Young adult son- herpes diagnosis

My young adult son told me he was recently diagnosed with herpes. He is beyond devastated- he thinks his life is over. He is almost despondent. As a woman in my 50’s I know this is not a death sentence ( understanding very well what it means in his future dating/ sex life and the stigma around it) but he is sure his dating life is over and that he will be seen as dirty or unworthy of any new potential mate. He seeks a life partner at this stage and wants to start a family within the next 5 years. I told him if he meets his life partner it won’t matter to her. He won’t hear me.  He has a good therapist so I hope that will help but if anyone has any supportive guidance please share.  Please - no lectures about condom wearing and safe sex. He knows that as do I. 

Parent Replies

Parents, want to reply to this question? Sign in to post.

I don't know about guidance, but perhaps this is helpful: When my husband and I met and it became clear that he wanted to be intimate, I took a deep breath and said "There is something I need to tell you.  I have genital herpes. Do you know what that is?"  We talked about it, my husband talked to his doctor, and the rest is history, as they say. My husband later told me that he had a lot of respect for the upfront explanation, and that it made him want to get to know me more, not less.

Another thing that may be worth mentioning: The person who infected me had cold sores, like so many people, and neither he nor I knew at the time that this meant he could spread genital herpes. There is a lot more stigma around genital herpes than around cold sores, even though it's the same virus, and very common. 

I had a female friend diagnosed when we were young adults. Then it was epidemic and a HUGE deal. It never prevented her from having wonderful and fulfilling relationships. She gave birth 2 children and still has a newish healthy relationship. I think one benefit is you have to think about your sexual choices and partners and be able to communicate with your partner. If they aren’t willing to learn and understand how they can protect themselves they probably aren’t worth it! 

First off - I commend you both for the relationship you two have as adults. I imagine sharing such a diagnosis would be very hard with anyone, much less a parent. 

Secondly, I am a married woman in my mid-30's and I think you're exactly right, the right person won't consider his diagnosis a deal breaker. When I was 18, I was diagnosed with genital warts. I was devastated and thought it would be a deal breaker for future partners and even my ability to give birth. I was treated and I also changed my diet after paying close attention to things that triggered reactions in my body (specifically inflammation). I have never had another outbreak in 18 years, married a wonderful person, and also birthed my child the way I wanted (vaginally) with no related complications. 

I know my story won't be his but I hope he can work through this with his therapist, that your words are a seed that grows in him, and that my story can offer hope. It is hard, but it will get better and I am sure he can find a great person that loves him, all things included. 

Have your son check out Shaun Galanos, a love coach on Instagram. His handle is thelovedrive. He is very open about being HSV2 and how to talk about it while dating. Lots of other good information there too!

Hi, sorry to hear about this rough patch.  I am a medical provider and also have had herpes for years.  It is one of my passions to educate and de-stigmatize herpes.  I am so glad that your son came to you, and that you have asked your question.  I have told many patients they have herpes.  What I say is this:  That this is very common (about 1 in 5 people have genital herpes, and a much higher percentage has oral herpes).  So, many friends and family you know have herpes, and many don't even know it.  This is not a serious disease.  It can be uncomfortable when you have an outbreak, but there are medications that help treat and prevent this.  Frequency of outbreaks and chance of transmission to others decreases over time.  Most people that have herpes forget all about it over time because of this. The stigma, fear and mis-information about herpes is way out of proportion to what it actually is.  STDs are always a risk with sexual activity, and no one should be judged for having one.  This could and does happen to many people even with precautions or few partners. It is understandable to have difficult feelings about being told you have herpes, but you are going to be OK once you process this and get the info you need.  Please visit for good info.  Planned Parenthood is also a great resource. Googling herpes is not a great idea, there is a lot of confusing and mis-information out there and some sites that play into the fears and stigma. I hope this is helpful and that your son can breathe easier soon.

I can relate. I contracted genital herpes when I was 19. I was horrified. I also was committed to not spread it because someone spread it to me--I'm not sure who. Regardless, each time my relationship was moving toward intimacy, I told the other person this. . . "I need to tell you that I have herpes. Do you know what it is? I can tell you, but I encourage you to learn about it on your own." I explained that I will refrain from intercourse when I'm having an outbreak. Each time, they thanked me, did their own research, and we moved forward. It was very hard for me each time I did my reveal, but I continually reminded myself that it was an important responsibility. My current S.O. is fine. I have been very careful to abstain when I think I'm going to have an outbreak and during it. I don't believe I've spread it to anyone, including my husband of 17 years.