Of all the questions we get sent here at FoxNewsHealth.com, sex questions top the list. Here are a few we’ve received recently.
Q: I was recently diagnosed with herpes. I am now ashamed to date, and I don't think I can ever open up to anyone again. How can I possibly tell a new partner about my diagnosis without ruining the mood? I feel like a leper!
First of all, your feelings of anxiety are understandable. Opening up to a new partner is always difficult, and when you throw an STD diagnosis in the mix, it can be twice as difficult to allow yourself to be vulnerable. However, there is a silver lining to an STD diagnosis, and that is that you can use it as a litmus test to weed unworthy partners out of your life. Anyone who is deserving of your time, your body, and your love will accept your diagnosis— if they don’t, it was never meant to be.
However, it is also understandable that your partner might have some questions and concerns, especially if they don’t know much about herpes. So if you can help educate them and answer their questions, you can go a long way in putting their mind at ease and helping them to stay safe.
First, let your partner know that herpes is actually quite common—1 in 6 adults has genital herpes (HSV-2), and 90 percent have people have been exposed to HSV-1 (the virus that causes oral herpes, or “cold sores” as many people call them). Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are highly contagious, and if you have a breakout, you should avoid kissing or engaging in intercourse, oral sex, etc. with your partner. In doing so, you can greatly cut down on the risk of spreading the virus— although, even if you aren’t currently having a breakout, you are still contagious and still able to spread the virus.
The best thing to do is to make sure you take your medication, avoid stress and live a healthy lifestyle in order to cut down on the number of your breakouts. You should also encourage your partner to talk to her doctor or go to Planned Parenthood if she has questions about how to protect herself. There are also a number of great websites as well that can help to answer questions, such as bedsider.org/
Remember, a herpes diagnosis is nothing to be ashamed of, just as you wouldn’t be ashamed if you caught a cold. It’s not a punishment or a judgment on your character, it’s simply a chronic health condition that must be managed in order to keep you (and your partner) healthy and happy.
Q: Ever since my wife got pregnant, I am afraid to have sex with her. She is feeling angry and hurt like I don't want her anymore, but the reality is, I feel awkward about intercourse when there is a baby in there. What should I do?
A: Both of you have legitimate concerns. It can be scary to consider intercourse when you know that there is a budding new life inside of your wife, especially when there is so much other stress that comes with having a new baby (such as making sure you are financially secure and ensuring that she is as healthy and stress-free as possible). However, it can also be very difficult for your wife to feel as though you no longer are sexually attracted to her. Pregnancy is a roller-coaster ride of emotional and physical changes, and it can be hard for women to embrace their new, larger bodies, especially in our society which shames women for gaining even a single pound, let alone 25 pounds or more!
Hence, it’s very important for you to find a way to explain to her that you are still attracted to her. Be very honest and open about your concerns. Say, “I know that the doctor gave us the green light to have sex, but I am still struggling with feeling like my old self in the bedroom. I just want our baby to safe and I don’t want to hurt either of you.”
Here’s the good news: Sex really is okay during pregnancy, as long as your doctor hasn’t told you otherwise. (Ask if you aren’t sure.) And, if intercourse feels awkward, consider enjoying other forms of sex, such as oral sex, manual stimulation, mutual masturbation, etc. Once you enjoy these other forms of sex, you might start feeling more relaxed and comfortable around the idea of intercourse as well.
After all, pretty soon you are going to have a new baby and no time or energy for sex for a while, so enjoy it while you can!
Q: I have been happily married for four years. I recently started a new job, and I find myself fantasizing about my attractive new coworker a lot. We get along great and always eat lunch together, and send each other funny emails. Nothing physical has ever happened. I can't wait to see her every morning, and I find myself longing for Monday morning and tuning out my partner over the weekend. Am I crossing the line?
A: Yes, I think this is a very dangerous situation. You might not have crossed a line physically, but it is clear that you are very invested in this “relationship” and that you are having non-platonic thoughts. Fantasies are normal and healthy, but ideally they should be fantasies about people outside of your intimate daily circle (such as celebrities, for example). If you are fantasizing about a woman you see and flirt with every day, it will be very tempting for lines to be blurred and for you to start down a very bad path.
It’s time to think about where you want this to go. Do you want to threaten your marriage? Or do you want to bring passion and desire back into your relationship and stay committed to your wife? It sounds to me like your relationship has probably become a little bit predictable and routine (as most long-term relationships do if couples don’t keep it spicy), so you might be looking for that excitement outside the home. Don’t. Instead, create that excitement right in your marriage. Court your wife again. Go on date nights. Buy her sexy lingerie. Spend time together each day as partners rather just as parents. Kiss her every day. And, most importantly, distance yourself from this relationship before it all goes south. Keep it professional and focus your attention and energy back on your marriage. You will be so glad you did.
Laura Berman, PhD, is a world renowned sex and relationship educator and therapist; popular TV, radio and Internet host; New York Times best-selling author; and assistant clinical professor of ob-gyn and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago. Dr. Berman is a New York Times best-selling author of many books on sexual health and pleasure, a weekly columnist for the Chicago Sun Times, and host of the radio program "Uncovered with Dr. Laura Berman."