Setting the Scene

Penelope James Health Guide
  • Possibly the hardest part of having herpes is telling a partner about it.  I spent the last few weeks discussing whether and when it may be appropriate to tell a new partner, now I’d like to spend a little time taking on the subject of how it can be done.  I’ve seen a lot of people discuss their fears about this and I hope that some of my experience and insight can ease the situation.  I’d also like to hear from others about their own experiences, successful or not, so we can all learn from each other.


    As I stated in a past Sharepost, I have told a handful of partners about my disease and, for the most part, have received positive reactions.  This may be due to good ol’ luck, but it might have to do with my approach as well.  Although there is no right or wrong way to go about it, I think that Dr. Grayson’s post “How to tell your partner” has some really good suggestions that I’d like to elaborate on.  In this post I will explain how I prepare the situation and myself before I spill the beans.  In my next post I will explain more specifically how I deliver the news. 

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    Probably the most important piece of advice I can give you is to be educated about herpes.  Do your research; understand the disease, its symptoms, how it’s transmitted, current treatments, the statistics…learn it all!  This is crucial to having a smooth conversation with your partner.  From my experience, people do not know very much about herpes.  So after I tell a partner that I have the disease, the most common questions are: “Am I at risk?”  “How is it transmitted?”  “Is there a cure?”  “What are the symptoms like?”  (Surprisingly, the question “Is it AIDS?” has, on occasion, crept in to the conversation.)  Do you know the answers to all of these questions?  If not, spend a little time on and look up them up.  Having an honest and direct answer to your partner’s questions (even if the answer is “Yes, you are potentially at risk.”) will be much more comforting to him/her than simply saying, “I don’t know.”  Don’t you think?  So before you do anything else, brush up on your herpes knowledge!


    Next, I think it’s best to broach the subject in person, if possible.  If you had a fling with someone who doesn’t live in your city, and you’re feeling racked with guilt because you hadn’t told him/her about your herpes, then by all means tell that person.  But at least make a phone call or talk via Messenger, or something that is conversationally conducive.  (I can’t imagine that sending someone an e-mail with this type of information would be a good idea, though I’ve never tried it.)  I also think it’s a good idea to tell your partner when you’re not in the heat of the moment.  That doesn’t mean you can’t tell them from the comfort of your bed, but do it at a time when you’re both calm and can discuss it – not during intimacy.  You wouldn’t want that person to make a rash decision and then later regret it and be angry with you. 


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    I prefer being somewhere that’s private with little chance to be interrupted.  I also prefer telling someone when we have plenty of time to be together, so that we can continue discussing it for as long as necessary (or as many times as necessary, as usually the questions really pop up after the news has settled a bit).  I don’t recommend telling your partner just before you go out of town, as he/she might conjure up all sorts of ideas about it without being able to talk to you.  You might find that when you get back, your partner is no longer answering your calls (as once happened to me).    


    Being prepared to break the news is just as important as actually giving the news.  The more you’ve thought about it, and the less spontaneous the conversation is, the better the outcome will be.  At least that’s been my experience.  Does anyone have a different outlook?  Any preparatory tips of your own that I haven’t mentioned?  Please add your thoughts, advice, stories, etc.  Then stay tuned for part II of How to Tell Your Partner.  

Published On: June 29, 2008