Dating is tough, period. Finding the right match means balancing attraction, interests, geography, and timing. Now add to that a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and things get really complicated.
It’s something you’ve got to tell your partner, obviously. But TMI too soon can be a turn-off. Certainly having an STD like Gonorrhea, chlamydia, or herpes doesn’t mean that you’re banned from the dating pool, but it does mean your potential partner must be open-minded.
25 percent of people in the U.S. have an incurable STD
“Dating online while having an STD is certainly not impossible,” says David Bennett, a certified counsellor, relationship expert, and co-author of seven self-help books. “Especially since 25 percent of people in the U.S. have an incurable STD. So just know that many other people using online dating also are dealing with this issue.”
Whether you’re using niche options like , (which stands for Meet People With Herpes), , or you’re open to more traditional swiping a la Tinder or Bumble, here’s your you-got-this playbook for online dating with an STD:
1. Give full disclosure—when you’re ready, but before engaging in sexual activity
You’re an honest dude who doesn’t beat around the bush — that’s great. But let’s state the obvious: “Advertising your STD on your dating profile isn’t a good idea,” says Bennett.
Advertising your STD on your dating profile isn’t a good idea
You don’t have to make this a point of conversation within the first few days of connecting, either. The right time is once the two of you have really gotten to know each other. “Once things get serious or sexual activity becomes more likely, that’s when it’s important to bring it up,” he says.
2. Know all of the facts.
Clear, open, and informed communication is key. You would never stroll into an important meeting without doing your homework first. Similarly, you shouldn’t approach a tough topic (like, say, one that involves your sexual health) without knowing exactly what you’re dealing with.
“Bring it up in a way that doesn’t stigmatize yourself,” suggests Bennett. “Educate your date on what it is, what it isn’t, and what precautions you take to prevent its spread.”
3. Be open to questions.
Change or the unknown makes anyone antsy. Someone who has never been intimate or in a relationship with someone with an STD is likely to have a lot of questions about what this could mean for them (as well as you). Instead of shutting them out or dismissing questions, listen up.
RELATED: 4 STDs You Might Already Have
4. Always use protection.
This should be a no-brainer, whether or not you have an STD. Once you’ve been upfront with your partner about your condition and things proceed to the next level, make sure to respect them and their body by covering up. “The only [guaranteed] way to not transfer a sexually transmitted infection is essentially to abstain from sexual activity,” says Seth Cohen, MD, assistant professor of urology at NYU Langone Health. “But if you are smart about the protection you use, intimacy can still be enjoyable and safe between two consenting individuals.”
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health