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Talking to Your Partner About Condoms

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It's much smarter to talk about condoms before having sex, but that doesn't make it easy. Some people — even those who are already having sex — are embarrassed by the topic of condoms. But not talking about condoms affects a person's safety. Using condoms properly every time is the best protection against sexually transmitted disease (STDs) — even if you're using another form of birth control like the Pill.

So how can you overcome your embarrassment about talking about condoms? Well, for starters it can help to know what a condom looks like, how it works, and what it's like to handle one. Buy a box of condoms so you can familiarize yourself.

The next thing to get comfortable with is bringing up the topic of condoms with a partner. Practice opening lines. If you think your partner will object, work out your response ahead of time. Here are some possibilities:

Your partner says: "It's uncomfortable."
You might answer this by suggesting a different brand or size. Wearing a condom also may take some getting used to.

Your partner says: "It puts me right out of the mood."
Say that having unsafe sex puts you right out of the mood. Permanently.

Your partner says: "If we really love each other, we should trust each other."
Say that it's because you love each other so much that you want to be sure you're both safe and protect each other.

Your partner says: "Are you nervous about catching something?"
The natural response: "Sometimes people don't even know when they have infections, so it's better to be safe."

Your partner says: "I won't enjoy sex if we use a condom."
Say you can't enjoy sex unless it's safe.

Your partner says: "I don't know how to put it on."
This one's easy: "Here, let me show you."

Timing

After you've familiarized yourself with condoms and practiced your routine, you'll want to pick the right time to bring up the subject with your partner. A good time to do this is long before you're in a situation where you might need a condom. When people are caught up in the heat of the moment, they may find they're more likely to be pressured into doing something they regret later.

Try bringing up the topic in a matter-of-fact way. You might mention that you've bought some condoms and checked them out. Offer to bring the unopened condoms along. Or suggest that your partner buy his or her favorite brand (and then bring some of yours with you, just to be on the safe side). Offer to try different types of condoms to find which works best for both of you.

Make it clear that you won't have sex without a condom. If someone threatens you or says they'd rather break up than wear a condom, it's time for you to say good-bye. Tell the person you won't have sex with someone who doesn't respect you or themselves enough to use protection.

Here are some tips for using condoms:

These aren't the only tips on discussing and using condoms. If you want more advice, talk to your friends, siblings, or parents. Yes, parents. Not everyone feels comfortable talking about sex with their parents, but lots of teens do. Parents often have the best tips.

Health professionals are also great sources of advice on sex and sexuality. A doctor or nurse practitioner or someone at a local health or family planning clinic can offer you advice — confidentially if necessary.

Of course, the only way to be 100% protected from pregnancy and STDs is abstinence (not having sex). But if you do decide to have sex, using a condom allows you to protect yourself.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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