Condoms: Friend or Foe?

If you're in an exclusive relationship, should you be using an alternate form of birth control?

Dear Monica, I have been dating a guy for a while. Since we are exclusive, he has asked about using other forms of birth control besides condoms. When is the right time in a relationship to begin to use alternate forms of birth control? — C. B., Wilmington

Practicing safe sex is the number-one priority when you are dating. Once you enter into an exclusive relationship and you are confident that you know his past sexual history, other forms of birth control become an option. This applies to married couples, too. If a spouse cheats, he or she could be putting the partner at risk for STDs. Here are some pros and cons for women and men in regard to using condoms.

  • Pro: Babies keep you up at night and they are a lot of work.
  • Con: Many people complain about limited sensitivity when using condoms. This is the primary reason why people opt for other methods of birth control.
  • Pro: From the male perspective, having to worry about the woman’s diligence in taking her pill every day is a major concern. Even one day of a missed dose of the pill can increase the chances of an unwanted pregnancy. An additional factor to consider is the use of antibiotics, which can also mitigate the effectiveness of the pill. At least when a man (correctly) wears a condom measures are being taken.
  • Con: Many couples complain that the time involved in getting a condom in gear takes away from the spontaneity of the sex act. This time out can also affect his readiness.
  • Pro: Once the seed is planted, realistically the course of action is in the woman’s hands. The man may suggest his wishes, but ultimately she will decide. Men, wear your condoms so you are guaranteed to be a part of the decision-making process.
  • Con: Don’t be deceived into believing that condoms are fool-proof. They do have a failure rate. Factors—such as tearing or leaving an improper reservoir at the tip—can lead to pregnancy.

The timing of when you should consider alternate methods of birth control directly relates to the trust in the relationship. Condoms are more than just a barrier to having a baby. Though sex may be better without one, the reality is that condoms provide protection from STDs for both the man and woman.

I am sure Maria Shriver never imagined that 25 years down the pike she would learn that her husband had unprotected sex with others during their marriage. Not only did she come to learn about his child, but now she has to get tested for exposure to venereal diseases. Whether you are dating exclusively or married, there are no guarantees of fidelity. The right time to use other methods of birth control is when you feel that you are in a trusting, committed relationship. You have to be the judge of your mate’s character and believe in the strength of your relationship.

Monica Mandell, Ph.D. is the Director of the Philadelphia office of Selective Search, the premiere (off-line) upscale matchmaking firm for the most eligible singles. Please send your questions to: