January has almost gone. I hope all those New Year’s resolutions are still in place and going strong. If that is not the case, there’s always 2012.

A new year can often mean new beginnings and stepping out of your comfort zone. Maybe December was the month you met the ‘right person(s)’ who influenced your decision about dating.

Even if you decide to go with the flow and see what happens, there are many considerations to think about and not one is wrong. The key lies in good communication. Don’t be afraid to say what you think, as sooner or later your preferences and quirkiness will come to the surface.

Let’s start with the simple things such as numbers. How many people are involved in the relationship?  Is it going to be a couple, a trio, or maybe more?

Next you may consider open vs monogamy. I’ve met many people on both sides and they both work depending on the people involved and how well they communicate. Maybe you will start monogamously with an understanding that it will be reviewed in the future. This, however, is when it can get a bit tricky — negotiating the rules or agreements of what’s next.

If an open relationship is what you decide, talk about sex with or without condoms between you and your partner(s). Negotiate how you are going to play with others. Is it going to be you and your partner(s) together or separately? Are you going to use condoms with others if there is anal intercourse? What kind of sex is acceptable?

If you decide to be monogamous, discuss how you will handle things if you or your partner(s) slips up. It won’t make you feel better about slipping up, but at least if you consider the situation seriously, it will give you some ground work on which to respond to a potential tricky issue.

Whether in an open or a monogamous relationship, accidents can happen.

Remember, once you’ve been exposed to HIV you have up to 72 hours to access Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). PEP is a month-long course of HIV drugs that may prevent a person from becoming infected with HIV. The sooner you start the drugs the better your chances are. Keep the PEP number 1800 889 887 in a handy place.

Whatever you decide, have a sexual health check at least once a year and remember, the more casual sex partners you have the more frequently you should have one. If you and/or your partner(s) have an open relationship, look at getting a sexual health test every six months. If you guys have more than two or three casual partners outside the relationship, make that sexual health check every three months.

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