So you’ve met someone you like and you’re ready to take things to the next level, but your partner has just told you they have genital herpes.
As someone who themself has genital herpes I want you to know a few things about how to approach this situation with grace and be empowered to make a healthy decision.
So what can you do?
Consider yourself respected
If you are with someone who has informed you they have herpes then that’s one sign that you may have found someone who truly values you as a person. After all, between breakouts (of which some people never have) there is no way for you to tell if someone is infected.
By telling you about herpes or any other STI/D before you have sex they are putting your needs before their own. This is pretty sexy in and of itself. They are giving you the gift of informed consent. Something they may not have had.
Ask them questions
The information they have for you is really important. Hopefully, they can tell you what herpes looks like for them, meaning what precautions the two of you can take and the frequency of their outbreaks.
Even better is that talking to them will help you see that they are not what the virus makes them. They are just people getting along in the world like everyone else. They probably don’t define themselves by the fact that they have herpes and neither should you.
Feel free to think about it
If someone springs the info that they have herpes on you while your both naked and ready to throw down then it’s either that things progressed much quicker than they anticipated or they were hoping you would just agree to sex anyway in the heat of the moment. The first is somewhat understandable the second is deplorable.
Either way, you have the right to say “I need to think about this.” You have to determine your risk in a informed and rational way. I for instance, have chosen both to avoid risks and accept them depending on the circumstances. Obviously, you have this right as well.
Do some research
There’s nothing wrong with seeking out sources other than your partner. Not everyone is fully versed on herpes and it will also help you with your piece of mind by knowing the information you have is correct. To this end, use reputable medical sites and not a site that is posing as one.
Don’t say you’re clean
Often the words we choose have unintended consequences. By saying you’re clean (STI/D negative) you are implying that those who are not are dirty. In fact, dirty is a word that is often pointed straight at those who have herpes.
Know that herpes is beyond morality
Herpes is a virus, period. It doesn’t give a shit about your ideology. It doesn’t matter if you live a life of religiously endorsed virtue or one that is a virtue of your own endorsement. A virus reaches across all ideological spectrums.
I say this because I want you to know that while your partner’s situation will be different from everyone else who has herpes that it does not mean they lived a life of depravity. There is nothing wrong with them. You should know this because you’re with them. Whatever attracted you to them still exists.
Herpes isn’t normally screened for so even you may well have the virus and not know it. There’s not a lot of reason to check for herpes until you have symptoms. In one study, 90 percent of people who tested positive for HSV2 (genital herpes) had never experienced any symptoms prior (1). That means there are a lot of people walking around with one of the strains of herpes and will likely never know it.
At any rate, don’t fret over your partner’s means of contracting herpes unless it is important to them to discuss it.
How did I get herpes?
Why is this here? Because you’re probably wondering. Keep in mind that this is information that you really have no right to. So if your talking to someone and they mention their positive HSV status it’s not okay to ask how they got it. They will volunteer that info if they want you to know.
However, I have a blog dealing with this and I’m comfortable talking about it. I think I received herpes through viral shedding. None of my partners had any visible symptoms, none of them informed me about an HSV2 risk and I trust those I was with sexually. I don’t think the person that infected me knew they had it.
Viral shedding is where the virus is attached to a skin cell that falls from one body and then enters the body of another through a mucous membrane or a wound. The herpes virus lives for a very short time outside of the body but when your close to someone a short time is all that it can take.
Because I was infected in a place a condom doesn’t cover it seems likely that the point of entry for me was a razor nick in my skin (some recommend shaving a day before a sexual encounter rather than the day of to allow some time to heal).
I don’t regret anything. This is just one of those things that happen. I abstain from sex during any breakouts (which seemed to have stopped) and wait seven days after healing as recommended. Anyone I’m with sexually knows my status and we work around it when needed. The results have been good and so far I seem to be keeping herpes all to myself, lol. Which is the ideal situation for everyone.
I hope this little bit of info helps about how to address the revelation that your partner has herpes. Couples working with herpes have full and rich relationships and if you choose so can you. As the saying goes stay calm, and carry on.