While it should be a top priority, sexual health sometimes falls by the wayside when considering your overall health. Too often do people dismiss it and focus solely on physical and mental health alone. Sexual health, however, should also be of the utmost importance.
Whether you’re in a committed, long-term relationship or you’re playing the field and enjoying the single life, having a healthy sex life is up to you. How careful, safe, or emotionally secure you feel when you’re with your partner is in your hands, so make sure you devote enough time and attention to everything involved in the act. If you want a healthy sex life, here are five conversations you need to have.
1. Sexual history, STDs, and contraception
Although it should go without saying, discussing your STD status with your partner is always crucial. And the truth is, STDs are more prevalent now than ever before. According to information published in a press release by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total number of combined cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis reached an all-time high in 2015. It might not be the most fun conversation, but it’s important.
Of course, there is no absolute foolproof method when it comes to your chances of contracting an STD. This is why using a condom when engaging with a partner is of the utmost importance. And using another method of birth control is even better if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy. The CDC says, between 2006 and 2010, more than 50% of women using contraception chose the pill or an IUD as their primary method, so this advice is definitely catching.
2. Establish boundaries
Sexual fantasy plays a big role in the bedroom, which is why it’s important to have the discussion with your partner (preferably before you’re actually in the bedroom). If you’ve ever read the book (or seen the movie) 50 Shades of Grey, you know what we’re talking about here.
Short of signing an actual contract before engaging in the act, it’s important that any couple toying with the idea of bringing a bit more friskiness into the bedroom establishes just what kind of boundaries actually need to be put in place. If you’re uncomfortable bringing up the subject of fantasies, Laura Berman, Ph.D., a New York Times best-selling sex and relationships expert, tells Men’s Fitness to be sure to make an agreement beforehand that neither of you will pass judgment.
3. Discuss your turn-ons and turn-offs
It can be easy for your partner to be unaware of your exact turn-ons and turn-offs, especially in the early stages of your relationship. Or, it’s not uncommon for him or her to forget about them or be out of the loop as your sexual preferences change from time to time. “Couples all too often bottle up what’s bothering them in bed, and expect that their partner knows what’s on their mind and what they like or don’t like,” Judy Kuriansky, Ph.D., sex therapist and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to a Healthy Relationship, told Everyday Health. If you’re leaving your partner in the dark, there’s no way he or she will suddenly become a mind reader and instantly know your every thought, wish, and emotion. So make your likes and dislikes known.
4. Discuss what constitutes cheating
The first thing that comes to mind when most people think of cheating is when one person in a committed relationship has a sexual affair with another person. But what about emotional cheating? For every couple, the very definition of what they may consider cheating varies, so having the conversation and ensuring you’re both on the same page is key.
In a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults published on The Huffington Post, researchers found some important differences in the question of what exactly constitutes cheating in a relationship. Sixty percent said they’d consider it cheating if their partner developed a deep emotional connection with someone else. However, answers varied when a separate group of respondents was asked the same question, but in reverse — “Say that you were in a committed relationship and you developed a deep emotional connection with someone other than your partner. Would you consider that to be cheating?” Interestingly enough, only 50% said yes, whereas 29% of respondents answered no.
Regardless of your relationship status, being on the same page in terms of your wants, needs, and preferences is essential, so don’t let the intimidation factor rule your relationship conversations.
5. Discuss your sexual drive
This point goes for singles and those in committed relationships. So, we’re having sex, but how often will this take place? Are we just going with the flow every time the mood strikes? These questions may not cross your mind initially — but they will eventually become important. And Men’s Fitness says planning makes a difference. “As unsexy as it sounds, try maintaining a sex schedule. It can give you the chance to grab props, get the shower steamy, or avoid unwanted interruptions,” the story says. Once the frequency is found, it’s all a matter of sticking to what is right for you and your relationship.