What to Do If You Give Your Partner Herpes

you gave your partner herpes alexandra harbushka

What to say when your partner tells you they got herpes from you

Generally, our first outbreak is so bad and we’re in so much pain that we think to ourselves that we’d never want to give our partner herpes. I know this was how I felt. I was like, I’d never ever want to put someone through the physical pain or the emotional pain I just went through. I can remember telling my doctor that I was never going to date again or have sex for that matter. I felt like I was going to just shrivel up and collect cobwebs. 

I know this sounds familiar. Obviously, I got past this cobweb part and put myself out there, dated, and dated some more and got married. And trust me, you will also. 

When it comes to dating and having sex you have two options. To tell your partner you have herpes or not tell them. Clearly, we know what the right and the ethical decision are, but it’s not always that easy. The stigma can put so much fear in our heads that we just freeze and “forget” to mention that we have herpes or just decide that what our partner doesn’t know won’t hurt them. My personal opinion and where I draw a hard line is it is important to disclose for the reasons being that your partner is always at risk of getting herpes and at the end of the day it’s just the right thing to do. I talk about not disclosing here and here if you want to read more. 

So back to what to do if you give your partner herpes. I want to break it down into 3 sections; if you’ve disclosed, if you’ve not disclosed and you didn’t know.

If you’ve disclosed:

  1. Don’t take on the guilt - the great news is that you’ve told your partner you have herpes. Your partner accepted it and made the decision to have sex or whatever sexual activity and expose him or herself to getting herpes. There should be zero guilt on your end because it was their decision.  I know it’s easy to feel like you did something wrong or maybe you should have done a better job and knowing if you were contagious or whatever. Again, you and your partner discussed it and decided to move forward.
  2. It was their decision - this is kinda beating a dead horse but again it was their decision to put themselves at risk of getting herpes. This is very different if you didn’t tell them you had herpes and I’ll get into this later but if your partner knew and still made the choice then it was their decision and their decision only. 

If you’ve not disclosed:

  1. Come clean - the truth will always come out. This is something I’ve learned through life and it twists and turns that the truth will always come out. So if your partner comes to you and says they have herpes and you knew you had herpes then it’s time to own up. By not telling the truth, it just puts you into a deeper hole and creates more room for a lack of trust in your relationship.
  2. Explain why you didn’t tell - There are so many reasons why you decided not to tell your partner. It’s probably because you didn’t want the rejection or you didn’t think that you were putting your partner at risk or maybe it’s because you never get outbreaks. Then time goes on and you have sex once then five times then you’re exclusive and it’s been a year and then there really isn’t a good time. I get it. But again you need to open up and be transparent about why you didn’t tell your partner.
  3. Apologize - this is the second most important after coming clean. Saying you’re sorry and meaning it will be so important. Showing vulnerability and transparency will be helpful for your recovery as well as your partners. Apologizing or admitting we did something wrong is super hard but keeping it in will be worse for you, your partner, and your relationship.

It might be hard to comprehend but the majority of people with herpes don’t know they have it. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, 80% of the people with HSV don’t know they have it. Because the STD tests don’t include herpes testing and most people are asymptomatic it’s possible that you didn’t know you had herpes and unknowingly transmitted it to your partner. In this situation, it’s important to tell the truth and explain how you had no clue. You can let your partner know that you both will get through this together and you’ll both learn how to live with your diagnosis. 

At the end of the day regardless if you disclosed, didn’t disclose, or didn’t know it’s going to be important for you to see how you can support your partner. He or she is in shock, pain, and doesn’t know what to do. And if you just found out too, chances are you’re going through this too. At the end of the day, it’s just herpes and it’s a silly skin disease. The more you and your partner can communicate on this matter and support each other the better and stronger your relationship will be. 

I interviewed my husband, Bill, on the Life With Herpes podcast and we talked about what it’s like being in a relationship with someone. I talk about how I’ve had to let go of the fear of giving him herpes and he talks about how it really doesn’t impact our relationship at all. Basically what I’m saying here is if you want to learn more or hear more then you should go listen to our interview. Go here to hear more. 

And of course, if you want to hear more from Bill about what it’s like to be married to someone with herpes and how it impacts his life he’ll be speaking at our upcoming live retreat. So go here to book your seat. 

Telling your partner is seriously one of the hardest things to do and it is what holds us back from dating. So...I put together a toolkit that walks you through how to disclose to your partner that you have herpes. It’s super helpful and will give you step-by-step tips and tools to get out there and tell your crush you have herpes. 

Get Your Disclosure Toolkit

Watch Life With Herpes:


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