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How to Talk About Sex with Your Partner

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Open up about sex to set boundaries, be safe and respect your partner.

For some, talking about sex with a partner can be hard. Whether you’re revisiting your sexual history or even just sharing your preferences, those conversations aren’t for everyone.

While this may be, it’s important to talk about these things with your partner – and there is no shame in that! Understanding what you like and don’t like is extremely important to sharing a safe relationship that makes you both happy.

Equally as important is sharing your sexual history. This doesn’t mean you have to give your partner details about every sexual encounter you’ve ever had (unless you want to). It simply means you should be honest about any sexually transmitted infections (STIs) you may have had (or currently have).

How to Talk About STIs

Having the talk about STIs may seem strange at first but doing so will prove to your partner how much you care about their health.

Here are some ways to start talking to your partner about STIs:

  • Have you had any STIs before? Which ones? Did you get them treated?
  • When was the last time you were tested for STIs?
  • Which STIs were you tested for?
  • Have you ever shared needles with someone for tattoos, piercings or drugs?

*Some STIs can be passed through shared needles

If you have been diagnosed with an STI, it is important to tell your partner. Having an STI doesn’t mean you can never have sex. Rather, it means you need to have an open and honest conversation and ensure you’re using internal and external condoms.

The more positive, honest and straightforward you can be, the more positively your partner will listen to what you have to say. Before telling your partner, get as much information as you can about your STI(s) including transmission, prevention, treatment and the actual physical impact of the infection.

Be sure to let your partner know that all STIs are treatable and most are even curable. Also be sure to stay open to any questions your partner asks and do your best to answer them honestly and calmly.

Remember: this is news to your partner, and it might take them time to accept what you have to say.

If you or your partner are unsure about having an STI or would feel more comfortable knowing for sure that neither of you has one, get tested together! Being tested together is a great way to show that you care about each other’s health.

How to Talk About Your Family Planning Goals

Before having sex, make sure you and your partner are on the same page about your family planning goals.

To start that conversation with your partner, ask:

  • Do you want to have children now or in the future?
  • What birth control methods do you use?
  • Do you usually use condoms and/or dental dams?
  • Which birth control method makes sense for us?

If you and your partner decide you’re not ready to have kids, take a look at the different contraceptives that may be best for you and your relationship.

How to Talk About Consent

Doing things outside of your comfort zone in everyday life can be a healthy thing, but when it comes to sex it isn’t the same deal. You know yourself best and usually, if you think don’t like something sexual, you’re right.

This isn’t to say trying new things on occasion with a partner is something you should avoid. Exploring those areas can be a valuable part of your sexuality! But remember to do so with a mutual understanding of boundaries and consent.

Also remember that you have the right to say no to any kind of sexual activity that you’re not interested in. Don’t depend on body language to say that you’re not interested. Being physically able to give consent is crucial as well, which means you’re not drunk or high beyond the point of consenting.

If you don’t want to do something, say no. It does not matter if you’ve had sex with them before, or what your reason is for not wanting to do it – no means no.

You also have the right to change your mind during sex. Maybe you started having sex and then decided you’re not comfortable or something it doesn’t feel right. You can stop any time you want, and your partner shouldn’t make you feel bad or guilty about it. If they do, it may be a sign that your relationship is unhealthy.

Talk to your partner about sexual consent before having sex each and every time. Sexual consent means saying “yes” – and meaning it. Without that “yes,” there is no consent.

Learn more about how you can #KeepRelationshipsReal by talking with a local healthcare provider.