So you’re planning to go out on a date– how exciting! Whether it’s with someone new or someone you’ve already seen a few times, your adrenaline is probably pumping; dating and sex after divorce can nerve-wracking!
But before you run out your door, there’s something I want you to do: go put a few latex condoms in your purse or wallet ‘just in case’. Don’t have any? Then promise yourself you’ll stop by the drugstore and pick up a fresh box en route.
Nope – I don’t want to hear any excuses. I don’t care if she told you she hasn’t had sex with anyone but her ex-husband. I don’t care if he said he was tested for STDs just last week. I don’t care what you’ve been told, what your gut tells you, or much you hate condoms – I want you to bring some along anyway.
Sexually transmitted diseases are a frightening reality that us newbies to dating again have to get in the know about. Having been married for years and accustomed to unprotected sex, your inclination may be to ‘trust’ your new partner, however long you’ve known him/her. But I’m here to remind you, to be that voice of dread and responsibility and say: Do NOT put your safety at risk.
Just this past week, a man I’d been getting to know for weeks via phone and email told me he had herpes. When he told me so, I sat there on the phone waiting for him to say he was joking (not sure why). But he wasn’t.
Chills ran through me as my brain rushed to retrieve its limited data on herpes. "What are my chances of catching it if we have unprotected sex?" I wondered.
Meanwhile, I listened to him saying, "I’ve had it for twenty years and I’ve never given it to anyone accept my ex-wife. My outbreaks and very mild and rare, and I’m confident that I would never pass it on to you if we ended up having a sexual relationship. It’s really not a big deal Delaine – herpes is everywhere. In fact, every other woman I’ve had sex with had it."
Shocked, I blurted: "But do you normally tell women you have it?" After all, the only reason he’d told me was because I’d come right out and asked him if he had any STDs.
He laughed. "Yes. But I normally wait until they’re sitting on my lap and things are getting hot and heavy."
Later on that night I began researching herpes and other STDs online. And the statistics I read made my mouth fall open: one in four women have herpes, as do one in five men. And 80 – 90% of those who have it, don’t know it (they have no symptoms). Moreover, contrary to what I’d thought,pap smears don’t screen women for herpes – you have to specifically ask your doctor for the herpes blood test.
Remember, herpes is but one of many other diseases one can contract. Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Crabs, HIV, Syphilis, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – we’ve all heard these scary names before. And like it or not, they come with the territory of dating and having sex again post-divorce.
So be smart and play safe. You haven’t worked this hard on yourself since divorcing to end up potentially painful and hazardous disease for life.