Here are some items for anyone interested to keep in mind regarding talking to a new partner about herpes:
-It can be challenging and scary, but know that it is done by people every day with good results.
-Having the discussion sometime prior to sexual activity is best for many reasons. But, bringing it up right before sex and/or in the heat of the moment is not the best approach. Just picking a good time when you think the relationship is moving toward sexual activity is best.
-In terms of location, a private place where there can be open and free discussion is best. In the restaurant - probably not good! Likewise, over the phone, email or text messaging are not good ideas. Face-to-face and private are ideal.
-Let's think about dating for a second. Different couples become sexually active at different times. Some couples may have sex on the first date, the 3rd month, a year after dating, not until after marriage, etc. Every couple is different. Use the dating process for what it's for - getting to know someone. You may go out for a period of time and realize that a person is not someone you wish to be with sexually and there would be no need to bring the topic up.
-Some have said that a person should disclose their herpes diagnosis on the first date and/or that a person is not being honest if they don't talk about it real soon even when sexual activity is not part of the equation. Disregard those comments. There is no timeline to follow; it's different for each couple. Remember that sharing this type of info is sharing personal information and like other personal information, it should be shared with those whom you can trust. We recommend waiting until you and your partner have come to know each other well enough to have this type of personal discussion. Bottom line is that you want them to get to know you for who you are - and you want to get to know them for who they are.
-Remember too that it should not be a confessional, as you are not apologizing or confessing anything. Having herpes does not mean a person has done something wrong. It's about contracting a condition from having sexual activity. There are many different opinions about when, how and with whom people should have sex, but the bottom line is that sexual activity is a natural act that most everyone will have at some point in their lives. With sexual activity anywhere by anyone, there is some level of risk.
-As touched on in a previous post, discussion about a herpes diagnosis to a new partner shows honesty and trust - both are good for any healthy relationship. Many if not most partners appreciate the fact that this is brought up, and realize that you're putting their welfare and the relationship's ahead of your own. This can set the tone for open and honest communication in other areas of the relationship.
-Most people are mainly worried about their partner getting herpes - it's admirable to be concerned about a partner and their best interest. But, it's also good to be concerned about your own health and well-being, so please make any conversation a two-way discussion. Your partner could have already contracted herpes or another STI (most people who have herpes do not know it).
-A partner will likely have some misinformation, misconceptions or preconceived notions about herpes. Many people have heard things about herpes that are either taken out of context or simply not true, so it is best to be prepared to address some questions. In terms of getting educated, give them some specific places to turn. Don't just say go check the internet - that's where lots of misinformation exists. ASHA's website and resources are an option - we often receive calls and emails from partners looking to educate themselves.
-That's the key - education. A potential partner would take an important and crucial step by just getting some facts.
-Feel free to check out the section on our website that discuses various issues including partner communication: http://www.ashastd.org/herpes/herpes_em ... onship.cfm