Let’s get right to it. If you have genital herpes, it’s going to affect your love life. It doesn’t matter whether you were diagnosed more than a decade ago or last week. The virus — HSV-2 — is now something you must consider each time you slip between the sheets.
Wait, don’t roll your eyes, get upset, or become frustrated. It isn’t the end of the world and you’re not alone. Millions of Americans carry the same virus. There are simply a few things you need to know. You can still have sex again and enjoy a spur-of-the-moment romantic life if you keep the following tips in mind.
1. Keep Treatment on Hand
If you’ve been to the doctor and received a herpes diagnosis, medication is a must-have in your medicine cabinet. Outbreaks can happen four or five times a year, so having genital herpes treatment readily available is a smart move. If and when you feel tingling or burning, getting meds into your system can make the symptoms less intense.
Taking medication every day may also help you dodge outbreaks altogether. Talk about a great way to side-step any interruption to your in-the-moment playtime! If that’s not good enough, there’s another benefit. Keeping up with your medication lowers the chances you’ll give your partner the virus by around 50%. So you can worry less about passing on the virus and focus on your intimate rendezvous.
2. Talk About It
Just taking medication isn’t enough, though. You’ll still need to be honest with your partner and tell them about your diagnosis. They deserve to have an informed say-so about if and when they decide to have sex. Having an open conversation about your health can take some stress out of your love life.
When you tell them is up to you. Make sure to have the discussion before things get physical, though. If your partner is still on board, you should both get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Even though you know you have herpes, it’s a good idea for you both to rule out any other conditions. Once all your cards are on the table, you can have a much more relaxed romantic life.
3. Change the Narrative
Sometimes, even the best-laid plans — and most consistently taken medication — go off the rails. There will be times, despite your best efforts, that an outbreak will happen. No doubt, it can be extremely disappointing. In these cases, to keep your partner safer, sex is pretty much a no-go. That doesn’t mean all intimacy is off the table, however.
When the unexpected happens, it’s time to flip the script on any steamy plans you might have. Get creative and offer up some alternatives. Fire up your other senses by cooking a delicious dinner together. Or, instead of a candle-lit romp, suggest a comedy movie marathon cuddled up under a blanket. You can still enjoy being close and touching — plus, it adds to the anticipation for the next time.
4. Try Being Mutually Beneficial
If you just can’t wait to get hot-and-heavy, that’s more than OK. Your strategy will simply need to be a bit different. Since the herpes virus spreads through skin-to-skin contact, keep genital-to-genital touching off the table. Your hands and toys, though? They get the green light as long as you wash everything.
Mutual masturbation — either side-by-side or touching each other — is virtually risk-free (and satisfying). Just be sure you don’t have any open skin and that you thoroughly wash your hands when you’re done. The same thing applies if you’re using toys. Don’t share them and wash them before and after each use.
5. Keep Protection at Hand
Adding an extra layer of protection is always a great idea when you’re dealing with the herpes virus. Both the male condom and dental dams offer you STI protection during vaginal, anal, and oral sex. (Pro tip: if you only have condoms, you can make your own dental dam in the heat of the moment.) Having these barriers within arm’s reach will help keep the party going when the flames of desire are high.
Take note, though, that condoms and dental dams don’t offer 100% prevention. When used correctly, they’re 98% effective in preventing most STI infections, including gonorrhea or chlamydia. Remember, herpes spreads through skin-to-skin contact, so transmission is possible. Still, the risk is lower to give you some peace of mind between the sheets.
When you’re first diagnosed with genital herpes, it can be a shock. You really may feel like your sex life is over. That’s simply not the case. However, it does mean you will need to be a little more mindful when you think about having some horizontal fun.
That said, there’s no need for you to plan out and schedule your love life. That’s not enjoyable, and you honestly couldn’t if you tried. Sex and romance can still be spontaneous. All it takes is a little preparation and flexibility. If you keep these five tips in mind, you’ll always be ready for an impulsive steamy moment.