I need help disclosing
“So I’ve been single for 3 years and have spent tons of time browsing online dating profiles. I get a lot of messages and even get flirted with by guys at work. I struggle though, I used to be this outgoing person who didn’t shy away from meeting new people and approached who I wanted but now I fear I will be judged. See, I contracted herpes from my last serious relationship and haven’t taken the plunge to openly disclose it to anyone. I just haven’t met anyone I’d been into enough to tell them something so personal but I also greatly fear being seen as this dirty person. There’s this huge stigma associated with it and while I know it doesn’t define me as a person, I think most people will assume I sleep around or something else negative rather than seeing me for me. Why would anyone want me knowingly after I tell them this? Before my diagnosis, I would have never talked to someone on a romantic/sexual level who has it.
I have been talking to one guy for several weeks now and have agreed to meet for our first date, he seems to be everything I’m looking for and I really wasn’t expecting it at all. My question is, when is the right time to tell them about my condition and what should I say? I don’t want to scare him away or make the encounter anymore nerve-wrecking than it already is for me.”
“Good day and thank you for reaching out. I apologize for the delayed response being more than the normal 24 hour response time but I wanted to get information for you. I have actually had friends in similar situations so you are not alone. You mentioned being single for 3 years but not how long you’ve actually had the condition for. This leads me to my next question, how much research on it have you done for yourself. I’m no doctor, but I did need to research some information to provide you with the best answer possible in order to get through your talk with your guy and in the future with whomever you see yourself with. I always say in these cases it’s an opportunity to educate. The stigma you mention is mostly associated with what the media feeds people as well as lack of knowledge about the subject. People are for the most part afraid of the unknown. In the 80s before there were better treatments, no one wanted AIDS or HIV because it was known as “The gay disease” and because it was considered a death sentence. Both facts are no longer necessarily true.
So prior to my research, I’d already known that herpes is in no way as potentially harmful as HIV/AIDS and is not fatal so that’s one thing you need to continue to tell yourself as you open up to future partners. With research, I was surprised to find out that there are different forms of herpes but cartoons like Family Guy and movies like Pitch Perfect would lead you to believe you’re just dirty in your pants. On the contrary Chicken pox, Shingles, and cold sores/fever blisters (HSV1) are all forms of herpes in addition to genital herpes (HSV1 or HSV2) which obviously specifies the location of existence. Not sure which one you have, I’m gonna assume it’s not Chicken pox since you’re an adult and most adults in the US experience it in childhood and of those adults they are likely to have a Shingles outbreak in adulthood. It’s all coming full circle now! Heck, do you know how many people I have worked with that I have seen with a healing cold sore. Most people don’t even see it as a big deal, but I bet if more people discussed it like they did herpes then the stigma might die down.
One major key I found out, and this makes sense to me, is that 3/4 of people in the US have some form of herpes and that it can remain dormant for years, even decades but outbreaks are mainly brought on by stress and about 80% don't even know it. (Reminds me of my severe acne) You may be one of those people mentioned in an article I found that never has outbreaks and may just be a carrier. So that’s a good thing if you are. Even better to know and explain that it’s probably no more serious than a severe eczema case in a discreet area that can be transmitted to another person with or without protection, but it can be managed through a healthy lifestyle/diet, activeness, stress management and even anti-viral or vitamin supplements to prevent outbreaks. Again, the fact that although it is a lifelong condition, it’s not something that can kill you or cause severe illness, makes this something to not be ashamed of. If you need a reliable source for info or to share with your new beau I found Projectaccept.org very helpful and user friendly.
Deciding when to tell someone…I can see how that would be tricky. I wouldn’t make it the primary focus on a new conversation but go at your comfort level. Obviously before you engage in sexual activity, but after you feel a certain amount of trust in the person since it’s an intimate topic. If this is a long distance relationship, video chatting would be best and a phone call as a last resort. Texting leaves too much room for lagging response time and will only make you more nervous.
So you’re probably thinking “I know all of this already, but HOW do I tell him?” Well if all of that info hasn’t made you feel more confident in yourself, I say first share it with a friend, a very close friend whom you can tell anything to. This will help you get it off of your chest as well as help you with disclosing. That initial feeling should be one of relief I’d think. Next, be honest and put it out there in person. Don’t show your fear but rather focus on informing. I wouldn’t hit him with too many facts at once but candidly let them know using the sandwich method. Picture a sandwich, first slice of bread (All good stuff)…”I think this is going really well, I like everything about you, I see this going somewhere”, (Meat/heavy stuff)..”Before I get my feelings invested I’d like to be honest and give you the chance to decide if you still would like to move forward with me…”(Tell your short story…’Like 3/4 of people here I’m a carrier of herpes. Most people don’t even know they have it, most clinics don’t provide the test since so many people have it, etc’) Followed by you last slice of bread(allow for response)…”If you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to share and if you need time to think it over I completely understand.”
Think back to how you say you felt before you were diagnosed, you wouldn’t have dated anyone you knew had it. But was that because you were uninformed? Keep in mind that even after he gets all the information he needs, even if he says “no”…he isn’t rejecting you as a person, rather the situation. We all have our preferences and are entitled to them. Some people fall in love but refuse to commit to someone with more than a certain amount of kids or even a serious illness. The right person for you however won’t see it as a big deal will accept you and every part of you. Heck, at the end of the day he might have it too! So don’t assume and stay positive that things will work out with the right person when it’s supposed to.
Hope this helps."