Pre-Sex Talking Tips

Published November 18, 2008

Whether you choose to have sex or not, it is important to be able to talk about it with your partner. Having direct conversations about sex can be uncomfortable but it does get easier if you are confident about your facts and express openly how you feel.  Nothing is better than the sense of relief you’ll feel when you and your partner make decisions together about sex and how to protect yourselves from STDs, including HIV, and unintended pregnancy.  So, take some time to get informed (this website can help) and to think through what feels comfortable for you sexually. 

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It may be helpful to talk these decisions over with a close friend, parent or other trusted advisor before you talk to your partner.  When you are clear about your own feelings, it will be easier to communicate them to someone else.

Getting Started

Don’t wait for your partner to start the conversation, take charge.  After all this Is Your (Sex) Life.  Keep in mind that by talking about it you are showing that you care enough about each other to protect each other.  Chances are, your partner will appreciate your truthfulness and reciprocate, and this kind of openness and honesty may even strengthen your bond.

Having a conversation about sex and protection shouldn’t be negotiable. If you try to have a conversation about sex and your partner doesn’t want to talk, you need to think about whether you want to be in a relationship with someone you can’t talk to. 

Here are some tips that experts suggest for getting started:

  • Choose a time and place for your talk that is relaxed and comfortable, before you are intimate (that means before you take your clothes off!).
  • Start off on a positive note.  Let your partner know that you really care about him or her and that’s why you want to talk.
  • Be up front and direct about your feelings and what you feel comfortable doing now.  If you are feeling a little embarrassed or shy, take heart - most people feel that way in this kind of situation, so don’t let that hold you back. 
  • If both of you decide you want to have a sexual relationship, start off by getting tested together.  [LINK TO: www.hivtest.org].  You should also discuss with your health care provider what STDs you should be screened for.
  • If you know you have an STD, or find out after you’ve been tested (you would each be given your results privately so it’s still up to you to let your partner know), start by letting him or her you found out you have an STD and want to let him or her know.  For more talking tips about how to let a partner know you have an STD, see section below entitled “I have an STD…”  Be prepared.  Make a decision about what kind of protection you are going to use and get it…ahead of time.  Condoms are your best bet to prevent against BOTH pregnancy and STDs, including HIV.  
  • If at anytime, you change your mind it’s always okay to hold off.  If one of you has an STD, it is important to be honest at the start – both for your partner’s well-being as well as yours.  Having an STD doesn’t mean you can’t have a relationship, just that you may need to take precautions.  Talking with a health care provider can help, and remember that some people may not be able to tell you if they have an STD – because they may not even know it – so getting tested together is a good first step, before having any kind of sexual relationship.

“I have an STD…”

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As hard as it may be to talk about it, if you have an STD, it’s important to be honest.  Not only will it help you take the right precautions to protect your partner – but yourself as well.  If you do have an STD, getting another infection can cause further health complications.  Chances are, your partner will appreciate your truthfulness and reciprocate, and such honesty can strengthen a relationship – it shows you respect and care for one another.

Keep it simple and stick to the facts.  You can offer your partner information about the health effects, status of your treatment and how you can protect each other.  Sometimes it is helpful to have informational materials at the ready, maybe a printed brochure or referrals to other resources such as this website or hotline (1-866-RAP-IT-UP-).

Let your partner know that STDs are very common, and many people who have one don’t know it.  By knowing your status and being honest, you and your partner will be better able to protect yourselves.

 Having an STD doesn’t mean you can’t have a sexual relationship without passing the infection on to others.  Suggest that you go together to see a health care provider (LINK TO: www.hivtest.org) and talk about options.  

This conversation may stir up a lot of emotions, but try to think of it as simply sharing vital information.  Give your partner some time and space to digest the news.  After all, it probably took you a while to adjust when you first found out.  With time, most people take the news pretty well and don’t let it stand in the way of the relationship.  And, if they don’t take it well, it’s better to find out now before the relationship goes too far.

“I want to get tested …”

The best thing to do is to see a health care provider.  He or she can discuss any specific concerns with you, and help you decide what tests you should get.  If you are not comfortable talking to your regular doctor, or I you don’t have on, there are many health clinics that offer good information and testing. 

Asking for STD and HIV testing is as simple – but you do need to ask.  The only way to know for sure if you did get tested is to ask.  Think of it as one more way you are taking care of your health, like you might ask for a blood pressure check.  Testing for STDs, including HIV, should be a standard part of health care for anyone who is sexually active, so asking for the test is not a sign that you have done something wrong, rather, it’s a sign you are doing something right.

“I want to use condoms …”
 
If you decide to have sex, you’ll want to talk about how you are going to protect yourselves from STDs and unwanted pregnancy, and condoms are the only option that protects against both at the same time.  Starting the conversation about condoms may feel uncomfortable at first, but chances are, your partner will also be glad, relieved even, that you brought it up.  In fact, a national survey found that the vast majority of young people would feel respected and cared for if a partner suggested using a condom.  Of course, it’s possible that your partner might not agree to wear a condom right away, and in that case you need to decide whether having sex with this person is worth the risk they are asking you to take.   

As with all conversations about sex, it will help to start the condom talk before you are in ‘the heat of the moment.’  That way, you will both clear on what you are going to do, and you will have time to make sure the condoms are available when you need them.  Condoms are for sale at drug stores, as well as at many convenience and grocery stores, and are also often available for free at health clinics. 

How to say it: Here are some ideas about how to talk to a partner who has concerns about using condoms.

If Your Partner Says: Baby, you can trust me.
You Can Say:   I trust that you care enough about me to want to keep us both safe.  Using condoms is the best way to do that.

If Your Partner Says: I thought you loved me...
You Can Say: I love you enough to make sure that we are protected. Neither of us should have to "prove our love" by not using protection. Love is about respect. And staying safe. I love you. That's why I want us to both be safe.

If Your Partner Says: I'm not wearing a condom... and that is the end of this discussion.
You Can Say: Well, then I guess sex is going to have to wait. Condoms are not negotiable for me.  I'm all about protection and staying safe. We have to use a condom each and every time. And that is the end of this discussion!

 

 


 

Written by BET-Staff

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