As we approach National STD Awareness Month in April, it's important to address what for many people can be a hugely anxiety-provoking conversation: speaking to their partner about sexually-transmitted diseases. Let's say you meet someone, are getting to know the person, and intimacy is starting to develop. How do you have that awkwardly dreadful talk?
Before having such a talk, you must first deal with your own issues around the topic. Make your health a top priority as you get to know someone. Not doing so could lead to guilt or fear, or both... while doing so doesn't take away from the relationship nor does it mean you're no fun, uptight, or boring. It means you care about your health and your partner's and are serious about developing a healthy relationship.
If you don't have an STD, then suggest to your partner that you both get tested to provide peace of mind. If you have an STD, then of course this conversation becomes even more important. See the STD for what it is and not what you imagine it to be. You're not wearing a scarlet letter and advertising it to the world. Nor does it define you. It's an illness that in most cases can be treated and managed, and you can prevent the spread of it by taking certain precautions and measures. Before talking to your partner, educate yourself fully on the STD. Use a reputable source such as your doctor or reliable medical resource online. Be careful of online chat forums that might only instill more fear and anxiety in you by perpetuating false claims and information. Stick to the facts and what is supported by the medical community.
If you have an STD and when you are ready to talk to your partner, follow these tips:
- Have the conversation in person when you're both feeling relaxed and distraction-free. Don't have it in the throes of passion because of obvious distractions. Also, when you do talk, make sure you're both free of phones, TV, and other gadgets that might be a distraction.
- Start by stating something positive about the relationship. For example, "I'm really enjoying getting to know you and like where our relationship is headed," rather than saying, "I have really bad news." Then say something like this: "Before we take this to the next level we need to talk about safe sex. I bring this up because I have and STD and you need to know and we need to talk about how to be safe."
- Be completely honest and show understanding. Any attempt to downplay what you're dealing with or sugarcoat might take away from the seriousness of it. Further, providing only half the information isn't fair to your partner or you. Anticipate how your partner might react and be empathetic.
- Be calm. How you deliver the information can have a huge impact on how your partner reacts so do your best to remain composed.
- Don't jump to conclusions. Thinking, "This is over" or "I'll never be able to have a relationship" is based on fear rather than in fact. Keep your anxious mind in check by sticking to what you know to be true. Negative thinking and jumping to conclusions will only make this an even more difficult conversation and could lead to eventual problems in the relationship.
- Avoid using dramatic language. Words such as "terrible, horrible, awful" when describing the STD will only make it seem worse than it is and lead to increased anxiety.
- Give the facts. Tell him or her how long you've had it, how you manage it, and symptoms.
- Be open-minded. Show your concern and be open to ways for making the relationship work. So often people might be quick to throw the relationship away and unwilling to explore ways to be safe.
- Invite questions. No doubt, your partner will have some. Even if none is asked at the time, at some point he or she will have some so encourage them now.
For more tips on how to face difficult situations check out my book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days.