Dating & Disclosure - Part 1
This topic is definitely the one I am most frequently asked about. Just because we’ve been diagnosed with HSV does not mean that we are ineligible from dating beyond the positive-community. Or even from enjoying safe, casual sex. Dating and casual sex are still very much on the table and this post is all about how you can disclose with confidence, have safer, BETTER, sex, and make real, intimate connections with future partners.
First of all, I just have to say that DISCLOSING IS NOT CONFESSING. You did not do anything wrong, you don’t have to feel ashamed or embarrassed to share your truth, and you certainly don’t have to apologize for it. Disclosure is sharing a very private part of yourself with someone who you believe is deserving of that information.
With that being said, I’d like to offer you my greatest pieces of advice when it comes to disclosing your status to a potential partner-
Be Well Informed
Consider The Timing
Location, Location, Location!
Give Them Space
Confidence is everything. This may take a bit of time and practice but what they say is exactly so: it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
I think that it’s really important that you disclose to close friends and family before disclosing to a lover. Of course, everyone and every situation is different - but I think that it’s extremely helpful and encouraging to start with those who already love you.
For me, after I had started to tell my story to friends and family - I realized that I had SO much support. Knowing I still had the people who really mattered standing beside me, no. matter what, I suddenly wasn’t as scared to disclose to potential partners.
I assure you that if you lead with “I’m super embarrassed to admit this and I’m not sure that you’ll accept me…honestly I wouldn’t blame you if you turned around to run, but…” you’re likely to have a poor outcome.
Personally, I like to say something along the lines of “I really like you and want to share myself with you, both physically and emotionally, so I want you to know that I live with HSV and would like to discuss how that might look if we continue to become more intimate with one another.”
Acknowledge that you are a strong, beautiful, worthy woman who is SO much more than her HSV status. If you know that going into your disclosure you will undoubtedly flourish no matter the outcome.
Be prepared to provide resources, facts, and statistics for your partner if they have questions. I definitely don’t think you need to spout off a list of facts while you’re disclosing but I do think it is extremely helpful to have that kind of information in your back pocket if questions do arise.
..…“How common is it?”
….“How is it transmitted?”
..“What’s the likelihood that I could contract it?”
These are common questions that have some pretty reassuring answers! So I encourage you to do a bit of homework, learn more about your diagnosis, and share that knowledge!
CONSIDER THE TIMING
When is the best time to disclose? The saying is sort of anytime between meeting them and sexual activity with them. That totally depends on you and your partner though. In my opinion it should definitely be before sexual activity.
This allows your partner to make an informed decision regarding their sexual health -and I think that a lot of us who contracted HSV as a result of nondisclosure would appreciate that same sort of respect if the tables were turned. Am I right?
I recommend you get to know your potential lover on a deeper level beforehand. One thing that herpes made me grateful for was the intimate connections I formed with partners before disclosing. It allowed me to be more emotionally and mentally engaged which I think was why I have always had such positive outcomes and reactions after sharing my status. That’s when you can tell they really like you for YOU.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Location definitely matters. You don't want to disclose somewhere busy and loud. You want it to be safe and private where you both feel pretty comfortable - some place you can speak freely and unfiltered. Maybe even cry!
[ By the way, I think it’s definitely okay to cry during disclosure. Some will say “don’t cry, it shows weakness and fear!” Well hell yeah it does. It shows that I’m a real human being and that my feelings are completely valid. Trust-falling into your truth is scary and if I shed a few tears while baring my heart to you, I think that’s acceptable. Just try to wipe them away, hold your chin up high, and stand in your truth. It gets easier, I promise. ]
Remember all those friends and loved ones you disclosed to before? The ones who showed you all that love and support? Well ask them if you can practice disclosing to them. Trust me, I know…I used to hate role playing exercises too but this really does help. Sometimes you need a bit of feedback or a little bit of a pep talk before the real deal.
GIVE THEM SPACE
After disclosing, allow your potential partner a bit of time and space. Give them time to process the information, do a little research of their own, and make that informed decision in their own time. The ball is in their court, so to speak. So give yourself some time to process the situation as well. Be gentle with yourself, indulge in some self-care, and acknowledge yourself for being so brave.
DATING & SAFER SEX
Stay posted for Dating & Disclosure - Part 2
A note on rejection:
Rejection can and may happen. But that is not about you, that is about the other person and what they believe. Unfortunately we don’t have much say in how other people feel or react. We do, however, have the ability to control our own feelings and reactions. So try to remember this - that person was not your person. Your person is someone who will love and accept you no matter your shape, your size, you sexual history, your status….and that person is out there. Believe me.
Take a deep breath. Show yourself lots of love. And keep growing.