“How do you talk more openly with your partner about birth control and STIs?”

—Jack M., Metro State University, Minnesota

Talking about STIs and birth control with a partner can be difficult. It can be helpful to think about why these topics may be hard to bring up:

  • Feeling like you don’t know enough about the issues
  • Different cultural or family backgrounds
  • Feeling embarrassed about sexual experiences
  • Varying levels of comfort with the topic
  • Feeling uncomfortable with your own sexuality

Here are some ways to be more open with a partner about these topics:

Acknowledge that discussions about sex, including birth control and STIs, can feel awkward or difficult. You could mention that it has been hard for you in the past, or that it still is hard, but that you value the conversation because you have felt closer or more comfortable after discussing it.

Bring it up in the context of a class you’re taking or article you may have read. This is a nonthreatening way to raise these topics with a partner.

Ask your partner in a neutral place how they feel about birth control and STIs. It’s better to keep this conversation away from the bedroom or wherever you might have sex.

Let your partner know how important this conversation is to you. Talk about how much you value and want to hear about their thoughts and experiences.

Discuss it in the context of your health and any concerns you have. Alternatively, bring it up in the context of a friend or someone else you know (you don’t have to use names).

Since not everyone is comfortable with these topics, it may not be something that your partner can be open about in just one conversation. It may take time and trust to build up to these conversations.

The counselor

The counselor

Joleen M. Nevers, MAEd., CHES, AASECT, is a certified sexuality educator and the health education coordinator at the University of Connecticut.