Recently, a reader Sadie* wrote with the following question:
I feel a bit isolated on the topic of herpes. I have been living with it for years yet since I first disclosed it years ago to a partner, he reacted very negatively and told me to get out of his life. I was shattered. Months later, he knocks on my door and he says Herpes is not a big deal, please take me back but I couldn’t take him back. He didn’t want to use a condom and my fear is if I gave to him, he may hold me responsible or he may leave me again. I chose not to be intimate with him anymore. I have been very careful and have become more selective in chosing a partner. I haven’t met anyone yet to disclose herpes. Yet, there is a fear inside of me and I get anxious about the idea of telling someone I may like. How do I tell him?
This is a great question. Finding the right time and the right way to disclose an STI is a challenge many sexually active people face. But before share my $0.02, I want to make it clear that this is just one gal’s opinion. Some of you may disagree or have different/additional advice. If so, I welcome your thoughts – feel free to chime in anonymously – in the comments.
For my money, I gotta say that I think Sadie did the right thing disclosing her status to her first partner. And while ultimately I believe that we all have a right to decide which sexual risks will and will not take, I wish Sadie’s partner hadn’t been a shaming douche about it.
Because for many people living with an STI that is the fear. What if this person I really like rejects me?
And it’s not just the fear of rejection, but the fear of being judged and deemed dirty or bad. That fear is legit. Despite the fact that human beings transmit infections and develop illnesses ALL THE TIME, the idea that only “bad” people get sick from sex still persists. It’s bullshit. And it’s makes disclosure very difficult.
But even though it turned out badly the last time, I still think Sadie did the right thing. The fact that her partner reacted badly isn’t about her, it’s about them. I don’t think Sadie needs to disclose her status right out of the gate. If you’re still getting to know someone and nothing sexual is happening, I think it’s all right to bide your time.
However, if and when Sadie feels that physical intimacy is imminent I think that disclosing her STI status is the responsible thing to do.
Ideally, it’s not a conversation to have *during* a hot an heavy make-out. Probably better to arrange a specific time and place where she and her partner can have a private conversation. It might help to prepare what she wants to say beforehand. I’m not talking about a formal address on index cards, but practicing an opening statement a couple of times in the mirror can make it easier to say what she needs to say in a straightforward manner.
It’s likely that her partner may have questions and concerns. It’s also very possible that her partner will realize that he’s met an honest person with a shit ton of integrity – a person who’s worth sticking around for. Because STIs happen and partners who are willing figure it out.
So my advice to you Sadie, is to keep doing what you’re doing. I can only image how much that first rejection hurt. But not everyone is like your first partner. There are people who understand that STIs happen, who won’t judge you for it having one. That’s the type of partner you deserve to be with and that’s the partner you can find.
Do you have advice about how best to tell someone you have an STI? Have you had to disclose your status to a partner? Have you had a partner disclose their status to you? The comment section is yours!
*Name changed at the request of the reader.