But, I did have a really interesting conversation with a female friend of mine recently. She’s never been married. She’s in her mid-30s. She’s dating a guy who is divorced and in his early 40s. At this point, they both have a lot of life experience under their belts (and you should read that figuratively as well as literally!).
Things are starting to get serious between the two of them. In other words, she knows that they are getting close to sleeping together (in every meaning of that phrase), and she asked me this: “At what point do you discuss if they have any venereal diseases before you have sex with them?” Again, I’m not a sex therapist. I’m not a marriage therapist. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a minister. I sometimes shake my head in wonder at the things people ask me!
At first, I wasn’t sure how to answer her question. My immediate response was to jump to what I tell my kids – God intends sexual intercourse to be between a husband and a wife. It’s an intimate part of a spousal relationship. I quickly realized that, with all judgment cast aside, that line wouldn’t necessarily work. One of them has already been married, and the two of them having been in the dating scene for many years.
My second response (almost as immediate as my first) was to say, “You have that conversation WAY WAY WAY before you sleep with him!” Sexual intercourse is incredibly intimate. Having a conversation prior to that about sexual history and disease should not be more uncomfortable in any way shape or form than taking off your clothes and being naked in front of each other. Think about it! Why do we seem to assume that difficult conversations would be, or should be, more awkward, more intimate, more embarrassing, or more raw than actual nudity and sex!?!? It’s crazy — especially when you consider what is at stake! What is at stake could be a matter of life or death, or could certainly alter the course of your life forever.
I encouraged my friend to think about the fact that if she and her “friend” were comfortable enough with each other to consider having sex, then certainly they could handle (and should be able to handle) what might seem to be a difficult (or perhaps better labeled as an “uncomfortable”) conversation about their health and sexual histories.
I also suggested that if having this conversation were too difficult, then perhaps they weren’t ready to even experience the physical intimacy required when embarking on a sexual relationship. If verbal intimacy can’t be achieved, then I don’t think anything can be gained by jumping straight to physical intimacy.
It was an interesting conversation, but one that really made me stop and think about things from a religious, moral, and practical perspective. I’m glad my friend is thinking about this, and I’m glad she asked the question. I hope she is contemplating our discussion, and taking it to her boyfriend to stimulate an even more robust conversation – about their relationship, about whether they are ready to have sex, about their health, and about their future.
She then asked a second question: “What if he lies?” Oh boy. Sadly, I know people who have lied. After marriage. About what diseases they may carry. That gets at trust … trust from day one. I feel badly for anyone in this situation. To find out years into a marriage that you were lied to about something as important as this certainly serves to impact the entire marital relationship and the sanctity upon which it was built. Like I said, I’m not a marriage therapist, so I’m going to leave that one for the professionals.
My bottom line is this: have the conversation! Ask the questions you need to have answered before the point in which you NEED to know the answers!
Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” (2010) in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys, and “The High Road Has Less Traffic … and a better view” (2013) to provide perspectives on love, marriage, divorce and everything in between. The books are available on Amazon.com. Learn more at www.HighRoadLessTraffic.com.