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Fluid Bonding

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Updated May 19, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition:

Couples who choose to stop practicing safer sex with each other are sometimes said to be fluid bonded, because they share bodily fluids with each other. Some monogamous couples believe that fluid bonding is a way to enhance intimacy, although there is nothing inherently more intimate about having unprotected sex in comparison to safer sex.

Many couples do not practice safe sex, but such actions are generally only called fluid bonding if they are an active choice of the people in the relationship. The decision to become fluid bonded usually occurs after a period of time during which the couple has been practicing safe sex. Most couples wait to explore the possibility of fluid bonding until they have been tested for STDs.

However, fluid bonding can put partners at risk of STDs if that STD testing is not comprehensive. Not all doctors test for all STDs, which can give people a false sense of security. In addition, many couples do not realize how frequently STDs have no symptoms, and they may incorrectly believe that its safe to stop using barriers even without testing, if neither partner has any obvious symptoms.

Fluid bonding does not only happen between heterosexual couples. Men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women also engage in fluid bonded relationships. Furthermore, some people who engage in polyamory and other forms of consensual non-monogamy consider themselves to be fluid bonded with one or more partners while engaging in protected sex outside of those relationships.

Many sex educators, myself included, believe that it is important to try to convince people to change the sexual script that equates unprotected sex with a higher level of commitment. Practicing safe sex should not be seen as a sign that someone doesn't trust their partner. Instead, it should be seen as a sign of respect for their body and a symbol of their desire to protect the person they love from harm.

While it is certainly possible to make an informed decision to become fluid bonded with a partner, even with a partner who is positive for an STD, it is not a choice that should be made lightly. Fluid bonding should never be a way of proving your love or your trust. Why would you even start to discuss the possibility of having unprotected sex with someone if either love or trust was even a question?

Examples:

A Well-Thought-Out Decision To Become Fluid Bonded
John and Marianne have been dating for over a year, practicing safer sex the entire time. Two months after their anniversary, they make an appointment to visit a clinic together to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Having done their research, they ask their doctors to screen them for HIV, herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis. When their results come back negative, they discuss things and decide that since they are both faithful with each other, and intend to remain so, they want to stop practicing safer sex and become fluid bonded. Marianne starts using the pill so that she can protect herself from pregnancy once they stop using condoms.

A Poorly-Thought-Out Decision To Become Fluid Bonded
Brian and Annie have been together for three months. They got together when both of them were cheating on other partners, and they moved into a new apartment together last week. Neither one of them has been recently tested for STDs, and they both occasionally sleep with other people, but they are committed to making this relationship work. Even though Brian has previously been diagnosed with genital herpes, he rarely has outbreaks, so when he asks Annie if she wants to become fluid bonded with him, she decides to take the risk because she believes that becoming fluid bonded will help to intensify their mutual commitment. Six weeks after they make the decision, she is diagnosed with chlamydia after he has unprotected sex with another woman.

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  6. What Does It Mean When Couples Are Fluid Bonded?

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