The most frequently heard statement at our meetings is, "The hardest thing about having herpes is having to tell someone." We often discuss how best to tell and when to tell. There is an excellent pamphlet, "Telling Your Partner About Herpes," published by our national organization. The pamphlet is available at our meetings, or can be downloaded from our national organization's web site at http://www.ashastd.org/. From the main page, click on Herpes Resource Center, then scroll down and click on "Telling Your Partner."
Most people at our meetings believe that they should tell a would-be partner, as hard as that may be. There is a basic understanding that the Golden Rule about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you applies.
There is another, equally important reason to tell -- do it for what it will do for you. When someone has the courage to tell another person, that act alone often can help a person with herpes feel better about having the disease. Telling is part of the process of learning to live, and to love, with herpes.
Here's one of our member's suggestions.
I've had poor results (rejection, tears, anger, walkaways, etc.) from letting passion and sexual emotion get carried too far before informing another person. It's always best to tell someone long before the clothes come off or that friendly wrestling on the floor turns into passionate embrace. I look for a neutral, calm environment and a peaceful situation.
Choice of Words
This is extremely important. Avoid the words "problem," "hindrance," "incurable," etc. Some people suggest simply stating, "I get these blisters from time to time." I prefer to state positively that "I have herpes and I'm very aware of the symptoms and I manage it accurately and well." Nothing beats honesty with a foundation of well-being, understanding, knowledge and integrity.
I minimize distraction, chaos, and loud music. I remind myself that I am a "good person, worthy, unique and genuine." At all HELP meetings I've attended, the recurring theme is if "they" don't understand or wish to not go any further, "we" are still valuable, precious and good. And I remind myself to give the other person freedom to go if they wish. Let them go -- don't beg! If they don't understand now, maybe they will later ... or maybe they'll choose to never confront this issue. It's their choice.
I approach the person with openness, trust, and a sense of sharing. I talk with a calm voice and a smile instead of talking loudly, quickly, or in a quiet, desperate tone. I look the person in the eye instead of staring at the floor or out the window. Remember we are representing ourselves. We are what we are, we live with our condition, yet it's just another day, another "thing" -- we can still present ourselves proudly and with integrity.
The hardest thing to remember is "there are plenty of good people in this big city who are willing to share, learn and who remain open to my frankness about my condition." Try not to dwell on the rejection. Stay busy, write trusted friends, see a comedy movie, take a vigorous jog on the canal, do 100 pushups and situps! Watch the evolution and process of the rejection sort itself out. We all have a hidden respect for ourselves and a fortitude that will acknowledge "us" if and when rejection happens.
You'll always be a winner...
... if you follow these ideas. In closing, here are a few ideas from others:
- Practice with a friend.
- Listen for natural opportunities. For instance, stress often comes up in conversation about work. Talk about how it affects your health and how you deal with it.
- Expect lots of questions and some withdrawal.
- Give your friend time to get used to the idea.
- Come to a meeting for support and suggestions before you talk to someone. Come to the meeting afterward. If you were rejected, we'll comfort you and help you put it into perspective. And if everything went just right, we'll cheer with you!