Navigating Your First Herpes Outbreak in a New Relationship: The Talk After the Talk

Navigating Your First Herpes Outbreak in a New Relationship: The Talk After the Talk

By Contributing Author Stephanie 

For those of us who are singlherpes outbreake and living with herpes, “the talk” is something that is usually on our minds.  I was under the impression that once I had given the talk and successfully proceeded with the relationship, the anxiousness surrounding the subject would disappear.  I was wrong.

I started dating fairly soon after my diagnosis, because I knew that it would never get easier unless I put myself out there.  After dating four different men long enough to have “the talk” with each of them, I finally found one that I really cared about.  When I told him about my diagnosis, his response was the best yet as he said, “you’re just you.”  His loving response was comforting and helped me feel more secure in our relationship, until I started to imagine herpes outbreaks coming on out of fear of having “the talk after the talk”.  It was at this point that I realized there isn’t only one talk that we have to have with our partners. This “talk after the talk” I’m referring to is telling your partner for the first time that you are experiencing a herpes outbreak.  

The initial talk of disclosing your diagnosis can be extremely intimidating, and once it’s over there is certainly a sense of relief; but I did not anticipate that this intimidation would continue post-disclosure. When the time came and I was having my first herpes outbreak in my new relationship, I will admit I did not handle it very well.  I avoided seeing the man I am with to the extent where he felt the need to ask me what was going on.  As soon as he asked this question I realized how unfair I was being to him and to myself.  My avoidance and withdrawal was unfair to him in that the open communication we had was suddenly compromised by my insecurity and unwillingness to give him the benefit of the doubt.  It was unfair to me in that I was not allowing my relationship to thrive because I was scared to face the reality of navigating my rel ationship during a herpes outbreak.

The experience of dating with herpes becomes a bit more realistic at the point of disclosure, but it still might not seem completely real to you or your partner until the virus is actually showing its face during an outbreak.  In hindsight I realize that my hesitancy to share my outbreak with my partner was rooted in the reality that came along with it.  After reflecting on experiencing my first herpes outbreak while in the relationship I plan to take the following steps next time:

  1. I will tell my partner right away (for my and his sanity)
  2. I will NOT avoid seeing my partner
  3. I will NOT talk down to myself about my outbreak
  4. I will acknowledge my ability to be a great partner by practicing open communication
  5. I will openly share the feelings I have surrounding the outbreak with my partner

I hope that when you all go through this same experience, my reflection of my own experience is helpful for you.  Remember that your partner is with you for a reason, and you should give him or her the benefit of the doubt in situations such as this.  I usually get down on myself during an outbreak, as I’m sure some of you do as well.  Now I realize that my partner may have the ability to help me pick myself up if I am open with him and give him the opportunity to do so. Good luck to you all as you navigate your own relationships and don’t forget to give the important people in your life the opportunity to support you during the ups and the downs!  


  1. Stace says:

    I can 100% relate to this. I’ve recently started dating someone who was a good friend for a long time and knew about my HSV prior to us dating. This is someone I’ve loved for a long time so when he finally said he wanted to try dating I was excited but shocked. I instantly panicked and stressed out. Yes he knew about my herpes and seemed ok with it but what if I have an outbreak… What if I give it to him. I was a mess and sure enough a week in a started the symptoms of an outbreak. I told him right away and we have good communication about it but I ended up having the outbreak for 3 weeks which is my longest yet and then right after got my period. It’s not been a month and there’s no physical intimacy which is making it hard. We just had another talk about it last night and his struggle is that he’s terrified he’ll contract it. He’s not one to think 5 years down the road so he’s afraid he’ll get it and we’ll break up and then he’ll have to deal with it. I absolutely understand his concerns and respect his feelings and where he’s coming from but I don’t know what to do next. He’s on the fence and I really want to make this work but I’m not sure how to make him feel more comfortable. We’ve talked about it a lot but maybe we need to educate ourselves even more? Anyone know the rates of how often a woman transmits HSV to a man? I’m having a hard time with this because this is the ONLY ‘issue’ in our relationship. He’s paralyzed by fear and that has blocked his sex drive. Thoughts and opinions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Chelsie says:

      I think getting more educated is probably one of the best things you can do at this point. You have already passed the hardest part of having this kind of talk, and that is that he is fully aware that you have it. Now you both need to move forward with how to properly manage your symptoms and keep from transmitting it to him.
      While condoms are not 100% effective, they come pretty darn close. My husband and I always use condoms, and when I have an oral outbreak, we don’t share cups or kisses 🙂
      If you haven’t purchased Dr. Kelly’s book yet, I would highly recommend it. She goes into major detail on certain food and diet triggers, which has helped me immensely in managing any outbreaks. She also has a basic post here about it:
      Seems like stress may be a trigger for you as well, so perhaps get into a yoga practice to help balance everything out.
      His concerns are valid, and it’s not easy navigating through these types of situations, but the more both of you know how to properly manage your outbreaks, and what to do when you have one, the better. Just know it is possible to have a happy, healthy sex life in your relationship!
      Here is another post on sex and herpes that can help with some base guidelines-
      Hope this helps!

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