Rationally, you know having a talk about STDs is no big deal and really important to your relationship (not to mention your health). But emotionally, you might need some guidance on how to talk about STD history with a new partner. There are several things that contribute to the unwarranted, but totally understandable stigma to this conversation. For one, no one like hearing about a new partner's exes. Especially if those exes left them with some baggage that requires health care.
But, there really isn't any alternative. Being honest about your sexual health is a responsible adult way to act in a relationship, and, by now you've read a million relationship articles about how communication is vital to healthy relationships. I hate terms like "fessing up" or "coming clean" in regards to STDs, because those phrases only add to the notion that having an STD makes you damaged goods (and, BTW, you're not.) While no one desires an STD, it's not the end of the road for the relationship if you or your partner have one. In fact, I know couples who have grown stronger when one person admitted having an STD. Why? Because it opened up dialogue and built the foundations for trust. While you can hope that by disclosing your sexual health your partner in turn will be honest with you as well, sadly, there are no guarantees. But there are ways to talk about STD histories that will help you navigate this part of your relationship.
1. Talk Before You Get Intimate
There's no time like the present. Licensed sex therapist and sexuality educator Sandra L. Caron told Everyday Health that people should brooch the topic before becoming intimate. “That conversation needs to happen long before we end up in the bedroom," she said.
2. E-mail Them Anonymously, If You're Nervous
While this isn't talking, it's a form of communication that allows super shy people to do the sexually responsible thing, without having an IRL conversation... yet. Thanks to a nonprofit organization called So They Can Know, you can send an anonymous e-mail and check a box indicating which STD your partner should be tested for. Chances are, when your partner opens his or her inbox, you'll probably have to have the talk.
2. Get All The Facts Before Telling Your Partner
So They Can Know, comprised of a board of sexual health innovators, advised people who have an STD to get all the information about the infection or disease before speaking with their partner. There are a lot of myths about STDs, so figuring out fact from fiction will help you have a productive conversation.
3. Think About What To Say
Bloggers Em & Lo told New York that the STD talk is cakewalk. Here's how it's done:
Em: I’ve got oral herpes. Big whoop. Lo: I’ve got HPV. BFD.
But in all seriousness, don't try to sugarcoat the topic. Keep it straight forward and simple, and be prepared to answer any and all questions your partner may have.
4. Keep Calm
Remaining calm is easier said than done. But when having this talk, the board of advisors at So They Can Know underscored how important it is to remain calm as you have the talk. If you're the one disclosing this is important. If you're the one receiving the information, this advice applies to you as well.
5. Practice What You'll Say First
Role play with a friend so you have a sense of how the words will come out of your mouth. This is my rule of thumb for talking about things that I'm emotionally invested in.
6. Use Relaxed Body Language
So They Can Know offered people this tip as well, because body language conveys so much of how people feel about personal issues, like health and sex. If you tense up, your partner is going to read that energy as something to be nervous about. But feel free to use a cat and some yoga to help break the ice.
7. If You Have An STD, Expect Your Partner To Understand
There are a lot of theories that people usually react how you expect them to, according to the Huffington Post. So, why not expect the best reaction from your partner? It can't hurt.
8. If Your Partner Informs You He Or She Has An STD, Know Your Limits
Above all, you have to respect your body and yourself. So, if you're not comfortable having sex with someone who has an STD, that doesn't make you a "nervous Nelly," or narrow-minded. It's just who you are, and that's totally OK.
9. Make Sure It Happens
I know you know why you need to have the talk, but let me remind you of some stats. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are on the rise for the first time since 2006, according to a 2014 survey. The CDC report claimed that, "STDs continue to affect young people." So, if that population includes you, know that you're at risk for an STD, and it's your job to protect yourself.
Have the conversation in the light of day, shame and embarrassment free, and then go on and enjoy the fruits of being honest. And by fruits I mean have some safe sex.