How can I Talk to my Partner About STIs?
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How can I talk to my partner about STIs? Can you give me some advice?
All About Communication
Ah, "the talk." Well, let me tell you now, the first time having that conversation will be awkward as fuck. No matter how prepared you are, it will be awkward. And that is okay, own the awkwardness! Because you know, and I’m telling you, you are doing the right and proactive thing.
How people approach this conversation is different from person to person. For me, I like to schedule time to have that conversation between me and my sexual partner. This way neither one of us will be distracted and can be present in the moment. I also request that my partner and I get tested and talk about scheduling the test. I feel that this neutralizes the situation and nobody is putting blame, stigma, or shame on to the other.
My past partners, whom I reached out to to get their feedback, claim that they felt supported and their boundaries were also being respected, just like mine were. This also gave the opportunity for my partner to tell me if they are living with an STI and the additional opportunity to discuss it with me, if need be. And with the natural flow of the conversation, my partner and I would discuss contraceptive uses.
That is how I approach the subject, but what I’m going to tell you is universal for everyone:
(1) educate yourself on STIs and remove the stigma/beliefs that have been pressed upon you
(2) learn what your deal breakers are (boundaries) and learn to self advocate for your sexual health.
So, to recap: schedule a time for you and your partner and tell them you want to discuss your sexual health, your expectations in a sexual relationship, and your current STI status. If they try to discuss it right, politely ask them to wait to such-and-such day when you are together to discuss everything. If you need to, write down reminders in a notebook or on your phone so you don’t forget anything. Go into this conversation with empathy and the willingness to listen. Check your ego at the door. If your partner responds with anger or any other negative emotion, get up and walk away. Never compromise your health for sex. And go find a new partner and keep having that conversation. It will get easier and you will learn who deserves you in their life.
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BETHANY KILLEN - RESIDENT ADVICE COLUMNIST & SEX THERAPIST
Bethany Killen (she/her), whose time spent finding ways to navigate through her own personal struggles led her to pursue a career in social work.