If you're living with herpes or any other incurable STI it's likely you suffer from a fear of rejection when you think about dating or the possibility of a new relationship. You can't imagine getting back into the dating scene. If you did, you would have to disclose your herpes status, and you think you would be rejected.
This is called anticipatory anxiety. It tends to happen when we constantly project a negative outcome while thinking about a situation that hasn't happened yet. It's essentially a destabilising mind game that you play on yourself. Your mind is playing the director and you've inadvertently been cast as the lead actor.
Anticipatory anxiety helps you to be emotionally prepared in case rejection happens. But if your preparation for emotional pain is causing you emotional pain, then it's not preparation, it's emotional pain. So if the rejection is to happen, why would you put yourself through it twice?
Projecting a negative outcome onto a situation means constantly triggering our nervous system because our bodies are not reacting to thoughts as possible scenarios, they're reacting to thoughts as reality. This can actually lead to increased heart rate, sweating, rapid shallow breathing, an upset stomach, or even a headache. You're exhausting yourself mentally and physically reacting to a situation that is only happening in your head. The more stress you put on your body and your nervous system, the more likely you are to experience a herpes outbreak.
Do I have to tell a partner I have herpes?
Yes. It's scary not being able to control a situation and the fear of rejection may make you think, "do I have to disclose my status?", but not telling sexual partners is not an option. Even if you are very careful and use protection,there is still a risk of herpes transmission. You have to let people make the decision for themselves. You have to give your partners the chance to decide whether they want to be intimate with you or not.
Living with Herpes: Disclosing your status
Disclosing your STI status can be a difficult and uncomfortable conversation, but it's an important part of protecting yourself and your sexual partners. If you have herpes or any other STI, the best thing to do is to be honest and open with a partner. This can be a difficult conversation to have, so it's important to approach it with care and sensitivity.
Here are a few steps you can take to disclose your STI status:
Talk to your partner in a private and comfortable setting, where you won't be interrupted or overheard.
Be honest and direct. Explain that you have an STI, and that you want to be open and transparent about your health.
Provide information about the infection. This can include how it is transmitted, how it can be treated, and how you are managing it.
Talk about any precautions you are taking to prevent the spread of the infection, such as using a condom or avoiding certain sexual activities.
Ask your partner if they have any questions or concerns, and try to address them openly and honestly.
Remember that it's okay if they need some time to process the information. It's not uncommon for people to have strong emotions when they learn about an STI, so try to be understanding and supportive.
Overall, the key to disclosing your herpes status is to be honest, open, and respectful of your partner's feelings. By having this conversation, you can help to reduce the stigma and fear around STIs, and protect both yourself and your potential partner's health. If you need tips on how to disclose your STI status on a dating app, check out our blog here.
I've lost my dating mojo since my herpes diagnosis
Another thing you may be thinking is "I'll never date again now that I have herpes". It's ok if you feel you need to take a break from the dating scene after your diagnosis. Maybe you feel ashamed and you aren't ready to share parts of yourself that you haven't learned to fully embrace yet, but you have nothing to be ashamed of. STIs are very common. It's estimated that 67% of the global population is living with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). You could try dating people who also have STIs, there are whole dating sites dedicated to this! Positive Singles is a great platform for people living with herpes and other STIs.
What's the difference between HSV-1 and HSV-2?
HSV-1 and HSV-2 are both types of herpes simplex virus. The main difference between the two is that HSV-1 typically causes oral herpes, while HSV-2 typically causes genital herpes. People with oral herpes experience cold sores or fever blisters on the mouth or face, while people with genital herpes experience sores on the genitals or anus. However, it is possible for either type of herpes to cause infections in other areas of the body, such as the eyes or fingers. In general, HSV-1 and HSV-2 are very similar in terms of their symptoms and the way they are spread.
Will my partner catch herpes?
Herpes is highly contagious infection and can be transmitted to another person through direct contact with infected skin or bodily fluids, such as saliva, genital secretions, or fluid from herpes sores. You should not have sex while experiencing an outbreak. This is when the herpes virus is at its most contagious. Instead, use an antiviral medication to speed up the rate of healing, and wait for the outbreak to go before you have any sexual contact. If you have an oral herpes infection, you should also avoid kissing your partner.
Dealing with the stigma around STIs
Dealing with the stigma around STIs can be difficult. There is a lack of proper sex education and open conversation about the herpes virus and other conditions. This results in a lot of shame being tied to them. When discussing STIs with another person, they may have judgemental views that are based on a lack of knowledge. You may find this frustrating and triggering, but try to stay calm and focus on educating them with facts and statistics. This can help to reduce the stigma and fear.
How can I continue to look after my sexual health when living with herpes?
Even if you have an incurable STI like herpes or HPV, there are several steps you can take to look after your sexual health and maintain a healthy lifestyle going forwards:
Get tested for STIs on a regular basis. Get tested even if you don't have any symptoms. Many STIs do not display symptoms in their early stages. iPlaySafe makes it easy for you and a potential sexual partner to get tested with their home STI test kits. Order one here.
Be open and honest with your sexual partners. If you have an STI, it's important to disclose this to your partners so that they can make informed decisions about their own health.
Practice safe sex. Be responsible with your sex life. Use protection such as condoms and get tested if you are having sexual relationships with multiple partners.
Boost your immune system. This will help you fight off any virus or herpes outbreak you may experience. Living a healthy lifestyle and taking vitamin supplements are great ways to do this.
Overall, taking good care of your sexual health involves being proactive and taking steps to prevent STIs, and protect yourself and your partners. By following these tips, you can help to keep yourself and your partners healthy and safe.
There's nothing to fear
So there we have it. Many people are living with herpes, or have experienced an STI at some point. Does that mean that you won't ever be rejected? No, of course not. But don't let an infection make you think you can't lead a normal life and have a great relationship. There are millions of people out there with herpes living happy and fulfilled lives.
Don't let fears decide who is and who isn't for you, and don't set the bar as low as "finding someone who accepts your status". Set it as high as finding someone who ticks your boxes and sweeps you off your feet.