How to Talk to Your Partner If You Have Genital Herpes?

Finding out you have genital herpes can be a difficult and emotional experience. But one of the biggest challenges is figuring out how to tell a new partner about your condition.

It’s completely normal to feel anxious or worried about having this conversation. You may be afraid of rejection or concerned about how they will react.

However, it’s very important to disclose your herpes status to any sexual partners. Being open and honest is key to having a healthy relationship. It shows that you respect them and want them to be able to make informed decisions about their sexual health.

How to Talk to Your Partner If You Have Genital Herpes?

How to Talk to Your Partner If You Have Genital Herpes

The good news is that genital herpes is extremely common, affecting about 1 in 6 people. Many people with the virus can have normal, healthy sex lives and relationships.

By educating yourself about herpes and planning out what you want to say, you can have a successful conversation with your partner.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to tell a new partner that you have genital herpes.

How to Tell Your Partner You Have Genital Herpes [Step by Step]

Step 1: Get educated about genital herpes

Before having a conversation with your partner, it’s important that you thoroughly understand genital herpes yourself. Being knowledgeable will help you feel more confident and allow you to accurately answer any questions they may have. Here are some key facts to know:

  • Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types, HSV-1 and HSV-2, both of which can cause genital herpes.
  • The virus is spread through skin-to-skin contact, usually during vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
  • Many people with genital herpes have very mild symptoms or none at all. When symptoms do occur, they typically appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum, or mouth. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take weeks to heal.
  • Herpes symptoms often come and go in “outbreaks.” The first outbreak is usually the worst. Over time, outbreaks tend to happen less often and be less severe. Some people eventually stop having outbreaks altogether.
  • Herpes is most contagious during an outbreak. However, the virus can still be spread even when no sores are present. This is called asymptomatic shedding.
  • There is no cure for herpes, but there are medications that can shorten and prevent outbreaks and reduce the risk of spreading the virus to partners.
  • Using condoms and dental dams during sex and taking herpes medication every day can lower transmission risk.

Having a solid understanding of these facts will make it easier to have an informed discussion with your partner about the realities of the virus and how to reduce the risk of transmission.

Step 2: Choose the right time and place

Next, think carefully about when and where you want to have the conversation. Avoid springing it on your partner out of the blue or in a high-pressure situation. Don’t tell them right before or during sexual activity, as they may feel ambushed or unable to properly process the information.

Instead, choose a time when you’re both relaxed and can talk without interruption, such as:

  • During a quiet dinner at home
  • On a long walk or scenic drive
  • Lounging on the couch together

The exact location doesn’t matter as much as ensuring it allows for an extended, private discussion. You’ll want to make sure there is plenty of time for them to react and ask questions.

Step 3: Frame the conversation carefully

How you present the information is just as important as what you say. If you act like telling your partner is a huge, dramatic confession, they are more likely to have a strong negative reaction. Instead, try to be casual, matter-of-fact, and unemotional about it.

Emphasize that genital herpes is very common and not a big deal for many people who have it. You can say something low-key like:

“Hey, I wanted to let you know that I found out I have the virus that causes genital herpes. I know it sounds kind of scary, but it’s super common and not a huge deal. About 1 in 6 people have it. Do you know much about it?”

This frames it as more of a dialogue and less of a dramatic reveal. It also gives them an opening to share what they already know or ask questions.

Avoid using negative terms like “disease” or “incurable” which can boost stigma. Don’t tell your partner how you think they should react, such as “Don’t freak out” or “I know this is terrible news.” Let them have their feelings about it.

How to tell someone you have herpes over text?

In this day and age, a lot of early relationship communication happens over text or messaging. You may wonder if it’s okay to disclose your herpes status this way rather than in person.

Generally, face-to-face talk is better because it allows you to gauge your partner’s reaction, comfort them, and have a back-and-forth dialogue. However, a text disclosure can work if you’re not able to meet up soon or if you think your partner would prefer to process the information on their own before talking.

Some tips for telling someone you have herpes over text:

  • Keep it simple and direct. You can say something like: “Hey, I wanted to let you know before things went any further that I have genital herpes. It’s very common and I keep it well-controlled, but I believe in being upfront about this kind of thing. Let me know if you have any questions!”
  • Include some links to basic information on genital herpes from reputable sources, in case they want to read more on their own.
  • Emphasize that you’re open to discussing it more in person whenever they feel comfortable.
  • Don’t send a text disclosure right before or after a date or sexual encounter, as that may feel like an ambush. Send it at a more neutral time when neither of you is pressed for time or feeling emotionally charged.
  • Be prepared that they may not respond right away. Some people need time to think about this information. If they’re upset or ghosting, try not to take it personally. Just give them some space and follow up in a couple of days if you haven’t heard back.

How to tell your partner you have herpes after you’ve slept with them?

Ideally, you should disclose your herpes status before engaging in sexual activity with a new partner. However, sometimes the moment passes by or things progress more quickly than anticipated. If you have sex with your partner before telling them you have herpes, it’s important to let them know as soon as possible afterward.

Pick a time when you’re both calm and clothed to bring up the topic.

You can start by saying something like:

“I need to tell you something. I should have brought this up before we had sex, but I was worried about how you’d react and I let myself get caught up in the moment. I found out a while back that I have genital herpes. I take medication to control it and it’s very unlikely that I would have passed it to you, but I still should have told you first. I’m sorry for not being upfront about it. I care about you and our relationship, and I understand if you’re upset.”

Then give them some space to react. Reassure them that their feelings are valid.

Offer to send them some information on genital herpes and be open to answering any questions they have about your diagnosis and how you manage it.

Your partner may be angry, fearful, or feel betrayed. All you can do is hear them out, take responsibility, promise to communicate better about your sexual health in the future and give them time to process things.

Disclosing after the fact isn’t ideal, but being honest is always the best course of action.


Here are answers to some common questions people have about talking to partners about genital herpes risks:

  • How soon should you tell a new partner you have herpes?

There’s no one right timeline for disclosing your herpes status. But in general, it’s best to bring it up before engaging in sexual activity, ideally when you both have your clothes on and aren’t in the heat of the moment.

Some people like to get it out of the way early on, even before the first date, to weed out potential partners who aren’t okay with it.

Others prefer to wait until things seem to be progressing toward intimacy. Ultimately, the right time is whenever it feels comfortable and authentic to you.

  • What if my partner rejects me?

Rejection is probably the biggest fear people have about disclosing herpes to a new partner. And it’s a valid concern – some people will decide they don’t want to take the risk.

However, you may be surprised by how well most partners take the news. Many people either already have herpes themselves, or know someone who does and won’t see it as a dealbreaker.

If a partner does reject you because you have herpes, remember that it’s not really about you. It’s about their discomfort with STIs and how they perceive risk.

You’ve done nothing wrong by having a very common health condition. Hold your head high and move on to find a partner who will be more accepting.

  • Do I have to tell casual partners I have herpes?

Yes. Even if you’re just having a one-night stand or casual fling, it’s still important to disclose your herpes status. Your partner deserves the opportunity to decide for themselves if the risk is acceptable to them. Casual partners may be even more concerned about STI transmission since they likely don’t know you well and can’t vouch for your sexual history.

  • Should I tell my partner how I got herpes?

You’re not obligated to share the story of how you contracted herpes, although you certainly can if you want to. Some people feel that giving a quick explanation like “I got it from a cheating ex” or “I’ve had it since I was a teenager” can help normalize the discussion. But if you don’t feel comfortable revealing those details, you don’t have to. Just focus on discussing your diagnosis and how you manage it.

  • Will my partner think I cheated if I just found out I have herpes?

A common concern is that a partner will assume you’ve been cheating if you recently found out you have herpes and are in a committed relationship. This is why it’s so important to get tested regularly, even when you’re not symptomatic. Emphasize to your partner that herpes can lie dormant for years without causing symptoms, which is likely how you could have contracted it from a previous partner without realizing it. Consider getting re-tested together so you’re on the same page about your STI status as a couple.

  • What do I say if my partner asks about “the cure” for herpes?

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about herpes. Your partner may have heard that things like essential oils, supplements, or laser treatments can cure herpes. If they ask you about this, gently explain that while these remedies may provide some relief of symptoms for some people, there is no known cure for herpes at this time. Antiviral medications are the only proven treatment to shorten outbreaks and suppress the virus. Reassure them that you are taking steps to manage your condition.

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At the end of the day, telling a partner you have genital herpes is rarely a fun conversation. It’s normal to feel vulnerable and anxious about their reaction. But know that having herpes is incredibly common and has no reflection on your value as a partner or person.

By being knowledgeable about the virus, choosing a good time to talk, and presenting the information in a calm, straightforward way, you can set the stage for a positive discussion. Remember that you’re not asking your partner for approval or forgiveness – you’re simply being honest about your health status so that you can make informed choices.

It’s possible a partner may not be able to see past the herpes and will choose to walk away. While this hurts, try to reframe it as dodging a bullet. You deserve to be with someone who will accept all of you, “flaws” and all.

For every person who can’t handle the herpes talk, there are plenty more who will appreciate your honesty and proactive approach. So be upfront, be brave, and know your worth. With the right attitude and information, disclosing your herpes status can be just one more step on the path to a fulfilling relationship.


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