A partner who has genital herpes needs support and acceptance. It took a lot of courage for your partner to tell you, and it means he or she cares about your well-being and values your trust. "No good deed goes unpunished" is often a harsh fact of life. But don't let it be that way in the relationship.
Of course, your feelings and concerns matter, too. If you're uncomfortable with the idea of having sex with your partner again, or becoming sexually intimate for the first time, you're entitled to feel that way.
First, simple self-care may be enough to relieve most discomfort caused by genital herpes. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen, can help ease the pain of herpes symptoms. Doctors sometimes recommend soaking the affected area in warm water. But the area should be kept dry most of the time. If toweling off after bathing is uncomfortable, try using a hair dryer on the "cool" setting. Then put on cotton underwear. Cotton absorbs moisture better than...
But instead of declaring the sexual part of your relationship over or out of the question, think of ways you can be intimate without risking infection. You can reduce the risk of becoming infected through sexual intercourse by using condoms and avoiding sex when your partner has symptoms. There will always be some risk, even if you practice safer sex, but you can minimize it as much as possible.
Get Informed About Genital Herpes
Educate yourself about genital herpes. You'll find out that it's not as serious as it may seem, and that couples can and do have wonderful, sexually fulfilling relationships, even if one partner has genital herpes.
Sometimes, people in long-term relationships suspect that their partner has been cheating when he or she is diagnosed. That's not necessarily true -- your partner could have been infected years or decades before you met.
Also, consider the possibility that you gave your partner herpes. Millions of people live with genital herpes without having a clue that they're infected. In fact, health experts estimate that 90% of those who are infected in the United States don't know it. A herpes infection doesn't always cause obvious sores on the genitals. In many cases, it causes no noticeable symptoms at all. Health care professionals say that sex partners of people with herpes should be tested, as that is the only way to know for sure if they are infected or not.
Centers for Disease Control. Fleming, et al. The New England Journal of Medicine, Oct. 16, 1997. The American Social Health Association's National Herpes Resource Center. Warren, T. and Warren, R. The Updated Herpes Handbook. Portland Press, 2002.
Jennifer Robinson, MD on February 16, 2015