One of the things I hear over and over again, is how am I going to tell new partners I have herpes? What if they turn me down? What if that person is mean? What if, the list goes on. These are all valid feelings to have, but in my personal experience not one I should have worried nearly as much about.
That being said, how I disclose now is very different than how I disclosed then. When I found out I had genital herpes in 2015, I had to make some phone calls to past partners because most of us really don’t know where we got HSV from. Even though I was 99% sure I knew who gave it to me (they eventually confessed) I felt morally obligated to tell my past partners. These first phone calls were so painful and filled with anxiety and fear. I cried and apologized for something I didn’t ask for and for the possibility I could have given it to them. In all reality, it could have been the other way around, but I felt so guilty for no reason what so ever. It was like getting herpes automatically filled me with a sense of sin and shame that I didn’t have moments before the doctor's phone call. Even though these calls were so painful for me, each person I told was understanding, caring and more concerned with how painful this must be for me. Of course, this made me cry even more. In the state of shame, I was in; I couldn’t understand their compassion. I know this isn’t everyone story in regards, to telling past partners and I know I was very lucky.
Fast forward in time to when I felt like I could be sexually intimate again. I worried myself sick, filled with anxiety and shame. Once again, I would try my best not to cry and would apologize to them for having herpes. Inevitably I would end up in tears. I would offer up tons of statistics and offer to give them a laundry list of information sites for them to look at. I was once again lucky to have been met with understanding and acceptance. With each disclosure, I would gain more confidence and less shame.
It took me a few years to get where I am now, but today my disclosure looks so different. This is the way that works best for my own personal self-esteem and life. I found that if I stay calm and act like herpes isn’t the scary boogeyman of sex, my potential partner feels more at ease. I am very matter of fact. I let them know that I have genital herpes and that it has little to no effect on my life, except I now have this conversation. I let them know that we need to decide how we will handle both of our sexual health. Just because I have an STI doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to be protected too. I offer up resources and let them ask any questions they have. This approach has been the most emotionally freeing and healthy version of disclosure for me. It allows me to feel like I am taking charge of my sexual health while providing my potential partner with the ability to make informed consent.
How you disclose may look very different than it did in the beginning and that’s wonderful. We all evolve and discover what works for us. We deserve to let ourselves shake off the stigma and explore our sexual natures with our fully informed consenting partners.