My girlfriend didn’t tell me she has an incurable STD – what next?

I’ve been dating my dream girl for nearly a year and she only just told me that she has genital herpes. We obviously discussed testing early on in our relationship and both said that we were clean. She took me aside last week and confessed that she has had it for several years, rarely has any outbreaks, and was worried that I would react badly or leave her so chose not to tell me. She’s incredibly remorseful, says she feels so guilty, and has told me she rarely has any outbreaks, but I’m not sure what to do. I can’t get over the fact that she lied to me and hid this from me, and I’m also now terrified of catching it or the fact that I may already have caught it.

Hi there, thank you for writing in.

Discovering that your partner has withheld such significant information can be deeply unsettling and understandably shakes the foundation of trust in a relationship.

However, and while I’m not excusing your partner’s decision to withhold this information, it’s essential to recognize the societal pressures and personal anxieties that may have influenced her actions. Genital herpes is a highly stigmatized condition despite HSV2 affecting roughly 15% of the population worldwide and HSV1 affecting roughly 70%. Many of these diagnosed individuals struggle with disclosing it due to fear of rejection or judgment, and many others remain undiagnosed as they are asymptomatic, so they often continue to spread it unknowingly.

To address your concerns about the implications for your relationship and your health, it’s incredibly unfortunate that your partner chose to open up about her condition after you engaged in any sexual activity. Whilst the laws regarding disclosing STDs to a partner vary across the world, she absolutely should have told you at the start of your relationship and avoided putting you at risk without your consent.

That being said, her remorse indicates that she recognizes the gravity of her actions and is genuinely sorry for the pain she has caused you. You mention her being your ‘dream’ girl, so I’m assuming your relationship is otherwise healthy and happy. This discovery no doubt be a big blow to your trust. But, if you think the benefits of your relationship are enough to warrant working through this, be ready to have open and honest discussions regarding your feelings, how this has shaken your trust, and any concerns regarding the future of your relationship. Strive also to try and understand her perspective without judgment. It’s essential to determine whether both of you are willing to work through this together, and are willing to put in the work to build trust anew.

Regarding your fears of contracting herpes, it’s important to take the time to educate yourself about the condition. While genital and oral herpes is incurable, it’s manageable with proper precautions and medical guidance. Depending on the variant and severity of your girlfriend’s condition, she may be able to take medication to lower transmission rates (if she’s not already doing so). Consult with healthcare professionals to gain appropriate information and guidance on risk reduction strategies, and consider having a blood test yourself to see whether you have already contracted the virus.

Ultimately, the decision to stay in the relationship or not is yours to make. Consider whether you think you’ll be able can forgive your partner and rebuild trust, keeping in mind the love and connection you share. 

Warm regards,

Evie

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Ask Evie

Evie is on a mission to revolutionize relationships and help you sort through your emotional woes. Her popular column helps readers break free from societal restraints and create empowering relationships - both with their inner selves and with those around them. With a wealth of experience in relationship counseling, backed by several professional certifications, she’s open-minded, big-hearted, and extremely compassionate… But she’ll also be completely honest in telling you the (sometimes) brutal truth, so you can get straight to the heart of the matter. Maybe you’re trying to save a marriage that currently feels like a sinking ship? Or worrying that your new friend isn’t quite as nice as they seem? Perhaps you’ve accidentally killed your partner’s goldfish and are weighing up the pros and cons of going to the pet store and finding a doppelganger, or fessing up? Whatever the dilemma, Evie’s at the ready to help sort through the emotional turmoil and guide you towards the next best step. To get in touch with Evie, click here.

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