When it comes to relationships, communication is key. However, we sometimes allow this communication to stop when it comes to sex – leaving too much room for unanswered questions and unvoiced concerns. From consent to contraceptive options to sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention, communication plays a vital role in maintaining our sexual health. Conversations about protecting ourselves can get lost in the heat of the moment or shied away from because of embarrassment or fear of a negative reaction from our partner. No matter our reasoning for avoiding these necessary conversations, it’s time that we build that bridge.
Talking about STIs is never fun, but it is absolutely critical if we want to have healthy sexual relationships. It’s never too late to talk to your partner about this important issue. Whether you’ve been dating for months, have been sexually involved for years, or are just now starting to talk about sex, your partner’s STI status is relevant to your relationship and personal health. You might be wondering: How am I supposed to ask my partner about their sexual history? How do I ask them to get tested for STIs without coming off as pushy or untrustworthy? These are tough questions to face, but when we break them down, they become much easier to manage.
The first aspect in ensuring that our partners are STI-free is knowing and understanding their sexual history: their previous partners, their knowledge of their past partners’ histories, and types of contraceptives that they may or may not have used. Your partner may be reluctant to share their past with you. They may be embarrassed about certain aspects of their sexual history, but it’s important to remind them that you’re asking tough questions to make sure that you’re both healthy and ready to engage in sexual activity. If your partner is unsure of any of their previous partners’ STI statuses, then they have no way of knowing if they have contracted an infection! Remember: condoms and dental dams are the only contraceptive methods that can reduce your risk of contracting an STI, and neither are 100% effective! So, regardless of the contraceptives that they have used in the past, there is still a chance that they are not STI-free if they are unsure of the status of their previous partners.
At this point in your conversation, you may have discovered that your partner’s STI status is uncertain. To protect yourself, it’s important that your partner is tested for STIs before you begin or continue your sexual relationship. This, in my opinion, is the hardest part of the conversation, but it can be done in a way that reaches your goals and respects your partner. First, admit to your partner that you are unsure of their status. Explain to them that, although they may have no visible symptoms of an infection, there is no way for either of you to know for sure until they are tested. Next, you should ask them to go with you and get tested. You don’t have to say this in a mean or demeaning way to get your point across. You could even make it into a bonding activity by suggesting that you both could get tested together!
Wanting to ask your partner about their history and current STI status does not mean that you’re bossy or don’t trust them. In fact, worrying about your partner’s sexual health shows that you respect them enough to be concerned about their physical wellness. Having your partner get tested isn’t just about protecting
yourself; it’s about making sure that your partner is healthy and, in turn, ensuring the health of your relationship.
Don’t be scared to start the conversation! It’s never too late to be sure.