If you're a Herpes sufferer, and especially if you've been diagnosed recently, you may often think your love life, and sex life, is over. But I assure you it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, I am living proof that one can have both love and sex post-Herpes diagnosis, while still walking the higher moral road. (Ok, so I'm not perfect, and sometimes my impulses lead me to be less than responsible. But I'm working on it!) Since I was diagnosed in 2003, I have told six men of my condition (excluding the one who gave it to me). Due to my weakness for South Americans, I have disclosed my secret in three different languages (do I get special points for that?), and have had one long-term, serious relationship.
Of all the partners I've told, only one stopped calling me shortly after. Even then, he insisted it wasn't because of my news, but simply that the spark between us had died. I agreed. We had rushed into things; we slept together, and perhaps revealed too much personal information (like having Herpes?!), way too soon. After overanalyzing everything and obsessing about another failed relationship, I realized that even if I've mastered the craft of telling a partner about my disease, it's useless unless I know when is appropriate to broach the subject. Like catching the perfect wave, timing is everything. Unfortunately, there is no exact formula for getting the timing right as there are many different factors involved and no two waves, or lovers, are the same (thank God!). So before you agonize about how to tell your partner, I highly recommend you take a good look at the situation and determine when's the right time to tell your partner by considering these three questions:
1. Where do I want this to go?
2. How would I feel if I were in his/her position?
3. Does he/she seem mature enough to keep a secret?
The first question is important because the type of relationship you have with this person, and its potential future, will probably dictate how you treat the situation. For example, you may approach the issue differently with someone who's just a one-night stand (let's be real here, at least some people with STDs will continue to have casual sex...myself included) versus someone with whom you'd like to have a future. I will go into more detail about these particular situations in my next few SharePosts.
The second question should always be kept in the back of your mind. Remember how angry you were when you found out you had an incurable disease, given to you by someone you were intimate with? Part of living with mistakes (or simple misfortunes) is accepting responsibility and rising above. It may take some discipline, but by learning from the errors of others, and not perpetuating the blind spread of infection, you'll be sure to sleep well at night...most likely with someone who knows you're an honorable person. (Don't fret! Considering the other person's physical and mental well-being, and being honest with him/her, does not mean he/she will reject you. In fact, my experience has been quite the opposite! On the other hand, it's okay to not feel ready to tell your partner. But if that's the case, try to refrain from intimate sexual contact. In sum, just put yourself in their shoes!)
The third question has never been an issue for me, but it's a fear I just can't shake. Before I tell a new partner, I have this nightmare that not only will he reject me, but that he'll tell everyone we know. I'll see my picture on the side of a city bus with the words, "Don't date this woman. She's herpified!" Of course that never happens. The most common reaction is understanding, respect for my honesty, and the desire to continue getting to know me. But in case you're attracted to real creeps, or have the poor sense (again, like me) to date someone you work with, it might be a good idea to step back for a second, be objective, and determine whether your new partner is worthy of knowing your dark secret. Because once you've told them, you can't take it back.