How To Tell Someone That You Have Herpes (4 Simple Rules)

There’s never a perfect time to tell someone you have herpes.  Some people may be quick to judge you for getting a sexually transmitted disease, especially HSV-2 (genital herpes).  While many sufferers will applaud you for having the guts, boldness, and courage to tell a prospective partner, friend, or current partner that you have herpes – others won’t care.  In fact, many people are so self-absorbed, that as soon as they hear they hear the word herpes, they run for the hills.

This is a reality for sufferers, regardless of the STD that they have.  Whether it be herpes, genital warts, HIV, or AIDS – all incurable STDs are associated with significant stigma.  This stigma means that your average person in the general public will likely judge you for having herpes.  Although there are seldom individuals that will not “judge” you for revealing you have herpes, most people will remember this piece of information and bring it up whenever you’re in an argument and/or they’re mad at you.

Therefore, you may want to come up with some criteria in regards to who you should tell you have herpes.  It certainly isn’t something that you’ll want to shout at the top of your lungs to the entire world.  Yet, in some cases, it is important to share your little secret with another person for the sake of your own psychological wellbeing.  Keeping herpes a secret from people that you trust such as close family and/or a best friend may not be a good strategy.

How To Tell Someone You Have Herpes (4 Simple Rules)

Below are some tips that may help you with telling someone that you have herpes (either oral or genital).  Keep in mind that these tips may not be helpful for everyone, but they could be of significant benefit to those who struggle with talking to another person about their condition.


  1. Decide who you can trust

If you’re going to tell someone you have herpes, you’ll want to make sure that it’s a person you can trust.  A person you don’t know very well such as a new co-worker probably isn’t someone that you’ll want to share your condition with.  In addition, even if you happen to know someone extremely well, it doesn’t mean you’ll want to tell them.

Understand that a person you tell could use this piece of information to hurt your reputation in the future.  This is especially true if you eventually end up fighting with the person that you share this information with.  There are some mean, narcissistic people out there – you won’t want them to be aware of the fact that you have herpes.

Think of people such as: close family members, extremely close long-term friends, and good psychotherapists.  Certain people may have a several family members and a friend or two that they can trust.  Others may not have any family members and/or friends that they can trust, and would rather work with a professional psychotherapist to get the secret off their chest.

  1. Ask yourself: “Do I really want to tell them?”

There’s a big difference between someone who wants to tell a person that they have herpes, and a person who isn’t sure whether they should tell another person that they have herpes.  The person who wants to tell another person about their condition will usually not struggle with the process.  The individual who is unsure whether to tell another person about their condition will often go back and forth in their head about whether they “should” or “shouldn’t” tell another person.

If you have doubts about whether you can trust the person you’re about to tell, you probably shouldn’t tell them.  On the other hand, if you simply don’t have the courage to tell the person, but know you can trust the other person, you probably should tell them.  Either way, unless you are engaging in sex with the other person (or are putting them at risk for getting herpes), it is a personal decision.

Some people are more extroverted and open about whatever condition they’re diagnosed with.  Certain individuals diagnosed with herpes will tell most people they know and/or meet – regardless of whether its HSV-2, HSV-1, or both.  You need to know yourself as a person and whether you are comfortable with others knowing about your condition.

  1. Know when the time is right (not perfect)

Although there’s never a “perfect” time to tell someone that you have herpes, certain times are better than others.  If the other person has a lot on their mind and/or is under significant stress, you may not want to add to the fact that you have herpes.  Wait for a time when you are getting along with the person and feel as if they’re going to be understanding of your condition.

A good time to tell someone that you have herpes is when you’re 1-on-1, in-person, and alone.  If you don’t feel comfortable telling the person face-to-face, you could give them a call and ask if they have some time to talk.  Tell them that you need to vent about something and see if they are willing to listen.  If they’re willing to hear you out and aren’t preoccupied with anything, tell them about your herpes condition.

  1. “Just Do It” (Just Tell Them)

Like the trademarked Nike slogan, “just do it” – you will need to just simply “man up” or “woman up” and tell the other person.  If you want to tell the person, but lack the courage, know there’s never a “perfect” time to tell them.  Some times are better than others to tell another person about your condition, but don’t wait for the stars to align before you tell them.

Make up your mind, get in touch with the person, and “just tell them.”  Don’t wait until you talk to them next, don’t wait until you get more time with them, etc.  You can continue to make excuses about why it isn’t a good time to tell the other person such as: “I had a long day at work,” “the other person is probably tired,” “I don’t feel confident enough,” etc.

Everybody has excuses, but if you keep making them – you’re going to dig yourself into a deeper hole of cowardice.  Your best bet is to act with boldness and courage and tell them about your condition.  After telling the person (assuming it was someone you can trust), you’ll likely feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

Advantages of telling someone you have herpes

There are many advantages associated with coming clean and telling someone that you’ve been diagnosed with herpes.  The biggest advantage is that the other person may have a secret to tell you that they haven’t wanted to share with anyone.  In rare cases, the other person could also have herpes and have been too afraid to tell you!

  • Courage builder: If there ever was a courage building exercise, telling someone you’ve got herpes has to be it. A big reason why people don’t tell people that they can trust about their herpes condition is because they lack courage.  As soon as you tell one person you trust and overcome the gut-wrenching fear attached to the condition, you build significant courage.
  • Education: Often times the general public is uneducated when it comes to herpes. Telling someone about your condition will help educate them and eliminate some of the stigma associated with the condition.  Most people assume that herpes is some permanently visible skin condition that looks nasty 24/7.  The reality is that herpes is a skin condition that can be managed so that an individual doesn’t have an outbreak for years.
  • Empathy: If you tell the right person about your condition, they’ll be able to express empathy for your suffering. While they won’t feel sorry for you, they’ll attempt to understand your struggles, trials, and tribulations associated with the condition.  Feeling empathy from another person, or having someone understand your emotions – can go a long way towards making you feel better about yourself.
  • Deeper connection: You can form a deeper connection with someone you trust by sharing intimate information such as your herpes diagnosis. Understand that when you share one of your biggest demons with another person, they may also share theirs with you.  You may find out that they suffer from a medical condition, were beaten as a child, or one time had a serious addiction; you never know what they will share back with you.
  • Get it off your chest: Probably the most favorable aspect of telling someone that you have herpes is that you finally get it “off your chest” or “out of your gut.” The fear and shame associated with the condition can be overwhelming if you keep it to yourself.  Telling another human being about your diagnosis will literally feel as if a 1000 lb. weight has been lifted from your shoulders; you’ll feel glad that you got it out of your system.
  • Stigma elimination: There are certain conditions that have minimal stigma, and as a result, they receive a lot of attention for “cures.” Other conditions like herpes have significant stigma and most people that have been diagnosed are too ashamed to reveal themselves to the general public.  As more people build courage and tell the general public about their struggles with herpes, more awareness, and ultimately funding can be raised to help fund a cure for this condition.
  • They may also have it: There’s a small chance that the person you tell about your herpes may also have the condition; or a variation of it. There’s also a chance that they may tell you that they have an unrelated STD such as HPV, or that they had a treatable STD.  Keep in mind that some people are so afraid to open up about their conditions and inner secrets, that they may be waiting for you to share something intimate first.

Disadvantages of telling someone you have herpes

While there are unlikely to be drawbacks associated with telling someone you trust that you have herpes, if you tell someone that you don’t trust and/or that you mistakenly think you can trust – it could be a mistake.  The person could tell others that you have herpes to damage your reputation and/or rip on your character – making you feel guilty that you contracted an STD.

  • Arguments: Telling the wrong person that you have herpes could be used against you in a future argument. You may be saying mean things about the other person, and they may fire back with “well at least I don’t have herpes!” or something along those lines.  While using this deep secret as ammunition in an argument is uncalled for, some people just cross the line.
  • Break-ups: If you break up with a partner because of your herpes and/or after giving them herpes, they may rip on you and attempt to make you feel bad for it. Even if you told them about it before engaging in sex, assuming you transmitted the disease to them, they’re going to hold a grudge.  Break-ups are tough enough “as is,” but many people really swing below the belt with verbal abuse.
  • Damaged reputation: Should you share with a narcissist or evil person that you have been diagnosed with herpes, they may spread the word in effort to damage your reputation. While legal recourse can be taken if a person publically damages your reputation, a legal battle may cost a lot of money and be a nuisance.  Do your best to avoid telling anyone that is likely to use this information against you.
  • Feeling guilty: Some people may make you constantly feel guilty about your herpes. These people should not have been told about your condition in the first place, as they lack empathy and understanding.  If another person makes you feel guilty about contracting herpes, they should be eradicated from your life as soon as possible, and avoided at all costs.
  • Stop dating you: Sometimes people don’t want to associate with and/or date others that have herpes.  It may not be anything personal, but they probably don’t want to risk contracting an STD.  Although now that you have herpes you don’t think it’s that big of a deal, you may have turned someone down with the condition (prior to your contraction) for a date if they confessed it to you.

How will people react when you tell them that you have herpes?

The reactions you get from people after you tell them that you have herpes will depend totally on the person.  If the person is a long-term best friend, they probably won’t really care.  Oral forms of herpes (e.g. HSV-1) are usually associated with less stigma than genital (e.g. HSV-2).  Reactions are usually subject to significant variability based on how you tell the person, who you tell, your type of herpes, etc.

  1. Depends on the person: Is the person you told a long-term friend, a current romantic partner, a prospective partner, someone you just met, a complete stranger, a casual friend, a co-worker? The person that you tell may react differently to this information based on who they are as an individual, how they relate to you, how well they know you, etc. It also depends on the personality and traits of the person that you tell: there’s a big difference between someone with empathy and a narcissist.
  2. Depends on the scenario: Obviously a partner (or prospective partner) will be extremely upset if you tell them about your herpes after you’ve already engaged in sexual intercourse and/or kissing (if you have oral herpes). If you tell them before you have sex or kiss, you aren’t putting them at risk for the disease, and they’re more likely to have a favorable reaction. In addition, if you tell someone like your mom/dad/brother/sister during a stressful time in their life, they may be less understanding than if you tell them during a time when they have their life in order.
  3. Type of herpes: Oral herpes is usually judged less harshly than genital herpes. This is because oral herpes is more common and can be contracted from kissing another person, whereas genital herpes is primarily contracted via sexual intercourse. Some people aren’t judged at all for having “cold sores,” whereas they are harshly judged for having “genital herpes.”

What’s your strategy for telling someone you have herpes?

If you’ve told someone that you’ve had herpes in the past did you have any particular strategy or methodology that worked best?  Did you tell them face-to-face, over the phone, and/or via text message?  Leave a comment mentioning how many total people you’ve told that you have herpes, how they reacted, and whether you think it was a smart decision to have told them or whether you regret telling them.

Realize that everyone will have different experiences based on who they tell, how they tell the person, and the type of herpes they have.  Someone with HSV-2 (usually genital herpes) may be judged more harshly by a prospective partner than someone with HSV-1 (usually oral herpes) telling their best friend that they get “cold sores” on occasion.  If you have any tips or tricks to help tell another person that you have herpes, add them in your comment.

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