Learning that you have herpes can be devastating, but it’s not the end of the world.
There are conversations that change your life forever. That talk with your doctor on the day he told that you had contracted genital herpes is likely one of them. You may never be able to forget how you felt at that exact moment – shocked, scared, and ashamed – but I don’t think you will remember what the doctor’s exact words were. Like the others who have been diagnosed with herpes, you probably couldn’t get past the words “contagious” and “incurable.”
It’s a terrifying diagnosis for many people. The doctor may be able to tell you how to manage the virus, but now that you have it, how do you even begin to manage your personal life?
You can start by telling yourself that genital herpes is not a death sentence for your dating life. Living with herpes isn’t always easy, but it’s not as bad as many people think it is. You’ll have to make some adjustments, but you’ll definitely still be able to date, have sex, and fall in love.
Herpes is extremely common.
More than half of all Americans are living with herpes – genital or oral. One out of four women and one out of five men in the United States will be infected with HSV2, the virus responsible for genital herpes, at some point in their lives. HSV1, the virus responsible for oral herpes or cold sores, is even more common.
Contrary to popular belief, HSV1 is not exclusive to the mouth and HSV2 is not exclusive to the genital area. You can get infected by either type in either location. Also, one type of infection does not protect you from the other, which means you can have both HSV1 and HSV2 in the mouth or in the genitals.
Anyone who has ever had a cold sore has essentially experienced a herpes virus outbreak.
If it’s that common, how come you don’t know anyone who has herpes? It’s because it’s something that people are terribly scared to bring up in a casual conversation for fear of being judged.
The major issue about herpes is not the disease itself, but the social stigma attached to it.
Because herpes is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact and transmitted mostly through sexual activities, society associates herpes with cheaters, liars, and the extremely promiscuous. Things that you don’t want people to think or say when referring to you. No wonder nobody readily talks about herpes the same way people talk about their allergies or the flu.
But that has to change. Talking about genital herpes is really important and will contribute to wiping out the stigma so strongly associated with this infection.
You have herpes, but you are not your herpes.
Knowing you now have herpes can play havoc on your emotions. It may make you feel angry or depressed. It may make you feel dirty or sexually undesirable. But on a logical level, you know that getting herpes had nothing to do with your actions. You know it doesn’t say anything about your character, either. Being HSV-positive doesn’t mean you’re mean you’re bad, or immoral. In fact, all the information there is about herpes says that, plain and simple, it’s just a skin disease that so many people have. So there’s really nothing to be terrified or ashamed about.
Herpes may be a part of your life now and it’s understandable if all you think about at this point is its effect on your life. But please don’t the let it define you. There are a lot of things that are infinitely more important to who you are as a person and that’s what you bring to a relationship – the person you are, not the virus you have.
So how do you tell a prospective partner that you have herpes?
Start by being comfortable with the information yourself. Do a little research and you’ll find out that herpes won’t kill you, nor will it cause serious health problems later on. Learn everything about it – how to suppress the virus, reduce outbreaks, and how to prevent transmission to a partner. Assure yourself that even though it may be more complicated now than pre-diagnosis, you can still have a rich and fulfilling sex life. You just have to be careful about what you do and when you do it.
Confidence in communication is the key. It will be a lot more reassuring for your partner if you give the impression that you are an expert in your body and your experience. Coming at it from a place of confidence is huge. It tells them that you will do your best to keep them safe.
Also, resist the urge to apologize. Herpes is just a part of your life now, part of being you. Like having kids, or not having finished college, it’s not something that you should be apologizing for.
When should you tell? When to disclose your diagnosis to your date is up to you. But you shouldn’t just blurt it out within the first hour of your first date. Don’t go, “Hi. My name is Honesty, and I have herpes.” There are some thing things about yourself that are better revealed right away – like the fact that you’re married, or weren’t born with the your current gender, or that you’re in town on a holiday for just a few days. Disclosing the fact that you’re HSV-positive is better left for the appropriate moment.
Just remember these rules: First, don’t wait after sex. Second, don’t wait until after you’re just about to have sex. The attraction may be may be too strong for either of you to think and act rationally. Lastly, if you can’t trust or care about your partner enough to share this information with them, then you shouldn’t be having sex.
Dealing with rejection.
Herpes is a great litmus test to let you know who really cares about you and desires you. Some people may reject you. The right one won’t. So don’t be afraid of being rejected because of having herpes. Hold your head up high and know that one day, the right person will be willing to accept this one negative for all the positives that you have.