Dating is tough, but if you want to date with herpes, you may be downright terrified. Many people are apprehensive about revealing their quirks and flaws to a new partner, but for someone with herpes, telling your partner about your STD can either make or break the potential relationship. It’s understandable why you’d be hesitant to open up or even avoid dating altogether, but you don’t have to live without love.
You aren’t defined by your STD, and dating with herpes isn’t a death sentence.
Let’s take a look at how to date with herpes including when to tell your partner about your STD, how to practice safe sex and some tips for dealing with rejection. The fact of the matter is that not everyone will want to date someone with an STD, but that’s okay. There are plenty of people who will want to be with you regardless.
Let’s start by going over the basics of the disease. If you want to date with genital herpes, it’s a good idea to have a solid understanding of your own health so you can explain it to a partner and answer any questions that might come up.
Basic Facts About Herpes
While most people think STDs are rare or limited, they’re actually on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one out of every six people in the U.S. between ages 14 to 49 have genital herpes.
There are two types of herpes: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 is known as oral herpes and causes cold sores and blisters around the mouth. HSV-2 causes pain, itching, and sores on the genitalia. Genital herpes can be contracted through vaginal, anal or oral sex, though you can also catch oral herpes by kissing or sharing drinks and silverware.
Can I have safe sex with genital herpes?
Herpes is spread through saliva (HSV-1) and genital secretions (HSV-2). Even without a visible sore, you could still infect a partner. If you have oral herpes, performing oral sex on a partner could cause them to develop genital herpes.
Using a latex condom during sex and taking daily anti-herpes medication can significantly reduce the risk of infection. Abstaining from physical intimacy during an outbreak will also lower the risk of spreading the disease.
Many people are afraid to tell their partner that they have herpes, but communication is part of any healthy sexual relationship. Think about it from your non-infected partner’s perspective. You’d want to know if the person you were sleeping with had an STD. Even if you’re on medication or not experiencing an outbreak, full disclosure is a part of consensual sex.
Hookup culture has made young adults much more reckless with their sexual partners. With so many people available thanks to apps, it’s more important than ever to know each one’s history and understand your risks before you are intimate. Even in a monogamous relationship, you should have an overview of your partner’s sexual history before going to bed.
Opening Up: All About Herpes Disclosure
One of the biggest questions, when you are trying to figure out how to date with herpes, is “When do I tell my partner?”.
Some people take preventative measures and never tell their partner at all. This isn’t just irresponsible but also insensitive. Everyone deserves to know about an elevated risk of an STD when sleeping with someone, and you shouldn’t only tell them if they ask. Taking initiative demonstrates confidence, responsibility, and compassion for your partner.
How and when you tell someone is up to you, but it’s better to bring up your STD before you’re physically intimate. Practice delivering the information alone first. Read up on your condition and consider what you’d want to know from the other person’s perspective. Being well-informed will make you more confident when opening up to your partner.
Tips for Telling Your Partner You Have Herpes
Avoid rushing into sex. If you’re interested in a relationship, developing trust with your partner will make disclosure a lot easier. Without the pressure of having sex, you can form a friendship first that will make you feel more emotionally close to them. Also, taking the slow route to a relationship usually helps you discern someone’s ultimate intentions without having to get too involved.
There really is no perfect way to tell someone you have herpes. Your disclosure will depend on your relationship and personality. The first thing you have to do is learn how to overcome the fear of disclosure.
Emily Depasse, a writer, described her experience of telling people she has herpes on her blog. In her post, she expresses the importance of getting over not only the fear of rejection but also the fear of fault.
Many people are afraid of their partner’s reaction after admitting they have an STD. Some may draw unfair conclusions that you’re sexually promiscuous or irresponsible. She cites that one in two sexually active adults will contract an STD by age 25 according to the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA).
Herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases out there, but people still convince themselves that it’s something to be ashamed of. Depasse writes, “I know that I am not personally or emotionally responsible for the potential transmission between shared cells, but I would be reminded of my own initial experience. I think it is of importance to investigate the true meaning of safe sex. Is sex ever safe?”.
It’s okay if you’re feeling nervous, guilty or fearful about revealing your condition to your partner. By speaking up about your STD, you’re practicing safe sex and being responsible. Learning how to shamelessly disclose your status is essential in learning how to date when you have herpes.
You should tell your partner during a non-sensual moment. Don’t wait until after you’ve had sex, and don’t blurt it out right before either. You want to be able to have an open and honest conversation that gives your partner time to process and ask plenty of questions. Waiting until a passionate moment (or thereafter) can lead to impulsive and irrational behavior.
Dealing With Rejection
While disclosing your status is important, it doesn’t guarantee things will work out in your favor. Some people would prefer to date a non-HSV+ partner, and that’s okay. Just because they don’t want to be in a relationship with you does not mean you have no value as a person. Herpes is something you have, not something you are.
Anyone who dates is going to face rejection at some point or another. You may find that a partner disappears after you tell them you have herpes. Don’t take this personally. Ghosting happens for a lot of reasons, and your STD doesn’t influence someone’s actions.
All you can in any relationship is be honest. You don’t have any control over other people’s actions. Someone who doesn’t even have enough dignity or respect to talk to you and end things formally isn’t worth your time.
If someone leaves you after telling them you have herpes, you aren’t a loser. Don’t feel bad for feeling bad. Rejection hurts whether we think it should or not. What matters most, however, is that we continue to value ourselves and be honest with others. This is the only way to develop a relationship that thrives off communication and trust.
Exploring Your Options
If you date someone who doesn’t have herpes, you will have to talk about what your boundaries are in the bedroom. Sex is often portrayed as the utmost expression of love, but there are plenty of ways to be intimate beyond physical acts. Every relationship is unique, and you aren’t “missing out” or selling someone short by having an STD. You and your partner will be able to discuss your options and determine what works best for you.
If you find that it’s too high-pressure to date with herpes, consider an STD dating site. There are plenty of ways to connect with someone who is also HSV+. The fact you both have the same condition will remove any guilt, stress or worry associated with dating a non-HSV partner.
The most important thing to remember when you date with herpes is that your STD does not diminish your value. An STD is not a mark of failure. You’re just a human being, and whether or not you have herpes, you still have plenty to offer someone in a relationship.
Lastly, try not to get caught up wondering what your life would be like if you weren’t infected. Don’t waste precious time lamenting over the people who would have stayed with you “if only” you didn’t have herpes. Relationships end every day for thousands of reasons. An STD could be just one of them. You don’t have to carry all the blame, fault or fear of losing a partner.
At the end of the day, a good relationship is a partnership. You may be the one with an STD, but the right person will make sure you never feel alone, and that’s worth waiting for.