I wanted to contribute with my experiences recently because reading posts on here have been so helpful for me. I also wanted to contribute because I think it might be helpful for some people, since contexts can vary - not every disclosure situation is the same.
My marriage has ended recently (he was abusive) and I am a wreck. I feel unloved, powerless, and so needy. As I am recovering I begin to feel better and free, and with it, the desire to hook up with people. I felt this craving to just have casual sex and feel wanted again in a sexual way, so I went on some dating apps, started flirting with people at bars etc. It was so fun and I felt better than I had in years. I met a guy at a bar that I really just wanted to sleep with. He was really hot, but not really relationship material, and I desperately wanted to just hook up. When we met up for a date I hadn't actually planned to sleep with him that night - I was planning on disclosing on a second or third date and then hoping he would be ok with a casual hookup. But we got really drunk and he wanted to come home with me and I let him. I'm not going to lie - I think I just really wanted to feel normal and a part of me was feeling entitled, after all these years of being abused, of just taking back some of my agency and getting laid like any other person. This guy was bragging about how he slept with hundreds of women and seemed super casual about sex. We ended up sleeping together, and though he didn't want to use protection I insisted we did. But I somehow, throughout this process, convinced myself that if he didn't care about sleeping with so many people, didn't ask me about STI's and didn't care to use protection, then it wasn't my responsibility (I do think we shouldn't put so much individual responsibility on people - sex is a two person act). And I figured I would never see him again ( he was a little bit of an arrogant dick) and the risks were low. The sex was amazing, BTW.
Shortly after this occasion, I met an awesome guy online. We went on one date that was great. On our next date, he came over and we had a really deep conversation about my fears coming out of my abusive relationship. I told him I wasn't interested in an official relationship right now but would like to date casually, and see other people. He seemed totally fine with that and said he was excited to get to know me, even if not in a serious relationship. He told me his own fears of being anxious about his sexual performance. He seemed so candid about his anxieties and so sweet, that I decided then and there to reveal that I had herpes. I just had this deep intense feeling I could trust him to not be a dick. He could see I was a bit nervous, and hugged me tight after I told him. He said "well I get cold sores, and isn't it basically the same thing?" Then he asked me what the risks were, and I said they were low with protection but still a risk. He said that no way would something like herpes get in the way of getting to be with someone as wonderful as me, and I could have cried I felt so relieved. I felt empowered and that this maybe wouldn't be such a big deal after all. And for the first time I didn't feel like I know had to be in a long term relationship with someone just because I have herpes. I've been casually dating mr. nice guy for a few months now and though the sex hasn't been amazing, he is really wonderful to be around.
The casual guy, in the mean time kept calling. I ended up sleeping with him again, and it got harder and harder to disclose to him. I kept telling myself that he wouldn't care, or didn't care about safety, or that he already prob had something too but it just got harder and harder to tell him after the fact because not only would I face possible rejection but also anger. Some friends suggested that I not even bring it up unless he asked. I also kept believing that this was a short term thing - that it wouldn't last anyway since he didn't even believe in relationships. But he kept calling me and suddenly he says has feelings for me. I start to feel incredibly guilty about not disclosing. That was the worst part- the guilt. It was so much worse than the anxiety of disclosing. I just couldn't shake it. As a 'good person' it just didn't jive with my self-view to withhold that info, even if he didn't seem care that much.
So I resolved to tell him no matter what. Last week, when he came over and we were cuddling we started to get hot and heavy and I stopped him. I just blurted out - listen, I wanted to tell you that I'm a carrier for HSV II. He said "what's that?" and I said herpes, trying not to wince. I looked him in the eyes - I didn't apologize or act nervous. Then I explained that I had been tested but that I rarely get breakouts but he should know there is a risk if we keep sleeping together. He seemed confused mostly, but not angry. He at first said 'ugh I kinda wish you hadn't told me' But he thanked me for telling him and added that it was nice of me to let him know officially. I told him to ask me any questions he had and he started to ask me what risks were associated with it, how likely transmission was, whether you could get it orally, and I answered all of these questions with calm and statistics. I also noted that if had indeed slept with hundreds of women he has very likely been exposed to herpes before and that he should get tested anyway. He said he would and seemed to be ok. He then joked that the convo had been a bit of a libido-killer, and I said yeah I expected it to be. But then he added that he still wanted to have sex with me in the future. I told him to think on it because I didn't want him to feel pressured at all before making an informed decision. He agreed, and ended up spending the day with me, sleeping over again. We didn't talk about it again.
Since then he hasn't mentioned it at all, and has been calling me, but we haven't seen each other or had sex yet. It doesn't seem like it's going to be a problem, but we'll see - he might get cold feet. Even if he does decide he doesn't want to, I felt really proud that I was able to disclose, even so far after the fact. I had corrected a mistake and have decided not to feel guilty about it, but to learn from it instead. I felt more confident about it, and took back a little bit of my agency and pride. I realized that not disclosing is a way of keeping your shame inside and the only thing that gets rid of the shame is being up front about it. By not telling someone, you are just telling yourself it is too shameful to share, which perpetuates and solidifies the shame. The funny thing is, I had begun idealizing this guy up until I told him. After I did, I felt so proud of myself, and I also immediately felt less attracted toward the guy. It was like I had been feeling I didn't deserve to be loved and respected, thereby elevating him to 'better than me' and if he found out my secret he wouldn't love or respect me, but it was me who didn't love or respect me. Once I regained some of that self-respect, I felt pretty ambivalent about the dude, and like I wouldn't be super hurt if he decided to walk away (though I will miss the excellent sex!). So there you go.
Now my big problem is I have two guys who are super into me, and I don't know where this is going! But life is still fun, an adventure, and all of this stress has led to great insights about myself, what I need, and what kind of people are in the world.
Good luck to everyone who is going through disclosures: You are good, people make mistakes, more people than you think really won't let herpes get in the way of even a casual relationship, and if they do, then it's ok - it's not about you. There are definitely more challenges, but not all of them are bad - and remember - it's just a skin disease, not personality flaw!