Now that your partner knows you have herpes...

Originally Published: June 6, 1997 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: February 18, 2011
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Dear Alice,

I recently told my girlfriend I have herpes. Since that night I can feel her moving emotionally away from me. What can I tell her to comfort her and continue moving forward in our relationship?

Dear Reader,

To get a better sense of how your girlfriend might be feeling, it could be helpful to think back to the day that you learned you had herpes and try to recall the following: What were your reactions? How long did it take for you to accept and feel comfortable with the news? Just as it may have been difficult for you at first, your girlfriend may be having a difficult time with the news. Try to remember what helped you understand herpes and accept living with herpes. Did you read a particularly informative book? Join a support group? Talk to someone at a herpes or sexually transmitted infection (STI) hotline? Some of the same things that helped you work through your initial feelings might also help your girlfriend.

A lack of knowledge and understanding of a condition can contribute to a fear of it and a desire for distance from it. You might want to ask her what questions she has. Explaining some of what you've learned about how the virus is transmitted and how it affects the body might make her more comfortable dealing with herpes. Risk of infection is likely one of your girlfriend's chief concerns. It would be a good idea to discuss how you can work together to keep her risk of contracting herpes low. For information and ideas, check out the American Social Health Association's (ASHA) online Herpes Resource Center. You could also make use of a hotline service:

  • ASHA's STI Resource Center Hotline: 1.800.227.8922
  • National Herpes Hotline: 919.361.8488

Columbia students and their partners can speak privately and confidentially with a health care provider at Health Services. You can call x4-2284 or login to Open Communicator for an appointment. You and your girlfriend may also want to speak with a counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services. To request an appointment there, you can call x4-2468. Finally, don't forget to search Go Ask Alice! Sexual Health archives for more questions and answers on herpes. In particular, How to tell partner about herpes? in the Go Ask Alice! Relationships archives. There are some great tips for communication about this difficult subject. Although you're not in exactly the same boat as this reader, you may still find the answer valuable and informative.

Best of luck to you!