There truly are some conversations we would much rather avoid. The ones that create angst in both the discussion starter and the recipient, whose terrified expression is begging you not to continue! An honest talk about STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) has to be in life’s top five! This is definitely not sunny chatter over the dinner table, or light banter with the store clerk like you’re talking about the fair weather.
But the reality is that our current societal statistics require us to have these talks. We absolutely must have them with our children. We absolutely must have them with our dating partner.
Today’s studies tell us 1 in 4 females between the age of 15 and 24 have an STD*, currently a full 25%. That age group is also at higher risk of acquiring STDs for a combination of behavioral, biological, and cultural reasons, so the rate continues to increase.
In all age groups sexually transmitted diseases are known to affect women much more destructively than men. Several STDs have the ability to cause infertility later in life. The rate of increased diagnosed infections has increased annually in both the percentage rate of infected individuals as well as the sheer number of diseases. In 1960 there were 2 identified STDs and now there are 30.1
This information should make every parent keenly aware of the threat to his or her child. Unlike clinging to your little one crossing the street or yanking them away from a hot stove, this threat requires you to have that uncomfortable discussion. You will not be present when they will face the choices that create this very life-altering reality in their life. On that day, the rescue will have to come from their own well-developed convictions.
Like all difficult discussions you have with your child, this must be done calmly, rationally, and away from other emotional land mines or distractions. The purpose of this conversation is not to instill sheer terror (even though as a parent you may hope that might just work), but to create an informed child. And you must have this talk when your son or daughter is younger than you think you should.
It’s one thing to have a conversation about STDs with a child you are responsible for, but it’s an astronomically more uncomfortable conversation once you’re in the dating world. The current reality is that you may be the half of the relationship who has an STD, or it might be the one you are dating.
This is not something you drop on a first date. Dinner conversations should not be, “Tell me more about the work you do… Do you have any family living close? By the way, I have Chlamydia.”
It’s a conversation that should take place when dating becomes consistent and feelings start to develop, not when your emotions are so deep that marriage is the next step in the relationship. It is unfair not to disclose everything one is bringing into a relationship before you become too entangled. (Don’t miss Dr. Zoe’s advice on how to have this exact conversation: Ask Dr. Zoe – I Have an STI, When and How Do I Tell My Man?)
This conversation needs to be an honest one. It’s not just the single issue of STDs; it is the issue in total. You need to understand one another’s sexual history. Perhaps the person you are dating has been sexually active in the past but hasn’t been tested. Or perhaps that is you. If so, conversations need to be had, then testing to be done.
An honest discussion is vital to a successful relationship. This does not mean that every detail of past sexual activity needs to be discussed; creating unnecessary images in your partner’s mind can be equally destructive. However, talking about the broad reality of previous sexual history has the potential to create understanding that leads to trust. A relationship built on honesty and trust is the only kind of relationship that endures.
No matter what the outcome is of the discussion or testing, don’t place blame. The actions of the past need not represent current life choices. If you are building a lasting relationship, you want to know who the man is today. Observing his current life choices during the months you spend getting to know each other will confirm that he is (or he is not) the man he claims to be now.
Finally you must discuss prevention. If one partner has an STD and marriage is the next step in your relationship, or you are considering sexual intimacy, you must know the medical reality. Your mutual goal should be one of confining the disease and thus preventing it’s spreading. A mutual, informed decision on how to handle this challenge is foundational in this relationship.
As in facing any difficult conversation or challenge in life, avoidance appears so much easier. It’s not. In the short-term, your comfort isn’t disrupted and the relationship isn’t complicated. But long-term, the risk is great—to your children, to your relationship, and to your health. Uncomfortable or not, this is without a doubt one of those absolute must-have conversations.
*The term STI is becoming interchangeable with STD, referring to “Sexually Transmitted Infections.”
For more related articles, start here:
Why You Need to Talk to Your Teen Girl About Sex and How to Do It
Ask Dr. Zoe – I Have an STI, When and How Do I Tell My Man?
Will Waiting for Marriage Lead to a Boring Sex Life?
7 Things to Look for in a Man
Boyfriend is a Charity Case
7 Money Tips When You’re Thinking Marriage
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