I’ve been meaning to write about this. Last night my friend RD broached the subject with me. He’s had a crush on me for a while (mostly reciprocal) but we haven’t really hung out much in the past. Once during a heart-to-heart over the phone, I told him about the HSV. He didn’t say anything about it then and it wasn’t spoken about until last night. He conducted himself perfectly, it was cute.
So! What to do when someone tells you they have herpes?
Tips on how to react, what to say, and general tips when non-positive (in a romantic sense, I’m planning to do another one of these focusing more on platonic relationships):
- Be open. Understand that this is sort of a big deal to many people dealing with this, and that at the end of the day, they’re going to be the ones dealing with this for a very long time.
- Take your time: Sometimes it takes us a while to process the information. It’s understandable and it’s better to take your time, let it sink in, and go from there than to make irrational decisions. If you do decide to take your time, longer than the current conversation, let the person know.
- Get informed: Do your own research! Look up blogs (like this one), managed by people with HSV. Ask the person about their own experience. Hear their story. Emerge yourself on what this virus means, how it affects people and your person specifically, and how it will affect you if you decide to stay. Correlated: Ask for more information. Requests packets, handouts, etc.
- Know that there are many ways to prevent transmission. If you decide to stay, know that it doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to end up HSV+ too. Condoms, antiviral medication (if they decide to take it or are told to my a doctor) and not engaging in contact with active areas are a main way to reduce transmission rates. There are many couples who have led healthy, fulfilling, sexual lives, with children included, without HSV transmission.
- Babies!: Women and FAABs in general with HSV2 can still have babies! The virus shouldn’t really affect many technicalities, so don’t focus so much on that.
- Talk about both of your responsibilities. Don’t put this all on them. It’s a heavy weight to bear as is. Keep condoms around, don’t blame them or judge them, and don’t be afraid to ask if they are “active” or are having love bumps. It’s better to know where they stand in terms of sexual availability (always with consent, of course!) than to guess and then worry.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Questions! I love questions! The more questions you ask, the more interested you seem and the more convinced I am that you care.Don’t become overbearing though and understand if they aren’t comfortable answering something in specific.
- Be kind. Try to understand where the person is coming from, and commend their courage. It takes a lot for someone to risk hurtful rejection based on something they can’t control, especially when said rejection comes from someone they really like or want to be with.
- Don’t make insensitive remarks, don’t use the word “clean”, and be tasteful when choosing your word choice. Ask them if there are any words or terms that they don’t want to hear. Sometimes this is important, depending on the person.
- Feel the situation out: Roll with their cues, both verbal and non-verbal. If they are laughing and have a light mood, go with that. If they are freaking out, go with that. Let them control the conversation, to a point. Different people have different methods of going about this. Be conscious of that.
- If the person is having an obviously hard time (they are crying, panicking, etc), comfort them, unless they don’t want you to. Be respectful. Let them know that no matter what, they are special, and important, and that you don’t think any less of them. If they are really freaking out, let them calm down on their own.
- Depending on the tone of the conversation, lighten up the mood. Be funny. Be charismatic. Flirt with the person, but don’t lead them on if you really don’t want to move this further. No one has died, you’re not being told you have cancer. No need to be morose. Make them feel like it’s not that big of a deal, especially if they are freaking out. Don’t make blow job or other oral sex jokes unless you know the person will find them funny and not find them offensive.
- DO NOT tell someone to “calm down, bro”. You don’t know what they are going through, you do not know what it feels like to have a heavily stigmatized STA and you do not get to minimize their pain, frustration and worry just because you don’t want to deal with it. One of the most hurtful things I can think of is someone telling me to “chill out” while I’m pouring out my heart, telling my story, crying while they leave and never contact me again.
- If you decide that you don’t want to deal with it: Realize that this doesn’t make you a bad person. Sometimes we just aren’t ready to deal with things we aren’t used to or don’t know how to deal with. That’s okay, as long as this decision comes from a sincere, kind place and not from ignorance and malice.
- If you do decide to move on, TELL THEM. Yes, it’s going to make you both feel like shit and it’s going to be horribly uncomfortable but it’s better to TELL THEM and be honest with them, than to just cut off all contact and leave them hanging with their heart in their hands. That’s not nice and that’s not fair to them, especially when they took such a huge, scary step in telling you. There are ways to let someone go without being mean or making the situation worse. Don’t be an asshole.
- Just like you have the right not to want to deal with it, they have a right to be with someone that doesn’t mind and they have a right to be treated with respect and kindness.
- Don’t go around blabbing your mouth about this. No one needs to know this. Be mature. Again, this is sort of a big deal. Don’t start telling people, putting the person in an uncomfortable position because they were trying to be honest with you.
- High school kids: Shut your mouth. Seriously. High schools are breeding grounds for rumors, stigma, bullying and mean words. If you tell someone less than trust worthy, other classmates will most likely end up knowing too. Just imagining myself as a 16 year old, walking to my class while someone yells out “RUN AWAY, THIS BITCH HAS HERPES” just makes me want to crawl into a ball forever. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t mature teenagers. There are, and they are wonderful, but please don’t make this harder on a high school kid than it has to be. High school is shitty as is, don’t make it worse.
I think that’s it! If anyone has any comments, additions, questions, etc, please let me know.
A guide for those that don’t have the STA and wants to get sexual with someone that does