Navigating Your First Herpes Outbreak in a New Relationship: The Talk After the Talk
By Contributing Author Stephanie
For those of us who are single 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:
- I will tell my partner right away (for my and his sanity)
- I will NOT avoid seeing my partner
- I will NOT talk down to myself about my outbreak
- I will acknowledge my ability to be a great partner by practicing open communication
- 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!