What does an opened box of condoms mean?
April 15, 2016 1:22 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I have been together for more than a decade. We have young children. After our youngest was born, we decided to use condoms but then my husband had a vasectomy. Since then we have had an unopened box of condoms, in sealed plastic, sitting in a small box with some other items for a few years now. For the last month and a half I've also just gone on the pill to regulate my periods. In other words, we have contraception covered and we never use condoms.

A week or so ago, I had reason to go into that box of items. The box of condoms was still there. A few minutes ago, I went back in there again to get a cigarette lighter. The box isn't there anymore, the condoms are scattered and there's 17 there. My husband is at work but supposed to be late home tonight as he's having work drinks, which is not unusual. I don't know how many condoms were in the original blue box of Durex lifestyles. 17 seems an odd number.

Onto our relationship. It's been rocky in the distant past due to raising kids but we got through that and our sex life has been up and down after the birth of our child because it was so painful for me but I would battle through it. We weren't having sex as often but now I'm on the pill, my hormones have calmed down and my sex drive has come back and we are now having good and frequent sex. Our relationship is great (I think!) he seems very happy. We get on well, support each other and love each other very much. Having said that, I know he's cheated on girlfriends in the past.

But with us, there's been no suspicious behaviour of late, no dodgy texts or behaviour or frequent late nights although in the past he has what I call a 'work wife' who I deemed a threat. She left his company and is a SAHM with a baby. From what I understand they keep in loose contact and have met up for lunch once since. I was relieved when she left, though he always insisted their relationship was business and friendship only.

So, I really have nothing to go on besides an open box of condoms. Can anyone give me a plausible explanation behind this which isn't cheating? And what should I do next if anything? I am very very keen to believe any innocent explanation he gives me and that I'm just being ridiculous for obvious reasons. I've said nothing yet to him and am trying not to jump to conclusions.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (42 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Any possibility of your children having access to the box?
posted by sageleaf at 1:29 PM on April 15, 2016 [35 favorites]

How old are your "young children"? Is it possible they got into the box and were fooling around? It wouldn't be the first time condoms were used like balloons. This seems especially likely if the remaining ones were scattered around.
posted by Beti at 1:30 PM on April 15, 2016 [20 favorites]

I sometimes masturbate wearing a condom. It can feel 'hotter' to me because it feeds fantasies of 'first time sex' with a new partner -- something I've not experienced in 15 years of partnered sex. It also makes clean-up way easier at the end. I've sometimes fretted that my wife could find our years old box of condoms that has a similar story and have similar thoughts to yours.
posted by Doc_Sock at 1:30 PM on April 15, 2016 [20 favorites]

Plausible innocent explanation: Is this something where your kids could have gotten into it? And maybe your husband tossed the box after cleaning up their mess?

Other alternate explanations: Any houseguests, or maybe babysitters who could have had reason to know about and access that box?

I can understand why this might seem potentially suspicious, but on its own, this doesn't seem like definitive proof of anything.

It sounds like this will eat away at you if you say nothing, so you could just mention, offhandedly, "Hey, funny thing, I noticed the box of condoms was messed with. Did the kids get into that box?" Or whatever.

(On preview, I see sageleaf covered the kids explanation already.)
posted by litera scripta manet at 1:31 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'd definitely think kids messing around rather than husband messing around. Last week one of my friends had a kid who got into the flour and some blue nail polish on the same freaking day and both were supposedly inaccessible.

But you should mention it to him, because keeping this kind of thing in your head is pure poison.
posted by SMPA at 1:33 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

I suppose you have two options: (1) ask him about it in a non-confrontational way and weigh the plausibility of whatever explanation you get or (2) stay silent and go into detective mode thinking you are more likely to catch him misbehaving, if he is, if he doesn't know you suspect anything. Unless you have more reasons to be suspicious of him, I think you could make yourself crazy with the second option. There could be innocent explanations like using the condoms for a sex ed demonstration (this one came to mind because my wife was going to help teach a sex ed class at church), a friend asked for a few condoms (more than a little odd, but it could happen and maybe he'll have a story that provides some context), or the kids opened the box.

I am very very keen to believe any innocent explanation he gives me and that I'm just being ridiculous for obvious reasons.

Just don't go too, too far with this. If he looks panicked and then gives you an explanation that's obviously nonsense, don't force yourself to believe it just because you want to keep the peace.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 1:35 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yes, the scattered condoms points to an innocent explanation.

If the box was still there and closed but empty, that would make me suspicious. But this -- somebody (probably a child) was messing around with them.

But yeah, just talk to your husband about it. "Weirdest thing ever - the box is gone, the packets are all over the place ... do you think one of the kids did this?"
posted by anastasiav at 1:36 PM on April 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

Also, my husband just pointed out that it wouldn't be unusual for someone going to a stag or bachelor party to wrap up a (real) gift using the condom box as part of the wrapping, as a joke.
posted by anastasiav at 1:37 PM on April 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

Normally, I would think he's absolutely cheating. But condoms are pretty easy to come by - he'd have to be an idiot to take them from a shared box and leave such obvious evidence.

So there is a really innocent explanation or he really wants to get caught.

Ask, for sure. It'll clear up both of these scenarios.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 1:39 PM on April 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

I would think someone who was cheating would either be neat about sneaking out condoms to not arouse suspicion or would buy new to keep it hidden entirely.

So I would guess babysitter, guest, or kids making water balloons.
posted by cecic at 1:40 PM on April 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

I would definitely frame this, when you talk to him, which you should do rather than let this fester, as "this is weird and so many of the explanations are either bad, creepy, or dangerous* that I have to ask" because honestly, unless he's dumb as a box of rocks, the most likely explanations are worrisome in a "someone going through our stuff/someone having condoms who shouldn't" way.

*Depending on how "young" young is, you don't want a small kid mistaking a condom for something edible.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:40 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

My husband is loyal to a fault and we both agree any cheating would be a dealbreaker. He's never cheated on anyone.

I came home one day to a condom wrapper on the side table. I of course assumed it was something innocent and mastrubation related and even if he were to cheat he's not an idiot that would leave a wrapper on MY side table.

When he came home I said "Uh... I assume this is nothing, but.... why is there a condom wrapper on the side table? It really freaked me out."

And his face went pale and he said "OHHHH MY GOD! I'm so sorry. I used one to mastrubate because I didn't want to clean up. Oh my gosh. I should have told you I can see how that would seem really freaky." And he gave me a big hug and we laughed about it. Apparently it's a thing he's done sometimes before but not often. I told him that I had sometimes used them over toys so I understood and he let me know he wouldn't leave one out or would let me know.

So approach this without too much accusation. See how his reaction is. If it seems dodgey then that may be a problem. If he laughs and says he used one to jack off then you have your answer. Or the kids got into them.
posted by SockWombat at 1:48 PM on April 15, 2016 [15 favorites]

Maybe your kids are using it to do the condom challenge?
posted by I-baLL at 1:53 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Chiming in to say that I know a man who enjoys them during solo moments. It could be that your husband is really enjoying them during solo moments--using them to wrap up a toy he's using--and is embarrassed or didn't know how to bring it up with you.
posted by witchen at 2:01 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

Nthing that it was probably the kids. Other possibilities that sound much more likely than cheating: He came across the package and decided to just open one to goof around with it (after my husband's vasectomy we blew some of his old ones up like balloons); he could've given one to a friend as a gag gift or a "go-get'em-tiger" encouragement sentiment; he was opening them to check if they're still good just out of curiousity; or he read about some technique to enhance his "alone time" and used one for himelf. If he were cheating I think he'd be a lot more careful about getting new ones that you'd never seen before . Also there's the freshness factor -- would he really risk cheating with a stale, possibly expired & dried up condom that could fail? Much more likely to be something innocent.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 2:06 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

As a kid (fairly little - 5, 6ish maybe?) I routinely dug through my parents' drawers looking for loose change and interesting things. That'd be my first guess. (Found my mom's diaphragm once! Didn't really understand it til later, at which point I kinda wished I hadn't!)
posted by restless_nomad at 2:06 PM on April 15, 2016 [20 favorites]

My immediate thought was "he probably put a thing in his butt and wanted to keep things clean."

What's the expiration date on them, anyway? If someone was inclined to cheat, they'd likely play it safe with new condoms instead of ones that are a few years old and possibly no longer good.

And I nth not ruling out the kids. Wrapped condoms are strange to kids and don't look especially hazardous; unwrapped ones look like balloons.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:08 PM on April 15, 2016 [13 favorites]

As a houseguest, I have asked hosts for condoms if I've forgotten or run out of them.
posted by Candleman at 2:27 PM on April 15, 2016

When I was a young kid, maybe six or so, I was being nosy and got into my parents' condom supply. It looked like wrapped candy, like a flat version of what my grandma had in her candy bowl! I opened it up and tasted it and it was weird and slimy and tasted like a gross slimy balloon.

I did not want anything to do with blowing up balloons for a long while after that.

(Anecdata, but hopefully amusing enough that it helps you keep all possibilities in mind while you find out what's going on.)
posted by Pandora Kouti at 2:31 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

How old are the condoms? Are they expired? If so, yeah, innocent explanation like "kids got into them" or "went into that one bag for something else and then flipped the whole thing over and never got around to cleaning them up".

I mean your husband wouldn't be stupid enough to cheat on you and use expired condoms, right?
posted by Sara C. at 2:38 PM on April 15, 2016

Also, google tells me that condoms come in boxes of 24. It sounds super plausible to me that you guys bought a box of two dozen condoms and used 7 before his vasectomy, leaving 17 in the box that later got rifled through. Seventeen condoms doesn't feel like a weird number at all, unless it was a huge box of 100 or something and you know for a fact that until recently it was almost full.
posted by Sara C. at 2:41 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you have a dog?
posted by corb at 2:48 PM on April 15, 2016

I'm with everyone suggesting you ask and see how he responds.

It's a little weird to me that the box is gone, but there are a lot of innocent explanations. I've needed boxes of various sizes and borrowed from all kinds of products.

It's less weird to me that some condoms might be missing. The kids getting into them, or masturbation reasons for using condoms sound totally normal to me. (If he used one to do solo butt stuff he might be cagey, so go easy on him. You don't want to put him on the defensive because then his response will sound odd and angry even if he's innocent)

If I were in your shoes I would accept what he says, but keep my eyes open for other signs or gut feelings and not ignore those, because people do cheat all the time and many cheaters cover their tracks poorly and lie about it.

Trust but verify, as they say.
posted by kapers at 2:55 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

The box of condoms was still there. A few minutes ago, I went back in there again to get a cigarette lighter. The box isn't there anymore, the condoms are scattered and there's 17 there.

Unless he's really confused and plans to place the cardboard box on his penis while having sex, I think it's safe to assume this is almost certainly anything but an affair.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 2:59 PM on April 15, 2016 [26 favorites]

Honestly, just ask him. There's all sorts of possible explanations and asking an internet sized room full of strangers isn't going to help you get to the truth. At best, you'll just hear what you want to hear.

So just ask.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:59 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you have a babysitter? I'm not proud of this but as a teen I stole condoms a few at a time from under sinks when I was too embarrassed to buy them.
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:49 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

-Cat was barfing, needed a box to catch the box in. Grabbed the box, dumped the condoms helter-skelter into the cabinet.

-Microwave popcorn bag has an oil slick that has transferred itself to your nice khaki pants/blanket/couch. Grabbed the box, dumped the condoms helter-skelter into the cabinet.

-Plastic bag ripped, resulting in a bag of chocolate-covered raisins/baby potatoes/bouncy balls all over the room. Picking them up discovered that you can't fit more than a dozen in your hands. Grabbed the box, dumped the condoms helter-skelter into the cabinet.

-Needed a cheap lamp. Opened up the condom box, used the condom to make the lamp, set the condom lamp on top of the condom box for pictures/eternal glory/pinterest, then dumped the condoms helter skelter into the cabinet.

-Urgent need for water balloons. Opened up the condom box, used a condom to make a water balloon using the box as a form, discovered they're actually a bit tough to tie, and dumped the rest of the condoms back into the cabinet.

-Urgent need to convey water. Depending on their quality, condoms can hold up to 2 gallons of water! Used the box as a form while filling condom one, tossed the box after use.

-Cut finger during an important project, perhaps a messy and dirty project. Didn't want to stop working, used the condom as a sterile bandage and kept working. Discovered the box would be useful with the project, dumped the condoms into the cabinet and carried on.

Seriously though, what are you waiting for? There is going to be an excellent story associated with this. Ask your husband. And donate those expired 17 condoms to the boy scouts for water balloon/survival/etc.
posted by arnicae at 3:54 PM on April 15, 2016 [10 favorites]

My guess: Someone used the box/cardboard from the box for something-or-other. A nosey child opened some of the condoms.

When I was 10 I nicked my mother's condoms and took them to school to show my friends!
posted by intensitymultiply at 4:12 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

FWIW, I think there are usually either 12 or 24 to a box.

Can anyone give me a plausible explanation behind this which isn't cheating?

Guys on the baseball team in my high school used to put condoms on the bats as a stop-gap when the grip tape came loose during practice. (Not sure if it was the best tool for the job, but it was what they did.) I assume that if you can use them for that, you can also use them to make the handles of other things more grippable.

Given what you've said here, my guesses would include using the missing one for that as well as, (1) Inquisitive kid(s) rummaging; (2) Prank/balloons/gag gift; (3) Random friend needed some; (4) art or science project, possibly ill-thought-out; (5) Individual sexytime or sexytime experiment.

Of these, give that it's seven and the box missing, I'm leaning toward "prank or gag gift." Is someone your husband knows going away for a week, maybe? Is one of his coworkers starting their last week of work?

As others have said, most cheaters would be much more stealthy about it. A truly passive-aggressive asshole might not be, but if your spouse was one of those, you'd know it by now, and it doesn't seem like that's the case.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:23 PM on April 15, 2016

I completely empathize with your anxiety but you won't get any response here that resembles a truth more than an improv game. We can come up with 100 scenarios that suggest innocent behavior, and 100 more that suggest nefarious behavior, but it's ultimately a creative writing exercise.

I suggest you ask your husband what's up with the open condoms. He may not tell you the truth, but his response itself and your assessment of the response's veracity are both useful data that you can use to understand the situation better. You sound smart-- trust your own fact-finding and analytical skills!
posted by threeants at 4:26 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Knowing three friends that cheated on their spouses (yeah, three, smh), let's just say there was far, far, far more evidence available than something simple like an open box of condoms.

Ergo, if there's no other evidence, there's an innocent explanation, and you should ask him out in the open.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:34 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Depending how old your kids are it could be their friends messing around too, not just your kids themselves.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:39 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I know someone from my small town who would sometimes take them from the washroom of the family for whom she babysat. In our small town, you knew at least some of the people working at the drug store and somebody you knew might also be in the store. She just wanted to see what they looked like up close, even though she didn't use them. And her boyfriend had some that he and his friend used as poker chips. She gave him a few, just to look cool.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 5:07 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I found out that my husband wanted to cheat on me (whether he did nor not, I don't know, but wanting to was enough) when I found a foreign brand of condoms in his coat pocket after he had been away on business ( I wasn't searching, I just put his coat on to bring the bins out because his coat was nearest to the door and it was raining). I felt stupid because he had cheated on me before, but somehow he managed to explain it away to stupid me.

You won't know unless you ask him. And if you feel that you can't ask him or even bring it up in a lighthearted way, then you may have to think again about your relationship.
posted by Samarium at 5:23 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sometimes they come in packs of 18.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:52 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

"I need a condom to go have sex with someone. I'm going to go track down the old condoms we bought years ago and stashed away, take ONE out, and throw away the box."

That seems nuts compared to just stopping at a store and keeping it all separate from one's house and family, both for safety and discretion reasons.

If you love and trust your husband, talk to him about it.
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:38 PM on April 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

He's either using them to masturbate, or kids/pets happened. Anyone sloppy enough to use expired condoms *his wife knows about* to conduct an affair is probably not capable maintaining an air of 'our relationship is awesome'.

Normally I am all for confronting this kind of thing (gently, mind) but why don't you just throw them out and mention to him casually that you ran across the box (eg- can you believe those were still in there? lol!) while looking for something and that they were expired so you tossed them.
posted by ananci at 12:48 AM on April 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

If he were cheating, he would have purchased a different box. That they are scattered around so he was probably rushing when he grabbed one. My best guess is that he grabbed one on his way out to go meet up with a guy friend that he's been teasing lately about needing protection. He probably flung it at the friend or hid it in his hamburger or some other juvenile thing that men do.

If he were using it for sex, he would have hid the evidence. Take a picture of the scattered condoms and text it to him with a question mark. He and his buddies will have a good laugh and your mind will be at ease.
posted by myselfasme at 6:45 PM on April 16, 2016

You're going to just have ask him, in a nonchalant way if the kids got into them and whether you guys have to start hiding stuff.

I don't know if he's trustworthy or not. I've known guys I thought were great partners and boyfriends to their wives and gfs who cheated and did some crazy stuff, and I never, ever thought they were that kind of person to do that sort of thing to the person they purported to love. They compartmentalizations it, and doted on their partners in public and you'd have never thought they had secret lives.

Though get an STD test either way if you've been having unprotected sex with him, just in case, because even women who have 100% faith and trust in their husbands have been burned badly by finding out they've contracted an STD. Even if he did use all the missing condoms perfectly since they can slip off during so without anyone noticing.
posted by discopolo at 9:50 PM on April 16, 2016

Having said that, I know he's cheated on girlfriends in the past

Yes, get an STD test if you've had sex with him lately.
posted by discopolo at 9:54 PM on April 16, 2016

Just wanted to chime in that men do occasionally use condoms to masturbate.
posted by werkzeuger at 6:36 AM on April 17, 2016

I mean, unless he is not very bright, facilitating an affair by taking condoms out of a sealed box from home seems like the worst plan, ever.
posted by ill3 at 1:39 PM on April 19, 2016

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