The first step is to think about why you want to stop using condoms:
- Is it to show how much you love and trust each other?
- Is it to feel closer to each other?
- Is it to prove that you are in a relationship?
- Is it because sex with condoms is less spontaneous?
- Is it due to a latex allergy?
- Is it because you’ve already had sex without condoms – so why bother?
It's important to always use a condom with new partners.
If the relationship gets more serious, then you may start to think about not using condoms. But before just dropping condoms, you both need to have some discussions about where want to take your relationship.
Often it is difficult to know the point at which a casual encounter becomes a relationship and the direction the relationship is going in. The only way to find out is to talk about it. Will your relationship be monogamous? Open? Or will it be one of the multitudes of other arrangements?
It is important to ask yourself what it means when someone you have known for a short time and are about to (or hope to) have a relationship with, tells you they are STI free and HIV negative. When asking these questions, remember that it is likely they will ask you the same things.
Here are a few important questions to consider:
- When did they have their last test? It may have been years ago, but then again, it could have been a couple of weeks ago.
- Why did they have the test? Some people get tested after having a scare following unsafe sex. If the window period has not passed they could be positive without knowing it.
- What have they done since? Just because someone has tested negative a while ago, does not mean they still are. It is possible that they placed them self at risk for an STI or HIV since then (unprotected sex, sharing needles, etc.)
- What were they tested for? Was it for STIs (peeing in a cup) or was it for HIV too (blood test)? Did they also get swabbed in the mouth (for STIs transmitted during oral sex)? Did they need to get an anal swab (for STIs transmitted during anal sex)?
- Are they being honest? Just because your partner says they have been tested, does this mean they are telling you the truth?
Click here for more information about STI Testing and to find out if you're at risk.
Getting the Test
The next step in agreeing to no longer use condoms is for both of you to get a sexual health check-up including an STI and HIV test. You will need to decide whether you will get tested together or separately, and whether you will get your results together or separately. The benefit of getting tested and getting your results together is that you will have each other’s support, and you won’t have to rely on each other’s word about the results.
Even if you’ve already had unsafe sex in your relationship, do not think it is too late to get tested. It is better to get tested and (hopefully) start with a clean slate than keep having unprotected sex, because you think you might have already become infected. Click here for more information about what to do if you have had unsafe sex.
HIV has a three month window period - this is the time it takes your body to produce the antibodies that indicate whether or not you are carrying the virus. It is important that, even if you both test negative on the first test, you both return to get tested again in three months’ time. You and your partner need to agree to continue using condoms during this three-month period, so that when the second test results come back, you can be sure that they are definitive.
If the tests come back positive, doctors or other support people are available to talk about your health status and about ways to maintain your health. It will also be important to talk to your partner about your result, whether it’s negative or positive. You may want to see a counsellor either alone or together.
Trust in yourself and your partner
Once you have established that both you and your partner are STI free and HIV negative, you will need to talk about what type of sex will occur, both inside and outside of your relationship.
Some questions to consider are:
- Will we stop using condoms in our relationship?
- What form of contraception will we use in our relationship?
- Will we agree to have sex outside the relationship? Or are we going to be monogamous?
- Will we agree to tell each other if we have sex outside the relationship or will it be a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy?
Once you have had a chance to openly discuss these issues, honesty and ongoing open communication are essential to maintaining a condom-less relationship. Make agreements with each other about acceptable safe sex practices inside and outside of the relationship.
Stay honest and maintain ongoing communication.
We all deserve happy and healthy relationships!
Dealing with the bumps along the road
One of the reasons open communication and honesty are fundamental to maintaining any relationship is so that you and your partner can deal with any problems that may arise in it. For example: what happens when your agreement is broken? There may be occasions when you have unsafe sex with someone else, perhaps because you were out of it, horny, angry, or because it “just happened.” Whatever the reason, would you be comfortable telling your partner about what happened? How can you know if they would feel comfortable telling you? Remember, if you have stopped using condoms with each other and one of you has unsafe sex, you will need to start using condoms with each other again, so both of you need to feel comfortable about telling the other what has happened. Talking this possibility through beforehand and coming to an agreement about it will make it much easier if the situation arises.
Some things do come to an end
Some relationships work; some don’t and come to an end. People often feel vulnerable at the end of a relationship and having to go back to safe sex again after the break-up of a condom-free relationship can increase the sense of loss. You have been used to having sex without a condom, and it might be a hassle going back, but it is important to think about the risk of unsafe sex with casual partners. As one relationship ends, another new one may be just down the road and it's important to remember that if you are considering not using condoms with a new partner, you need to go through the same steps, including waiting three months for the second test. Click here for more information about ending a relationship respectfully.
Going with the ebbs and flows
Relationships change with time, and agreements within relationships can change too. For example, one of you may feel differently about the arrangement you have and seek to open it up – or quite the opposite! Once again, dealing with change requires healthy, open and honest communication. While the agreements may change, it is important to ensure that whatever you’re doing (especially sex outside the relationship) continues to be safe.