Herpes Conversation 101

More Than Friends Not Yet Lovers

Let’s not beat around the bush, talking about herpes with a prospective lover isn’t appealing. In fact, it would be easier, and a lot more fun, to admit you’re a vampire; at least you could put in a Twilight DVD and enjoy some popcorn together. But here you are, no popcorn, no movie, no sexy vampire scenes just you introducing a person you find attractive to a secret you find upsetting.

For most folks, having the herpes conversation ranks right up there with changing a cat’s litter box…it stinks. You’re not alone. Almost 50 million adults in this country between the ages of 14 and 49 have the herpes virus. But knowing you have company doesn’t make telling a guy or girl you want to romance that you have an ever-present STD (sexually transmitted disease). In fact, it can feel so overwhelming you may be tempted to skip the conversation. Don’t.

Yes, the herpes diagnosis was devastating and yes, it was followed by weeks or months of feeling angry, depressed, betrayed, and scared; and yeah, you’re ideas about love, relationships, and sex have been turned upside down. Herpes is exhausting for the body, mind, emotions, and ego. But remember, you will start dating again so it’s a good idea to get prepared in your head and gut for THE CONVERSATION. While you’re still coming to terms with how life will go on with a chronic condition, here are some things to work on:

Confidence: don’t let herpes define or control you; it’ a health condition that has to be managed not a jail sentence…unless you make it one.

Knowledge: know the facts about herpes so you are able to explain what it is and isn’t. You want to be able to answer questions and also, information is power; it helps put herpes into perspective.

Timing: there’s not a perfect moment to have that first, “I’ve got herpes,” conversation; you want to give a new relationship some time to mature so there’s some investment for both of you; that said, have the discussion BEFORE you start taking off each other’s clothes.

Intention: pick a place that gives you privacy and make sure you have plenty of time to talk; this is not a crowded restaurant or coffee-break conversation it’s a subject that needs focused attention.

Okay, time has passed. You finally decided to put on your big girl (or boy) party clothes and get on with a social life, and hey, it worked; you’ve met somebody that seems like promising boyfriend/girlfriend material, now what? Here are some tips for the “big talk:”

Starters: get a grip on your emotions before you introduce the topic; you’re not about to announce a death or confess a murder but you’re also hitting on a subject more serious than your favorite ice cream flavor. Here are some opening lines you can use:

I like you and the way our relationship is going so there’s some information about myself I want to share with you. I’ve tested positive for herpes, do you know what that means?

I’ve enjoyed spending time with you and feel like we’re at a point where I can trust you with some important information. I have herpes and here’s what that means.

I’m really attracted to you and I think you are to me so here’s some information we need to discuss. What do you know about herpes?

Silence: when you’ve said your piece, be quiet. Listen carefully, not defensively, and watch the non-verbal behavior to understand how the other person is dealing with the information.

Space: end with something like this:

I know you’ll need some time to think about this and I respect that but let’s plan to talk again.
This is a lot to digest so I understand you need some time to think about it before we take this to the next step.

There are many ways this herpes conversation might end, some happy and some not. But even if it doesn’t go well, here’s how one person summed-up her herpes conversation 101: “The bigtalk was something I was so scared of doing after I found out but it was the biggest reliever after it was done. If someone can’t accept you for who you are and the fact that you have herpes then they are obviously not worth it!”

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