How do you date with genital herpes? Dating with herpes — genital herpes, or HSV-2 — can be emotionally painful, and you might feel isolated from the outside world as a result, but you don’t have to feel that way.
First, how can you even find a partner? How do you stay motivated?
Then, what’s the best way to break the news? How do you tell your partner that you’ve contracted genital herpes?
In this article, we’ve gathered data from the world’s top psychologists to answer all of your questions about how to successfully date with herpes.
Dating with Herpes: A Word of Advice
When it comes to dating, everyone, in some way, has some form of handicap.
Whether it’s mental (like depression or some other psychiatric disorder) or physical (like an STI), no one is perfect. If you’ve just contracted herpes, going back into the dating world can be daunting. It’s like this one event split your whole dating experience into two halves: pre-herpes and post-herpes.
Now, not only do you have to deal with all of your regular, run-of-the-mill insecurities, but you also have to tell your partner that you have genital herpes.
When it Comes to Dating With Herpes, You Don’t Have to Be Alone
But that doesn’t mean you should be alone the rest of your life. You’re right to get back into the dating world. Just by looking this article up online, you’re on the right path.
Everyone – whether if it’s because they’re too fat, too short, too ugly, or too nice – has something that’s holding them back from being the perfect partner. No one is 100%, but we all make do with what we have. And, often, that’s enough.
Maybe being too fat takes 10% off your dating potential. Maybe being too short takes 20% off your dating potential.
And maybe having herpes hurts your dating potential as well.
But no matter what your handicap is, whether it’s real or imagined, keep this in mind: It’s not 100%. You’ll always have potential. You’ll always have something to work with, even if it’s just 10%. There will always be someone out there for you, no matter who you are or what problems you have.
Someone out there has done better with worse circumstances.
So, when it comes to finding a partner — and not just communicating your predicament, keep in mind that no one is perfect, and many people are willing to accept you exactly as you are.
When Should I Tell My Partner I Have Genital Herpes?
When it comes to dating with herpes, the first question you might ask yourself is, “When is it a good time to tell my partner?”
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide exactly when you want to tell your partner that you have an STI, but one thing’s for certain: Tell him or her before you two have any sexual contact. It’s just common sense. If you think you might have an STI, it’s absolutely your responsibility to tell your partner (who has no idea you have an STI, and therefore no reason to worry about contracting one), prior to being intimate, in order to reduce the chances that you’ll spread it. You might be dreading telling your partner that you have herpes, but it’s much better than telling your partner that he or she might have herpes.
Why You Need to Tell Someone You Have HSV-2
And this is especially important for herpes, since herpes is an STI that can be spread while having safe sex. Not all herpes sores are covered by latex condoms, and physical contact with an open sore is exactly how herpes spreads. It’s entirely possible to do everything “the right way,” to take your herpes medication, to wait until your symptoms clear up, to wear a condom, and still give your partner genital herpes.
With that said, nobody’s perfect. In the heat of the moment, it can be twice as difficult to admit something like this. Maybe you have herpes and you’ve been having sexual contact with your partner anyway. Just because there haven’t had any problems yet doesn’t mean that there won’t be any problems in the future. It’s best not to wait any longer to tell him or her.
And with that said, what’s the best way to deliver the news?
[READ MORE: How to Have a Fulfilling Sex Life with Herpes]
A Scientifically Backed Way to Deliver Bad News: How to Tell Someone You Have HSV-2 While Minimizing the Pain
Obviously, people are more willing to share good news than bad news. You’re more eager to tell your parents about a job promotion than a lay-off.
In fact, it’s a behavior so common that researchers have a name for it: the “MUM effect,” (keeping “mum” about bad news).
And, luckily, a particular research study can show you how to best break the bad news that you have herpes to your partner. According to Psychology Today, “Igier and her fellow researchers asked 140 adults and about 50 nurses and nurse’s aides to indicate how acceptable it was for physicians to reveal the truth, and under what circumstances.” From this, they determined five principles for breaking bad news:
5 Tips for Telling Someone You Have Genital Herpes
- Tell at least part of the truth if you think the person needs to hear it. You don’t need to break the news all at once. If you refuse sex one day, for example, tell your partner that it isn’t them, that there’s something you want to tell them but you don’t think you currently have the strength to do it. Honesty, even when it comes to being reluctant about telling your partner that you have genital herpes, is the best policy.
- Sugarcoat it if you think the person can’t handle it. “It’s me, not you,” is a good place to start. Make sure that your partner knows it has nothing to do with him or her.
- Operate according to politeness theory. This advice is for both of you: You might not want the outside world to know that you have genital herpes, and your partner might not want the outside world to know that he or she is dating someone with genital herpes. According to politeness theory, you both want to “save face,” so to speak, so just make sure to keep the conversation between the two of you.
- Take your time to prepare your message. Once you say something, you can’t take it back. To your brain, giving bad news is more cognitively demanding than giving good news. Make sure to seriously think about and maybe even practice what you’re about to say. It could mean the difference between keeping your relationship and losing it.
- Rely on others. If you trust a friend enough to bring them into the situation (while still “saving face” according to politeness theory), do it. There’s no reason you should go at it alone if you don’t have to.
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Closing Thoughts: Dating with Herpes
Before, you might have thought that dating with herpes, particularly genital herpes, is impossible.
However, you’d be surprised to find that you’re not alone. In fact, you’re far from it.
According to the World Health Organization, over 417 million people (11%) aged 15-49 have HSV-2, or genital herpes. With that in mind, you’re probably not quite as “damaged” as you would’ve thought. Literally 1-in-10 people across the globe have the exact same problem that you do, and they’re likely doing just fine.
In conclusion, it’s possible to date with herpes.
There are tons of stories of people successfully dating with genital herpes. For example, read one woman’s story about how she contracted (and dealt with) genital herpes in college.
It might set you back. It might limit your “dating potential,” but nobody’s perfect. Everyone has something that the opposite sex sees as undesirable — whether it’s because of their weight, height, or just general physical attractiveness.
Nevertheless, as long as you’re putting yourself out there, everyone finds someone eventually. If you follow this guide to help you date with herpes, your potential problems will be made that much easier.
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