Ask Dr. Gilda-Dating With Herpes

One divorced man struggles with how and when to tell women about his condition. Advice ahead…

By Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D.

ear Dr. Gilda,
I’m a 42-year-old single father. My ex-wife denied ever having herpes, but gave it to me and finally admitted the truth. The fact that she lied to me about it compounded the problem.

Now divorced, as I encounter new relationships, I really struggle with this burden. I am able to meet and date women without difficulty—I’m fairly
Although I know I’m doing the right thing, it hasn’t worked out very well.
outgoing. But as an honest person, I’ve always felt that it is unfair to see someone to the point that they really care about me before telling them about my “curse.” So I generally date briefly, until it seems there is potential to have a serious relationship—and then tell them. Although I know I’m doing the right thing, it hasn’t worked out very well. I’ve lost three relationships over the past two years because of this and admit that it’s very frustrating. That being said, I hold my head high, knowing that one day the right person will be willing to accept this negative for all the positives I have.

What would be your advice for determining the right time to tell the person you begin to love, knowing that this issue is likely one of the greatest barriers to a relationship?
– Mr. Honesty

Dear Mr. Honesty,
Although it may feel this way when you’re dating, herpes is hardly “one of the greatest barriers to a relationship.” Statistically, I’ve read that 25% of women and 20% of men have genital herpes. Ninety percent of them don’t know it. So while you know about your condition and are willing to discuss it with potential lovers, it’s possible that many of these women have herpes, too, and either don’t know it, or are not forthcoming about it. Even then, if they’re careful, they won’t necessarily always pass it on to their partner. And put it in perspective: It is not a death sentence!

Our culture advertises perfection. And, of course, you want to present your most perfect self to all your
Every person has some unique challenge to overcome.
romantic interests. But whom do you know who is perfect? Every person has some unique challenge to overcome. And how an individual navigates this challenge determines his or her personal success in life.

You are to be commended for wanting to honestly share your situation with potential intimates. But there is no perfect time to reveal a potentially embarrassing truth. Of course, upon meeting someone, you don’t want to say: “Hello. My name is Mr. Honesty, and I have herpes.” You should not share personal information about anything until you feel emotionally safe with a person. See if a relationship will unfold first, and tackle each situation as it arises. I know people with terrible, disabling conditions who are happily married to very special partners. You can be, too. If the past few women were not for you, it may be because they were quite simply not for you, and nothing else. Get out of the mindset that the relationships didn’t go forward because of herpes.

This is what I recommend you do now:
  1. Search the Internet for herpes support groups. There are hotlines, support groups (online and off), and social events. You will find you are not alone.
  2. Volunteer time at a hospital in a ward that cares for terminally ill patients. You will actually be grateful that your own issue is so minor.
  3. Observe survivors and “thrivers,” like Montel Williams who has MS and Lance Armstrong who beat testicular cancer. Read their stories, and mirror their coping tactics.
As my Gilda-Gram advises, “When you perceive yourself as ‘damaged,’ that’s the impression you will project.” So boost your self-image, embolden your self-confidence, and let your dates know that you’re a good guy and a hot catch! If you believe it, you will be it!

Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D., gives Instant Advice throughout the world via Skype, email and phone. She is the 30-Second Therapist for Her best-selling books include Don’t Bet on the Prince!, 99 Prescriptions for Fidelity and How to Win When Your Mate Cheats. Please visit her website at (
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