I’ve been sleeping with one girl for several months. We’re good friends and never used condoms because when we started having sex, we were virgins. We’re both sleeping with other people now, and even though we both use condoms with those partners, I’m still worried and think we should use protection with each other. How can I talk to her about this?

Great question! Talking about condoms can be a challenge, especially when sex is new. It’s great that you’re thinking about how to have safer sex and are ready to make this healthy change to your relationship!

It seems like you already know why condoms are important, but for those who don’t, let’s go over the basics.

Condoms are the only method of birth control that also helps prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). When used correctly every time you have sex, they’re 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. They also protect you and your partner from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and more.

Even though you both use condoms with other people, it’s still a good idea to use condoms with each other. It gives you more control of your sexual health. After all, even though you presumably trust your friend, whether she uses condoms with other partners is ultimately out of your control.  If she has a condom mishap (like it slips off or breaks), it puts you at risk for getting an STI. The same goes for you—if your condom slips off or breaks with someone else, it puts your friend at risk for STIs.

Start the conversation before the clothes come off.

Explain why using condoms is important to you. This isn’t about lack of trust, or a change in your relationship, but taking care of each other’s health. You can also talk about how using condoms will make you feel—safer? Less stressed? Able to enjoy sex more?

Ultimately, how you have this conversation is up to you—you know your friend and your relationship best. Talking in person is usually the best way to avoid any miscommunication, but if you’re having a hard time bringing it up, texting or talking on the phone is way better than not talking at all.

Here are some more specific ways to start the conversation:

  • “Hey—I’ve been thinking, and I’d like to start using condoms with each other.”
  • “I know we haven’t used them before, but I think it would be a good idea to use condoms.”
  • “Since we’re having sex with other people now, I would feel a lot safer if we started using condoms.”
  • “I trust you, but not using condoms doesn’t seem like it’s worth the risk.”

It sounds like you feel pretty confident in your condom skills, but just in case, here’s how to use one and some other useful info about condoms.

Chances are, your friend will understand. They may also want to use condoms, but haven’t found the chance to bring it up yet! If they are upset or push back though, remember that only you get to decide what your boundaries are. It’s not ok for anyone to pressure you or ignore your boundaries.

Check out how to respond to common excuses to not wear a condom and how to talk about condoms and STIs in general. Teens Health also has some good advice on having the condom conversation.

We know you said you were both virgins before having sex with each other, but people have lots of different definitions of virginity. Keep in mind that you can get STIs from oral sex (blow jobs, going down on, eating out) and anal sex, not just penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex.

In addition to using condoms, It’s important to get regularly tested for STIs. Condoms play a huge role in preventing the spread of STIs, but they aren’t perfect. If you’re 10-22 years old in NYC, you can get free, confidential STI testing and treatment, birth control, and other sexual health services at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center.