Dating With Herpes Means Telling Your Partners
We will be honest with you, this is a difficult one but itâll get easier the more you do it. Disclosing this information is necessary for both you and your partner – and it shouldnât be avoided until the last minute. At some point, before clothes hit the floor, all newly dating couples should disclose their sexual history and any past or current sexually transmitted infections . You disclosing your history and status, or asking for theirs, is not outside the norm. Itâs sexually responsible and necessary.
When it comes to dating with herpes there are two golden rules:
#1. Don’t wait until after youâve had sex to disclose your status.
#2. Donât wait until youâre already hot and heavy with your new beau to blurt out that you have herpes. You donât want to put yourself or your partner in either situation. Trust us.
Youre Not Limited To A Herpes
I remember one particular night, sitting on the floor of my bedroom and reluctantly signing up for a herpes-positive dating site. It felt like my only viable option. Signing up felt embarrassing. It was another website filled with smiling partners claiming to have found love despite their positive status.
While some people appreciate these types of apps, I quickly learned that it was not the right space for me. As years passed and my understanding around stigma grew, I couldnt help but feel that herpes and other STI-specific dating apps might be further reinforcing social stigmas.
With transparency and communication, STI-positive people can find love with STI-negative partners. I know, because Ive experienced it.
Emily L. Depasse is a sexologist and sex educator redefining the narratives around sexually transmitted infections . Follow her on and @sexelducation.
How Do People Get Genital Herpes
Infections are transmitted through contact with HSV in herpes lesions, mucosal surfaces, genital secretions, or oral secretions. 5 HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be shed from normal-appearing oral or genital mucosa or skin. 7,8 Generally, a person can only get HSV-2 infection during genital contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection. However, receiving oral sex from a person with an oral HSV-1 infection can result in getting a genital HSV-1 infection. 4 Transmission commonly occurs from contact with an infected partner who does not have visible lesions and who may not know that he or she is infected. 7 In persons with asymptomatic HSV-2 infections, genital HSV shedding occurs on 10.2% of days, compared to 20.1% of days among those with symptomatic infections. 8
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What Are The Risk Factors For Herpes
Some risk factors for herpes may include:
-Having unprotected sex
-Having sex with multiple partners
-Kissing someone with a herpes virus that is active
-Abuse of cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs
-Spreading the virus by touching a cold sore and then touching something else
-Having an autoimmune disorder or illness, such as hepatitis or HIV/AIDS
-Poor eating habits that cause nutritional deficiencies
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Putting Herpes In Perspective
Right now, theres no cure for herpes. This means that if you contract HSV-1 or HSV-2, the virus will remain in your body for the rest of your life, or until a cure is discovered.
Finding this out can be devastating news, especially from the perspective of your dating and romantic life. After all, you have an incurable, lifelong virus that spreads through either oral or sexual contacttwo things that, last we checked, are pretty important in every romantic relationship.
The reality is that dating with herpes probably isnt as difficult as you think it is. Every day, millions of people around the world are completely able to have normal, healthy relationships in spite of their HSV-1 or HSV-2 status.
One easy way to put the herpes virus in context is through statistics. According to the Centers for Disease Control , nearly 50 percent of people ages 14 to 49 in the U.S. have HSV-1, and roughly 12 percent of the same age group have HSV-2.
The point is, its a very common virus, and theres nothing bad, unclean or unsafe about you if youre infected.
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What To Do When Youre Diagnosed With Herpes
It can be shocking to hear the word herpes in the doctors office. If youre caught off guard or overwhelmed, you may not register what your medical provider is telling you, says Dr. Navya Mysore, family doctor and primary care provider.
Mysore says genital herpes can be caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2. HSV-1 is most commonly related to cold sores, which a large amount of the population have. However, HSV-1 can also be the virus that causes genital herpes and HSV-2 can be the virus that gives you cold sores, she says.
While at the doctors office, dont be afraid to ask all the questions you may have, and make sure you ask for clarification if you dont understand something.
He says herpes outbreak prevention may involve taking a once- or twice-daily antiviral medication, and the treatment of active outbreaks involves topical treatment, an antiviral medication, and sometimes a painkiller. Maintaining a consistent medication schedule is key to successfully managing herpes and preventing active outbreaks, he explains.
Between your appointments, create a list of questions you have about your diagnosis. That way you wont forget anything.
What To Do If Youre Diagnosed With Genital Herpes
Its OK to have a lot of feelings and questions when youre diagnosed with herpes. But no matter how youre feeling, try to remember that youre not alone, and your diagnosis doesnt define you. Its also important to remember that you can still live a perfectly normal and happy life with herpes. According to Planned Parenthood, the best thing you can do after your diagnosis is to follow your doctors recommendations for treatment. That said, Planned Parenthood notes that if youre struggling with your diagnosis, you can talk to a trusted family member, friend, or therapist to help you cope.
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How Will My Healthcare Provider Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Your healthcare provider may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at any sores that are present. Providers can also take a sample from the sore and test it. If sores are not present, a blood test may be used to look for HSV antibodies.
Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider about herpes testing and other STDs.
Please note: A herpes blood test can help determine if you have herpes infection. It cannot tell you who gave you the infection or when you got the infection.
Membership And Getting Started
You have the option of two membership tiers that include different features and prices. With the Basic Connect plan, you can message other members, see your profile views, and perform local searches.
- 1 month: $29.95
- 6 months: $89.70
- 12 months: $131.40
The Safe Connect plan includes all of the Basic Connect features plus private video chat, call, and text.
- 1 month: $45.95
- 12 months: $215.40
- 24 months: $262.80
When you create an account, youll create a username and password and enter some basic information to build a profile. Youll also provide and verify your email address and mobile phone number. Next, provide more specific info about your lifestyle, appearance, values, and habits.
There are many different types of searches you can perform from your profile homepage. You can perform a quick or advanced search using various preferences, like gender, age, location, ethnicity, religion, body type, etc. You can also perform a living with search to view only members with herpes.
Your profile sidebar provides quick access to other site areas and helps you organize your matches and messages. You can:
- Send and receive messages
- Access account settings
You also have control over your personal info. Find a quick exit button at the bottom of each page for discreet browsing. In the Account & Settings tab, you can edit your personal information, including your email address and password, or permanently delete your account.
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Realistic And Unrealistic Expectations
People may just need a little time to assimilate the information. This is where having well-written information helps. Consider giving them reading the material or referring them to a Sexual Health Centre, the Herpes Helpline: 0508 11 12 13 or the herpes website www.herpes.org.nz, to verify the information youve given them.
Whatever the reaction, try to be flexible. Remember that it took you time to adjust as well.
Negative reactions are often no more than the result of misinformation. In some cases, they are brought on when a person fears that youre asking them to commit to a relationship, instead of just informing them of the situation. If your partner decides not to pursue a relationship with you simply because you have herpes, its better to find out now. It takes a lot more than the occasional aggravation of herpes to destroy a sound relationship.
Some people react negatively no matter what you say or how you say it. Others might focus more energy on herpes than on the relationship. These people are the exception, not the rule. This is not a reflection on you. You are not responsible for their reaction. If your partner is unable to accept the facts about herpes, encourage him or her to speak with a medical expert or counsellor.
All relationships face challenges, most far tougher than herpes. Good relationships stand and fall on far more important issues including communication, respect and trust.
How To Treat Herpes
When managing herpes, respond quickly. People generally can feel early on when an outbreak is going to occurthey feel a tingling or sometimes an aching sensation, and a little tiny start of a blister, Dr. Brayer says. If you treat it right away you can sometimes block it from coming.
When you first sense a herpes outbreak, immediately:
- Take aspirin. Its an anti-inflammatory and will lessen the virus, she says.
- Apply ice to the area for 10 to 15 minutes to slow the virus and lessen pain.
- Start an antiviral medication. If youve had several outbreaks, ask your doctor for specific prescription meds that you should keep on hand, Dr. Brayer says. If you catch an outbreak early enough, sometimes you can take just one pill and it will stop.
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How Is Genital Herpes Spread
- Saliva from a partner with an oral herpes infection
- Genital fluids from a partner with a genital herpes infection
- Skin in the oral area of a partner with oral herpes or
- Skin in the genital area of a partner with genital herpes.
You also can get genital herpes from a sex partner who does not have a visible sore or is unaware of their infection. It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a partner with oral herpes.
You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools. You also will not get it from touching objects, such as silverware, soap, or towels.
If you have more questions about herpes, consider discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider.
Avoid Spreading The Virus
The following may reduce the risk of spreading the herpes simplex virus:
If you have sores on your face:
Do not kiss anyone
Do not have oral sex
Do not share items such as silverware, cups, towels, and lip balms
If you have tingling, burning, itching, or tenderness where you had a herpes sore, keep that area of your body away from others.
You can prevent spreading the sores to other parts of your body by:
Washing your hands after touching a cold sore.
Using a cotton-tip swab to apply herpes medicine to a cold sore also helps.
When you have sores or symptoms do not have sex with uninfected partners.
If you do not have sores or symptoms, use a latex condom to lower the risk of spreading the virus. You should know that even with a condom, it is possible to spread the virus if it lies on nearby skin that the condom does not cover.
If you are pregnant tell your doctor if you or your partner has genital herpes. You may need to take medicine at the end of your pregnancy to prevent passing the virus to your baby.
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Be Upfront Well Before You Have Sex
One of the hardest things about dating with herpes is deciding when to disclose your diagnosis to your partner. Although I generally try not to speak in absolutes, it is always a better idea to do so before you have sex. That way, your partner can make an informed choice about what risks they are and are not comfortable taking.
If you wait to tell your partner that you have herpes until after youve had sex, the revelation may feel like a betrayal. You will have denied them the opportunity to make an informed decision about risk. You may also have implied that your herpes diagnosis is more important than the other things they find attractive about you.
If someone is really interested in you before you tell them you have herpes, they probably will be afterward as well. It just helps to tell them early. That makes it less likely that theyll feel exposed and/or betrayed.
How early? You dont have to do it on the first date. The timing really depends on the people involved. If youre worried about how your partner might react, talk to them about it in a safe place.
You could bring it up over dinner when youre getting near the going home together phase. Or you could have the talk while youre out for a walk, and perhaps a make-out session.
When you do have the talk, its best to be straightforward about it. You have nothing to be ashamed of.
What Can We Do To Reduce My Chances Of Getting The Herpes Infection
If you take the necessary precautions, the chances of getting the herpes virus from your partner are reduced. Genital herpes does not mean abstinence from sex or a reduced enjoyment of sex.
The risk of transmitting the herpes virus can be reduced by about 50% if you use condoms. The continued use of condoms in a long-term relationship is a personal decision that only the couple can make. Most find that as the importance of the HSV infection in their relationship is seen in perspective, that condom use becomes less relevant if this is the only reason condoms are being used.
However, most couples choose to avoid genital skin-to-skin contact during an active episode of herpes because this is when the herpes virus is most readily transmitted. This period includes the time from when your partner first has warning signs of an outbreak, such as a tingling or burning in the genitals, until the last of the sores has healed. Also, sexual activity prolongs the healing of the episode.
Herpes transmission risk is increased if there are any breaks in the skin. For example, if you have thrush or small abrasions from sexual intercourse, often due to insufficient lubrication. It can be helpful to use a lubricant specifically for sexual intercourse and avoid sex if you have thrush. A sexual lubricant is helpful right at the start of sexual activity.
If you or your partner has a cold sore, it is advisable to avoid oral sex as this can spread the herpes virus to the genitals.
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How Has My Partner Caught Genital Herpes
If your partner has only just been diagnosed as having genital herpes, this does not necessarily mean that he or she has been unfaithful to you, or sexually promiscuous in the past.
Your partner may have caught genital herpes from you. It is possible that you carry the virus without knowing that you have it since up to 80% of people who have been infected with HSV-2 have either no herpes symptoms or such mild symptoms they are unaware they have the herpes virus. So it is very easy for you to have unwittingly transmitted the infection to your partner. The symptoms of the infection vary greatly between individuals it might be totally unnoticeable in you but cause severe blistering in your partner.
Since the genital herpes virus can be transmitted through oral sex as well as vaginal sex, it is also possible that your partner caught the virus from a cold sore on your mouth or face. Remember, it is possible you can pass the herpes virus on even if you didnt have a cold sore present at the time of contact.
Alternatively, your partner may have contracted the herpes virus from a previous sexual partner, perhaps even several years ago. The herpes virus can remain inactive in the body for long periods, so this may be the first time it has caused symptoms.
Tips For Dating With Herpes
Receiving a herpes diagnosis can be nerve-wracking, but empowering yourself with knowledge from a medical professional will make navigating romance and dating much easier. Many people with herpes experience no complications and have healthy sexual and romantic relationships. However, there are a few extra steps to follow when dating with herpes.
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What Is Suppressive Therapy
Suppressive therapy involves taking an oral antiviral drug every day for prolonged periods. It interferes with the herpes virus reproductive cycle and so prevents or dramatically reduces the number of recurrences. When recurrences do occur, they are usually less severe and shorter lasting.
If you find the frequency of your outbreaks unacceptable, or if you are finding it difficult to cope emotionally with having recurrences of genital herpes, tell your doctor and discuss the use of suppressive therapy.