Sexual Health 

Why you Should wait to Disclose your Herpes Status

Rich Mancuso  |  Mar 01

Why you Should wait to Disclose your Herpes Status

“There is no discovery without risk and what you risk reveals what you value."

Jeanette Winterson

As if dating weren’t difficult enough, imagine that you found someone you really like and are compatible with, but now you need to reveal something personal, like a physical ailment or medical condition. It can be quite unnerving. 

 Last year I was speaking with a friend of mine, and he said quite clearly, “I've been married for so long, I don't think I would ever survive being single these days. I hear so many horror stories from people trying to date; it sounds awful. I don't envy you.”

 I would have to agree with him. The dynamic has changed largely due to the Internet. Meeting people in person rarely happens. Dating or hooking up is most often initiated by swiping right. The world around us is constantly transforming, but while new trends can fluctuate from day to day, dating remains a process of elimination. Funnily, it's very similar to a job interview. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. You meet someone you are interested in, and you begin to ask questions to see if this person qualifies as a potential friend or partner. These are the moments when you open up conversations and search for compatibility. 

Do you have hobbies?

Do you like the same things as me? 

Do we agree on politics or beliefs? 

Do our personalities meld?  

I could drone on, but you get the point.

These questions can reveal a great deal about a person's likes and dislikes, but when it comes to revealing something personal or sensitive—like a medical condition—most would be apprehensive, especially when revealing this private information to someone we have never met. When it comes to the subject of herpes, many who are well aware of their diagnosis are more often than not filled with uncertainty about how their words will be received. The stage fright produced in anticipation of this expose´ is very real for many people, and the reason is the fear of rejection resulting from the stigma.

 The truth about herpes is that most people already have it; they just don't know it. This is due to the CDC and the medical community's lack of mandated testing, and since most are unaware (and are not adequately informed), herpes is simply looked down upon by many as the butt of a terrible joke or the result of sleeping around. This couldn't be further from the truth. Nevertheless, the many misconceptions about herpes continue to turn the wheels of the stigma.

 When we look at the reality, being herpes seropositive doesn't mean you're in the minority; you're actually in the majority. Regardless of this fact and many others, it will rarely go over well if you immediately blurt out the word, ‘herpes,’ upon meeting a new person. 

 Dating experts have said many times over, it's a terrible idea to reveal all of your intimate baggage at once, especially during a first date. This new information can be quite unnerving to the other person and cause them to run away or even ghost. If you still decide to say, "I have herpes," without getting to know them—or them getting to know you—you might as well tell them you're broke, you don't have a job, and you live in your parent's basement because you're setting yourself up for failure. Blasting out loud, "I have herpes," can also immediately cause the other person to shut down emotionally and may eliminate the possibility of an open-minded conversation. 

 You may have blown your chances of getting honest answers at this point, and the opportunity may be lost forever. Yes, it’s an entirely unfair situation, and you can ruin a potential learning opportunity because you threw it out there, like a water balloon to the face—and all this before you even asked them if they had ever been properly tested before. Sometimes we forget that part. 

Value and risk

 I believe that by revealing this status right away, you have removed the possibility of giving someone enough time to understand you, to learn, or even have some basic respect for you. People who have a newly acquired respect for you (after you have spent time together) will be more understanding, or at least kinder to you if they plan to walk away. Most people are not educated about herpes and only have half-truth memories of Sex Ed. class from many, many years ago. 

 In one fell swoop, you may have increased the perceived risk of dating you tenfold, and all without revealing any value in dating you, or at least not enough value for the other person to see past the risk they have just created in their head, factual or otherwise. You may have also erased any opportunity to reveal and impress upon them the certainty that almost everyone on the planet has herpes, including them. At that point, I doubt they would be receptive to any factual information about herpes or anything else you have to add to the conversation. You would have to gauge their reaction to see if the conversation could continue to move forward.

 After reading so many failure stories over the years, I think it just makes good sense to spend some time with this person and see if they’re worth the risk and if they have any value to you as a potential mate or friend; this works both ways. What if, by going on a few dates and having a few conversations, you find this person to be untrustworthy, or not a great candidate to keep your status a secret? Imagine if you told them your condition right away, and this date has now become comedy gold for their Facebook page. Guess what? There is nothing stopping them from blasting your name all over the Internet if they so desire. But, if you had just taken some time to get to know this person and their negative feelings, it's possible that your disclosure could have been avoided, and you could have walked away, knowing you made the right decision. I'm not saying this rejection will happen all the time; that's silly. I’m just stating the probability.

Hook up culture

 If dating were a two-sided coin, hooking up would be one of the sides. Whether you're a fan of hooking up or not, it's a common practice in the 21st century. You won’t get any moral judgments from me, but this particular scenario is much different from dating and the search for a long-term partner. It’s also pretty clear that this requires changing your strategy when it comes to disclosing. 

 If you’re part of this hookup culture, then revealing your herpes diagnosis right away may be your only option. You will have to figure out whether or not any of my previous recommendations would apply to you in this situation.

 I think it should go without saying that the scenario I have presented does not imply that every single disclosure will go in that direction. It’s one of a few possible outcomes. However, in my many years of experience, and in the experiences of others, the outcomes described above happen more frequently than not. These are the reasons for my recommendations regarding disclosure. It’s also worth mentioning that disclosure is always the best course of action. How you get there is entirely up to you. Honestly, you have to find what works best for you. I wish you luck.

Asking For A Friend ©2017

Originally posted on Asking For A Friend.


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