We all have questions whatever our age, when it comes to matters of the heart and sexual relationships. When we were younger it seemed easier to ask for advice but with the increasing years we beleive that as experienced individuals we should know the answers. Of course that isn't true and we need to get better at asking. In this series I am answering three questions that I am often asked. My first was last week.
The second question in this series follows here. The third will follow next week!
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My marriage ended a couple of years ago. I have just started dating again. I’ve had several short relationships and I didn’t think about safe sex; at 56, I thought I was too old. I’ve just been diagnosed with Chlamydia and gonorrhoea. I felt so bad and stupid when I had to go to the STI clinic and sit in the waiting room. I’m old enough to know better. How do I prevent this happening again?
You are not the only 50+ to find yourself at an STD clinic. A recent piece of research published in the June 2008 edition of Sexually Transmitted Diseases says that the rate of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has doubled among the over-45s in less than a decade.
We are the generation that missed out on the sex education routinely given now to young people. Then, with the development of the pill which coincided with many of us experimenting sexually, fears of pregnancy were radically reduced and so we became less insistent on using a condom. Then many of us settled into long-term relationships that we believed were monogamous and we didn’t worry about STIs.
Most of us who were brought up pre-HIV have remained quite ignorant about sexually transmitted diseases believing that we’re too old for them. Of course this isn’t the case as bacteria and viruses aren’t age conscious! As we live longer and are healthier so we’ll go on being sexually active longer, too. One doctor reported that the oldest person in his clinic in the last twelve months was 93! So we do need to protect ourselves.
Sexually transmitted infections are mainly passed from one person to another during sexual activity. There are at least 25 STIs, all with different symptoms. Infection is passed vaginally, orally and anally. Most STIs will only affect you if you have sex with an infected person.
Unless you’ve only had one monogamous partner and so have they, you could be at risk of developing an STI. That means the man wearing a condom whether you’re likely to get pregnant or not! And they do work, if used properly. If men aren’t familiar with them, practise until it feels comfortable.
It all sounds so simple so why don’t more people use condoms? One reason is that, too often, we’re not prepared. Don’t get carried away in the moment and then remember when it’s too late. (Alcohol often makes us lose our inhibitions.)
We also whatever our age or sex find ourselves too shy or tongue-tied to ask a new lover how many sexual partners they’ve had, and what neither of you can know for certain is how either of your ex-partners behaved. Practise asking your new partner so that, by the time you do it for real, it just trips off the tongue.
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If you use safe sex you’ll be fine from now on.
Question 3 next week......... 'I've fallen in love again............'