You and your partner have decided to have sex. You know you should talk about sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs) before the action starts, but the thought of having "the
talk" makes you completely nervous.
A few super-confident people don't have any trouble bringing up the topic of STDs
with their partners. But if you're one of the many people who blush at the idea, welcome
to STD Talk 101.
Before You Talk
First, know the facts. It can make it easier to talk if you think
of STDs as a medical problem —
with serious health consequences. Channel your inner med student and learn everything
there is to know about STDs. Knowing the facts gives you confidence and helps you
to answer your partner's questions later on. Use a reliable source for your search,
like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Know what you want from the conversation. You can't tell if people
have STDs by looking or knowing their relationship history. So you'll want to make
it clear that both of you need to get tested before you start having sex. You'll also
want to be sure that your partner is in agreement about using condoms. Ask if your
partner has ever had an STD that he or she knows about. And if you have an STD, you'll
need to tell your partner
before you have sex.
If you think it will be hard to talk, figure out why. Are you
just embarrassed or shy? Or is it something more? Some people worry that partners
will assume talking about STDs means they have an STD. Other people may believe
that a partner will reject them. The things that can make it hard to talk also offer
insight into your relationship. For example, people who would rather break up than
wear a condom don't have much respect for you or themselves.
Thinking about your concerns helps you prepare. If you're shy, for example, putting
your thoughts in writing and sending them to your partner might be easier for you.
Plan what to say. Difficult conversations benefit from good planning.
You can't script your conversation word for word, but you can prepare by writing down
the most important points so you don't miss anything. Bring your notes with you in
case you forget what you wanted to say. You also can prepare by looking up nearby
places to get tested, such as your doctor's office or an STD clinic.
Pick a good time to talk. Find a quiet space where you can chat
without being interrupted. Don't wait until you're about to have sex — this
conversation is easier to have with your clothes on. Plus, talking about STDs in the
heat of things can lead people to make decisions they might regret later.
Start the conversation (someone has to do it!). Bring up the topic
in a matter-of-fact way. You could start by saying something like, "We've talked about
having sex and I think I'm ready. I want to be able to relax and enjoy it, and I won't
unless I know we're protected against STDs."
See how your partner responds. After you introduce the topic,
pause to hear what your partner says. (If there's no response, be direct and ask what
he/she thinks.) This lets you figure out if you guys are in agreement about things
— and if you're not, you can talk about it more. If your partner won't use condoms,
for example, you can respond with reasons
why you won't have sex without one. If you both agree on condom use, you can go on
the next issue — getting tested.
Say you'd like to go together to get tested. Tell your partner
about the options you found for where to go.
Listen to your partner's point of view. Being a good listener
shows respect and sets the tone for the conversation. Listening also gives you clues
to what your partner thinks. What at first might seem like a resistance to getting
tested for STDs could turn out to be a worry over what it might cost.
Be calm and present your case in a factual way. Taking a "just
the facts" approach can help you avoid sounding like you're judging or accusing.
It's normal to be nervous when you first start talking about something like STDs.
But even if you're flustered at first, you'll get past your nerves the more you talk
and listen. If you want to feel more comfortable talking about STDs, make an appointment
with your doctor before you talk to your partner. Not only will this let you practice
having a conversation, your doc also can help you come up with things to say and give
you advice on how to get tested.
Having the STD conversation can be awkward at first, but it's a lot less uncomfortable
than discovering you have an STD after you have sex — or finding out that you
gave one to your partner. It's also a great way to learn more about your partner and
your relationship: Is your partner willing to talk about this? Does he or she respect
your wishes? Does your partner try to make the conversation easier (by really listening,
reacting, and understanding) or harder (by shutting down, acting defensive, or making
fun of you)? The right conversation with the right partner can help you feel closer