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Dating With Herpes

You Are Not Your STD

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Updated February 03, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Learning you have genital herpes can be devastating, particularly when your love life is in flux. When someone is first diagnosed, the thought of dating with herpes can fill them with such anxiety that they may wonder if they will ever find love again.

Why is dating with herpes so stressful? After herpes diagnosis, people may be worried about being judged, be scared they could spread herpes to their future partners, or simply be terrified about how they are going to face the world. Fortunately, it turns out that most of the time dating with herpes isn't nearly as scary as worrying about it. Here's why:

You Are Not Your Disease

(c)2010 Elizabeth Boskey licensed to About.com, Inc.

After herpes diagnosis, it may be difficult to think about anything other than the fact that you have a disease, but that's all it is -- a disease. It isn't who you are. One of the toughest things to remember when dating with herpes is that mostly it's just dating -- an activity fraught with the potential for drama, pain, and heartbreak for pretty much everyone.

With few exceptions, people don't date solely because they want to have sex. They date because they like each other and find each other interesting and attractive. When those other things are true, a herpes diagnosis often doesn't seem like that big a deal. If you like someone enough, herpes can be just something you have to work with, like snoring or an affection for mornings.

It Helps To Be Upfront About Your Diagnosis Well Before You Have Sex

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One of hardest things about dating with herpes is deciding when to disclose your diagnosis to your partner. Although I generally try not to speak in absolutes, it is always a better idea to do so before you have sex.

If you wait to tell your partner that you have herpes until after you've had sex, the revelation may feel like a betrayal. You will not only have denied them the opportunity to make an informed decision about risk, but you'll have implied that your herpes diagnosis is more important than the other things they find attractive about you.

If someone is really interested in you before you tell them you have herpes, they probably will be afterward as well. It just helps to tell them early so they don't feel exposed and betrayed.

Herpes is Extremely Common - People May Not Be So Quick To Judge

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People often worry that friends and future partners will judge them if they find out they have herpes. And, in fact, sometimes they do. People can be quite cruel to someone after herpes diagnosis, but they're just as, if not more, likely to be kind.

The truth is that herpes is extremely common. Genital herpes affects at least 20% of the population at some point during their lives. This means that most people already know one or more people with herpes -- they may even have it themselves. By and large, no matter how "icky" you may think a disease is, it's hard to be judgmental towards someone you love if you find out they have it.

As for potential partners, if they start getting mean, you might want to ask them if they've been tested.

There Are Ways To Reduce The Risk Sex Will Spread Herpes

Photo: William B. Plowman / Getty Images

One of the things that scares people when they're thinking about dating with herpes is the possibility that they might spread herpes to their partners. Although this is a legitimate concern, there are ways to reduce the likelihood you will spread herpes during sex. Suppressive therapy, for example, can lower the risk of transmission significantly -- it's not just good for reducing the number and severity of outbreaks.

Using condoms consistently, even for oral sex, can also make a big difference in your partner's risk. Condoms and dental dams don't just make intercourse safer but also make it less likely for you to spread herpes from your genitals to their mouth, and vice versa. Practicing safe sex is always a good choice.

Some People May Reject You, But The Right Person Won't

Photo: Photodisc / Getty Images

The truth is, some people will reject you when they find out you have herpes. To quote a herpes support forum poster, "dating with herpes can be stressful." However, if you talk about your diagnosis early, have information handy so that you can talk honestly about the actual risks and concerns of the disease, and are willing to do what you can to reduce the chance you will spread herpes to your partner, it's not the end of the world.

I know numerous people with genital and oral herpes who are open about disclosing their condition and have active, happy dating and sexual lives. The truth is, it's so hard to meet the right person that dating with herpes makes it only the tiniest bit harder. Life after herpes doesn't mean life without love.

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  3. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
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  6. Living with Herpes
  7. How to Handle Dating With Herpes

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