I met the most amazing man four months ago. We recently started to date, and I realized there was no doubt in my mind he is the one. Last night I opened up to him as things got steamy, and he went for a condom. I told him my ex gave me herpes, and we should never have sex without a condom. He froze, put his shirt back on, and told me to leave. I have never been more devastated. I was apprehensive about telling him, but my friends and family assured me that if he cared about me like he really said, he would work around it. I truly love this man and would totally understand if he stopped talking to me completely. All I care about is his happiness and safety. But this whole ordeal has made me think that I will have to settle for someone who will have to settle with me and my disease. Like the true love I feel for this man will never be mine completely or will be ignored because of this horrible infection I have. My self-worth has diminished to nothing, and I fear I will never be able to love or be loved. Please … help. – The Love Struck Statistic
Let me start out by saying that while I understand you have strong feelings for this man, if he rejected you because you have herpes, he is unequivocally, absolutely 100 percent not “the one.” He is a jerk. I don’t care if he reacted out of his obvious ignorance, because he was afraid of contracting it himself, or because he had no idea how to deal with the information that you honestly presented him with, the way that he handled this situation and treated you is lame, cruel, and inexcusable. That it’s made your self-esteem plummet and your fear of finding love skyrocket is sad and totally inappropriate. The only “the one” this guy is is “the one” who you should thank the stars walked out of your life. With him gone, you can go on your merry, confident, happy way to find the guy of your dreams, who will respond to any honest sharing with love, respect, and caring.
All that said, herpes! It’s no fun. But, rest assured, you can have a healthy sex life with or without the virus. And that’s just it. You’ve got a virus in your system. That’s it. You are not the plague. Some 80 percent of Americans have had the most common form of herpes, HSV-1, at some point in their lives, according to HerpesOnline.org. America is a veritable herpes party, really. Ergo, you are not alone. In fact, The One Who Was Not the One may have it and not know it. You know what that would be? Ironic! It sounds like you know your herpes facts, but if you don’t, or for those reading who don’t, make sure you know what you’ve got. Of course, there’s an endless amount of herpes-related information on the internet, from Wikipedia to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to Herpes.com. Herpes is manageable, and you don’t have to be ashamed to have it.
Still, dating with herpes can get complicated. It’s not a barrel of laughs to share the news when you’re trying to get intimate. For some expert advice, I turned to Dr. Vanessa Cullins of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Dr. Cullins was kind enough to respond with a letter written just to you, so I’ve reprinted it here.
“Your friends and family are right; ‘If he really cares about you, he will work around the fact you have herpes.’ But let’s back up. You most definitely did the right thing by telling him and letting him know that condoms should be used every time, unless you both want a pregnancy. Your timing was off, though. You told him ‘in the heat of passion,’ and I am quite sure he was shocked. People still think they can look at a person and determine whether a sexually transmitted infection is likely. Intimate talks must occur well before intimacy. This will give the person time to think about what you are saying and perhaps not react so badly. Additionally, he needs to understand what the disease is and what it isn’t, and that there are many steps that can be taken to prevent him from becoming infected. In addition to condoms, he needs to understand that you can take medication that will suppress the virus and outbreaks, and that anytime you have a sore, you and he should not have sex. He needs to know that herpes is very common — that one in five adolescents and adults has been infected. (And many do not know they are infected.) He needs to know that he can ask his health care provider for a Herpes Type 2 specific blood test to determine if he has ever been infected.
Now that some time has passed, it may make sense to give him a call to see if he is willing to talk about how he now feels about you and about you having herpes. You might get the opportunity to educate him and ease his fears. Regardless of what happens with this man, please continue to love yourself and get back your self-esteem. Although this was a devastating experience, you did the right thing in telling him. Next time, reveal this intimate information once you trust the man but before things get ‘steamy.’
Wishing you the best, including a really loving relationship,
Got a sex question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.