Photo Credit: Nicholas Eveleigh/The Image Bank/Getty Images
The beginning of a relationship is an exciting time -- you get butterflies in your stomach when he walks in the room, you go on bona fide dates and making out with him feels divine. But before half your clothes are off and you’re lying on his bed, you should talk about the current state of your sexual health.
Sex is best when it's worry free, so discuss birth control, STDs (past, present and what you may have been exposed to) and even what you like in bed. If an ex-partner was abusive or jealous and might be a danger to you and your new partner, you should share that information as well.
If your guy is shy in the beginning of the conversation, start by volunteering something like, “I’ve been lucky that I haven’t regretted any past relationships. What about you?” Or, “Have you ever had sex in a public place?"
Should you reveal your number?
Your new lover doesn’t need to know everything. Revealing specifics, like the length of past romances or exactly how many people you've slept with is optional.
Talking about the number of lovers you or your partner have had can become fraught with differing definitions of promiscuity. While your past experiences are part of your sexuality today, "your number" doesn’t define you. It's your health that's the focus. If your mate is obsessed with how many people you’ve slept with, it's probably more a sign of his insecurity than his desire to get to you know you. If that’s the case, ask yourself, do I really want to have sex with guy? (The same goes for you -- if you’re obsessed with his number, take a look your own insecurities).
Talk about STDs
Talking about sexually transmitted diseases is uncomfortable but necessary. And the best time to have this conversation is before you get in bed. Start by telling him your history, including the last time you were tested for STDs and HIV and whether you've always used a condom. Ask him if he’s been tested, including when and what the results were. If he won’t share details, you probably shouldn't pursue the relationship.
If you’re the one with the STD, you should prepare yourself for the chance that your new partner may choose to end the relationship or at least want more information. In a confident and matter of fact voice, explain the condition and how it’s treated -- was it already treated and now gone or is treatment ongoing? Ask your partner if he has any questions and let him know you’ll understand if he wants time to digest the information before moving ahead. You aren't obliged to reveal who gave you the STD or how you got it -- that's private information.
If your partner has an STD and you’re not familiar with it, you’re entitled to ask questions. If he brushes off your questions or tells you not to worry, you should reconsider having sex with him. His dismissiveness could be a sign that he’s an irresponsible or untrustworthy partner. If he is upfront and honest and encourages you to ask questions, he’s showing you the respect you deserve.
Now, talk about birth control
When things are getting hot and heavy between the two of you, you need to talk birth control. If you’re on the pill, you can tell him (or not) but being on the pill only protects you from getting pregnant, not from STDs. Our advice: Insist on condoms. Until either of you have been tested for HIV 6 months after your last lovers, neither of you can be 100-percent sure you haven't contracted the disease.
Until you’ve both had a clean bill of health with each other, use condoms (carry some in your purse for the unexpected). If he scrunches his nose or rolls his eyes or complains that condoms aren’t his thing, consider ending the date there. He’s probably more interested in his own pleasure than your health.
Sari Cooper, L.C.S.W. is a couples psychotherapist and certified sex therapist and in New York City