The best way for couples to deal with herpes is to talk about it openly and make decisions together. There’s no one, single approach that works best for all people, but there are some guidelines that can help make this easier.
By disclosing your infection to your partner, you’re not only establishing a tone of trust—good for any healthy relationship—but you’re also taking an important step to reduce transmission.
Jenelle Marie Davis, 34, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, will gladly explain why having herpes isn’t the end of the world. It took years for Davis, founder of The STD Project, which encourages awareness and acceptance of various sexually transmitted diseases, and spokesperson for Positive Singles, a dating site for people with STDs, to come to terms with the diagnosis she got at age 16.“My mom says the entire way home from my appointment, I cried and said no one would ever love me, no one would ever want me, and I’d never get married,” Davis tells SELF.
When she was diagnosed with herpes almost three years ago, Whitney Carlson, 29, a social media editor in Chicago, had a similar reaction.
It can also be asymptomatic, so most people with herpes don’t know they have it, which is a large part of the reason why it’s so prevalent.But all the self-acceptance in the world doesn’t erase the fact that a herpes diagnosis creates ripple effects of shame and social isolation, and the fallout is especially pronounced when it comes to your dating life.“It’s good to have the conversation because there is a potential risk of transmission,” Cherrell Triplett, M.D., an ob/gyn who practices at Southside OBGYN and Franciscan Alliance in Indianapolis, Indiana, tells SELF.And, one of the greatest dichotomies is that the VERY thing, for me, that demonstrates my true love for a man is to have an intimate sexual relationship with him.I've given myself to very few men over the years, and one of these very few men (who happens to be married, but we are in an open relationship together with his wife's consent, we are essentially "friends with benefits"); well, he was someone that I've always believed cared for me. And what makes this whole situation even worse is that he TOLD me he had it and I didn't take any precautions to protect myself. I've even told my friends that "he didn't know he had it" because I can't even admit to myself that I didn't look out for myself the way I should have.