We as the herpes community have two parts to disclosing that we have herpes to potential partners. After we feel the time is right to disclose, the next part is how we disclose. Half of the disclosure we have complete control over. The other half we don’t.

Half 1: We say it

First, we disclose that we have herpes (when the time is right and we feel we want to take the relationship deeper). How we disclose (how we say it, where it’s coming from, our own judgments about herpes, how we feel about ourselves with herpes, etc.) becomes paramount; it’s more important than the actual words we use. (Remember the idea that most of communication is nonverbal?) This is the part we have complete control over: how we disclose.

When we disclose, we aren’t only saying the words but also transmitting the emotions, feelings and judgments along with it. If we feel utterly ashamed, it doesn’t matter what words come out, those words will be dripping with shame. So where are you with your own beliefs around herpes? Because those beliefs will be communicated whether you try to or not.

Half 2: They hear it

How the other person will react is completely on them. We have no control over that. There is a lot that goes into how someone will react when you tell them that you have herpes, no matter how cleanly and clearly you communicate it to them. Many factors come into play just under the surface: Their own views on herpes, their priorities in relationships, their own judgments, etc. will color what they say and how they say it. Most of this has nothing whatsoever to do with you as a person. It’s simply their own relationship, assumptions and beliefs regarding this thing called herpes.

The preference: To herpes or not to herpes?

Most of us in the herpes community put so much weight into disclosing. Really it’s simply a preference. Everyone has preferences to who they choose to be with. Some people would rather not date someone who is overweight/underweight, someone who smokes, someone who is messy, someone who has a crazy family, someone who has pets, or someone who has herpes. This simple re-frame takes all the sting out of it being such a personal thing and puts it into a more realistic perspective. To some people, herpes is not even on their radar screen; to others, it’s a deal-breaker. But whichever way the preference falls, it’s totally on them.

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