It's easy to give up on dating altogether when you find out that you have genital herpes. That's the only logical choice right? Of course not, but there are changes you have to make once you get the unfortunate diagnosis. In the United States, roughly one out of every five individuals has genital herpes, so at the very least you can rest assured that you're not alone. Dating for those with herpes is a bit different than dating for those without it, but it is anything but impossible.
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First off, if you suspect you might have herpes (the obvious symptom is a sore or sores in the genital area) but aren't sure, then get tested. It's estimated that an astounding 80% of those with herpes do not realize they have it, which is one reason why so many people do have it (as people pass it along accidentally). A little known fact about genital herpes is that it can be contracted during oral sex even if neither partner has genital herpes (if the partner giving the oral sex has any type of cold sores in or on the mouth), so if you have any doubt at all then it's best that you find out.
There are prescriptions available (you may have seen commercials for products such as Valtrex) that reduce the chances of you passing genital herpes on to your partner. Health insurance, in nearly all cases, covers a portion of the cost of these types of drugs. It still won't be cheap, but this is an expense that you should try to fit into your budget for the sake of your current and future sexual partners. When you have that awkward conversation informing someone that you have herpes, adding on the fact that you're on medication to prevent transmission can have a way of softening the blow.
When it comes to the initial approaches, reactions and courtships associated with dating, there's no obligation to go about things any differently than you did before you had herpes. It's really no one's business unless you either want them to know or they have any risk of contracting the condition from you. There's no evidence to support that genital herpes can be passed through hugging, cuddling, kissing or anything else short of sex (specifically the touching of the skin in the boxer shorts area, which is where the virus lives; keep your pants on).
Putting all your information on the table up front can also be considered though; the big advantage of being forward about it (before or during your first date) is that there's not much risk of hurting anyone's feelings if no feelings have developed. I would tend to recommend keeping your condition private until you see a real possibility for a relationship (you want people to get to know you for who are you are, not for what you have), but if the thought of becoming attached to people who might opt out of a relationship once you tell them about your situation seems unbearable to you, then you may want to tell them before you become attached. With no emotional investment and no real feelings established though, the risk of rejection will likely be a bit higher than it would be with someone who already feels a connection with you.
With any relationship that becomes serious, you will obviously have to tell your partner eventually (ie sometime before you sleep together; aside from being immoral, legal action against you can be pursued if you try to keep it a secret once a relationship has become intimate) that you have herpes. There is the potential for rejection at this point, acceptance (even in the form of “I do too”; remember that herpes is anything but uncommon), and sometimes shock and confusion (particularly when you're with someone who has never had this talk before). The most common response you will run across will probably be “I need a little bit of time to think about this”. This is a reality of having herpes, and while it's not always the most pleasant start to a sexual relationship, it's not wildly awful either (compared to informing someone that you have a terminal STD for example). It's best to bring the topic up during conversation, as opposed to during a make out session or when the two of you are about to sleep together for the first time. Telling someone through an email or instant message offers the advantage of allowing you to carefully consider what you want to say and how you want to say it, as well as allowing you to link to some resources to give your partner a bit more information (the risk of transmitting herpes, when condoms and medications like Valtrex are used regularly, is only an estimated 2-4% per year; this statistic may be comforting to your partner). Alternatively, telling your partner face to face or over the phone allows you to gauge his or her reaction more accurately. It ultimately boils down to whatever you're most comfortable with. Don't break into tears when you tell your partner and don't go into detail about how you got herpes and how unfair the situation was. Laying a blanket of regret, resentment and self-pity on your partner will not increase your chances of getting the reaction that you want.
Herpes is the skeleton in the closet for so many people that it might as well be called the jacket in the closet. The fact of the matter is that you're far from alone and your condition is one which, in the greater scheme of overall health, just isn't that bad. The first step in dating with herpes is to face your disease head on, accept it as the nuisance it is, and get over it. Once this has been accomplished then you are as valuable for the enhancement of someone's life as anyone else is, so act like it.