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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 12 December, 2018
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Dear Fifi: Was I wrong to ask the new girl I'm seeing to get an STI test?

2018! It’s the year’s first Dear Fifi column.

dearfifiheader

January is just another month and 2018 is just another year. That can be scary or liberating, depending on your point of view. But right now, as always, remember to cut yourself some slack. Life is a slog as is, don’t make it any harder if you can help it.

Got any questions for me? I would be delighted to hear them.

dearfifibar

Dear Fifi,

I recently started seeing a girl and things have got pretty serious. Before things go any further, I would like her to have a STI test. When I suggested it to her and that I would do the same, she got very angry and walked out saying that I don’t trust her and that it’s none of my business.

I do know her from friends, that’s how we met and she has gone out with some fruity characters in the past. We are only seeing each other a few weeks. I feel that I have ruined things… but I would rather both of us have tests. Am I wrong to ask?

No, you’re not wrong to ask. But the key thing in the early days of any relationship – especially one transitioning into being serious and committed – is the way in which you ask.

In a lot of pop culture, women are portrayed as shrill harridans who unreasonably say things like “Oh it’s not WHAT you said, it was just the WAY you said it!” But the simple fact is that a lot of hassle could be avoided in relationships if we figured out and used the optimum way to communicate things, rather than just bluntly ask or say something to one another.

The medium is the message. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. [insert third truism here]

There’s a fine line between honesty and tact, and walking it is a true skill. I’m afraid you may have found yourself on the wrong side of this line.

It’s an entirely reasonable request to ask a new partner to get an STI test with you if you’re planning on changing up contraceptive methods or plan to be together long-term. However, in your letter to me you mentioned her past and “fruity characters” therein. I’m sorry, but her previous partners are simply none of your business to pass comment and judgement on like that. If you broached the fairly tricky STI conversation in this manner, I’m not hugely surprised you got her back up and she didn’t engage with you at face value.

You’re going to have to row right back on anything that came across as peering back into her past and making calls on her history. At this tender stage of a new relationship, to her it could look like the red flags of jealousy, interference and judgement of her past behaviour. The manner in which you asked may have made her think twice about other aspects of your personality, unfortunately.

At this stage in the game, it also may seem to her like you’re broaching this not for sexual health reasons, but perhaps for more selfishly motivated reasons such as a personal dislike for condoms. (I say this only because it is something women frequently experience and can come off badly.)

Bear in mind that all of this – and more – could be feeding into her reaction and that a huge dose of discretion, tact and honesty are necessary for these types of sex-related conversations.

Pitch the STI thing as a mutual thing you’re both doing to be closer to one another. Open it up as a positive, inclusive and bonding experience, rather than one where you’re casting aspersions as a blameless agent and she’s automatically on the back foot. You’ve really got to ensure you’re not implying anything about the other person when you bring this up.

Of course, it may be too late for that – and this is a good lesson in soft skills being key when trying to move a relationship forward into a more serious place.

(That, or she could just really be against STI tests, which is not cool, and in which case you’re probably not compatible in terms of worldview and you therefore got an early escape.)

Get tested, everyone! But ask nicely, everyone.

dearfifibar

Want to talk?

Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always. 

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