What if my partner won't use condoms?
When you have sex, using a condom is the safest way to protect yourself and your partner from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy.
Psychologist Dr Petra Boynton suggests how you can respond to the most common excuses if your partner doesn't want to use a condom.
"I don't need a condom – I'm healthy"
You can't tell whether someone's got an infection by looking at them – many people with an STI have no noticeable symptoms. Just because you can't see any obvious sores or warts, that doesn't mean someone is free of STIs.
"I don't like using condoms – I like it natural"
Sex with a condom can feel natural – try superfine condoms, or both get involved in putting the condom on so it becomes part of having sex together.
Condoms can also add new sensations to sex. There are condoms that make you and your partner tingle or feel hot, that make you look bigger or help you stay erect longer. There are also textured, flavoured and coloured condoms.
Having sex without a condom may seem natural, but it puts you and your partner at risk of infection and unintended pregnancy.
"I don't want to wear a condom – I lose sensitivity"
If condoms have made you or your partner lose sensitivity in the past, look for brands that sell light condoms. Some are very thin and can feel as if you're barely wearing one.
Alternatively, you may want a textured condom to boost sensitivity for you and your partner. Some people prefer condoms that reduce sensitivity, which can be great if you're worried about coming too quickly.
"I don't want to wear a condom – it affects my performance"
Some people find it hard to keep an erection when wearing a condom. This is often because the first time they try to use a condom is when they're just about to have sex. Their erection might start to go, they get worried about it, lose their erection and then associate it with the condom. People can also feel anxious about what their sexual partner might think.
If this worries you, practise putting on a condom when you're not about to have sex with someone. Learn to enjoy sex while wearing a condom. Try masturbating with a condom on to help you learn to stay hard and have an orgasm. This way, you'll feel more confident about staying erect next time you have sex.
"I don't want to wear a condom – it ruins the moment"
People don't think of reaching for a sex toy or taking off sexy underwear as a distraction, although they briefly interrupt sex. This is probably because they find it sexy.
Get used to putting on a condom and thinking about sex while you're doing it – your partner can put it on for you, or you could watch your partner undress as you're putting the condom on. This way, you'll stay aroused and putting on a condom will become part of sex, not an interruption.
"I can't wear a condom – they hurt or they're too small"
A condom that's too tight may feel uncomfortable, but condoms come in a range of sizes so you can find one that fits. Find out more about penis size.
If the condoms you've been using are too small, look out for brands that come in a bigger size. Try one on before you have sex to see how it feels. Your community contraception clinic or pharmacist can help you find a brand that suits you – find sexual health services near you, including contraception clinics.
It may hurt to use condoms because you're allergic to them. Find out more about being allergic to condoms.
"I don't need a condom – I'm sterile/I had a vasectomy"
Only a small number of men under 30 are sterile, so if someone tells you they are, they may not be telling the truth. And whether a man is sterile or not, he can still get and pass on STIs by having unprotected sex, whatever his age.
"I haven't got a condom and I've got no change for the condom machine"
Keep condoms at home and always carry them with you when you go out so you're always prepared. This way, if your partner says they haven't got money to buy them, you'll have some with you.
You can get free condoms from:
- community contraception clinics
- sexual health clinics
- some genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
- some young people's clinics
You can also buy condoms online or from:
- vending machines
- some petrol stations
Always buy condoms that have the "CE" mark on the packet. This means they've been tested to the high safety standards required in Europe. Condoms that don't have the CE mark won't meet these standards, so don't use them.
"I don't need a condom – we've been seeing each other for a while"
Many STIs, such as chlamydia, don't have any noticeable symptoms and can go undetected for a long time. Even though you may have been with your partner for a while, you still may not be risk-free.
Discuss your sexual history with your partner and get checked at a sexual health (GUM) clinic before you stop using condoms. Find out more about talking to your partner about sex.
"I can't wear a condom – I'm allergic to them"
Only a very small number of people are allergic to condoms, so don't always trust someone who tells you they are. An allergy isn't a good excuse to have unprotected sex, as there are condoms that don't cause allergies.
People who are allergic to condoms may react to:
- the latex that condoms are made from
- the chemicals used to manufacture condoms
- the spermicide added to most condoms – spermicide is usually on the outside of the condom, so the person who reacts is not the person wearing it but their partner
If you or your partner are allergic to condoms, you could try:
- non-latex condoms made from polyurethane or polyisoprene, which don't cause allergic reactions
- using condoms that have no added spermicide
Condoms are the best method of contraception for preventing STIs. But some other methods, such as the IUD and implant, are more effective at preventing pregnancy.
To protect against unintended pregnancy, you can use another form of contraception as well, including long-acting reversible contraceptive methods such as:
- the contraceptive implant
- the contraceptive injection
- the intrauterine system (IUS)
- the intrauterine device (IUD)
For information on sexual health, including HIV, call the Sexual Health Line on 0300 123 7123, textphone (for people with hearing impairments) 0800 521 361.
Page last reviewed: 11 September 2017
Next review due: 11 September 2020