I was diagnosed with genital HSV-1 this summer and have not had many opportunities to tell potential partners about it. I was wondering when the appropriate time would be to tell my partner.
My doctor said that I should postpone sex for at least 3 months, and I agree, but she also said that I can wait just as long to tell my partner. The idea behind this is to form a strong bond with the person to prevent him from becoming disinterested based on my herpes. This is where I find myself confused. It is possible that my partner could form feelings of love for me within three months? Is it really fair to him to keep this secret from him for so long? I believe that I would be angry to learn of a secret such as this after becoming so involved with someone.
I feel that I would be comfortable to tell him at this point in our relationship, but we have not been dating long and I worry that he may change his mind about me and/or tell others of my secret.
Please don’t think that I have an issue with self-esteem. I am simply trying to determine when he might be ready to hear this news. I do not want him to feel that he was manipulated if I wait until after he has developed deep feelings for me.
I hope you can help.
Trying to Do the Right Thing
Dear Trying to Do the Right Thing:
There are many different opinions about when to first tell a potential partner that you have herpes. The only thing that most people agree on is that you should always tell a potential partner that you have herpes BEFORE you have sex with them, and give them enough time to learn more about it so that they can make an informed decision.
We have an entire web page devoted to this topic at http://www.datingwithherpes.org/tellingsomeone/
– Your personal health information (such as herpes) is your own business – until you decide that you might like to be sexually intimate with someone. It may take a few or several dates to know if you are really interested in getting physical with someone. It’s different for each person. During that time, you may find out that the person you are dating has other issues (lying, cheating, substance abuse, anger management problems, poor hygiene, awful sense of humor, whatever) that make you decide they are not someone you want to be in a relationship with. So you move on. I see no reason to hurry into telling someone that you have herpes UNLESS you are pretty sure that you are interested in having sex with them, and vice versa. Only then does this information become relevant.
– When it becomes clear that you are interested in a sexual relationship with someone, THEN it becomes important for BOTH OF YOU to have a discussion about health and sexually transmitted diseases. For all you know, the person you are dating might also have herpes – and may or may not even know it since so few doctors test for it. Or they might have had previous partners who had herpes. If you don’t think you can talk about safe sex with your partner, then you probably have no business sleeping with them in the first place.
– You should make sure your partner has been tested for herpes recently – the blood tests results take about a week to come back – so you know his or her herpes status BEFORE you have sex. With this information, you’ll know how careful you need to be during sex. If they already have what YOU have, then you’ll still need birth control, but will not have to worry about giving them a virus they already have! For information on herpes blood tests, go to: Herpes Diagnosis.
– Different people react to the news in different ways. The more informed YOU are about genital herpes and the more informed THEY are, the more rational a decision you both can make. Sometimes, it just takes a little time for them to get the facts and sort out their feelings and decide if they want to move forward with the relationship. This is a reasonable response. If they care about you enough, and if you help them understand what can be done to reduce the risk of spreading HSV, they will often respond positively and appreciate your honesty. If not, at least they have taken the time to learn about HSV and decide how they want to proceed. If they decide not to move forward – they are rejecting the herpes, not you! Respect whatever choice they make.
– Some people think “herpes is no big deal – let’s go for it!” and that should be a warning sign that they may already have other STD’s that they don’t know about and don’t care about spreading! Stay away from these folks unless you want to pick up yet another STD! If people are non-chalant about STD’s, and don’t want to take the time to find out about how STD’s spread and how they can be avoided, they are irresponsible and put themselves and others at risk.
– The worst case scenario is that someone thinks they had a “right to know” about your herpes before they even started dating you, and accuses you of withholding information and wasting their time, etc. If so, you really don’t want to get involved with someone like that – who sees everything in black and white – and only their point of view is right. They may even already have herpes and not know it! Instead, they judge you. Who needs them!
– Whatever you decide is the best time to tell someone is YOUR CHOICE (as long as it’s BEFORE you have sex with them!) Each person is different and may have a different take on this.
– For more helpful tips for how to talk to past partners and potential new partners to tell them about your genital herpes, go to: http://www.datingwithherpes.org/tellingsomeone/