Sexual Health and Polyamory

When you’re in relationships with multiple people, sex isn’t just about you anymore. That old saw of “when you have sex with someone, you’re having sex with everyone they’ve had sex with” really hits home, because when you want to add a new partner, you have to consider your existing partners as well.

I have two partners. Recently I was talking to someone new and we had the sexual health discussion. She told me she had a certain sexual health concern that carried a very small risk of transmission even with proper use of barriers. I talked to both of my partners about it, and one of them said she was not comfortable with even that small level of risk.

Therefore, even though I want to, I will not be having sex with this new person. It doesn’t affect our friendship, and I’m certainly still going to do kinky things with her, but we won’t be having sexual contact.

Why did my one partner express discomfort? Doesn’t matter. The fact is: she did. And “no” is a complete sentence.

To be clear: she didn’t veto me from being with this person. Neither of my partners have veto power. I am the one who vetoed it, because I respect my partners and their personal choices and boundaries.

What would have happened if I’d said “well, I’m doing it anyway”? Well…

  1. She probably would have been very upset with me for not respecting her boundaries.
  2. We probably wouldn’t have sex again until after I had had another STI test that came back showing no sexual health concerns. Possibly multiple tests over a long period of time.
  3. The relationship would probably have suffered irreparable harm.

When you’re in poly relationships, you have to take your other partners into consideration when you’re potentially adding new people to the mix. Really you should do that even if you’re not poly and just not being exclusive with anyone, but with poly it’s different because it’s not just about sexual health.

It’s about feelings. And hurt feelings can be worse than almost anything else.

Oh, and by the way: when I told this new person we would not be having sexual contact, she and I continued discussing it like adults. I’m sure she was at least a little hurt by the result of the discussion, and I hated making her feel that way, but it’s better to be honest up front and hurt someone a little than lead them on and hurt them a lot later.

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