The foundation of any relationship is based on maintaining the appropriate amount of openness and clarity — especially when there’s a sexual component. The truth is, every relationship is different, and this openness allows the establishment of boundaries and guidelines. When it comes to discussing STIs, it can get uncomfortable or awkward to bring up the past. Still, the discussion is necessary, and following these tips can make it a lot easier than you’d expect.
1. Get Tested Before Any Sexual Interaction
For the sake of your physical health, it’s important to have a conversation about STIs before engaging in sexual activities with anybody. Even more importantly, both of you should get tested before doing so. From there, you can discuss things like past and current STIs, treatment experiences, and future treatment possibilities. If you expect the relationship to include sexual activity, you both need to know your health status to act accordingly.
If one of you tests positive, you can both decide how to move forward before having sex. Low-risk STIs can often be treated or their possibility of transmission lowered through simple medications. One example of this kind of medicine is genital herpes treatment, which can be taken each day for these effects.
2. Don’t Shy Away From the Conversation
As awkward as this discussion can be, it’s necessary knowledge for both of you. There’s no need to be afraid of the topic because STIs are quite common and treatable. Even if one partner is positive, nothing necessarily needs to change other than when sexual activity begins and what precautions you take. As long as your partner agrees that they are comfortable talking about it at the time, you can begin.
One of you may not be comfortable discussing sexual health due to the environment or emotional state of the relationship. In this case, you should make it clear that you need to talk about it before having sex. It can be helpful to move forward by making an effort to create a better environment for the discussion.
3. Be Honest and Open
The key to productive STI dialogue is mutual honesty between participants. A healthy partner will not respond inappropriately if you disclose your STI-positive status, but rather they will support you. It’s your responsibility to make sure they know your STI status just as they should disclose theirs to you. Being positive is not the end of the world; in fact, it can help build an important foundation of trust.
There are options if this is the case so that you can still have sex and do so safely. These include the responsible usage of condoms, preventative vaccines for certain STIs, and abstinence from high-risk sexual acts. Do not hesitate to consider these options; the safer you plan to be, the sooner you can start having sex.
4. Create a Safe Atmosphere
It’s not always easy for someone to share personal details. Your partner may hesitate if they don’t feel ready to open up to you. In this case, try to help them feel as comfortable as possible during the discussion. It’s one thing, to be honest, and open yourself, but it’s also necessary to welcome that honesty from them. Discuss their needs with them so you can create a space in which they feel safe talking.
The best place to talk is in a private location such as one of your homes or bedrooms. You can take extra precautions to maintain auditory privacy including a noise machine or playing music near the door.
5. Respect Your Mutual Privacy
Once you have created a safe space for open discussion, be sure to respect the information that both of you share. Whether your partner hesitated to share or immediately disclosed everything, it’s best to keep it all to yourself. STIs are not shameful or wrong, but keeping your partner’s information private is important for trust’s sake. It goes the same way for them with your information as well.
If despite your best efforts, your partner is afraid to share sensitive information, you should respect that decision. Do as much as you can to help them understand their privacy is safe with you. You’ll both end up being far happier and healthier for this effort.
6. Stick to Your Boundaries
Remember that you also have boundaries that require respect! Your partner can take as long as they need to feel comfortable; until then, you have the right to avoid sexual interaction. You don’t want to compromise your health without knowing their status. Sex is all about mutual consent. It’s important to note that you aren’t withholding intimacy to push them into sharing, but that you’re abstaining for your own safety.
Maybe you’re comfortable with certain acts or precautions. Know the risks, familiarize yourself with safety precautions, and do only what you both are comfortable with. Once you’ve followed these steps, you’ll be able to be as free as you want to be.
The STI discussion doesn’t have to be scary, uncomfortable, or a barrier of any kind. It is simply a formality for the sake of health and safety. Discussions and precautions do, of course, differ in various situations — an open relationship might require periodic testing and dialogue. One thing is certain — both partners should be comfortable having sex and having this talk is a necessary step.