I’ve heard it talked about as “the dreaded talk” but it doesn’t have to be so dreaded. Unless you make it dreaded, of course; it’s your decision. It really comes down to your own perception on what “the talk” is all about. If you convince yourself that the talk is bound to end in rejection, it’ll have that flavor; on the other hand, if you go into the talk dedicated to trust and authenticity, you can’t go wrong. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all the talks will end in flowers, rainbows and unicorns, but your personal values shine brightly. And the herpes talk actually has quite a good chance of bringing you closer together in the process. So a lot of it comes down to how you perceive the talk. Is it a dreaded rejection-maker or is it an opportunity to go deeper into relationship showing trust, authenticity and vulnerability?

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One of the banes of herpes-havers isn’t necessarily that they have herpes. No, it’s that eventually they will have to tell a partner “Hey, I have herpes.” So when should you disclose that you have herpes? There’s the classic catch between disclosing too early or too late … if you disclose too early, there don’t even know you enough to make an informed decision; on the other hand, if you disclose too late into a relationship, they might feel manipulated into falling for you without this vital piece of information.

So that’s the catch. And here’s the solution.

I’ll make it sound super easy so you can apply it with super easy expectations. Deal? Disclose to your partner when you can honestly say something like:

“I feel we’re developing a special closeness. I love it. Part of closeness to me means being authentic and vulnerable with each other. It’s super important to me that I tell you something that is private to me. I have herpes.”

Say it from a place of strength, not shame — because you are stronger than many to even consider bringing it up. It is something to be proud of. It’s an act of humanity and integrity. You have set yourself apart from many who choose to not even disclose. Being transparent in a strong way is confident, sexy and ultimately connecting.

Use this conversation not as a possible reason for disconnection, but maybe even a way to kick a relationship off with vulnerability and authenticity. And here’s something to try on: how about go into having the talk with some excitement? After all, the very fact that you’re having the talk signals that you care about this person enough to be truly vulnerable with them, to disclose something very private about yourself. Just the fact that you’re willing to disclose to them says a lot about the potential you feel is in the relationship.

But what if they reject me? Rejection is all in our heads. What I mean by that is it is only rejection if your identity is tied to herpes, if your sexuality is tied to herpes. You are simply doing your part to be authentic with them, which is what any good relationship is built upon. Granted, disclosing in this way isn’t a magic pill to get everyone to be in relationship with you; there are still perfectly decent people who would rather not risk getting an STD. If so, don’t fault them for it. Understand that people have preferences. To some, yes, STDs are deal-breakers; to others it’s just a risk that comes with all sexual activity. To some, a low credit score would be a deal-breaker — or having kids … to others, someone who is a risk-taker or a corny laugh is the ultimate deal-breaker … The point is, everyone has that checklist they run through when sizing up potential dates. To many people, the deep values inherent in disclosing that you have herpes will overshadow the negatives of the herpes itself. Be open to that being true and it just might be.

Read next: The two parts to disclosing “I have herpes”

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