*This blog talks about healthy and unhealthy sexual relationships. The content found in this article might be triggering for some. If you or someone you know feels unsafe or is at risk in their relationship, please contact your local hotline or reach out to someone you trust. You are not alone.
Long-term and casual relationships both have their unique issues. One relevant matter in all sexual relationships (or at least it should be) is the matter of birth control. We got together three people, all in different stages/feelings in their relationship for a virtual chat about how they approach the topic of birth control with their person(s)!
Here’s a little background on how each person described their current relationship (names have been changed for privacy):
I’ve been talking/hanging/dating (lol) with this guy for about 5 months now, but it’s very casual. We’re in the same friend group too, so we do see each other beyond hooking up. I don’t have romantic feelings for the guy, but I do like our routine right now. I personally am not seeking out other guys because I just can’t put in the time and effort between work and school.
Amelia is in university and describes herself as ambitious, social and a strong feminist.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve dated someone for more than 2 months. I just haven’t met anyone that I like that much? I’ve also moved around a decent amount over the last 4 years, so that doesn’t help. I meet most of my partners online and I’m pretty straightforward with them about my feelings.
Sam is a recent graduate and describes themself as brutally honest, adventure seeking and unapologetic.
I’ve been in a stable and good relationship now for 6ish years. We’ve been living together for about 4 years now, so it’s safe to say that we know a lot about each other. I will say that there’s things we don’t talk about that frequently, birth control being one of them. It’s almost as if we’ve been together for so long that it doesn’t seem like a big concern anymore, even though we definitely don’t want a baby yet.
Chantel is a masters student and describes herself as an introvert, a book fanatic and routine oriented.
Topic: Are you using birth control?
Amelia: I’m currently on the pill. I’ve been on the pill for years and years though, so I definitely didn’t do it for this relationship.
Sam: I’m on the pill but I’m actually thinking about getting an IUD instead. I’ve been living long term in different countries the last few years and it’s an added headache trying to get my pills on time. I still use condoms with every new partner of course.
Chantel: And I’ve stopped taking birth control pills for like a year and a half. I’ve started tracking my ovulation and using condoms.
Sam: What made you stop taking your pill, just curious?
Chantel: Well a big part of it is that I didn’t like the pill that I was on, but I’ve tried a lottt of different brands in my life. I just got fed up with it. I’ve been doing lots of my own research into new options and so far Fertility Awareness has seemed like the best option so I’m giving it a go.
Sam: I get that! It’s kinda exhausting sometimes. I’ve had to switch my brand before while being in a different country, since the pill I used I couldn’t get in that country. It’s definitely been a big burden while travelling around. There’s a general lack of access in some places. I’m probably going away for a bit in a couple months, I’m pretty excited to switch to an IUD before I go.
Amelia: Do you feel like the IUD just gives you an extra sense of security? Just wondering cause you mentioned that you also use condoms.
Sam: Yea fair question! The IUD is definitely a sense of security, it very much makes me feel like I’m taking charge of my body. Since I don’t have one sexual partner, condoms just feels essential to protect against STIs.
Topic: Do you talk to your partner about birth control?
Sam: I actually feel like I talk about it a lot with my partners. It’s probably because I have more short relationships, so you kind of have to get it out in the open. Also, getting pregnant abroad definitely isn’t an option haha. I think at this point I’m so used to initiating the topic of safe sex that it doesn’t even phase me.
Chantel: That’s actually really interesting, because I feel like the topic of safe sex is almost dying down between me and my partner. It’s almost like the longer we’re together the less we worry or care? Even though we’re definitely not ready to be parents.
Amelia: Haha I can definitely relate to both sides of that. In my last longer relationship, we totally just stopped having the convo because it started to feel unnecessary? Or rather it was a me problem? Which is obviously absurd.
Sam: Oh what's both of your experiences when it comes to buying Plan B? I’ve had some weird conversations about that haha.
Amelia: I’ve only had one experience with needing Plan B, but like at that time I was really broke. I was sorta lucky in the sense that the guy was really adamant about paying, since he thought it was his fault? It sounds kind of silly to say out loud that I’m lucky though.
Chantel: That’s good though! Why did he feel like it was his fault?
Amelia: Well the condom ripped and he put the condom on. It seems harsh to say it was his fault? But I’m really glad that he wanted to take responsibility for it.
Sam: Haha but that’s awesome! I’ve had mostly positive experiences, but one time I had basically the exact same scenario except the guy basically said like “maybe you should get on birth control”. I ran away fast.
Chantel: I’m so so sorry that happened to you, what an asshole. Honestly, my partner and I have never needed it. I try to be really diligent about my birth control routine for both our sakes.
Topic: Societal views
Amelia: Yea so with my past long-term relationship, we might’ve talked about safe sex and birth control just briefly? It was also always after hooking up or like pre-hooking up. With my casual relationship now, we’ve had one real conversation about it. Although in that convo, after I mentioned that I was on the pill, it almost came out like “okay this is my responsibility now.”
Chantel: I’ve also had a super similar experience with my partner now, which kind of annoys me to some degree. So after I stopped taking birth control, it certainly felt like it was up to me to decide what we did next. It’s always me initiating the condom-use, which sometimes bothers me. I just wish that he would feel a sense of urgency or responsibility in making sure I don’t get pregnant.
Sam: I totally feel you both. I think being in mostly casual relationships with different partners, I’ve adopted a mindset of like “I need to take action for myself”. It’s empowering, but I’m also a huge advocate for more male birth control options and changing the conversation around whose responsibility it is. I do think if I had a long-term relationship I would lean on the other side more.
Chantel: This might be a little different for me, but how do you two feel about who pays for birth control?
Sam: I haven’t been in a serious relationship really, so my thought process has always been that I pay for my own.
Amelia: OH so I actually had my boyfriend at the time pay for my IUD. It was cause I was so so broke for a couple years. It really benefited the both of us for me to get the IUD. I totally think that like rent or any finance, the person that makes more can probably help the other out or the cost be divided proportionately.
Chantel: I would agree with that! I’ve been debating signing up for an ovulation tracking app and buying the smart thermometer that goes with it. Since we share so many of our finances, I do think about asking to share this cost too.
Chantel: The only thing really is that sometimes my partner gets a little whiny about condom use. Like I never whined about having to take the pill?
Amelia: Totally. Almost similar to asking people to get tested before hooking up. Not everyone...but some are always like “don’t you trust me”. Or worse is when they turn it around on me.
Sam: Yeah I’m definitely with the condoms thing. I usually say that I’m on the pill upfront, just to put it out there, but then they’re confused when I ask them to wear a condom…? I don’t know if it’s a “oh it doesn’t feel as good” thing or if it’s like “pride” thing?
Amelia: And one of my worst experiences is having a guy take their condom off mid-sex without me really noticing.
Sam: That’s insane, I’m so sorry that happened.
Chantel: How did you react to it? I can’t imagine what I would say right after.
Amelia: Well I don’t think I noticed until after we stopped? I was just very much in shock and honestly didn’t say a lot. I felt super violated and just disrespected. I never saw him again but I wish I had said more to him at the time.
Sam: I also don’t think this conversation happens enough. People need to understand that this is part of consent. You consented to sex with a condom, not without and that person crossed the line. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about it if you want to.
Closing thoughts from us at Reya:
Whether you’re just starting a casual relationship or 5 years into something serious (and everything in between), we want you to know that talking to your partner about birth control and safe sex should be on-going. Your needs may change over time! Chatting about unplanned pregnancies and STIs aren’t the most glamorous, but wouldn’t the both of you have a lot more fun by getting the nitty gritty sorted out?
Maybe your partner isn’t very educated about safe sex...what do you do? For instance, they are confused why you want them to wear a condom even though you’re on birth control. Our philosophy is “honesty is the best policy”. Share with them what you are comfortable with and why. Something as simple as “it doesn’t hurt to be extra careful” or “my pill doesn’t protect either of us from STIs” does the trick. Take a moment to have a conversation and explain that it’s not personal.
Let’s talk about consent too - it is not okay for someone to make you feel pressured into doing something you’re not comfortable with. Try laying some ground rules with yourself in advance so you feel more prepared voicing your feelings in certain situations.
Some red flags to watch out for:
If your partner is pushing you to go on birth control so they don’t have to
If your partner only wants sex without wearing condom
If your partner absolutely will not get tested for you
Making consent a big part of your relationship is crucial to being proactive about your health. You should not have to compromise your well-being for someone else.
When it comes to responsibility, we believe all people involved should share the responsibility of safe sex. This may look different for every relationship, but the bottom line is that everyone benefits from safe and healthy sex and relationships. They say nothing is free right? So everyone has to contribute to reap the benefits! This could mean financially, conversationally, and/or by actions.
Figure out what works best for you. Remember that what works for you can change overtime and your partners should be okay with that.
*If you or someone you know feels unsafe or is at risk in their relationship, please contact your local hotline or reach out to someone you trust. You are not alone.