Starting a new relationship is hugely exciting; you have a new partner to explore, and most people struggle to keep their hands off each other during these early stages!
There are some things to consider during this early phase of a new sexual relationship, which can be quite difficult to broach with your new partner; issues of sexual health and contraception.
This is an awkward topic to approach with a new girlfriend/boyfriend, because it can feel like you’re implying something negative about them, or that you don’t trust them. The first thing to realise is that they’re probably thinking exactly the same thing you are, and are feeling just as wary about talking it over with you (and if they aren’t then you have to question how safe they’ve been with their previous partners)!
I’ve found that honesty is the best way to bring up sexual health testing with your partner.
The consequences of ignoring the issue are much worse than an uncomfortable conversation. Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, fungal infections, crabs, hepatitis, herpes, syphilis, HIV and many other diseases are all contracted through unprotected sex. And you can have a sexually acquired infection without exhibiting any symptoms, so you’d never know until it was too late.
So exactly how do you approach such a delicate subject with the new person in your life without scaring them off, or making them feel like you’re insulting them?
I’ve heard of various methods of initiating the conversation; such as subtle hints like leaving magazine or newspaper articles with sexual health information lying around, or by talking about a friend who’s just been tested. I’ve also been told of someone who forthrightly said “You don’t know where I’ve been, so this weekend I think we should both get tested”!
There are more drastic measures that some people take; I know of one colleague who refused to have sex with her boyfriend (who had a phobia of doctors and medical testing) until he agreed to get tested! His lust eventually won-out over his fears, and they’re still together today!
Ideally if you’re already having sex, you’ll be using condoms to protect against STDs and guard against pregnancy. But we all know that condoms aren’t perfect; they can tear or split, or you can get caught up in the moment and “forget” to use one. So perhaps mentioning that you worry about what might happen if a condom were to fail can be a good way to start talking about getting tested.
This can also be a good way to start discussing contraception options with a new partner. A split condom usually means that the morning after pill should be used to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. But that’s not a long term option and you may wish to consider alternatives, such as going on the pill or having an implant or coil.
It may be difficult to have these conversations early on in a relationship, but in my experience communicating so clearly with a new partner encourages you both to be open and honest about things in the future, which is a great start for any couple.