Yesterday’s post talked about sexually transmitted diseases and risks for those of us in the second half of life. Today we’re looking at how to talk to your partner about these risks.
You’ve met the right person… for a long-term relationship or just a fun sexual experience. Do you just jump into bed? Only if you’re using condoms or dental dams. Condoms are useful for birth control, but more importantly a condom can reduce the risks of transmission of diseases. And, even that isn’t 100%. You need to think about what level of risk you’re willing to engage in and ultimately what you want from this relationship. If it’s just a fling and condoms are acceptable to both of you then go for it. It’s a good compromise until you’ve had a chance to talk about testing. Just remember that infections can be transmitted through oral, vaginal, and anal sex; safe sex precautions apply to all of these.
The problem with condoms is that you won’t know what a sex partner is willing to do until you’re right there on the edge of the bed and that’s a challenging time to discuss the topic of protection and possible STDs. And, condoms do not provide 100% protection from some STI/STDs. While it may not be too sexy or spontaneous, make it a point to talk about sex, in a neutral setting, well before the actual event is to occur. Actually, having a direct talk about testing can be woven into a longer conversation about sex in a very sensuous way. Talking about sexual desires and what you envision for an upcoming engagement could be a real turn-on. It lets your new partner know you’re interested and that your testing request is just a natural part of responsible sex. You can get wild and dump the ‘responsible’ part after you’ve both had your tests.
If you’re unsure of what are to say, I’ve put together a few suggestions:
- I know you value your health as much as I do and I want to assure you that I’m disease free. I’d be willing to go have tests. How about you?
- I see my gynecologist in a few days, I thought I’d ask to be tested for STDs and HIV.
- I read this article recently about the rise in STDs. What do you think?
- I value openness in a relationship so I want to be upfront with you with my concerns about sexually transmitted infections. Let’s talk about this.
- My house or yours? Shall I bring condoms?
- I’m looking forward to exploring sex with you and I want to make sure we are both aware of all the issues and can plan accordingly to have safe, fun sex!
These are just a few possible openers for the conversation. You value your health and you know that no one else can take responsibility for protecting you. This is the time to be more assertive than you might normally be. He’ll either appreciate your openness and willingness to protect the both of you or not. If he balks or refuses then ultimately he’s not the kind of man you’d really want to be in relationship with. I refer to “he” but remember that even in same sex relationships the risk for infections exists, thought the rates are likely to be lower.
You’re likely to hear comments like, “I’ve been monogamous up until now” or “people like us don’t get STDs”, “I’m not that kind of person, I’ve never been to a prostitute” and “I guess you don’t trust me when I say I’m clean?” It’s not a trust issue as much as it is a health care issue. Though you don’t know this person well enough yet to fully know how truthful he or she might be. Your new partner may have been monogamous and faithful but what about the last partner?
The tests are not particularly difficult or expensive and can often be covered under health plans. It’s a simple blood test, combined with any routine bloodwork you would normally get at the doctor’s office. If having this test on your medical record makes either of you uncomfortable then go to a public health clinic or Planned Parenthood where there is more anonymity. Drive to the next county. Be creative. This is a case of what you don’t know CAN hurt you.