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How to Discuss Herpes with Your Sexual Partner

by | Jul 28, 2021 | Sexual & Reproductive Health

Tips and facts to set you up for ‘the chat’

So, you’re a carrier of the herpes virus. That’s your reality. It’s also the reality for 491 million people aged 15-49 (13%) worldwide. You hear what we’re saying? You are not alone. And, ironically, you don’t want to be alone. In fact, you’ve reached a point in your journey where you’ve accepted the news, you’ve been mingling on the scene and you’re ready to tell a potential sexual partner you carry the herpes virus.

Coming out as herpes positive can feel stressful and overwhelming. We feel you. There is so much stigma and shame surrounding sexually transmitted infections (STIs), particularly Herpes Simplex Virus, or HSV as it’s also known. Yet, here’s the thing; herpes is literally just a skin condition that chooses to show up on your genitals or mouth.

Sadly, there is no cure for herpes, however it is a very manageable condition. Think of it as having a type of relapsing-remitting pattern, so even though you cannot rid your body of it altogether, you’re not symptomatic all the time. You may experience your first outbreak, have a few lesions, and then it may disappear for weeks, months or even years before making its comeback tour.

In terms of herpes treatment, herpes can be managed via episodic treatment whereby the carrier takes antiviral medication when symptoms begin to appear. Alternatively, suppressive therapy is available whereby a tablet can be taken daily to prevent recurrences rather than waiting for symptoms to rock up. Choice of treatment all comes down to personal preference and what aligns with your lifestyle choices.

Okay, so why are we laying down the herpes 101 for you? Well, with the risk of potential transmission (via genital to genital, mouth to mouth, and mouth to genital action for those playing along at home), it’s important to know the facts when preparing to tell someone about herpes.

Herpes is a very common and very manageable condition. Herpes is not a reason to bid farewell to an amazing sex life. So, here are our tips on how to tell a potential sex partner you carry the herpes virus.

(1) Timing is everything

When it comes time to tell your potential sexual partner you have herpes, it’s essential you do so before engaging in the deed. Herpes can spread easily, even when you aren’t showing signs of an outbreak. In respect to your partner and yourself, disregard the ‘ignorance is bliss’ philosophy in lieu of the full disclosure method. Always have the conversation before your first sexual interaction and avoid a heat-in-the-moment type situation.

(2) Choose the right environment

Ideally, you want to have ‘the chat’ in a space that’s calm and quiet, sans distractions and other people. Try to keep the vibe positive, playful and light as people tend to freak out when they feel a sense of seriousness in the air. Perhaps you could opt for a dinner invitation at your place when no one else is home. One glass of wine may help to ease your nerves, just remember not to go overboard on the liquid courage.

(3) ‘The Chat’

Le grand momento! Congrats on making it this far, you courageous woman! The way to responsibly address herpes with your potential sexual partner in a way where you’re honouring your body and theirs is through transparency, honesty and your excellent wealth of herpes knowledge.

Some pointers:

  • Avoid saying; ‘I have herpes’, and instead say; ‘I carry the herpes virus’. A herpes carrier isn’t suffering from an outbreak 24/7, so it’s important to make this point.
  • Consider your partner and create a conversation around their needs; they’ll have concerns surrounding their chances of contracting the virus. Advise that using protection, taking herpes medication, avoiding sex during an outbreak and getting tested are great ways to manage a sexual relationship with a herpes carrier.
  • If you’re taking herpes medication that reduces the risk of passing on the virus, make that piece of info known, girl! That piece of info is totally on your side.
  • Avoid apologising. You’ve done nothing wrong by having herpes.

Try this herpes conversation starter on for size:

“I’m liking where our relationship is right now, and although I’m not sure where it’s heading, I’m excited to be on this journey with you. I’d love to take the next step and experience sexual intimacy/sex/sleeping with you, however, I think it’s important we chat about our sexual health first.”

(4) Check in with your potential partner regarding their sexual health status

This conversation is also a great time to check in with where your partner is at with their sexual health. Ask the question; when was the last time they were tested? They may also carry the herpes virus.

(5) Give them some space

Once you’ve had ‘the chat’, give your partner some space to process the facts and do their own research. The right person for you won’t see herpes as a deal-breaker, so you’ll no doubt hear from them in good time. Be patient.

(6) When the right person comes a-knocking on your door

Make agreements and set boundaries so that both partners feel safe and comfortable during sexual interactions.

Some questions to ask before engaging in intercourse:

  • What are your boundaries?
  • What would you like to explore today?
  • What would feel good for you today?
  • What kind of experience are you open to today?
  • Is anything off-limits for you today?

Maybe you just kiss. Maybe you just spoon. Maybe you have deep penetrative sex. Maybe you hit the local Italian joint for a bowl of shared spaghetti. You choose the sexual adventure that works for both of you on any particular day.

At Youly, we empower women with information to confront the difficult conversations and eliminate the awkward ones. Whether you’re learning how to discuss herpes with your sexual partner or eliminating the awkward chat when collecting your herpes treatment at the pharmacy, Youly is here for you. Find out more here.


This blog is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your medical practitioner.

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Here at Youly we are committed to women getting the best out of every moment. Love yourself!

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