Talking about your sexual health and history with a new partner (or potential partner) can be extremely awkward–but it is necessary. In a society where dating apps are commonplace and sex positivity is becoming the norm, it’s important to have the hard conversation before sliding between the sheets. Think of it this way, which scenario sounds more traumatizing: prioritizing the talk, or waking up in the morning with a surprise STD?
Here are few tips on how you can disclose your sexual health and STD testing history with your future partners, and helpful advice about how you can put your health first and foremost when venturing into this brave new world:
Set the Tone
From the very start, let your partner know that this is a serious conversation and that you want them to be just as honest with you as you are being with them. Stay calm, even if you’re nervous about what you’re going to reveal about yourself, or if your partner reveals something you weren’t expecting. If you’re surprised or disappointed, don’t discourage your partner. Be there for them. It’s a difficult task to have, and you would expect the same courtesy.
Remember: It’s always better to be with someone who is honest and upfront about their past, than someone who is being too vague, or simply disinterested in having a serious conversation.
Don’t be afraid to put it all on the table. If you and your partner are comfortable talking about past relationships, how many partners you’ve each had, sexual preferences, etc., go for it. If one, or both of you, are not comfortable getting into specifics, choose together to keep the conversation strictly health-centered. Either way, by having this conversation sooner, rather than later, you’re both being responsible adults, and that’s what’s important.
If you’re nervous or ashamed about something from your past, don’t hide it. Swallow your fear and talk about it like adults. For instance, it’s always important to be honest about past and present STDs. Even if you had an STD a few years back and things have since cleared up, your new partner still has a right to know. An open conversation goes both ways, and if you expect honesty about your partner’s sexual health and history, you should be transparent about your own.
Be Ready for Anything
You should never go into a conversation expecting to get a negative reaction out of your potential partner. However, you should always prepare yourself for multiple outcomes, just in case the conversation goes south.
Having the talk can stir up a number of painful feelings, from jealousy and hurt, to depression and embarrassment–and not just from your partner, but from yourself, as well. Talking about sex can be scary, especially when you’re having the conversation with someone you really care about. Be ready for anything, and remember to stay calm and encouraging.
If They Respond Negatively, Take the High Road
When talking about your sexual health and history, there’s a chance that one of you will learn something you wish you hadn’t dug up–but in all honesty, it’s for the best. Having this talk is about staying safe, and finding out the truth about who you’re going to be spending your private time with.
You may find out your new beau had a fling with your best friend a few months back, or that your long-time partner cheated on you (remember, it’s important to communicate openly, not just at the beginning of a budding relationship, but throughout a long-term relationship as well). Some partners may even belittle you for what they find out, and while it will hurt in the moment, it’s best to weed those potentials out before getting serious.
If you’re both still interested in moving forward, talk about getting screened. STD testing is extremely important in a new relationship, and it’s a way to prove that you’re committed to joint safety. If you’ve already been tested recently, talk to your partner about what you’ve been tested for, when your last screening took place, if you’ve had any hook-ups post screen, etc.
Be aware, however, that not all tests screen for everything–you have to specifically request certain tests from your doctor when you visit.
If you prefer that your partner gets screened again, or get tested for something specific, don’t be afraid to ask it of them. If they refuse to go the extra mile for your health and well-being (or even peace of mind!), they weren’t worth it anyway.