Discussing sex helps develop relationships

Someone has suggested an adaptation of the Golden Rule for sexual relationships: “For the good health of all concerned, be as honest and responsible with your lovers as you would have them be with you.”

onesty and responsibility in sexual relationships include talking about birth control and safer sex and even postponing sexual activity until both issues are resolved.

Two rules about sexual communication on which most experts agree are: timing and frankness. “When the clothes are flying is not the right time,” one educator emphasizes. An unpressured “walk through the park” or “talk over dinner” approach the ideal circumstances.

If two people haven’t talked about birth control and STD before the moment of passion and neither partner is prepared with condoms and spermicide, then one or the other needs to take the initiative and suggest an activity short of intercourse. Frankness gets the vote from the experts here: “I’m really attracted to you, but since neither of us is prepared, let’s hold off intercourse until another time.”

To be better prepared to take a stand and communicate a position clearly, starting with some introspective questions is helpful:

* Am I a sexually active person?

* Do I believe AIDS and other STD are a personal danger to me?

* If so, am I willing to limit the extent of my sexual behavior?

* Do I think I can tell just on the basis of appearance and demeanor whether a person is infected or not?

* Could I enjoy a relationship that includes unsafe behaviors or would I be fearful, especially when the “passion of the moment” is over?

* Do I believe that healthy sexual involvement (safer sex) can be pleasurable?”

* Can I take a position and communicate that position to a prospective sexual partner?

* In a romantic moment, can I respect and stick to the policy I’ve chosen?

Talking with friends about sex, contraception and STDs can further increase awareness. It can also help one to re-clarify a personal position and be prepared to communicate to a prospective partner what is and is not negotiable in a relationship.

Visualizing other life situations in which one has managed to take a stand yet maintain another’s admiration, respect or friendship can make the transference to sexual situations easier. For example:

* Alcohol “No thanks, I’m driving tonight.”

* Dessert “Thanks, but I’m really trying hard to lose five lbs.

* Drugs “No, thanks. I’d rather not take that chance.”

If you’re in a relationship and think that the physical/emotional attraction will lead to sexual activity, choose one of those “unpressured” occasions to talk.

ehearsing beforehand what to say and how to say it can alleviate the cold feet syndrome. Some ideas include:

*”I feel I need to tell you that if I fool around with you it has to be limited to condoms. There’s no way to be sure neither of us is carrying AIDS.”

* “Sex is okay only if we make it safe; I want to be around to go to graduate school.”

No one can tell you exactly what’s right to say in your own circumstances. These suggestions come from others who have found success with straightforward, caring approaches to communication. If it’s reassuring, the sex experts (from the most academic to the most explicit), as well as the people they’ve talked to, unanimously agree: Discussing sex with a partner is difficult to bring up, but it does get easier with practice and, in the long run, makes for better, more relaxed and pleasurable sex.

Note: Several of the communication strategies above were adapted from concepts contributed by Dr. Rosemary Srebalus, psychologist at West Virginia University.