Whether you choose to have sex or not, it is important to be able to talk about sex. Having direct conversations about sex can be uncomfortable but it does get easier if you are confident about your facts. Bottom line: When it comes to sex, good communication is important, with friends, health care providers, parents and family, as well as your partners.
If a couple is going to have sex, it's important for them to talk things over first. They need to discuss topics like their sexual boundaries and how they can protect themselves. Talking about STDs is an important part of this conversation. Remember, though, that since others can't always be accurate about their STD status - especially because they may not even know they have one - using condoms for protection is very important.
Of course, if you have an STD, it's good to be honest. Not only will it help you take the right precautions to protect your health and your partner's health - by either abstaining from intercourse until an outbreak is over or practicing safer sex - it also shows your partner that you care about and respect him or her. Chances are, your partner will appreciate your truthfulness and reciprocate, and such honesty may even strengthen the emotional bond between you.
Choose a time and place that's relaxed and comfortable before you get intimate (ideally that means before you take your clothes off!). Be sure to know plenty of important facts so that you can answer any questions your partner may have. You might want to start the conversation on a positive note - for example, by telling your partner that you really care for him or her and that's why you want to discuss something important. If part of what you want to tell your partner is about an STD you have, you might say that last year, you found out you carry HPV, or that you just learned that you have chlamydia and you want him or her to get checked out. Keep it simple and just give the facts about symptoms, treatment, how the disease is spread, and how you can protect each other. This is a difficult conversation that will likely stir up a lot of emotions, but try to think of it as simply sharing vital information. Then give your partner some time and space to digest the news. After all, it probably took you a while when you first heard. Offer to provide more information or an STD hotline number. With everything that's been learned in recent years about STDs and their transmission, it's entirely possible for people with an STD to have a satisfying sex life without passing the infection to their partners, if proper precautions are taken.
Whether or not you're sexually active, now you have the facts you need to protect yourself. The next step is putting this information into practice. Communicate with your partner about your choices. Take precautions to avoid unintended pregnancy and lower your risk of getting an STD. Your health is entirely in your hands. So whatever you decide to do, make choices that you can enjoy and feel good about - today, tomorrow, and the next day.
Maybe condoms aren't your favorite conversation item, but if you're too embarrassed to talk about protection with your partner, you may not be ready to have sex. Still, we know that bringing up condom use can sometimes be a tricky subject. Here are some helpful hints to make condom talk a little bit easier:
- Don't be shy. Be direct about your feelings. There's no reason to be embarrassed!
- Don't wait until the heat of the moment to bring it up. Talk about condom use before you are in a situation where you might need one.
- Don't be afraid of rejection. If a partner doesn't care enough about you to use a condom and protect your health, then she or he probably isn't worth your time. As 18-year-old Ari says, "If your partner turns condom use into a trust issue instead of a health issue, why would you want to have sex with that person anyway?"
- Be positive! Many people find sex more enjoyable when they're protected because they don't have to worry about pregnancy and infections. It's called peace of mind!
You may also want to practice what you are going to say to your
partner. Here are some suggestions:
If Your Partner Says: Baby, you can trust me.
You Can Say: Trust has nothing to do with it. One of us could have a sexually transmitted infection and not even know it. We need to use protection. Every time. Even with trust!
If Your Partner Says: I thought you loved me...
You Can Say: I do love you. What's love got to do with it? Neither of us should have to "prove our love" by not using protection. Love is about respect. And staying safe. I love you. That's why I want us to both be safe.
And most importantly...
If Your Partner Says: I'm not wearing a condom... and
that is the end of this discussion.
You Can Say: Well, then I guess sex is going to have to wait... and that is the end of this discussion! I'm all about Living Up. And staying safe. We use a condom each and every time.
Talking about condom use is easier if you are in a healthy relationship that makes you feel good about yourself. But no matter what, it's very important to communicate with partners about condoms. It's all about protecting your health!
If you have not often used condoms in the past, but you remain sexually active, it's a great idea to start using them correctly from now on. It's never too late to protect yourself and your partner.