When and how to tell my SO I have an STD?
August 22, 2009 8:41 AM   Subscribe

How do I let my boyfriend know I have herpes? When should I tell him?

I recently just started a new relationship and I am dealing with genital herpes. I take care of myself and make sure I am clean and take my medication when I feel a breakout coming. I feel I handle it very well. I didn't tell him about it yet because I did not expect to, frankly, fall for him. It's less than 6 months we have been going out also.

What happened is my ex cheated on me and gave me the virus while we were still together. (I only learned of his cheating AFTER we broke up) but at the time I assumed it was from an old girlfriend. It's possible but something inside of me doubts that scenario for he would have infected me sooner rather than as long as we have been together. Anyways, I really respect this new person in my life and we have been intimate and I kinda get the feeling from his conversations that these things worry the shit out of him. I feel horrible. When is it a good time to honestly tell him? I never felt this way for anyone and this is hard for me. Please help.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total)

There's no easy way to do it, but the fact that you're going to be honest is commendable.

Maybe a night out for dinner, then going to one of your home's for coffee. There's no avoiding an opener of "Look, there's something I have to tell you."

I've had this conversation, actually. It was overwhelming for me at the time, but looking back my former GF just went straight ahead with the truth and then mentioned some websites I could check out to learn about the issues.

We broke up eventually, but not just for this reason.

Best of luck. You're going to do the right thing.
posted by bardic at 8:50 AM on August 22, 2009

When is it a good time to honestly tell him?

I personally would want to know this information before having sex with a partner. And although you haven't mentioned whether you two are sexually active or not, I would expect after six months that you two are sexually active.

This information isn't just something you owe someone because you have "fallen for him." He deserves to know because you respect his health and well-being as another person.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 8:52 AM on August 22, 2009 [22 favorites]

Wow. The best way to let him know at this point is to build a time machine and tell him about your status before you are intimate with him. But seriously, you need to woman up and tell him now. For future reference, herpes doesn't have to be a deal-breaker, but hiding it for six months may be.
posted by shrabster at 8:52 AM on August 22, 2009 [12 favorites]

Are you having sex? Then you should have had this conversation. Herpes can be passed (although rarely, but it CAN happen) even when you are not in an acute state, as the virus can persist on the skin. There are daily medications that you can take (talk to your physician if you haven't already) that have been shown to reduce the number of outbreaks and reduce the risk of passing the virus.

So, the best time to tell him is as soon as possible. When you frame the conversation, be honest. Tell him the whole story, that you were infected by an ex-boyfriend, who cheated. Apologize for not telling him sooner - be prepared for the idea that your partner might not appreciate your waiting six months to tell him, especially if you've already been intimate. Understand that he might want some time alone to process this new information, and that your couple-dom might not survive. But, you do have to tell him, and soon.
posted by honeybee413 at 8:58 AM on August 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Do you have a throw-away email?
posted by whimsicalnymph at 9:00 AM on August 22, 2009

Honestly, if you've already slept with him, then it's too late to do it the best way. Now it's a matter of, "Surprise, I've potentially exposed you to an incurable disease" and Hallmark doesn't make a card for that...yet.

And what does falling for him have to do with anything? You have to tell EVERYONE you're intimate with, not just the ones you fall for and not just the ones you respect. People have a right to know what they're getting into (literally).

The best way to break it to him is simply. Beginning of the night, no preamble sitting down on the couch facing him. Just honest to goodness straight truth. You don't want to take him out to a nice dinner to butter him up because that won't mitigate anything. Feel free to take him out to his favorite eatery after, though.

Good luck...and remember that you have to be more responsible than the man who infected you going forward.
posted by inturnaround at 9:02 AM on August 22, 2009 [6 favorites]

The right time to tell him was before you were intimate with him. I suspect that you know that.

When you have an STI, the right time to disclose is always before you potentially expose someone else to the STI. Then, that person is able to make an informed decision about whether to go ahead with things. You have to put this decision in their hands -- it's dishonest and deceitful to do otherwise.

The fact that you "didn't expect to fall for him" -- this means that, if you are being intimate with people you are not in love with, it's okay to expose them to an STI without their consent? No.

It does not matter how you got it. Having an STI is not a mark of poor morality. There is a stigma attached to herpes, but it's really, ultimately, a skin disease. There should not be the massive stigma attached to it that there is. Read up and educate yourself on what herpes is, how and when to disclose, and that way you can help to educate the people you have to disclose to.

Nevertheless, you made a mistake. You should have told this person before you were intimate with him. Now all you can do is tell him, acknowledge that you made a mistake, and hope for the best. Take this as a learning experience, and in future, tell everyone you are involved with before you become intimate with them. They'll respect you for it, and you'll respect yourself for not putting the people you care about at risk without their consent.
posted by jennyjenny at 9:08 AM on August 22, 2009

Call him up today. Invite him out for a walk in the park, or a stroll through a quiet neighborhood, or to the shores of a lake or a beach, or somewhere else private and outside where there are visual reminders of beauty and peace and the world being a bigger place than, say, just your living room or kitchen or car. Tell him you have herpes. Apologize for not telling him sooner. Tell him you care for him and you'll answer any and all questions he has, and you will listen to anything he might have to say to you about his feelings. Tell him you did your very best to protect him from the disease thus far. Tell him you will go with him to be tested and that you will pay for the test. Tell him you will accept his decision to either continue dating you or to not see you anymore. Tell him you know this conversation is about him and his feelings. Answer his questions, tend to his concerns, be scrupulously honest about why you did what you did without emotionally manipulating him, and gracefully accept whatever he wants in the short and long term.

Don't lie anymore about this to him or any future sexual partners. Whether or not you feel you'll potentially fall in love with someone is not the yardstick by which you measure your ethical responsibilities as a sexually active adult.

Best of luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 9:20 AM on August 22, 2009

You shouldn't feel shame about having a virus. However, you got the virus by having sex with someone who did not inform you. Now, "we have been intimate" makes me believe that you've done the same with your current partner. Since you've exposed him to the virus without his knowledge, right now is the best time to tell him.

Expect that he will have the same emotions you had, when you found out you were exposed without your knowledge/consent.
posted by Houstonian at 9:28 AM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mod note: comment removed - if you can't comment without ranting, don't. thank you
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:19 AM on August 22, 2009

No reason to torture yourself over this, but telling him ASAP is the right thing to do now.

One day I was alone at the apartment of a woman I'd been dating for a few weeks. There was an inviting-looking tin on her desk, the kind of container that would be perfect for keeping weed or candy in. I opened it to discover, instead, little sky-blue pills with an unfamiliar word written on them: VALTREX.

A guy really doesn't want to find out that way...
posted by Kirklander at 10:23 AM on August 22, 2009

This exact question has been asked and answered before.
posted by orange swan at 10:24 AM on August 22, 2009

Honestly if it were me and my gf didnt tell me within say 3 weeks i would dump her. Herpes or any std is not something that you wait to tell somebody about.
posted by majortom1981 at 10:45 AM on August 22, 2009

Please, please tell him before having sex with him again.
posted by tristeza at 1:29 PM on August 22, 2009

I agree with most of what TryTheTilapia has to say, although if it were me receiving this news (I am female, not sure if that matters) I would want to be in my own apartment. My reasons:

a) I might become emotional, and being given information in public that could make me cry/yell would make me feel exposed and possibly angry

b) I might need to have some time alone after receiving this news, and already being at home would help with this

c) I might want to have easy access to online information resources to reassure/educate myself using sources I trust - I'm sorry, but someone who had kept this from me for 6 months would not be a source I trust, at least not in the heat of the moment

Good luck. You are doing the right thing by telling your partner. It isn't the end of the world - I have friends who are living with it quite happily, with uninfected partners. But please, as everyone else is saying, deliver the news as soon as possible.
posted by pammeke at 3:37 PM on August 22, 2009

As others have said, you need to have told him before having sex with him. The "intimate" wording is ambiguous so I'm not sure if you've had sex with him, but either way, you should know that you can contract herpes regardless of whether or not you use a condom, and regardless of whether you're having an outbreak at the time of intercourse; a condom does not cover all the potentially infected skin that comes into contact. In other words, he can get herpes from you simply because his testicles or the base of his penis are coming into contact with the outside of your vagina.

So if you're already having sex with him, you need to stop immediately and tell him. It's not going to be easy, but hopefully concern for his well-being and needing an explanation for why you refuse to have sex with him will be enough of an imperative to push you through it. Good luck, and sorry you're in this position.
posted by Nattie at 7:28 PM on August 22, 2009

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