QUESTION

My wife of 20 years divorced me, so I’m back in the dating scene. I’m embarrassed to say that I need some pointers on the best ways to use a condom. Can you help?

ANSWER

There is no need to feel embarrassed. Sometimes, we find ourselves single and back in the dating world no matter what our age. Suddenly, condoms are important to you once again following what I’m assuming was a long-term, monogamous relationship with your ex-wife.

Here’s a quick refresher on the proper use of a condom—and a few mistakes to avoid…

Check the package date. Before you find yourself in an intimate moment, make sure your condoms aren’t old. All condoms have an expiration date on the package—if the date has passed, the condom is more likely to tear or break.

Don’t make this mistake: To avoid damaging the condom when opening the package, don’t use a sharp object (such as a knife or scissors) or even your teeth. Instead, gently tear along the perforated edge. Once the package is open, check the condom to make sure there are no holes or tears. Inspect the condom for any tears, defects or irregularities. If there’s any question whether it’s damaged, throw it away and use a new one.

Have fun with putting it on. Condoms must, of course, be placed on an erect penis. Many couples use the placement as part of their foreplay. When the time is right, position the tip of the condom on the end of your penis—with the roll on the outside. Don’t make this mistake: If the roll is on the inside when you begin to place the condom on your penis, you will have to start over with a new one. Once the condom is unrolled, it’s very difficult to roll it back up.

Be sure to pinch the tip of the condom between two fingers when you place it on the end your penis to create a small air space to collect the semen. If you are not circumcised, then pull back your foreskin first to expose the head of the penis for a better and more secure fit. Unroll the condom down all the way, toward the body, along the shaft of the penis. Some men (or their partners) become impatient and don’t fully unroll the condom.

Try a lubricant. Water-based or silicone-based lubricants can be added to the outside of the condom once it is fully in place. A lubricant can help prevent damage or tearing…and it can add to pleasure—especially if your partner has vaginal dryness, which commonly occurs as women get older. Don’t make this mistake: Because oil damages latex and can cause condoms to break, do not use anything that has oil in it as a lubricant, such as petroleum jelly, hand lotion or baby oil. Also, don’t apply any lubricant before putting on the condom. This can make it challenging to roll the condom down the penis and increase the chances that it will be pulled off during sexual activity. When you’ve finished having sex, dispose of the condom in the garbage and not in a toilet.

Don’t damage the goods. Do everything possible to avoid damaging your condom package. This means storing it away from heat or the sun, in a dry, cool location. It is not smart to keep condom package in your car, where there are often temperature extremes, or in your wallet, where it could get damaged from being compressed. Better to carry a condom in a front pocket or jacket pocket—and carry a backup…just in case.

Be sure to keep your condoms away from sharp objects like a drawer that also has scissors, safety pins, tools, knives, pens or pencils. Don’t make this mistake: Be sure to follow the steps above to ensure that your condom doesn’t break or tear—and has the best possible chances of doing its job. And remember a condom does a good job of preventing pregnancy, but it’s not 100% reliable. Also, when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases, a condom can only protect those parts of the body that are covered.

Once you don’t have to think about these steps, it will give you the confidence to really enjoy your sexual experiences.

And if you’re interested in a little trivia: The condom is believed to have first come into use thousands of years ago when animal intestines were wrapped around the man’s penis and used to help prevent the spread of disease and pregnancy. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that rubber condoms (aka “rubbers”) started being mass produced. Fast forward to the 1920s, when latex was invented—and became the condom material of choice. Condoms have now exploded into a nearly $8 billion global market with manufacturers churning out various varieties made of latex, polyurethane and other synthetic materials.