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  • paulinethepsychologist

Secrets and Lies .. Discussing Sex

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

You're dating someone new .. what to share when it comes to issues around sex? Let your values guide the way!

If you haven’t taken a look at the blog devoted to taking stock and responsibility of your individual relationship to sex first, I would suggest you do that before jumping in to how to discuss things with your dating or life partner.

I get asked SO many times:

  • How much should I tell the person I am dating/with?

  • Do they need to know everything about my past?

  • Do they need to know about what I fantasize about?

  • Whether I masturbate and to what?

  • That I had a crush on Sonic the Hedgehog (anyone else?!)

In order to unpack this, first we should discuss the difference between secrecy, dishonesty, and privacy.

Secrecy is intentionally keeping something away from someone else - something you may be ashamed of disclosing and something you actively try to keep from being discovered.
Privacy is a right we ALL have - even if you are married. This means having an internal world that is free from being shared with anyone on the outside. This private part has every right to be left alone and not be intruded upon.
Dishonesty refers to actively (or passively) deceiving someone - this includes lies of omission, white lies, and big ol’ lies (casual and made-up classification).

While these words and concepts have some overlapping parts, the nuanced differences between them matter. Just because you choose not to share each and every part of your sexual history with a new person does not mean you are being secretive or dishonest.

You have a right to keep some things private. Just because you are dating someone does not mean that they have total access to your every thought, feeling, urge, and action or every historical act or event.

Choosing to be with someone means making a commitment and agreeing to act according to agreed upon values and goals - but that does not mean you stop existing as a person with your own private world. Of course, in deep relationships partners often share how their deep internal worlds interact with the relationship but this information and sharing from the heart should be free from coercion.

It is emotionally healing when someone WANTS to be seen - not when someone is forced into giving the person this information as a premise of being together. This can be a codependent and unhealthy way of being together - a state where individuality is completely erased and taken over by the relationship.

Strong relationships have “I” and “We” co-exist happily and in balance. 

Additionally, sensitive information needs the assurance of safety and trust. When you are first dating someone, you won’t have that yet so it makes sense that it may take some time to open up about things - even things you want to discuss. It’s okay to take your time and need to have more trust built in order to share more. This protection is healthy!

So people ask, then what should I be sharing with someone - especially as we are just beginning a sexual relationship?

Like most things, I think it’s important to identify a set of values and principles which are guiding your actions. For instance, in the field of psychology we have the following ethical principles that I actually think relate to a lot more than just the therapeutic relationship:

Do No Harm

Respecting Autonomy

Benefiting Others

Being Just

Being Faithful

According Dignity

Treating Others With Caring and Compassion

Pursuit of Excellence

Accepting Accountability

When we are at a decision-making crossroads (ethical dilemmas), these principles can help guide our behaviors. In the same way, it’s important to think about what values you are operating from.

If not harming the other person is important, you may choose to be more mindful of some of your thoughts so as to not harm them (even if they don’t ever know what goes on in your mind).

These values are a commitment to yourself - not the other person. 

Once you have some values guiding your actions in a relationship, generally speaking, what needs to be shared?

I often suggest that people share information the other person needs to make an informed decision about engaging sexually with you as well as to request the kind of information they need to feel safe. For example, if you have a sexually transmitted infection, it’s important to share this with someone who is considering having sex with you so that they can prepare and protect themselves. It might be important for you to know this information too. It might mean a discussion around contraception, if applicable. It might mean sharing some of the sexual boundaries you have and asking if they have any to be mindful of.

These conversations, based in mutual respect, can actually increase the likelihood that the sexual experience will be a positive one!

Everything beyond this: sexual history, sexual orientation, sexual fantasies, sexual desires, etc. is up to you and something that can be discussed with your partner over time. Now how do you even discuss this with a partner?

That's coming up in the next blog!

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