Having the Talk – How to Tell Someone You Have Herpes?

Herpes is one of the most common STDs. In most cases it is not dangerous, only annoying. However, the social stigma surrounding it is due to the fact that there’s no cure for it. Because of that, many people erroneously put herpes in the same class as HIV/AIDS and other deadly STDs.

Due to the stigma, those who contract the disease might start thinking that their love life is over. Many also feel unnecessary shame and guilt because of it and have a hard time informing their partners.

But, there’s no need to feel shame or guilt. Here’s how to tell someone you have herpes.


If you’re planning on telling someone you have herpes, it is important to take some steps to prepare before the actual talk. Because the subject is delicate, you want to be ready and calm when it happens. Here’s how to prepare for the talk.

Decide Whether They Need to Know

The first thing you need to do is decide whether that person really needs to know. Your colleagues, friends, and even family members don’t need to know that you have herpes if you don’t want them to. You won’t be having sex with them and they won’t be able to contract the virus from you.

You might want to tell a close friend or a family member if you feel bad about having herpes. Keep in mind that you don’t have to explain how and when you got it if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.

On the other hand, your potential sexual partner should know that you have herpes. This is mainly because herpes can be spread through sexual contact even if there are no visual lesions and sores on your skin. The herpes virus can shed even without symptoms. They should know, but you owe them no apologies or explanations about when and how you got it.

Practice in Front of the Mirror

Herpes gets the most of its bad reputation from the fact that it can’t be cured. However, herpes doesn’t cause any serious complications unless your immune system is shot. The sores are unpleasant to have, sure, but they are easily manageable. Besides, there are numerous suppressants that you can take to keep the outbreaks and shedding to a minimum.

After you make the decision to tell someone, it is a good idea to practice the conversation in front of a mirror. That way, you’ll be able to see and hear yourself. Repeat the talk several times until you feel you’re comfortable enough with the subject.

Try to Relax

Informing someone of your sexually transmitted disease can be quite stressful. Therefore, you should try to relax and not think too much about it before the actual talk. Yes, the herpes virus, once contracted is there to stay but it isn’t the end of your love life. Many people have successful relationships, fulfilling sex, normal marriages, and kids despite living with herpes.

The official statistics have it that between 11 and 20% of adults have genital herpes and around 67% have oral herpes. That means that one in eight or one in five people passing you by on the street have genital herpes, whether they know it or not. If the going gets tough, know that you’re not alone and that herpes is easy to manage.

The Talk

Once you’ve decided to tell someone that you have herpes, especially if that person is your potential partner, it is important to pick the right situation and start the talk in an appropriate manner.

Remember that having herpes doesn’t make you damaged goods. There’s no need to feel guilty or ashamed, as herpes can happen to any sexually active person. Here’s how to tell someone you have herpes.

Pick an Appropriate Setting

First, you should pick the right place and the right time for the conversation. If you’re planning to tell a friend or relative, the timing is not that big of an issue because there’s no prospect of you having sex with them. Pick a relaxed situation where you’re alone with them and start the conversation in a natural, relaxed way.

On the other hand, if you’re coming out to your partner, it is very important to do it before you had sex with them. That said, telling them that you have herpes during foreplay or when the clothes have already come off might be a bad idea. Instead, pick a situation where you’re one on one and both relaxed.

Be Honest but Don’t Apologize

When you meet your partner, it is important to get the conversation started in a natural and relaxed way. Don’t start the chat with apologies, as there’s no need for them.

You might want to open the subject with something along these lines: I want to tell you something before we go any further. I have herpes. It’s not a big deal, but I thought that you should know. I would still like to have a relationship with you.

If you’re uncomfortable or ashamed, you should make that statement brief to avoid the urge to start apologizing. Instead, give your partner a moment or two to respond. While some might react badly, chances are that your confession will be met with understanding and perhaps a desire to know more about the infection.

Explain How It Can Be Spread

With the confession out of the way, you should offer your partner thorough info on herpes in general and on the status of your infection. You should tell them that between 11 and 20% of adults have genital herpes, while around 67% have the oral type.

Also, explain to them that the virus is spread through direct contact with the infected skin and that the transmission is most likely to happen when the sores are visible. Be sure to mention that the virus sometimes sheds even without the sores.

Tell them about herpes management methods. Explain how dental dams might improve the protection level of condoms. Also, tell them about how outbreaks and non-symptomatic shedding are suppressed.

Inform them about the state of your infection. Tell them how often you get the sores, if you get them at all. Also, let them know how you manage your infection and whether you’re seeing a doctor about it.

Yes or No

After the talk, you should offer your partner some time to think about the conversation and decide whether they want to continue with the relationship. If they’re really into you, herpes won’t be a deal-breaker.

Have patience, as it might take a day or two to get a response. It is important to not rush them or insist on an immediate answer.

Finally, be prepared for the possibility of a break-up in case herpes proves to be too big of an issue for them.