Throughout February, writers from many of HealthCentral's communities are writing about sex, romance and the other relationships in your lives and how they interact with your condition. Check out our special Valentine's Day area - new posts will be added every week!" Next week, Valentine's Day will once again roll around and romance will be in the air.
Everywhere, you will see, hear and read about love stories. If you are in a new relationship, you may decide this is a good time to become more intimate. But before you rush into a sexual relationship, give both you and your new partner a special Valentine's gift, one of honesty and openness about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
A conversation about STDs probably isn't the most romantic discussion you can have, but it is one that shows you care, about your partner's health and about your own. Although a few people are not embarrassed, most people are nervous about having this type of talk with a potential partner so if you are not sure how to start or are worried about how your partner may react, you are not alone. Some of the reasons people are afraid to begin this conversation or simply put it off are:
- You are afraid of offending your new partner. Some people believe that if they mention STDs or bring up the topic, they are "accusing" their partner of being infected or of having been promiscuous in the past.
- You don't know the risks. You believe that because your potential partner is attractive, nice and polite, he can't possibly have an STD
- You are afraid he will not want to be with you. If you worry that your potential partner will no longer be willing to be with you if you mention STDs or insist on testing and condoms, then you may not be with the right person. Having an intimate relationship means you should be able to discuss intimate and sexual matters, and this includes STDs.
- You believe talking about STDs takes away the fun and spontaneity of a sexual encounter. Keep in mind that one sexual encounter with someone with an STD can impact your life and your health for many years. Sex can still be romantic and spontaneous, but planning ahead to be sure you stay protected is always more important.
Your fear should not stop you from protecting yourself. If you are nervous, ask a friend to practice with you, role-playing different reactions so you are more prepared and confident when you do begin the conversation.
Setting Goals for "The Talk" About STDs
Before you begin, think about what you want to accomplish during the conversation, for example:
- If you have an STD, then your goal is to let your partner know, educate him about your STD and explain what precautions you must take in order to insure he is not at risk.
- If you don't have an STD, you still want to discuss what types of precautions you want to take before beginning a sexual relationship, such as both partners getting tested and using condoms every time.
Remember, you can't tell if someone has an STD just by looking at them, many people never know or experience any symptoms from STDs. To help make your conversation easier, plan ahead on what you want to say and what you want to happen after the discussion.
Know the Facts
The more you know about STDs, the better you will be able to discuss and answer questions when talking with your new partner. STDs are a medical condition, not a sexual problem, and you and your partner need to be aware of the risks, the symptoms and the treatments. Read information about the different types of STDs so you feel confident talking about these issues. You might also want to check out local resources for testing, keeping track of how long it takes for an appointment and what the costs are.
Choose a Good Time to Talk
Waiting until you are in the heat of passion isn't a good idea. Instead, plan ahead on when you want to discuss STDs. Choose a time and place where you can talk privately and won't have any interruptions. You want this to be a casual but serious conversation; don't start out being accusatory or making it too intense. Let your partner know you are aware of the risks and want to make sure both of you are protected and that the precautions you are requesting are meant to keep both of you safe. Begin with one topic, such as condom use and once you both agree on this issue, talk about another issue, such as getting tested.
As you begin the discussion, listen to your new partner's reaction. He (or she) may also be uncomfortable with the discussion at first; however, as you show that this is matter-of-fact he may open up more. If he doesn't seem to have any reaction, be blunt and direct and ask how he feels about the discussion. While you want to hear his point of view, you also want to be clear about your needs; for example, using a condom every time is important. If he isn't willing to get tested or use a condom, you need to decide if you are willing to go forward with a sexual relationship. If you are confused about your partner's reaction, ask questions before jumping to conclusions. For example, if your partner is resistant to getting tested, find out why before assuming he has an STD he is hiding; he may have anxiety or may be worried about the cost of the tests.
"Talking to Your Partners About STDs," Modified 2008, June 3, Author Unknown, Department of Public Health, City and County of San Francisco
"Talking With Your Partner(s)," Date Unknown, Staff Writer, County of Los Angeles Public Health
Published On: February 08, 2012