Sex and sexual health are key aspects of your relationship’s romance and intimacy, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to talk about! It’s tough to bring up, but being able to have an open and honest conversation about sex with your partner is good for your relationship—and your health. Our experts are here to break down what you do (and don’t) need to know about your partner’s sexual past.
Is a Number Just a Number?
“It is important to share the stories of our sexual awakening, though this is less about the number of partners you’ve had than it is about the quality of the experience,” says Wendy Strgar, author of Sex That Works. “A person who has a history of one-night stands for an extended period of time may be less likely to have the interest and skill to work on a long-term relationship, so understanding the type of sexual history your partner has can be incredibly impactful. James Baldwin wrote that we are our past; it is how we navigate and make choices in the present. Sharing your sexual past is crucial to a successful long-term relationship.”
Sexual Health Is Key
“It’s hard to imagine having a relationship with or considering marrying a person with whom you have fears asking about their sexual health,” Strgar explains. “This is a conversation you should have early on in your relationship. There shouldn’t be anything uncomfortable about validating your sexual health for each other before committing to a monogamous relationship.” So while it might be hard to ask, understanding any health history like STIs is crucial—and should be done before you head to the bedroom. Go get tested together to demonstrate that you’re willing to be open with your partner as well, then get busy while knowing you’re being safe!
Ask Good Questions
Once you’ve gotten the important questions about health out of the way, turn toward pleasure. “Ask your partner what kinds of touch they enjoy, which positions they’re partial to, and if there are any fantasies you might share,” Strgar says. “Learning about one another sexually is an exciting discovery process that is nourished by genuine curiosity and a true desire to please each other.”
Be Ready to Share
“You should share with your partner any stories that have shaped your sexual experiences, both pleasurable and anything negative,” says Strgar. “The more we share about our desires—as well as any fears or shame—the more likely a relationship is to succeed. Secrets of any kind are never helpful in a relationship, and the same goes for our sexuality.”
Know What to Skip
While it’s important to be willing to communicate and share with your partner, some things should be left unsaid. “Don’t share specific details about sexual behaviors of past partners,” Strgar advises. “Knowing something happened doesn’t mean you also need to share graphic details.” Her rule of thumb? Consider how you would feel on the receiving end of similar information, then proceed accordingly.