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Ask Dr. Ruth: How to Tell a New Sexual Partner That You Have an STD

2 minute read

After 30 years of working as a sex therapist, the legendary Dr. Ruth isn’t done sharing her wisdom. Here, she answers your most pressing questions on sex, relationships and life. Email your own queries to drruth@time.com, or catch up on previous installments of the Ask Dr. Ruth series.

Q: How do you tell someone you want to be intimate with that you have an STD?

A: “If someone rejects me when I tell them that I have herpes, that’s actually good news because then I know that this person didn’t really care for me.”

That’s the response I got numerous times from people I interviewed when I was writing a book about herpes. So while it’s not easy to tell someone this news, you have to hold on to that silver lining. You have to say to yourself that this is a test, not of you, but of the other person.

Not everyone you fall in love with will pass the test but when someone does, you’ll know that you’ve found someone really worth having. Exactly how, and when you share this information is up to you, but let me make two points. The first is to choose a time and place where you’ll have privacy and enough time to allow this news to sink in. In a public place, like a restaurant, the person you tell might not say very much and then ghost you. You need to be able to discuss this situation fully and without an audience. And you also have to be fully prepared to answer every possible question.

There are many sexually transmitted diseases, but some have no cure, and in the case of herpes, for example, you have to know how effective drugs are at preventing transmission. You can never guarantee 100% protection, but being able to pass on that information will mitigate fears the person you’re dating might have.

Finally, you have to be prepared that when you give this news, the relationship might come to an abrupt end. If that occurs, it will be painful, without a doubt, so that’s when you have to hang on to that silver lining and remind yourself, this person wasn’t the right one for you anyway.

Email questions to drruth@time.com.

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