How to Manage a Herpes Infection in a Long-term Relationship

Herpes is a virus that can infect the mouth or genitals and can be transmitted through oral to oral, genital to genital, and oral to genital contact. There is also no cure for herpes infection which can make it difficult for you to date or have a long-term relationship. Your main concern may be the possibility of transmission to your partner when kissing or having sexual or skin-to-skin contact. However, contracting herpes does not disqualify you from having sex or enjoying the benefits of a long-term relationship.

5 Tips to Help You Control Herpes in a Long-Term Relationship

How to Manage a Herpes Infection in a Long-term Relationship

You can still have a normal and happy long-term relationship by managing the herpes infection. Perhaps the two most important things are getting the herpes facts and having the courage to tell your partner. In some cases, the partners may discover that they both have the infection. Once you’ve declared your health status, taking steps to decrease the number of outbreaks and lower the risk of passing the virus are essential ways to control the herpes infection.

1. Get the Facts About Herpes

You and your partner getting factual information about herpes is a primary and essential way to manage a herpes infection in your relationship. Millions of American adults contracted either or both the Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1) which causes oral herpes or HSV-2 which causes genital herpes. Herpes type 2 is considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD). HSV-1 occurs on, in, or near the mouth and results in cold sores or fever blisters while HSV-2 happens on or near the sex organs, buttocks, or anus and causes blisters or sores to develop at the site of the infection. Once the infection occurs, the virus goes to “sleep” in the body and later reactivates causing what is called a herpes outbreak of sores or other symptoms. Knowing these and other important herpes facts will empower you to do what’s best to avoid transmission.

2. Tell Your Partner

Genital herpes, especially, carries a certain stigma because it is considered an STD or sexually transmitted infection (STI). Although more than 1 in every 6 people ages 14 to 49 have herpes, it can still be difficult for you to let anyone know you have HSV-2 or even HSV-1. Chances are, you were unaware of the infection until you had an outbreak while in the relationship. But telling your partner could make you appear promiscuous or unfaithful. There is also a possibility that your partner may reject or leave you. Although telling your partner is risky, full disclosure at the beginning of the relationship or at the time you discover the infection can make it easier for both of you to control herpes infection while pursuing a long-term relationship.

3. Have Protected Sex

Whether or not you get outbreaks or herpes symptoms, it is still possible to pass the virus. Therefore, you or your partner should always wear a condom to lower the risk of transmission and protect each other’s health. A condom should be worn during oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Doctors recommend that you avoid sex altogether during an outbreak or when you see signs of an imminent flare-up. Staying in your long-term relationship means there will always be a risk of transmission, but having safe sex is one of the best ways to minimize the risk.

4. Take Your Medication

FDA-approved antiviral drugs are usually prescribed to treat and control HSV-1 and 2. Treatment helps to significantly reduce the recurrent outbreaks or flare-ups as well as the possibility of transmission. If you haven’t started treatment, you should do so right away. Your doctor will prescribe antiviral drugs that suit your needs. You should take your medication as prescribed as part of herpes infection management. There is episodic therapy that allows you to take medication at the first sign of a flare-up. Your doctor could also prescribe drugs to suppress the virus if you get frequent recurrent symptoms (suppressive therapy). Taking your medication as directed can help to reduce the number of outbreaks and shorten the time the symptoms persist. 

5. Know Your Body

There is no one specific thing that triggers herpes symptoms, although studies find that stress, eating certain foods, and even sex can cause the virus to act up. However, knowing when an outbreak is coming on is a guide to avoiding intimacy during this time and until after the symptoms go away completely. Itching or tingling at the site of the infection, e.g., the lips, vagina, or penis, are common signs of an oncoming flare up. If you do decide to have sexual intercourse, remember to always use a condom. However, bear in mind that herpes can still transmit to areas around the genitals not protected by the condom.

The Takeaway

Contracting herpes 1 or 2 does not mean you can’t kiss, have sex or a long-term relationship, get married, or even have children. You can continue to enjoy all of these relationship benefits. If both of you contracted the virus, this can provide a better understanding and opportunity for you to manage herpes infection as a couple. Just remember that you can keep the herpes virus in check by taking your medication, having safe sex, and keeping a watchful eye for the onset of symptoms.

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