Herpes and Relationships Discussing Genital Herpes with your Partner Many people do not feel comfortable talking about sexuality and sexual health issues. This pamphlet will explore ways of feeling more confident in discussing herpes in the context of a sexual relationship.
Cold sores on the mouth and genital herpes are medically the same condition. The significant difference arises from the stigma that tends to accompany a herpes infection that is sexually transmitted.
Most people find that their partners are both supportive and understanding. It is a common assumption to initially think that a person may base their judgement of you on the fact you have genital herpes.
However, for most this is a minor skin infection. People fear the possibility of rejection but the reality of this is that it rarely happens. Because fear of rejection is a concern, it leads some to question why they should risk talking about herpes.
Accordingly, some people choose not to tell. Instead they abstain during herpes outbreaks, practice safe sex at other times, and hope for the best. This strategy may have more disadvantages than advantages. First of all, you spend a lot of time and energy worrying that your partner is going to get herpes. For most people, the anxiety over not telling your partner you have herpes is worse than the telling itself. On the other hand, by telling your partner you have herpes and allowing them to enter into the relationship with full knowledge of your infection, you reduce the likelihood of them becoming infected with herpes.
Excuses create distance between partners and often lead to misunderstanding and guesswork. Your partner might interpret your excuses in ways more detrimental to the relationship than an honest discussion of genital herpes would be. Inaccurate and stigmatising articles and advertising have contributed to many of us having a lot of negative beliefs related to herpes that make it difficult to convince ourselves that others would want to be with us.
Accepting the fact that you have herpes and are still the same person you were before will make it easier to have a fulfilling relationship.
Getting the facts The more emotionally charged an issue, the more important it is to find out the facts. Most people know little or no facts about herpes. Frequently, what knowledge they have is coloured by myth and misconception. Having the correct information about herpes not only makes it easier for your partner, it makes it easier for you. Following are some of the basic facts about herpes that might be important points to tell a partner.
There is a lot of information about herpes. Have educational materials on hand for your partner to read. Be prepared to answer their questions. The absence of symptoms does not mean a person has not got genital herpes. Herpes simplex virus HSV most often shows up as small blisters or sores on either the mouth cold sore or fever blisters or the genitals. HSV can be passed on when one person has the herpes virus present on the skin and another person makes direct skin-to-skin contact with live herpes virus.
The herpes virus is likely to be present on the skin from the first sign of prodrome tingling or itching where the outbreak usually occurs until the sores have completely healed and new skin is present.
There are likely to be certain days when active herpes virus might be on the skin even though there are no obvious signs or symptoms. Since they have not been diagnosed, they are unaware that they may be contagious from time to time. There is effective oral antiviral treatment for people with problematic genital herpes. Preparing to tell your Partner What you say and how you say it is going to depend on your own personal style.
Your attitude will influence how this news is received. Psychologists have observed that people tend to behave the way you expect them to behave, and expecting rejection increases the chances of an unhappy outcome. How long should you know someone before you tell them? Allow the relationship to develop a little. There are good and bad times to bring up the topic of herpes.
Talking just prior to love-making is not a good idea either. The discussion could take place anywhere you feel safe and comfortable. Some people turn off the TV, take the phone off the hook, and broach the subject over a quiet dinner at home. Others prefer a more open place, like walking in the park, so that their partner will feel free to go home afterwards to mull things over.
This allows both people to work off a little nervous energy at the same time. Try to be natural and spontaneous. If you find yourself whispering, mumbling, or looking at the floor, stop for a moment and try to speak calmly and clearly.
Look your partner in the face. Your delivery affects your message. They are not intended to be regarded as scripts. Have you ever had a cold sore? The reason I ask is that cold sores are caused by a type of virus. I have the virus. Only instead of getting a cold sore on my mouth, I get one in my genital area. Can we talk now? Last year, I found out that I had contracted genital herpes. This is not a confession or a lecture, simply the sharing of information between two people.
Avoid negative words and keep the dialogue simple and factual: Could we talk about what this means for us? You might even be surprised to learn that your partner has been equally concerned about telling you that they have genital herpes or another sexual infection. In fact, the probability of this is reasonably high, given the statistics on HSV.
Realistic and unrealistic expectations People may just need a little time to assimilate the information. This is where having good written information helps. Consider giving them reading material or referring them to a Sexual Health Centre, the Herpes Helpline 11 12 13 or the herpes website www. Whatever the reaction, try to be flexible. Remember that it took you time to adjust as well.
Negative reactions are often no more than the result of misinformation. It takes a lot more than the occasional aggravation of herpes to destroy a sound relationship.
Some people react negatively no matter what you say or how you say it. Others might focus more energy on herpes than on the relationship. These people are the exception, not the rule. This is not a reflection on you.
You are not responsible for their reaction. If your partner is unable to accept the facts about herpes, encourage him or her to speak with a medical expert or counsellor. The majority of people will react well. They will respect the trust you demonstrate in sharing a personal confidence with them. With the proper approach and information, herpes can be put into perspective: Regarding the relationship overall, know that you can have the same level of intimacy and sexual activity that any couple can.
It is true that in an intimate sexual relationship with a person who has herpes oral or genital , the risk of contracting herpes will not be zero, but while there is a possibility of contracting herpes this is a possibility for any sexually active person. And the person may unwittingly already have been exposed to the herpes virus in a previous relationship.
All relationships face challenges, most far tougher than herpes. Good relationships stand and fall on far more important issues — including communication, respect and trust. Whether or not this relationship works out, you have enlightened someone with your education and experience about herpes, correcting some of the myths about herpes that cause so much harm.
You have removed the shroud of silence that makes it so difficult for others to speak. And you have confronted a personal issue in your life with courage and consideration. What it means for Partners Your partner has genital herpes. Your support is very important in helping you and your partner to understand what this means.
When your partner goes back to the doctor, you may wish to go too, so that you can find out more about the herpes infection. In the meantime, here are answers to some questions you may have.
What is Genital Herpes? Genital herpes is a common infection generally transmitted through sexual contact. It is caused by one of two members of a family of viruses which also include the viruses causing chickenpox and shingles, and glandular fever. Usually, genital herpes is caused by infection with herpes simplex virus type 2 HSV-2 , and studies suggest that in some countries, one in five people are infected with this virus. Genital herpes, for most people, is an occasionally recurrent, sometimes painful condition for which effective treatment is now available.
Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of catching genital herpes, regardless of their gender, race or social class. How has my Partner caught Genital Herpes? Genital herpes can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected blister or sore, usually through sexual contact. It can also be transmitted when there are no symptoms present.
HSV-2 infection is usually passed on during vaginal or anal sex.