The first week after I was diagnosed just totally sucked. Suddenly, I was “tainted.” Very depressing. So, will I ever be able to date anyone seriously? Will I now be an outcast? Eventually, however, I learned to deal with it, after realizing that it really isn’t all that bad. There are much worse things that can happen to someone. If this is the worst health condition I ever have to deal with, I’d say I’m doing pretty good. Besides, when you are just dating (without doing anything “intimate”), none of this matters.
I had been dating this nice young woman for about three months. I was sure she was wondering why I had been so conservative, physically (in other words, the pants stayed on). I knew I had to tell her, but kept putting it off. Sure, in the worst case, I guess there was a possibility of her freaking out and running, but I didn’t see that happening. More likely, she’d initially accept it. After a few weeks, who knows. Maybe things would just start to get kind of weird and we’d slowly grow apart or maybe it wouldn’t have any effect. I was confident about her accepting it (at least at first) because she obviously really liked me a lot – and she is the type of person who doesn’t just freak out and run at the drop of a hat. She’s conscientious of her decisions. To be honest, my biggest concern was infecting her. If we later broke up, I’d hate for her to have to deal with having it and trying to meet someone but then I thought about myself. I still date. It’s no big deal. In fact, it doesn’t affect my dating life at all. No, not one bit. It only matters when we get to the point where we are likely to become intimate and my partner would be at risk. In my dating life, that is the very small minority of the time.
Finally, I decided that I had to tell her the news, so while out for a walk, I mentioned that I needed to talk to her about something. She said, “Ok, I’m listening.” I insisted we wait until we got back to her place. So, now we’re walking and she knows I’m going to tell her something important. The poor girl’s probably thinking she’s about to get dumped or something. Things are a bit awkward until we finally get back to her place and sit down on the couch. She says “So, what was it you were going to tell me?” I sit there for what seems like several minutes, trying to figure out how I’m going to phrase this.
“Um, have you ever been tested for STDs recently?”
“No, I haven’t really felt the need.” (Let’s just say it had been a while for her.)
“Well, I have and well I have h ”
I then proceeded to explain what that meant, starting with the fact that it’s the same thing as a cold sore, but just in a different location and what that means as far as the risks it would present to her if we took things further. I also went into the physical effects it had on me (rare outbreaks and really no other health problems – just mainly the stigma attached to it). She asked some questions and said that she would need some time to think about it and process this all. However, she made it clear that she thought we had a good thing going. The most interesting part of her reaction was how empathetic she was to my difficulty in telling her. Obviously, this is not an easy thing to admit. Also, she appreciated my honesty and being up-front before doing anything to put her at risk. In fact, she was clearly impressed with my thoughtfulness in putting her “safety” (I disagreed with that term, but that’s ok) before my pleasure. We got together again a few days later and she said that, while nothing is certain, she really wanted to see where things went with us and didn’t want to let something like this get in the way. A few weeks later, during one late night at my place, we decided to “go for it.” Later, I talked to her about it and she was totally into continuing such activities, but insisted that I keep taking my suppressive meds and use protection. (Now that’s not such a bad deal, eh?) She acknowledged that there is a slight risk, but was willing to take her chances.
There are a few things I can take away from this.
1. The type of person who will stay is the person who is sincere, unselfish and really likes you. This person is thinking of you as a potential long-term partner. When I think about it, this is the type of person I am looking for anyway, with or without H. People who are just in it for the short term will probably run. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d really blame them.
2. Often, your significant other will actually appreciate your honesty since you are sharing something extremely personal with him/her. The fact that you value honesty and protecting your partner above your own self-interest is particularly impressive to many people. The type of partner I seek highly values that sort of honesty.
3. While I haven’t tried this, those of you who are not really looking for something long-term and just want to “play,” just go to some of the H events in your town or get on one of the H-singles web sites. There are probably lots of other people, just like you, who want the same thing.
4. H doesn’t really affect my life. I don’t “hook up” all that often anyway, and when I do, it’s usually in a relationship with someone I would likely feel comfortable sharing this kind of personal information with anyway. If you aren’t doing anything to put your partner at risk, your partner doesn’t need to know. When I told the woman I am dating that I was a little afraid of her getting freaked out and running after I told her, she said that if I had told her much earlier in the relationship, she very well may have. Now that we’ve been together for a few months and gotten closer, however, the thought seemed ridiculous to her.
5. I still don’t call this woman “my girlfriend.” I like her, but I don’t know how long we’ll be together. It’s not like we’ve both decided that we are soul-mates. She knows that there’s the risk of her getting infected and then later being single again, but she’s willing to take that risk for the chance to “see where things go” with me.
6. To all the people who get diagnosed and completely freak out (yes, I was once one of them): CHILL OUT! It’s just a skin rash! If the rash becomes a nuisance, there are meds that generally do a very good job of suppressing it. Yes, you are still somewhat contagious and there’s a stigma around having it, but the best partners to have (in my opinion) are the ones who understand all this and are willing to take that risk. They also get the fact that life goes on, even if they get infected.
7. Since getting this thing, I’ve only had to tell one partner. She accepted it so my success rate has so far been 100%. Now, that’s not too bad.