Santa Clara University

Wellness Center

Queer Abby Responses

The questions Abby will be addressing here are:
Question #1: How do I know if I am a rebound?
Question #2: How to I make a long distance relationship work?
Question #3: I cheated on my girlfriend, can we rebuild trust and still stay together?
Question #4: When do you know if or when you are ready to have sex with someone?
Question #5: I have not had sex but have had oral sex. Should I have PAP or other tests done?

 

Question #1: I’m really falling hard for this girl I’ve been dating but I’m worried because her ex just ended their relationship not long ago. Could I be a rebound guy?

So you are really into this girl but don't want to wind up being the next break-up casualty? Smart move. I guess the thing to keep in mind is how much time you are spending weekly (daily would be a big red flag) talking about her past relationship. Remember that any ending of a relationship is accompanied by a grief process. The longer the relationship lasts the more invested one generally becomes and the harder it is to let go. One of the ways people avoid the important but difficult grief process (because it is emotionally uncomfortable if not down right painful) is by entering into a relationship prematurely. Also note that some folks enter into another relationship quickly in order to get the self-esteem boost they may derive from the enhanced social status of wearing the "relationship badge" for the self and for others (especially an ex) to admire.

Bottom line is that the focus should be on the new relationship (aka yours) not the old. If you find yourself experiencing the break-up grief process along with her (these can include shock, denial, anger, sadness, revenge fantasies or obsessive thinking and talking about an ex), then it's probably a good idea to keep yourself at a safe emotional distance so that you do not play the role of healer or become an understudy. Being a friend may go a long way initially for both of you and is arguably a necessary condition for a strong romantic relationship.

Lastly, make sure that your level of attraction, needs, values, and interests are pretty compatible because ultimately that will make this relationship a worthwhile adventure.  Rebound relationships are often noted for the ease with which these essential things are compromised.  In the end, just have fun and if it starts to hurt, say "ouch"... meaning communicate your feelings and your expectations of her. If it’s not working, then move on and date someone who is ready to be with you FOR you.

 

Question #2: I’m in a long distance relationship with someone I met during the summer. Things are going really well but I’m concerned it won’t last? Any suggestions?

Yes, long-distance relationships while in college can be quite emotionally and logistically challenging. There are so many other academic and social pressures, demands and distractions (pleasurable and not) to manage. However, no need to throw in the towel just yet. If you guys are both certain that you'd like to "keep the good times rolling", then here are a few tips to make your geographically impaired relationship easier.

  • Relationships require mutual trust, respect, and open and honest communication to grow stronger. You may want to schedule a time regularly when you can "connect". Phone calls can get costly if you don’t have a stellar cell phone plan, so daily (or frequent) e-mails or instant messages can work well. This also takes away some of the pressure to spontaneously talk when you are tired or don’t have much to say. Maybe even trying a "my day in a nutshell" e-journal that you can send to one another so that you both know what new experiences you are having and the feelings associated with them.
  • Talk about your expectations early-on. What do you want from the relationship (i.e, exclusive vs dating others, ways you prefer to express your affection or love) and what you'll need to feel more secure (i.e, having check-ins on a weekly basis about how things are going and what could improve the relationship). Jealously and paranoia can be common problems in LDR's in particular.
  • Alternating in-person visits to cut down on travel expenses.
  • Keep in mind that you both might feel pressure to squeeze in "a whole lot of relationship" in just a few precious days, so talk about this stress and plan activities (and relaxation time) together whenever you can.
  • Watching a TV show you both enjoy or reading the same chapter in a book (or article in a magazine you both like) at the same time can help provide you with a shared experience and can also help spark conversation for when you do speak.
  • Surprising each other regularly with thoughtful and creative gifts (e-cards or the traditional kind and other fun things once you learn more about each others likes and dislikes ..don't be afraid to ask things like her favorite colors, foods/sweets, flowers, animals etc.)

These are just a few suggestions to get you started. May seem like difficult work but anything meaningful in life generally requires investment. LDR's can be fulfilling if you're up for the challenge. It's a bit harder when you are still getting to know one another but not impossible. Just don't neglect the other wonderful opportunuties to make new friends and engage in new activities that college life offers. This will provide you with alternate ways of building the self-esteem necessary to keep your relationship healthy and enjoyable.

 

Question #3: My girlfriend and I are in a same–sex relationship and we are in love and would like to get married someday. The problem is that because I cheated on her in the past, she throws this in my face whenever I get mad or complain. She sometimes threatens not to speak to me as payback. I want to be able to get angry without her bringing up the past especially since she was unfaithful to me too (after I was). When will she get over this and how can I help her?

This must be very confusing and upsetting for you. You guys have really had your ups and downs in this relationship, huh? It sounds to me like the two of you are committed to working things out and staying on track for the long haul. Past infidelities can be difficult to heal because trust is such an essential part of intimacy and it has been ruptured. I don't know when you can expect that she (or maybe even you for that matter) will be done grieving the loss of the sense of "specialness" that can come from a breach in monogamous commitment. Clearly she may still be wounded by the past infidelity and may be acting on her anger to make you feel all the shame and insecurity in this relationship that she may been feeling. When you get mad at her she may be experiencing this as a form of rejection from you which might bring her right back to the feelings (i.e., shame, anger, inadequacy) that she experienced when she first learned of your infidelity.

For many same-sex partners, intimacy (getting close to others) can become linked with the fear of rejection, humiliation or abandonment because of the dehumanizing stigma society has placed on homosexuality. There can often be a “you and me against the world” kind of effect because of the perception and reality that society is often unreceptive and hostile to same-sex relationships. It's a lot of pressure to be in a same-sex relationship when there is often little-to-no support, encouragement or guidance from family, peers and society for making it work. Heterosexual privilege and homophobia can sometimes have devastating effects on the self-esteem of LGBT students which can also impact relationships. Also, aside from the unique challenges of a same-sex relationship, it’s a lot of pressure to be “the one", particularly so early in life when your needs, interests, values and preferences are still all actively changing and evolving.

The important thing here is that you sit down together and navigate a future course for this relationship that doesn't include emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another person by using humiliation, intimidation, exploitation, guilt, coercion, manipulation, and fear. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more "below the radar" methods, such as repeated disapproval, a system of punishments meant to control behavior and feelings, or even the refusal to ever be pleased. Now it's important not to panic and label your relationship "emotionally abusive" because many relationships suffer from these temporary violations. It's really about patterns of behavior that often get worse and can sometimes lead to physical or sexual abuse. So just take note, particularly if you begin to experience a deterioration of your self-confidence, your trust in your own perceptions, or your self-worth. No relationship is worth those consequences.

But on a cheerier note, here's a good place to start. Taking time together to make a list of relationship do's and don'ts (ground rules), needs, limits, and expectations, and a safe space in which to periodically communicate these needs, concerns and intimacy violations. Initially, a couples counselor may be of great assistance in this difficult process so that you can learn how to express anger in non-threatening, productive, and relationship-affirming ways. So please don't hesitate to schedule an appointment at the Counseling Center for an individual or couples consultation if you think that would help. Whatever you do remember that self-care is self-love and that the relationship with yourself is arguably the most important one there is. You should also check out the Billy LGBT Center in San Jose for programming on important same-sex relationship issues and for additional support.

 

Question #4: When do you know if or when you are ready to have sex with someone?

It doesn't matter if you are a virgin or have had many sexual partners in the past. With each new potential partner-- you should ask yourself honestly about your readiness and willingness to have sex. QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:

  • Does having sex support your personal values, morals and goals? Know yourself and your values - ask yourself if the situation and person "feel right" and if you really trust those feelings.
  • Do you understand and accept the emotional risks of having sex? Heartbreak, regret, shame, and loss can be emotional risks associated with sex. Are you ready and willing to face these if your partner isn’t sure or doesn’t want a commitment/relationship/future with you? ASK THEM!!
  • Are you ready to protect yourself and your partner from physical risks, like STDs and pregnancy? BE SAFE---Know about the various STDs and how one can contract them. Know that there is no 100% protection against unwanted outcomes if you have sex, only abstinence can totally protect you!
  • Do you know what sex is and what can and can’t carry risk? Oral sex, anal sex, lying on top of each other naked and heavy petting are all sexual contact that CAN result in STDs.
  • Do you feel pressured to have sex by your partner or peers? Are you doing it for the “right” reasons?? Having sex out of fear of embarrassment, not fitting in, trying to get someone to like you, etc. WILL ONLY MAKE YOU FEEL WORSE!!
  • Are you ready to talk openly about sex with your partner? If you don’t feel comfortable talking about sex with your partner, YOU AREN’T READY for it!!! You should be comfortable talking about protection (AGAINST PREGNANCY AND STDs), asking about each partner’s history of STDs, and asking about your partner’s feelings and level of commitment.
  • Do you care about and trust your partner? Do you know your partner well? Ask yourself how well you know the person you are thinking of being with and if there is MUTUAL trust and respect between the two of you.

If you decide you are ready, then there are important things to know about SAFER SEX practices in order to maximize your health and safety. If you make the mature decision to engage in sex, then it is essential that you EDUCATE YOURSELF about all aspects of sex!!!!

  • Know how to protect yourself against pregnancy.
    **A great website to read and learn about the MANY different contraceptive/pregnancy prevention methods (i.e., Barrier/Chemical Methods, Hormonal Methods, Timing Methods, Surgical Methods) can be found here: www.smartersex.org/contraception/ins_and_outs.asp
  • Know about the various kinds of STDs.
    **There are many STDs out there, including HIV/AIDS, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Human Papilloma virus (HPV), Herpes, Hepatitis B, etc. Learn how each of these are passed (some are through blood or semen, others skin to skin contact, etc), what kind of symptoms they produce, where to get tested (the SCU Cowell Health Center can do this), how best to protect yourself from these (abstinence and reliable and correct use of condoms are the only "safer sex" methods), and how to treat them if you contract it. Read about the various STDs here: www.smartersex.org/stis/stis.asp
  • Know about condoms and how to use them properly.
    **Read about condoms here: www.smartersex.org/contraception/barrier_chemical.asp

 

Question #5: I have not had sex but I have had sexual contact, as in oral sex. I am 19 years old. Should I have a PAP smear or any other kinds of tests done?

First off, it is important to know that a Pap smear is just one part of a gynecological exam. A Pap smear is really a screening test for cervical cancer. The smears identify inflammation and infection in the cervical area that may be evidence of abnormalities in the cervical cells. The Pap smear does not test for pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), vaginal infections, or other types of gynecological problems. An annual gynecological exam is very thorough and often includes:

  • Questions about full family and personal medical history
  • A breast examination, with instructions for breast self-exam
  • Listening to your heart and lungs with a stethoscope
  • A blood pressure and pulse check
  • A blood test (hemoglobin count and complete blood count)
  • A weight check
  • An abdominal exam
  • A pelvic exam
  • A Pap smear and STI screening tests

Some practitioners recommend that all women over the age of 18 should have an annual exam even if they haven't had vaginal intercourse. Others disagree. If you are not having vaginal sex and have no pain or other symptoms, then it is likely not needed. However, if you have irregular, painful, or extremely heavy periods, or are experiencing any strange rashes, bumps, discharge or other symptoms, then an exam would DEFINITELY be recommended. If you want to schedule an appointment with a physician or nurse practitioner, you can contact the Cowell Health Center at (408) 554-4501.

<>Now, a second part to your question that concerns Abby is a risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is important to know that oral sex DOES carry risk for the transmission of STIs. The risks depend on whether or not the receiver and/or giver was already infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and if so, then which one. Herpes, HIV, yeast infections, gonorrhea, syphilis, human papillomavirus (HPV- the virus that causes genital warts), and chlamydia can all be transmitted through unprotected oral sex. The risk is lower than through vaginal or anal sex, but there is still risk. You can read more about STIs and how they are contracted here: www.smartersex.org/stis/stis.asp

The best ways to lessen your risks include:

  • Know your partner well. Have you each been tested? Talk about your sexual histories and make sure you feel comfortable. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about oral sex with your partner, YOU AREN’T READY for it!!!
  • Get tested yourself so you can get treatment if needed.
  • Check your own and your partners genitalia for any abnormal looking bumps, sores, rashes, etc. If you see anything-- stop and postpone sexual activity. Go to a doctor to make sure everything checks out ok.
  • Unless you are in a monogamous, committed relationship where you have each been tested. . . . ALWAYS use safer sex methods, such as unlubed condoms and dental dams during oral sex.
 
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