This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.
At my last speaking engagement someone asked a most fundamental question about dating, "When do you trust?" She went on to say that at some point a person wants to believe that they are safe in a relationship. That they can trust their partner. Lighten up. Let their guards down. Stop using condoms.
Do you use condoms forever? That is the 1,000,000 dollar question. On one level it's an easy answer. You never stop using condoms until you get married. But then there is even dialogue on marriage and condom use that I'm gonna table for another blog.
My answer, "You never stop using condoms," is loaded with dynamite that can cause a relationship to explode in your face. Let's explore the honest truth about trust. This is a long one, so just settle down and read what I have to say, the truth must be explored.
When we first meet someone, we typically spend hours asking questions about them with the hope that they will be honest. Typically, we accept them at face value until they prove themselves to be wrong. Most people aren't as cynical as the character on the TV show House. He believes, "Everybody lies." Who wants to go into a relationship under the premise that "Everybody lies?" No one!
So we enter into a relationship on face value trust. Now that is risk taking at it's best. The only information you have about this person is what they tell you. You have no real history about who they are and honestly who their family is.
Family helps to shape who you are. Did your father beat your mother? Did your mother cuss your father and call him worthless? Were you told that you were worthless? Our self worth grows out of our families and helps to shape our greatness and our sickness. And it shapes how we function in relationships. It's amazing to me that we know more about a car before we drive it off the lot than we typically know about the person we trust with our lives.
We don't ask the hard questions, rather we allow the answers to unfold before us, causing either joy or pain. In truth, you can't be prepared for everything. Some things really do take time. You may not be able to control the emotional roller coaster, but there is one thing you can protect in a relationship, your body.
But yet we don't protect our bodies because we really want the relationship to "work." If I ask him/her to use a condom in the relationship they will think I don't "trust" them. Or they may think I can't be "trusted," i.e., a person must be outside the relationship if they want to use condoms. He/She does not trust me if they want to use a condom. Why can't condom use just be viewed as standard part of sex in a relationship without crazy ideas about trust that has no foundation. I recently asked a newly diagnosed HIV infected 17 year old why they were having sex without a condom. Through tears that person said, "I trusted him."
The fact of the matter, the one thing that the two of you can trust in a relationship is condom use. Why not allow that to be your staring point in a world where 30 million people are infected with HIV. When every 9 1/2 minutes a person becomes infected with HIV in the United States. Where 1 in 5 Americans have herpes and don't even know it. Where 38% of people infected with HIV are infected by people who didn't even know they had HIV. When there is now drug resistant gonorrhea and on it's on the rise in our cities. When it's estimated that 58% of American women between the ages 14-58 have HPV and don't even know it. Some of you don't even know what HPV is.
Condom use is not so much about trust but about just plain old common sense. But common sense gets explained away out of our need to be loved, our need to be in a relationship. But I submit, if a person does not respect your choice enough to use a condom or if you are to afraid to talk to your partner about condom use out of fear of rejection, then maybe it's not the time to be dating.
Maybe you have some work to do. Maybe you have to learn to love yourself first before you start loving someone else. Maybe, you need to walk away from a person you don't feel safe enough with to ask to use a condom. Because if you don't feel safe about a simple discussion of condom use, how can you really feel safe about having sex with that person at all? What can you trust? If you can't trust that he/she will sit down with you and have a honest discussion about the terms of how you give your body to that person. Why not give the relationship real time and not TV time to grow. Condoms in an unmarried relationship will make no condoms in a married relationship special. Give you something to work toward since you have already broken the vow of virginity.
Or some of us go get tested with our partners and we then put our trust in the negative test result. Yep, that's exactly what we do. And we put our trust in the HIV test result for that day, never considering that there are 365 days in a year.
Some of us, we use condoms in the beginning and then with time, we stop. One month, two months, three months, some as long as six months. Surely six months is enough time. We rationalize, like the time this guy courted me like a princess for six months. A long distance relationship, with daily calls, sometimes two or three times a day, flowers. I mean he put it on thick. Razzled and dazzled the hell out of me. And then the moment came. He moved to Chicago and we consummated our relationship. And one week from the day I gave him my innermost self, he informed me that his girlfriend was coming to town to visit. Yep. And when I told her that he and I had been together, she told me that I was just "jealous." Sometimes we deny the truth when it's staring us in the face because the relationship is more important than the truth. Of course, he did the same thing to her, but not until she sold her medical practice and moved to the city to be with him. I say it often but I wish you would start believing me, if the penis ain't in your pocket you have no idea what it's doing when it ain't with you.
Yes, this is an extreme case. But what about the guy that just loses control. Hooks up one night with someone else because he's had too much to drink or even too high from drugs. Or the guy who gets with his ex just for old times sake. Or the person who needs to feel validated at that very moment and anyone will do. Or the people who's self worth is between their legs. The person who takes pride in the fact they can get anyone they want. Some people thrive on the fact that they can hook up with someone else while they are in a relationship. What about mental illness. Bipolar disease where a person is always looking for those highs. Or the person that is going through depression and self-worth is at an all time low. Or the person who falls in love with someone while with another, and with all the best intentions, it becomes a big mess.
And sometimes, we just make a bad decision. But the thing about the decision to have sex with someone no matter the circumstance or what you thought the circumstance was, is that you can't take the sex back. Once you have given yourself to a person you can never get that part back.
You see the thing about relationships is that we are not in this alone. We are in a relationship with another. And people bring the best and worst of who they are to every single relationship. And sometimes, they don't even recognize the best of who they are and they both lie and deny the worst of who they are. Many of us never work through our demons because we never admit that we have them. So why do we put so much trust in what we don't know? Why is our faith in man and not God?
The Bible says that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Why have we made that relationship our God? Hoping that you can trust that person with your life, but have no proof that your hope will come true.
What I know for sure is this, in the 21st century with unimaginable sexually transmitted diseases and being in relationships with someone other than ourselves, I would put my trust in what I know for sure. I would not be so arrogant enough to believe that my relationship is all that I hope it to be. But I would be arrogant enough to love myself enough to be safe.
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