How do I tell someone (especially my partner) I have genital herpes?

When it comes down to the basics of telling, there is no foolproof method. What you say and how you say it are going to depend on your own personal style. It is only natural to feel apprehensive about telling someone else about genital herpes for the first time.

Some practical tips on telling someone about your genital herpes status:

  • A good long-term relationship must be based always on honesty and trust. While some people may experience an unsupportive response, most have found their partners are both supportive and understanding.
  • If your partner does decide not to pursue a relationship with you simply because you have herpes, it is in your best interest to find out now. It takes a lot more than the occasional aggravation of herpes to destroy a sound relationship.
  • Carefully choose the time and place for telling someone. Although it may not be necessary to tell someone right at the beginning of a relationship, do not wait until after a serious relationship is established as this is not fair to the other person.
  • The discussion could take place where you feel safe and comfortable. Some people turn off the TV, take the phone off the hook, and approach the subject over a quiet dinner at home. Others prefer a more public place, like walking in the park, or a quiet restaurant, so that their partner will feel free to go home afterwards to think things through.
  • Be prepared. Plan what is going to be said and have your facts about genital herpes clear. It can be a good idea to have relevant printed information on hand for someone to read.
  • Be spontaneous. Be confident. You are doing the right thing for both of you. By telling your partner you allow them to enter into the relationship with full knowledge of your infection.
  • When you have an outbreak, you can discuss it with a partner instead of making excuses for why you can’t have sex. If the two of you are able to discuss the situation, openly and honestly, you can negotiate around it. Imaginative lovers find ways to weather these temporary setbacks.
  • Consider how you would feel if the roles were reversed and you were being told. You can also role play the situation with a friend who already knows your situation, but do not let them always play the understanding partner. Convincing another person can help convince you.

The possibility of rejection or acceptance

Personal rejection, with or without herpes, is a possibility we all face. Fear of rejection can lead some to question why they should risk talking about herpes and choose not to disclose the fact. Instead they abstain during outbreaks, practice safe sex at other times, and hope for the best.

This way of thinking can have more disadvantages than advantages:

  • You spend a lot of time and energy worrying that your partner is going to get herpes.
  • The longer you put off telling, the more likely your partner will find out elsewhere.
  • It gets harder to do the longer you wait.
  • For most people, the anxiety of not telling is worse than the telling itself.
  • Excuses create distance between partners and often lead to dangerous guesswork.
  • Your partner might interpret your excuses in ways more damaging to the relationship than an honest discussion of genital herpes would be.

Above all, your attitude will influence how this news is received. Psychologists have observed that people tend to behave the way you expect them to behave, and expecting rejection increases the chances of an unhappy outcome.