Auntie Ozanne's Guide to Talking About Herpes
So it happened.. someone gave you herpes and now you feel as if no one will want to sleep with you again. Now you fear you have to keep your herpes under control or skirt around it by refusing sex during your outbreaks all to prevent your next special-someone from finding out. You're angry, you feel like your health was put behind someone's selfishness and now you're paying for it.
The fact is, herpes is one of the most common STDs, and at this moment, almost 20% of all sexually active adults are carriers. Check for herpes information and statistics here.
But this probably isn't going to make you feel any better about the conversation you want to have with your next partner - as if fearing rejection for other reasons wasn't bad enough. Unless you opt in to STD dating sites where you know the people you will connect with are going through the same angst, meeting someone traditionally might make you anxious about how to have the talk with them about your herpes.
If any good can come from having herpes, it's the test of honesty and trust that you are willing to put up front for a new sexual partner. Think about it. Putting yourself out there, risking you will lose a potentially good partner, putting their health and decisions ahead of your desires - tells this new partner a whole lot more about you than the herpes itself. It shows you are being selfless and you have respect for them. You need to give your partner credit that they will find this to be a valuable trait if they want a relationship with you.
It is likely best that you have this conversation with your clothes on, and take a moment when you are not intimate to reveal that you have herpes. Here are some ideas to help make your herpetic coming-out a bit easier for both of you.
1. Talk about the past. Talk about your hopes and fears of things you've done, and include your herpes as something you wish you could change but can't. And make sure you reiterate that you are telling your partner this because you like them and respect them enough to share this with them.
2. Include humour. "Do you want the good news or bad news of what I'm about to tell you?... The good news is that I'm currently not having a herpes outbreak. The bad news is that I really am afraid if I told you this you'll hate me and never want to get involved with me."
3. Talk about condoms. Tell them you really wish you could have spontaneous sex, but you respect your partner too much to risk anything. This usually might have someone fearing the worst, but if asked, you can say, "It's just herpes, so no, it's nothing life threatening." (The truth about herpes is that is is a huge risk of transmitting HIV when outbreaks occur, otherwise the actual herpes virus is not life-threatening.) Know your herpes facts in case your partner has questions, and ease their mind about what herpes isn't, rather than what everyone thinks it is.
4. Don't act like it's the end of the world. Chances are, if your mood sours and you find yourself crying and upset to have to come clean, then it will naturally worry your partner and they will feel like this is horrible news. Don't give them any reason to worry, instead let them know this is a common STD and it doesn't affect your day-to-day life. You have a condition, and have outbreaks every couple of years (or whenever it is for you) and that's it. Yes, there is a chance your partner might eventually get it. It might be with you in this relationship through honesty - or someone else later on through betrayal. You have it, that's a fact, but your honesty is a fact too.
5. Your partner just might have it too and was too afraid to tell you. This communication opens up some doors to talk about many personal things that you and your partner both have bottled up. Perhaps they wanted to tell you they had genital warts? Getting this out of the way takes a great weight off both of your shoulders.
6. Promise to be safe, and that you'll see your doctor. Let your partner know you are a responsible adult and you take your sexual health seriously. Agree to take HIV and other STD tests to ease both of your minds. Tell them that whenever you feel an outbreak coming on, you will immediately consult your doctor to take Aciclovir or any other antiviral medication to keep the outbreak at bay, and that you will abstain from sex or use condoms to make sure you don't put your partner else at risk. Not only are you showing honesty, but you are showing responsibility - two very important factors when it comes to a healthy relationship with someone. Just by being this careful and sharing this with your partner tells them you truly care.
7. Let them decide. Your partner might decide that they don't wish to continue a relationship with you because of herpes. Think about how you felt having your decision taken away when someone gave you herpes and you didn't know (this is unless you were in a relationship with someone knowing they were a carrier). If your partner chooses to leave, believe me, you made the right choice in being honest! Think of how things might have been if you had an outbreak and they didn't know. No one is right or wrong here. You made a very courageous decision to be honest, and your partner made a personal decision to leave. However -- don't be surprised if all your partner needed was a night to go home and think, research herpes, appreciate your honesty, and give you a call or text a day, apologizing, and tell you they want to see you again. They could very well be thinking that you are worth having a relationship with, no matter what.