Bottom-line: Is a long term relationship with someone with herpes a life sentence for protected sex?

Or is contracting herpes from your partner going to be an inevitability—not a matter of if, but when? I’m not going to sit here and guarantee that you’ll never get herpes, either from your long term girlfriend or from a random hookup.

) less risky than sex with a partner who may or may not know their status.” A herpes prodrome are signs that an outbreak is about to happen. If nothing else, dating someone with herpes can seem like an inconvenience.

Herpes prodrome include itchiness, tingling, burning, numbness, aches, shooting pains, and other sensations and can appear 30 minutes to a couple of days before an outbreak. The need to always wear protection and be aware of outbreaks and prodromal symptoms is certainly unique.

Staying in a relationship where you are negative and they are positive seems like playing with fire.

But there’s something to be said for someone who knows they have herpes and knows how to manage it versus someone who has herpes and doesn’t know and has never been tested. Garrison, a clinical sexologist, told Primer: “When a person living with herpes knows everything about herpes and can comfort themselves and educate their partners, when they can know their prodrome and understand what that means, when they are aware of what can trigger their outbreaks, then sex with them can be (and often is! That being said, you’ll never reduce your risk of contracting herpes from a partner down to zero. There are three ways to reduce the risk of transmission.

Q: I’ve been seeing this girl and we’ve really been hitting it off. But my gut reaction is to ghost and never look back—I don’t want herpes! – Jason, San Antonio A: Finding out your partner has herpes can be a bombshell at any point in the relationship. But it is not nearly as unique or earth-shattering as you think it is. I know there a lot of thoughts and anxieties swirling in your head—about your partner’s health, about your health, about your partner’s fidelity, about your future (or lack thereof) with your partner—and we’ll get to all that.

My head tells me to handle this like a mature gentleman.

When prodrome is present, it means the virus is active and the chances of transmission are high. But on the grand scale of things, herpes might be less of a challenge than celiac’s disease or severe nut allergies or even a monthly menstrual cycle.

Is the risk higher than being in a relationship with someone who is confirmed negative? But is it realistic to only be in relationships with people who have been recently tested for herpes? For most people, herpes outbreaks happen less and less frequently as time goes on.

Not just compared to everyone you know, but compared to your own life up to this point.

What’s unique about this situation is that one of you knows and is talking about it openly. The shaming of the “unclean” and the fear loom far larger than the actual health risks to the population. That two people might hook up–be it a third date or a long committed relationship–and one or both of them has herpes and doesn’t know it is hardly far fetched.

But know this: many, many couples find a way to make it work. In a long term relationship where there is open communication, maybe even a little professional counseling (people like Eric Garrison, or someone your doctor refers), you find your rhythm.