Episode 99: Integrative Disclosure
I’ve been met with resistance from people when I talk about navigating relationships. People have been so caught up on the word ‘relationship’ as on the road to marriage, that they completely miss the message. This podcast speaks about relationships by its definition of relating to others. That’s it. Navigating and negotiating what that relating looks like is the bulk of what this podcast episode is about. Dr. Evelin Dacker shares a conscious, intentional formula that helps guide us through important conversations around sexual health status, turn-ons, avoids, relationship (literal meaning) intention, and safety. She did a Ted x talk on the subject and the acronym is STARS.
As someone with herpes, this is a useful tool for disclosing to partners because I’m guilty of having been so in my head about ‘will they accept my status?’ that I neglect other important conversations that should be had before even deciding to disclose. What’s our intention in relating to one another? Do we want a one night thing, ongoing FWB (friends with benefits) situation, will we become long-term partners working toward something, are we even on the same page at all in terms of what we want? If our relationship intention doesn’t match up, then I can completely disregard the thoughts of having to disclose because we aren’t in alignment with relationship intention.
Once that’s in alignment, we can move on to turn-ons if we choose to. I consider myself to be a giver when it comes to physical intimacy. Maybe the other person is also a giver. What if my prospective partner is turned on by being submissive? That works out because I’m aroused by being able to lean into my dominance. We don’t need to get too visual here. Imaginations can go where they will for sharing turn-ons.
Avoids are essentially boundaries. There may be some sexual trauma that a person is working through. My normal may be triggering. It’s important to establish these boundaries and avoid what’s asked to be avoided. A certain kind of touch to certain areas could trigger them, or they just may not like some acts in the bedroom/bathroom/living room/car/woods or whatever area you decide to make into your play pen. It’s best to know these things prior to having to find out by getting into the hair tugging and having that shut down and the action abruptly being drawn to a conclusion.
Safety is another issue. As a fairly large human, I don’t have near as many safety concerns for myself when I’m getting to a space of physical intimacy with partners. That said, I am often the biggest threat to them. It’s important they feel safe. If we are leaving together, they can let a friend know their location and to check in on them the next morning. That’s really all I have here as this was the example Dr. Dacker gave. This is more commonly an issue for women than men.
Now we get to the grand finale of the STARS talk. If you notice, I went out of order intentionally. Compatibility and negotiations have already taken place. By this point in the conversation, the person I have this discussion with is in fact compatible with me and I know this has the potential to become physical. At this point, I disclose my positive HSV status to them and ask about their experience with STIs. I believe that if a person has gotten to this point in the conversation, I have a great idea of their knowledge and understanding about sex and sexual health. If we’ve been able to have the previous talks about how we see each other, we have something for them to either remain consistent with, or they will go against it. This does also eliminate potential excuses for no longer wanting to move forward. So now the only difference between the time we’ve talked about what we’ll do to one another after we leave this restaurant and the time they make a decision to stick to that or not, is the fact that now they know my STI status is positive. Not everyone is okay with that and that is fine. However, people don’t know how to just say they aren’t okay with something and that is fine. I just have to acquire tools to protect myself from emotional abuse of ghosting and being deceived. STARS is a tool for that.
We’re able to enter a relating situation with a conscious communication tool. As someone living with herpes, I know not everyone wants to relate at the level I’d like to. This conversation helps us figure that out soon so that we can move on and get our needs met sooner without investing heavily into someone we may not be compatible with. I appreciate Dr. Dacker’s tool as an integrative disclosure method. It also includes pieces of the conversation that are often left out of the sex conversation. Download episode 99 of spfpp and check it out!