Herpes -- When to Tell?
August 3, 2010 4:31 AM   Subscribe

New relationship and herpes: When to tell?

For the first time, I'm starting a long distance relationship -- we met on OKCupid. Me: Female. Him: Male. Both in our mid 40s. We have chatted online and talked on the phone, and we're going to meet in person this weekend. He lives about 3 hours away.

I contracted herpes 20+ years ago. Very rare outbreaks now, but of course one still has to tell people, and before sexy time. I know all that. I usually bring it up about the time that making out starts to seem like it's going to turn into clothes coming off pretty soon. That may or may not be the best time, but that's been my pattern over the years.

So, my question is, should I bring it up sooner in an LDR? Because of the distance, the dates are less casual and seem somehow more momentous, and I guess I'm afraid of investing too much emotion (and travel) into someone who might end up using those cutting words "deal breaker." On the other hand, when you're just meeting someone, it seems crass to start talking about sex and possible diseases that quickly. Opinions, please?
posted by IKnittedThisSockPuppetMyself to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I recently listened to Dan Savage's podcast 195, which dealt beautifully with this subject. I don't recall specific advice, but I know specific advice was given (although not specific to LDRs, the tonal/timing advice seemed great - at least, presented in a way that I'd personally find helpful).
posted by pammeke at 4:51 AM on August 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

you should tell him quick, but timing isn't as important as being convincing enough to imprint the idea that the benefits overrides any risks.
posted by gttommy at 5:27 AM on August 3, 2010

If you lived cross-country from one another, I'd say tell him before you headed out to see one another, but 3 hours, to me, isn't that bad a drive for a casual date. If it's a deal-breaker, it's not like you're going to have to lug your suitcases back to the airport or something.
posted by xingcat at 5:28 AM on August 3, 2010

I am not a herpes carrier (yet!) and if I can help it, I don't want to be.

That said, for the right partner I might be willing to, you know, risk it in as non-risky a way as possible.

So I'd want my carrier make-out partner to take an anti-viral for herpes, and me super honest about any onset symptoms. And, you know, abstain when appropriate.

That said, I would not jump right into making out with any date, but I would probably be extra slow in making out with a date who has disclosed.

I'm aware that I'm more likely to contract herpes from someone who lies to me about it or is ignorant of their status.

I'm putting my hat in the ring and saying, please tell him in the context of a conversation where you discuss your general sexual health, before the moment becomes a hot and heavy 'wait, wait, I need to tell you...'

And yes, listen to that Dan Savage podcast. He is a wise man.
posted by bilabial at 5:49 AM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is important information that should have been shared before you scheduled getting together for sexy time. I know it is hard to brook the possibility of being rejected because you carry a low-risk infection. Nevertheless, it's important to tell him as soon as possible so he can make a rational, un-pressured decision on whether or not it is a deal breaker, and if not, to discuss with you how to handle the logistics and to make any preparations needed, possibly saving time!

When I negotiate with a new partner, I always disclose my full sexual history before scheduling or committing to a sex-likely in-person meeting. I really don't like surprises in these matters.

Please tell him now.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:04 AM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

We're not meeting this weekend to have sex; it's just a first date to see if we connect as well in person as on the computer and telephone. Probably should have made that clear before.
posted by IKnittedThisSockPuppetMyself at 7:49 AM on August 3, 2010

I would personally tell him even before your meeting this weekend. I would feel jilted if it were a deal-breaker for me and I wasn't told before making a three hour drive (or 1.5 hour. or investing terribly in the beginnings of something I'm excited about).

Seconding that if you mention you're on a retro-viral (which you probably should be if you're going to date someone without) and that you'll want to be safe, etc, it's best out of the way. It's not particularly fair to put someone on the spot in an awkward position either right before sex or even, frankly, in person where he'll have to make it awkward or not awkward, so whatever you do, don't spring it like that.

The sooner the better, not least of all so YOU know whether it's worthwhile to continue to be interested.
posted by disillusioned at 1:33 PM on August 3, 2010

Just tell him, an email would be fine. You're both adults, I'm sure he can deal. Herpes is extraordinarily common (>50% common). I haven't contracted it myself yet, but the chances are I will one day. It's just an unfortunate fact of life, and something people have to be realistic about. You said yourself that outbreaks are rare now, so perhaps start with that--just say that it's something he should know about, but hopefully won't be too much of an issue, etc.

Good luck with the LDR too. I've quite accidentally ended up in one myself, and it's as scary and wonderful as anything I've ever known.
posted by mattkh at 2:43 PM on August 3, 2010

I'd meet him first. What if you meet for the first time and there's no attraction at all?
posted by small_ruminant at 3:09 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't at all be worried about being crass. You both know where this path leads and disclosing now remotely does allow him to make a rational decision before becoming invested in the relationship himself. It may also avoid putting an awkward spin on the day, as he will have the opportunity to educate himself on the topic.

I don't think that a LDR obligates you to disclose earlier. If you are clear that this first date will not be physical then I think it would also be appropriate to tell him remotely after this date. But if you choose to wait, recognize that the longer you postpone the more of a surprise it is likely to be. Give him the space to process it and don't take it personally.

Herpes rates overall are > 50% but genital herpes is more like 16%.
posted by Manjusri at 3:14 PM on August 3, 2010

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