The Talk Everyone Should Have with Their Partner
When you’re in the midst of a whirlwind romance or just enamored with someone’s energy, conversations about condoms, birth control, or sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing usually aren’t the first thing to come to mind. More often than not, thoughts and questions such as, “should I get tested?” and “did we use a condom?” come after you’ve already had sex. And while it’s not the end of the world if this is your situation, you and your partner should discuss protection and testing before you take the leap. Here are a few things to consider while navigating these subjects with your partner:
Method of Protection and Testing
The first step to having safer sex is to figure out what methods of protection best fit your needs. Contraceptive methods are not one-size-fits-all. Birth control methods range from abstinence to the pill to long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), which include IUDs and implants. The birth control methods available to you may vary, so it is important to also have a conversation with your provider about what method will give you the protection you want while not having any side effects you don’t want. It’s important to note that neither the pill nor LARCs protect against STIs, so for the safest sex possible when using these methods, it’s recommended you also regularly use condoms.
If you’re sexually active, you should get tested for STIs at least once a year. If you’re having sex with multiple partners, you should consider more frequent testing. Once you have figured out your own method of protection and a testing schedule that works best for you, the next step is to discuss it with your partner.
Being Honest and Clear About Your Wants
The foundation of any relationship is healthy communication. In action, this looks like being authentic and straightforward, and transparent in your words and actions. Discussing contraceptive methods before having sex can clear up any preconceived notions you or your partner may have. Traditional media and the internet often shape the idea of what sex should look like and sometimes we, unknowingly, use that fabricated image of sex as what our sex life should mirror. Being honest and clear about your intentions also allows you (and your partner) to have autonomy over your sexual experiences. Not only can this conversation lead to a mutual understanding between you and your partner, but it can open the gate to other topics around sex and intimacy.
Revisit This Conversation, Often.
The most important part of navigating talks about sex and your relationship is the knowledge that none of your decisions have to be set in stone. You are allowed to change your mind. You are not bound to the choice you made six months ago and, you should revisit your choices to make sure they still give you the safety and comfort you need. During these ‘check-ins’ it’s useful to ask yourself some variation of these questions:
- Do I like the contraceptive method I am using?
- Do I need to modify how many times I get tested for STIs?
- Do I believe my partner takes my sexual safety seriously?
These check-ins should not be limited to just yourself. Ask your partner similar questions, with modifications, to see if they also feel safe and secure while having sex or if new agreements need to be discussed.
This conversation isn’t the sexiest and it’s not something we often see modeled for us through the media we consume or among real-life champions and mentors, or even our parents. However, it is important. Having autonomy over your sex life can be liberating. Of course, having this conversation may come with some feelings of anxiousness, regardless of age or level of experience. It may not be easy the first time but as you continue to have the conversation, it will get easier. Remember, you deserve a fun and safe sexual experience as well as a partner who respects and honors your decisions.
Angela Osmar is the Public Policy Intern at Power to Decide where she assists the Public Policy team with federal policy issues. She attends the University of Central Florida where she studies Public Policy Analysis & Management and she hopes to work in health policy, advocating for women’s rights.