How do I cope being the one to bring Herpes into marriage?

Dear Dr. Amy:

I noticed my symptoms about 3 months after I was married. Is it possible that I had the virus prior to that and the symptoms just got worse? It had been over 15 months since I had a partner other than my wife. Could I have gotten it then and only now be seeing symptoms?

I have not had it diagnosed by a doctor but am sure that’s what it is. It’s been 5 years and I have several outbreaks a year. I have not told my wife about it. I just avoid intimacy during that time. 

I hate to think that I brought this into our marriage. But, I can live with it if it came from my wife. I guess it’s a blame thing. I don’t want to be the one responsible for it. What do you think? 

Dr. Amy’s Response:

Dear Ashamed,

I think you may want to consider shifting your thinking from blame to responsibility. Whoever is at “fault” for bringing herpes into the marriage does not change the fact that you are knowingly exposing your partner to the virus, even when your symptoms aren’t active. The process of viral shedding can occur in between outbreaks and you can be contagious without showing symptoms. 

The answer to your other question is “yes”, it is possible to show symptoms some time after exposure. You may also want to medically confirm a diagnosis since you are assuming you have herpes. You may have herpes, another STD, or a combination. 

Even if you are not responsible for bringing herpes into the marriage, you certainly need to be responsible for having an open discussion with your partner about herpes. Your viewpoint of who is to blame concerns me. In a marriage, what effects one person can impact the other. Regardless of who is at fault, this is both of your problems. Let both of you be the solution.


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