‘After a few years alone, I experienced my first outbreak of genital herpes, which feels like the ultimate punishment for being so happy.
‘After navigating the loss of my late partner, I’ve finally been going on dates with a guy I like.
‘I’m not sure that I’ve got my mojo back and I’m scared about that but I’m more concerned about telling him I have herpes.
‘He’s kind, intelligent and attentive but I’m frightened he’ll back off.
‘How and when do I raise this elephant in the room, and how do I deal with the rejection if the worst happens?’
With or without STIs, the dating world can be daunting.
‘Life has taken some painful turns,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin. ‘Coping with these twists and turns takes inordinate amounts of flexibility, acceptance and compassion — and you have managed to get through all that, as well as the realisation you have an STI.’
Now you are feeling apprehensive about this potential new union, which is entirely understandable.
‘Trusting someone, getting involved and allowing yourself to be happy will bring up overwhelming fears, and that’s absolutely normal under the circumstances,’ says Rupert Smith.
If you haven’t already, we suggest you contact a professional at a sexual health clinic to find out how to manage this diagnosis.
‘Genital herpes is a common STI, if that is of any reassurance,’ says James McConnachie. ‘Your new man might even have something you need to know about so, like everyone else, if you’re having sex you need to have The Awkward Conversation. Not just to fully inform him but to make sure you also know what you’re getting into.’
Often, that conversation is not as awkward as expected and an awkwardness shared becomes another kind of intimacy.
‘Maybe not the most romantic sort,’ McConnachie continues, ‘but relationships aren’t built on romance alone — they’re also built on honesty.’
Yes, there is a risk that he might back off.
‘But if that does happen, it suggests he wasn’t a long-term option anyway and you can comfort yourself with the fact that you have been protective of him,’ says Rudkin.
It may be that he takes a temporary step back to think through this new information so give him the space he requires to consider his own views. Successful relationships are so much more than sex and if he can understand the situation you are in, you could become an even stronger couple.
Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor
James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)
Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist
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