I came across this post on LOTS: “Herpes and Non-Monogamy.” I think it is amazing, and articulates a lot of what I feel about herpes (even as someone who does not have herpes).
Oftentimes, I wish herpes was seen in the U.S. like it is (supposedly) seen in much of Europe: like a cold. Many people (from what I have heard) have outbreaks from time to time; it’s normalized. It’s not a life-threatening condition, but you manage it, you communicate, and you move on. Here, it almost feels like a sexual death sentence. It’s so stigmatized. And why?
And it also presents a dilemma for J and I: we don’t want to contract herpes (or maybe we already do have it, but have just never had an outbreak), because we don’t want to be stigmatized by potential future partners, but we also don’t think it’s that big of a deal. So if we had it, for us as individuals, we wouldn’t really care. But we are both skeptical of being able to be with new partners, as we both foresee a lot of people rejecting us. Although as the author from the LOTS post indicates, with clear communication, a strong sense of self, and a willingness to be vulnerable, it is quite possible to enter satisfying, happy, and healthy relationships regardless of having herpes.
And what if one of us met a partner we really liked, and we found out that person had herpes. What then? Is it a deal-breaker? So far, it has been. That being said, if this person was a long-term partner (or the relationship was going that way), I think we would consider ways to be intimate with that person safely.
I think that’s the other thing to consider with herpes that is managed well. Suppressant medication taken regularly and appropriately, as well as stress management, generally means that the virus load is reduced and the virus is shed in much lower quantities. Those strategies combined with safer sex practices (not having sex when someone has an outbreak, using barrier methods like condoms and dental dams, etc.) I think can mean a pretty low risk of transmission.
I’d love to hear any thoughts any of you have about herpes! Do you have it? What have your experiences been like dating? If you don’t how do you feel about being with someone who does have herpes?