The topic of sexual health in a relationship is a tough one to breach. Who initiates the conversation and exactly how does the conversation take place without seeming confrontational or accusatory? Personally, I feel a few ways about sex, sexual health and your relationship with your partner: First and foremost, no one should have sex with someone they do not trust. This is probably the biggest and most pertinent point that you will read in this post. Just about every serious issue that we have in our community pertaining to sexual health is predicated off a lack of trust or a breach of trust. Let’s make sure that we start with “trust” being the most important factor in a relationship that involves sex.
The reason why I bring “trust” up very early in this article is because I don’t agree with a few ways people approach this conversation because they are confrontational and accusatory in nature. I think it’s really healthy for couples to go and get tested together. I think that outside of a marriage, a conversation between a patient and doctor should stay between the patient and doctor. Do I think it’s okay for a partner to withhold information about their sexual health from their partner? Not if it affects their partner’s sex life and relationship. However, the notion that one would request to be in the room or have access to the paperwork of the results just sounds like you don’t trust the person.
Obvious response: “You never know, people lie.”
My response: Why would you have sex with a person that you think is lying to you about their sexual health and status?
I’m really up front with the people I have sex with – I get tested once a year during my annual physical or checkup with my doctor and also after each partner I have. It’s out of habit and it’s the decision I’ve made to take precautions about my health. I’m always very aware of my status too. Trust me there is no YOLO in my sexual history. If someone didn’t believe me or wanted me to prove to them that I was telling them the truth in a court of law, I would probably back off. I have always believed that people’s insecurities are deeply rooted in what they would do in similar circumstances.
Moving on from the topic of trust and exactly how the conversation should go, let’s talk about when to bring this topic up. I don’t think “so let’s get tested” is first date material in any way. I understand this issue may have been a serious problem in a past relationship, but it’s definitely not a convo you rush into. I think the conversation should happen before you have sex, but let’s be honest, many of our first sexual encounters will begin with just the assurance of a condom. In that case, I would urge that you have that conversation as soon as possible.
I assume the most touchy and uncomfortable conversation is how you should handle a conversation about an STD that you may have had in the past or one that you may currently have, and honestly, I’m not sure what the best answer is here. I can only tell you that from my experience it’s helped if someone was up front with me, rather than me finding out later. Personally, if you had an STD in your past and were treated, that’s your business. In this world, we have to understand that everyone makes mistakes and everyone has unfortunate things happen to them. If you are currently being treated for an STD or have an STD that you can’t cure with treatment, I think you should definitely be the one to initiate the conversation. All relationships operate best under the premise of “tell me, don’t let me find out.”
If you happen to be on the other side of the coin, don’t overreact to someone telling you they have an STD. You have to understand that it takes a lot of courage for someone to come forward with that information. Also, if they are telling you this it’s obvious they care about you and hope to have a future with you. Take the time to hear the person out, take time to think things through, and make a firm decision. If you have questions, that’s fine. If their disease is something that you can’t see yourself being able to deal with, that’s fine as well. No one should make you feel like you’re a bad person just because you don’t think their baggage is something that you can handle.
The topic of sexual health and status can be a tough one to have with your partner or anyone. If you meet the conversation head on, you’ll be just fine. If you peck around the issue or avoid it, then you’re going to run into a problem or roadblock at some point. Remain calm, understand that this conversation is built around two pillars of your relationship — trust and sex — and be proactive about what comes out of the comversation. When all those things coincide with one another, you’ll realize it’s really not a tough discussion at all, it’s a productive conversation where potentially uncomfortable topics are raised and ultimately settled.
Dr. J is a writer for the men’s blog Single Black Male. Dr. J’s inspiration and motivation for writing comes from a desire to provide real and honest advice to all. His approach is no nonsense and rarely sugarcoated. Follow him on twitter @DrJayJack.