How do I reveal to my potential partner I have Herpes?

Dear Dr. Amy:

I, like many others, am in a very awkward position. ¬†Due to a rape when I was 25 I contracted herpes.I am recently divorced after 19 years. During that time my Ex and I had unprotected sex only and he was never infected. I also would rarely (knock wood) have outbreaks and haven’t had any since before my oldest son was born (Over 16 years). I have probably been a worst case scenario for what NOT to do with diet and stress levels and still had no real problem. To be honest, I completely forgot I had it.

My problem now is I have finally met someone that I want to spend the rest of my life with. He lives out of the country and plans to move here to be with me. Our relationship is one built on complete honesty and I intend to tell him when the time is right…and absolutely before we become intimate….BUT I’m concerned more about the stigma of having herpes than actually having it. How can I assure him that I’m not a leper? What kind of information can I give him. I’m afraid that I’ll lose him, (like you said, I’m more than having Herpes and it wasn’t my fault, just as it isn’t the fault of any other person that has it…but) The area I develop it would make him vulnerable even if he used a condom, so “protected sex” is a moot point in this case. As I said, I haven’t really experienced an outbreak (would certainly tell him if I did)in forever and even before then very rarely. At most 1x per year. One of my questions is: Are there such things as very mild cases or can a person end up in permanent remission (ie: beat it like you would get over a flu?)I must admit I hadn’t thought about it much since being married and I wasn’t really intending to become involved with anyone. This has hit be out of the blue and when I “remembered” it, it was like, “Oh, s***”.

Dr. Amy’s Response:

If you have been honest and genuine in this relationship, your partner is well aware that you are not a leper. Since you state that he is making plans to move to the States, it sounds like things are getting pretty serious. You may have already begun to discuss personal and difficult topics. How did that go?

Look for some books and information from the internet regarding herpes. Check the accuracy and timeliness of the sources for the materials. Statistics without research studies cited can be misleading. Give him this information when you tell him. This will give your partner a chance to review the facts at his own pace. Share your own feelings as well. This is a particuarly sensitive topic for you in view of how you contracted herpes. There is no guarantee that he will be accepting. However, your ability as a couple to handle difficult topics may be an indicator for how you will problem solve in the future.

The medical questions you asked need to be answered by a medical doctor who is knowledgable about herpes. Herpes is a virus that is currently incurable. There is tremendous variety in the way people experience the symptoms. Remember, herpes is not the only STD and the use of a condom is still recommended for safe sex.


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