How to Tell If You Have Herpes

Discovering you have herpes oftentimes comes as a shock. No matter your age or relationship status, a herpes outbreak can appear without warning. Thanks to the underdeveloped sex education courses in the American school system, most people are completely unaware that they have hsv1 or hsv2. This means that you may have been inadvertently spreading the disease to your partners for years. Or, if you’re newly sexually active, this may be your first encounter with an outbreak. 

Either way, it is important to first be able to learn how to tell if you have herpes and learn how to manage it effectively. Once you’ve learned how to manage your outbreaks through antiviral medications and home remedies, you’ll be better equipped for handling any future outbreaks. 

There are several resources on the internet on how to identify and treat herpes. However, the big question here is how to tell someone you have herpes.

How to tell if you have herpes
Photo credit: Courtney Carmody

Why Do I Have to Tell?

Imagine this. You’re in a brand new relationship with your boyfriend. Everything is fresh, exhilarating. You and your new partner haven’t even kissed yet, but you’re pretty sure tonight’s the night. 

You walk slowly home after your date, really savoring the moment together. He invites you inside and you—giddy, but totally cool on the surface—step over the threshold. 

You talk and laugh, beat around the bush a little, but you both know where this is heading. You start fooling around; hearts pounding, hands moving, lips brushing. 


Then, you feel it. 

A slimy, pussy bump on the inside of his lip. And a weird taste. 

You pull away, confused. “What was that, babe?” 

He’s just as confused as you. 

You begin describing what you felt and he blushes. “Oh, I get cold sores.” 

Three weeks later, you have the first cold sore of your life. It burns. It itches. It sucks. And it won’t be the last time. 

Thanks to the man who didn’t communicate his condition to you, you have to live with the consequences for the rest of your life. 

Why do you have to tell your partner you have herpes simplex virus? Quite simply, your partner has a right to know how their life could be affected. 

Just as legal consent is necessary before engaging in any form of intercourse, it is your responsibility to your partner to ensure he or she has all the facts. You don’t need to provide them with an entire medical history on the first date. However, if you’ve been together for a while—or are preparing to have a one night stand—you both need to be transparent about if you have herpes—especially if you’re in the middle of an outbreak! 

While you will not go to jail for failing to inform your partner of your viral condition, honesty is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Of course, if you’re not looking for a relationship, the reason you should tell is simply this: you want to be a decent human being. 

Communicate. Especially when your actions affect the rest of someone’s life. 

How To Tell Your Partner You Have Herpes

As you can see, whether you have oral herpes or genital herpes, communication is absolutely paramount. 

Clearly, this is a delicate subject. Certainly herpes is not something pleasant to discuss. 

However, when tempted to run away from honesty, think about how you would feel if you were in your partner’s position. You would want to be told so you could make an informed decision about how to move forward. 

Here are some tips on how to communicate on sensitive subjects with your partner. 

1. Mindset. 

When having a delicate conversation, having the right mindset is key to success. If you’re worried about a certain outcome, that is the outcome you will create. So if you think, “He’s going to break up with me when I tell him,” either he’s a douche and you need to leave him anyway, or your fear will sabotage healthy conversation and cause a fight. 

When you feel yourself worrying about the coming conversation, first engage in the 4 7 8 breathing method. You breathe in through the nose for 4 counts, hold for 7, and exhale for 8 through the mouth. Repeat this 5-7 times or until calm. This will allow your brain the opportunity to slow down and look at the situation objectively. 

Having herpes is not a deal-breaker in most solid relationships. In fact, a large majority of people have herpes in one form or another. Often times it is dormant, and then ignorance cannot be helped. However, if you know you have the virus and your partner is supportive, you two should be able to work out ways to still enjoy each other’s physical company both during and between outbreaks. 

Go into the conversation with the positive mindset of, “I am going to tell them the truth. They are going to be understanding. We are going to work through this.” 

Having a positive mindset will equip you to think clearly and help lower your defenses so you can have an open and honest conversation. Most of the time, your partner will be deeply appreciative that you trusted them enough to share something so sensitive. 

2. Time and Place 

When it comes to sensitive topics, choose your timing well. Timing to avoid would be when you are stressed, when your partner is stressed, when 20,000 things are happening at the same time. If—for the sake of your sanity—you need to let them know that you want to talk, pull them aside for a moment and say, “Listen, I know you’re busy right now, but I’ve been thinking about something and I’d like to discuss it later today or tomorrow when we have time.” If they ask what it’s about, just be honest and say, “Everything is fine, just a small thing about me I think you should know.” 

Also, “location, location, location” does not just apply to real estate. Plan to have the talk in a private setting. Not only will this be more comfortable for you, but it will be disarming for your partner as well. By being somewhere private you are able to speak candidly about sensitive things to one another. However, avoid talking about such subjects in a car or a confined space. You want your partner to have the option to stay or leave as they choose. By giving them this option, they are more likely to stay and listen intently to everything you have to say. 

3. Clarity and Listening 

Lastly, you know your partner better than anyone. Everyone communicates differently, but there are some basic communication principles which transcend personalities. 

When it comes time to have the conversation, just be straight with them. Tell your partner, “I want you to have all the information so we can work together on a solution,” as a precursor to your conversation. 

Tell them plainly that you have herpes. Listen to their questions and answer them as much as you can. Chances are, your partner will be supportive and is simply looking for more information to ensure you’re both on the same page. 

However, if they get emotional, listen to their concerns and offer to research solutions with them. As stated before, herpes only ruins a sexual partnership if you allow it to. There are many different ways to treat outbreaks—and work around them—if you’ll maintain an open mind and communication during sex. 

Gauge their response and respond accordingly. Keeping an even head is key to healthy communication no matter what the topic is. 


Communicating that you have herpes does not need to be an unpleasant experience. Building healthy communication habits with your partner early on in the relationship will actually lead to greater intimacy as time goes on. Partners who can be open with one another about the difficult topics are more likely to stay together long term because they learn trust, problem-solving, and genuinely bond over common experiences.

Read More: 2019 The Best STD Dating Sites For STD Singles

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