Condoms: Talking With Your Partner

Young women's version of this guide

Hand holding a condom isolated on white backgroundHaving a conversation about how to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy should come way before sex, but sometimes it’s not discussed because one or more partners feel too embarrassed to bring it up. However, if you’re thinking about having sex (or are already having sex), you should be able to talk to your partner(s) about safer sex practices and goals.

What if I feel uncomfortable talking about condom use?

Talking about condoms may seem a little uncomfortable or awkward at first, especially if you don’t know how your partner(s) will react. Healthy relationships are based on trust and communication, so you should be able to talk about how you feel. Also talking about condoms and sex can lead to safer sex practices and more enjoyable sex for all partners.

Some people find it easier to talk face to face, and others find it easier to talk by phone or text message. Use whatever method feels right to you and your partner(s).

My partner thinks I don’t trust them because I want to use condoms. What can I tell them?

You can let your partner(s) know it’s not about trust, but about you feeling safer and better about protecting you and them from sexually transmitted infections as well as unplanned pregnancy (if vaginal-penile sex). You can let them know your health care provider recommended this as a way to stay healthy. Also, for vaginal-penile sex health care providers recommend dual method use, which means using both condoms and contraception (or birth control).

My partner said that we don’t need to use condoms because they are (or I am) using birth control.

Birth control is a great option to prevent pregnancy. While birth control is usually 91-99% effective, it is not 100% effective. By using a condom your risk of an unplanned pregnancy is lower. Plus condoms prevent against sexually transmitted infections.

What if I’m afraid of my partner’s reaction when I tell them I want to use condoms?

In healthy relationships, when partners have problems, they discuss them and work together to find a solution. If you’re afraid of how your partner(s) might react, it might be a sign that you’re in an unhealthy relationship and/or that you should think about if you feel comfortable having sex with your partner(s).

What if I already know my partner doesn’t want to use condoms?

Sexual relationships involve two or more people. Communication is key to healthy sexual relationships. Be honest with your partner(s) and let them know the reasons you want to use condoms. If they want to have sex with you they should respect your decision to use protection.

How can I respond to my partner’s excuses?

  • If they says: “If you love me, you’d let me have sex with you without a condom.”
    You can: Make it clear to them that this isn’t a valid reason. For instance, you could have used the same line and said “If you love me, you’d use a condom,” but you didn’t. You came up with mature, valid reasons regarding your health and wellbeing.
  • If they says“Stopping to put on a condom will ruin the mood.”
    You can: Tell them that this doesn’t have to be true. If you keep condoms nearby and/or come up with a fun way of putting them on, it can actually add to the mood instead of taking away from it.
  • If they says“My penis is too big for condoms.”
    You can: Tell them that condoms stretch to accommodate different sizes. They also come in different sizes and flavors. You can try out a few to see which works best for your relationship.

What if my partner still says no to condoms?

If your partner still says no to using condoms after you’ve made it clear that it’s very important to you, you have an important decision to make. Ask yourself if you’re willing to take the risks that unprotected sex involves, and think long and hard about whether you really want to be with someone who doesn’t respect what is really important to you.