How to have a thriving dating life, despite a herpes diagnosis

The dating scene can be a bit of a minefield. Between stay-at-home orders and job-induced burnout, connecting with someone on an emotional level can be tricky. And when you add a herpes diagnosis into the mix, things can become even more complicated.

Although it’s one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases and health organizations estimate that around half a billion people worldwide live with herpes, learning that you got it from an ex-partner can feel devastating.

After all, there is currently no cure for herpes, but there is still a lot of social stigma and a culture of shame, especially around women, who often struggle with their mental health after finding out they have herpes. Herpes can be a big blow to one’s self-confidence, and those who have it can be faced with a lot of prejudice and shaming – which is why many choose not to reveal the diagnosis and resign themselves to a life of celibacy.

 Herpes and a fulfilling dating life seem to be opposing terms, but it doesn’t have to be this way. A herpes diagnosis needn’t end your dating life or deny you the right to emotional fulfillment and intimate relationships.

While bringing up herpes to a potential partner can be challenging, especially if you’ve taken a break from dating, accepting your diagnosis, loving yourself, and knowing how to talk about herpes can help you build happy relationships.

Start by working on yourself
You can’t be truly happy in a relationship if you do not feel happy by yourself, but self-love can be hard to nurture when a herpes diagnosis brings you down emotionally. That’s why, before even considering how to get back into dating and how to disclose your diagnosis to future partners, you must allow yourself time for healing and self-reflection.

 It’s easy to see herpes as a curse and succumb to a victim mentality (this only happens to me, I’ll never be loved again, etc.), but a change of perspective can help you see the positive sides of this diagnosis. For example, it can teach you to be more vulnerable in relationships for those who deserve it, or reflect on how your insecurities affect your dating habits, handle your fear of rejection, and not be so hard on yourself.

While a herpes diagnosis may seem shattering, the disease itself doesn’t prevent you from having a sex life. The outbreaks usually get rarer with age, you can prevent them with suppressive treatments such as valacyclovir, and taking precautions while intimate significantly lowers the risk of transmission.

These are essential things you should know before starting dating, and they’ll make your life a lot easier. Talking about herpes with a potential partner is even more difficult if you don’t know exactly what it is, how it’s transmitted, and how it can be prevented, so educate yourself by listening to podcasts and reading articles about it.

Consider herpes dating sites
If you don’t feel comfortable explaining your herpes diagnosis yet, but you feel the need for an emotional connection, herpes dating sites can be a great alternative. Herpes dating can be complicated on regular apps but on dedicated sites, all the users have herpes, which takes away the burden of justifying yourself and having a difficult conversation. Plus, the people there have had similar experiences: they know what it’s like to be judged for having an STD, deal with prejudice, and have their self-confidence ruined.

Whether you’re looking for a flick or a long-term relationship, herpes dating sites make finding a partner a lot easier. Some use them just to get back into the swing of things and build back the confidence to date HSV-negative partners, others found their partner for life there, and both options are perfectly fine. Unlike the past generations, we now have more ways to meet romantic partners, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take advantage of this. 

Open up when you feel comfortable
Some people prefer disclosing their herpes diagnosis right away, before they form a deep emotional connection, so that they’re not heartbroken in case the partner rejects them.

 Others prefer waiting until they’ve got to know their partner and feel comfortable enough sharing personal details.

Is one option better than the other? Not really. What works for one person might not work for another, and dating with herpes unfortunately doesn’t come with a textbook you can follow step-by-step. Do whatever feels comfortable at the time, depending on the “vibe” you get for your partner. If the two of you made a connection and are right for each other, they’ll listen and not judge you about it. If not, they would have been wrong for you even if you didn’t have herpes.

 You can tell your partner about your herpes diagnosis whenever it feels right, as long as it’s before being intimate. Keep in mind that even if you don’t have an active outbreak, there’s still a risk of transmission, and you should never have any form of sexual contact with your partner without telling them about your diagnosis first. As difficult as it might be to have this conversation, hiding the diagnosis completely will make them lose trust.

Answer your partner’s questions openly
There are many ways to bring up your herpes diagnosis, but no matter where, when, and with whom it happens, you should be ready to talk about it openly and transparently. If your partner is genuinely interested in you and wants to continue their relationship, they’ll want to know to what extent herpes will affect your intimacy and how to prevent transmission. This is completely normal, and you shouldn’t feel offended that they want to know more. This is all part of building trust and shows emotional maturity.   

 

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