ASK ELLA: I Have Herpes and I’m Afraid of Rejection

A few months ago I asked my Instagram followers what I should write about next. Far and away the most popular answer was rejection.

Surely I’ve already written about rejection, I thought. It’s the biggest fear of a person with herpes, at least in the beginning: that we’ll be rejected by everyone we develop feelings for simply because we have an STI.

Aside from my favorite anecdote about getting rejected by someone because he’d just gotten over chlamydia, I’ve avoided talking about rejection. In a misguided effort to not freak people out about herpes, I skipped wholesale over the moments when herpes actually does suck. Instead I’ve focused on how to live with herpes well: how to disclose your status, why you should date people with herpes, why this common STI isn’t the end of your life.

But screw it. I’m dropping my friendly neighborhood face of herpes public relations patter. Let’s talk about it.

Rejection happens. Rejection fucking hurts.

Read the rest of this essay on Patreon.

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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.

11 thoughts on “ASK ELLA: I Have Herpes and I’m Afraid of Rejection

  1. I feel like the “uhhh what?” Responses are truly the worst ones. Like ughhh okay, my dude, lemme regale you with some really kewl & exciting content lol.

    I’ve been hsv2 positive since 2013 & have only experienced rejection 3 times, all this year. It was starting to get under my skin a bit (like am I not as hot as I used to be?! Lol) so I consulted the interwebs & came across your Tedtalk/have been exploring your blog and I must say, your words has brought about a calmness that I haven’t felt at all during my tenure with herpes. Having the conversation is gut wrenching for me, but I feel more prepared & confident to have the inevitable talk with the new man I’ve been talking to. Thank you for your beautiful writing, hilarity, and warmth. You’re a god damn delight!

  2. Just discovered your blogs and so grateful for your candidness, insight and support. I’ve had HSV2 for almost 30 years and after two marriages and dating with no rejection in years past after revealing my herpes, I met a man who I really, deeply cared for but he broke up with me because of it. It has sent me reeling emotionally and I am so hurt and quite honestly I am in a state of shock. I simply I have never experienced rejection on this level. We had such a strong connection and after taking the risk to tell him about how I contracted herpes 20 years ago from my husband who told me about it before we even married, I honestly never thought he would throw everything away. It’s extremely hard not to have this affect your identity and value/worth. Thank you for your example and I pray the stigma and miss information changes.

    1. Hi Dawn,
      This past spring, I too experienced a situation as you described. Lived with herpes for 25+ years, together with my ex for 15 years, had a child. After the breakup with my daughter’s father, started to date again. Spent almost a year and a half of casual dating till I found someone I really liked and had that connection with. Was nervous at disclosing my medical situation, but didn’t think he would judge me for it. He did. Like you, I was in shock, so hurt. How could he just throw away what we had built for what is a medical condition. We spent months, just trying to be friends. After four months of that, I walked away. I had wanted so much more with him, but he chose to not want to be informed, not want to try to be comfortable with it. It has been almost seven months now since he made his decision. I try to work on myself everyday, but I feel almost more scared now than I did before to disclose this to anyone new.

  3. Thank you so much for this. I have had hsv1 for a few years now and for some reason, when I first had it no partner seemed to care. But now it is like the switch is flipped and everyone I tell acts like I’m am the dirt on their shoes. It has petrified me from dating. I am so scared when I start talking to boys that when I start to see things turning sexual, I just completely ghost them. I hate rejection and it completely destroys me when it happens to me. Your words are refreshing and encouraging and I look forward to a day that there isn’t a scarlet letter on our backs.

  4. Hi Ella! Thank you for your work. You have helped me a lot. I am a girl from Brazil who knew two months ago to be with hsv2. I’m lost, confused and afraid of rejection. I think about suicide every day. But I’m going to the therapist. I hope to improve on that rejection.

    1. Educate yourself with positivity around the virus! Life will go on and you will deal with it better every day. Be kind to yourself and remember you are still you! This doesn’t change that 💛

  5. You are awesome! After 25 years hsv2 positive and a rich dating life, multiple marriage proposals, and marriage, I was rejected for the first time. We had a super connection but my “unsafe vagina” is too scary for him. Been wallowing in the hurt and shock of it. But you have made my day!

  6. The greatest fears among people who have genital herpes are the fear of giving the disease to partners and of discussing their herpes as they form new relationships.

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