Why do we feel the need to segregate ourselves to STD-only sites? Who are we to minimize our chances of finding our fish in the sea by limiting our sea to only the herpes fish? How presumptuous are we to make the decision for our potential lovers by taking ourselves out of the general dating population? Let them make that decision for themselves about whether or not they want to be with you, just like you'll be weighing the options when you determine if you want to be with them or not, too. So let’s not pre-reject ourselves, shall we?
Being with someone who has herpes or not is a preference. In the dating world, some people have deal-breakers and pet peeves that they just can’t be with. Some people can’t tolerate kissing smokers, some people don't mind it a bit. Some people can’t live with people who travel all the time, some people can. Some people couldn’t date little people or super tall people; to others, that’s their thing. Some people don’t want to chance getting herpes while to others it's just not a big deal. Being human involves having a smorgasbord of characteristics that make us all unique in who we are and what we like.
And everyone’s got baggage and skeletons in the closet, too. Everyone’s got stuff they carry shame around. Herpes just happens to be one of those things for you, but it doesn't make you uniquely rejectable. There are plenty of things that plenty of folks would rather not “admit to” on the very first date before the prospective partner has had a chance to be known on a deeper level. And think about it: imagine a world of segregated dating sites that are baggage-specific that everyone was expected to hole themselves up in ... Not much of a dating pool, right?
The very reason there are STD-only sites out there speaks to our own shame of somehow being “found out” — whatever that means to each of us. I’ve felt that way myself early on in this journey. Like, “Damn, if anyone finds out about this, they’ll definitely run away screaming, much less want to sleep with me.” Then when I have shared these supposed self-imposed deal-breakers, the general response has been "Really? That’s it?” Sometimes we hide ourselves based on false assumptions and projections. Everyone has shame, herpes or not; herpes just seems to be a more visible version of shame, right? The point is, it’s unfair to make a decision for someone who hasn’t even had the pleasure of meeting you yet. Rejecting ourselves before anyone else can is not the best way to go through life.
Herpes-only dating as pre-rejection
Let's throw some layperson math in the mix:
- Roughly 16.2% of Americans ages 14-49 have genital herpes (view all the herpes stats in the ebook and handouts), then only dating within that pool cuts out 84% of the American population. And the rates change depending on who you're interested in dating: 1 in 5 women vs. 1 in 9 men have genital herpes. HSV-2 is more common in blacks at 39.2% than in whites at 12.3% (from WebMD's "How common is genital herpes?")
- Then 80% of them don't know they have herpes. This brings the dating pool of men and women down to 3.2% (20% of 16.2%).
- Then from that pool of folks, how many of them are joining herpes-only dating sites? Just for the sake of this exercise, let's overestimate and say that even half of all people who know they have herpes join herpes dating sites. That would bring your dating pool down to 1.6%.
- And then out of that small pool of 1.6% of Americans ages 14-49, who are you attracted to and get along with? How many of those people live in your area, are the right age for you and have similar goals/aspirations/etc.?
Poof. Your dating pool has suddenly become a dried out puddle in the middle of the desert.
So, by dating only other people who have herpes, you are cutting out quite a sizable amount of potential connections for you. If you don’t even let the non-herpes population know you exist, you are taking all those great people who could care less about herpes off the menu. And that’s simply not fair to those people who would fall deeply, head-over-heels in love with you (regardless of herpes).
And yes, one of the biggest fears we have is to be rejected. And yes, if you put yourself out there more, there are more chances of being rejected. But you’re also cutting out the potential of being accepted, too! (Quite the double-edged sword.) So don’t make the decision for all your potential lovers out there. (That, my friend, is a classic case of pre-rejection — rejecting yourself before someone even has a chance to know you.) Learn how to be okay enough with who you are to put yourself out there and take the chance. Trust that you are building your resiliency to accept yourself no matter what. That is the key to being stigma bulletproof.
There is a deeper strength that can be developed in acceptance and disclosing herpes to potential partners. It says a whole lot about the kind of trustworthy person you are. And isn’t that the foundation to any real relationship anyway? When disclosing comes from the heart instead of shame, then there really is no such thing as rejection (practice this in the Opportunity Lifestyle Guides). As you gain more and more self-acceptance, then rejection is seen more as a preference the other person has instead of a personal teardown of your inherent worth. From this Opportunity perspective, disclosure becomes a caring and authentic act that demonstrates our deeper qualities to prospective partners. In this way, herpes isn't the brick wall we thought it was, but instead a doorway into deeper vulnerability, trust and intimacy.