific training in and the thoughts that I will offer are my own, perhaps shaped by my 40 years of practice in the field of sexual health.

Before I provide my comments let me also let you know that I found myself wondering why you were looking through your partners phone. Is there an element of mistrust there even before you found the photograph you mention?  It occurs to me that your partner would I then wondering about this.

In your message you use terms such as “hypochondria” and “anxiety” to describe both you and your partner. It appears that you are both quite health-conscious. With that sort of background it would occur to me that without a frank and open conversation or perhaps several of them your concerns will linger and perhaps grow.  The success of relationships is highly dependent on trust between the individuals involved.  Such a conversation might begin by stating that you are unsettled not only by the photograph that you saw but also his unwillingness to discuss this. Further, the most direct way to address your fears regarding HIV and, I presume other STI ‘s, would be to suggest that you go together and be tested. Testing is widely available in public health clinics little or no cost and is highly confidential.  

I hope the suggestion is helpful to you. EWH 
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1 months ago

I was looking through his phone to find a picture of us. I looked through the albums that were throughout the duration of our relationship and couldn’t find it. It led me to the ‘deleted album’ in which I saw the picture of the anus in which he claims was not his.


Yes, we are both health-conscious. I do suffer from anxiety, specifically sexual guilt so I find myself questioning anyone I’ve just as much as kissed. I tend to question my partner when I feel as though the relationship may be on its last leg (it has nothing to do with trust issues in this case, it’s just me being bored and wanting out of the relationship). Throughout the relationship, I never questioned these things but when I know the relationship is over, I begin to convince myself that my partner has an STD and has passed it to me. I always convince myself it’s not just an STI, that it’s HIV. I’ve done this for about 15 years. 


When I saw the photo yesterday, I was already just having a depressive week so it compiled on each other. His not wanting to discuss things further is just how he deals with everything (but of course that doesn’t help my anxiety because it makes my brain think he’s lying). When I tried to discuss it, he said it was just an internet meme.


I then just assumed “omg what if he’s cheating on me with a man? What if he has HIV and gave it to me?”. I know it sounds crazy but my anxiety is just getting worse over time.


Should I wait for an STI test during my yearly exam or is this a matter I should address immediately?

Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
1 months ago
Thank you for the clarification and the additional information.  To summarize, you found the picture innocently BUT, irrespective of whose anus the picture was of, this fits a pattern in which when you are beginning to  tire (or get "bored") within a relationship your mind takes you to suspicions of being cheated upon and having been infected with HIV or another STI. 

To this untrained viewer, it appears that there are now two, or perhaps three issues.

1.  Your pattern of feeling you are being cheated upon and in that context, may have been infected with HIV or another STI is not a normal sequence of thoughts.  I would suggest that, if you do not already have one, you seek professional counseling to help you understand yourself.  Until this is addressed, you may have a difficult time sustaining relationships.

2.  Irrespective, your partner's refusal to discuss and address this is amplifying your fears and anxieties.  That is not healthy for either of you and needs to be addressed or I suspect your concerns will grow.  Obviously this is not good for you.

3.  I am not sure how common or easily transmitted HIV and other STIs are.  Please do not use the internet for advice on these topics.  Statements made there are all too often incorrect- either taken out of context, out of date, you just plain wrong.  Internet search tend to amplify misinformation.  

I suspect issues 1 and 2 are somewhat independent and each need to be address.  I say this out of concern for you, nothing more.  EWH
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1 months ago
I think I must first and foremost address my mental health like you suggested. This is clearly an unhealthy pattern. Thank you, doctor.