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justjoeisfine

Advice for me dating a woman with herpes

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Hello, everyone.  I've recently started seeing someone and I think she's amazing.  Smart, attractive, kind, educated, loving mom, great job; everything.  Tonight she told me that she has HSV-2.  It was very courageous of her to share this.  I don't really know much about herpes or people who live with it.  Well, I understand the broad biological aspects and physical manifestations, but no idea some of the psychological implications and relationship impacts.  It is something she likely got in 2019 from a guy she dated after separating from her husband of many years.  This is based on her noticing he had an outbreak beginning when they had sex but didn't realize what it was until later.  After she showed signs and got tested, he refused to.  I have only had sex with one woman since my own divorce in 2014, because I wasn't emotionally ready for some time (tough divorce) but I fully realize that what happened to her could have happened to me.  It only takes one person.  

I think that I reacted well to this news from her.  The issue was a little surprising for me to learn, but I didn't waver once and I told her that it doesn't scare me away.  That is true.  To me, she is more than a single diagnosis, she's a wonderful, special, person.  We've only been dating a little while, and there is a lot that still has to happen between us to know if we are going to be right for each other longterm.  We are going to find out together. 

Here are some of my concerns:

-Emotional trauma from last year and the sense of betrayal she must feel from a man she dated - if that is indeed where this came from.  Like me, she was with her ex-spouse for over 10 years but I have learned herpes can be dormant for many many years.  Regardless, she had her first flareup last year.  I'm sure that it takes time to come to terms.  While everyone is different, are people generally emotionally ready for a serious relationship within a year of learning their diagnosis?  If we get serious, or want to get serious, should we have group sessions with a therapist?  Not couples therapy in the traditional sense, not because we have issues, but to help resolve the emotional impact together.  Or is this a personal thing that I should stay out of?

-Even before I knew of the diagnosis, this exceptional person gave off a vibe that she suffers from issues with realizing her incredible worth.  If this is related to the condition, what are some of the best ways to validate her?  I want to remind her that she isn't diminished because of something she never asked for that happened to her.  Of course, maybe it was always this way for her, but even if it was, the HSV-2 probably didn't help.

I'm going to move at her pace with sex, but I have questions there, too:

-Will she have trouble expressing herself sexually because of this?  There's a lot more to making love than penetration, and I enjoy all those things.  Honestly, I would be more comfortable beginning with oral sex, which is an act that I like doing.  I understand there is still a risk of transmitting, but once a year I actually get a cold sore so the virus is already in my mouth even if it is almost always dormant.  Are women more self-conscious about receiving oral pleasure after a diagnosis?  If so, does that go away with trust, or is that also more personal than related to interpersonal dynamics?  

This is a question of ignorance -well- I guess all my questions are, but:

What is the scientific forecast for herpes?  Medications seem to be a game changer for mitigation, but do people think one day a "cure" will be available?  Not that it would change my feelings about her, but this is simply curiosity speaking.  On this topic of medication, she does take Valtrex.  

Lastly, and this is the hard part to ask about:

If we are together a long time, I imagine eventually I will have a high risk of contracting the HSV-2.  Even with being "careful".  It's a little scary.  Not scary enough to keep me from giving myself fully to a relationship if we fall in love, but I'd be a fool to not be a little nervous.  Obviously, because of welcoming a potential uncomfortable condition, but, also... what if I get it and we break up for some reason?  Then she'd be gone and I'd be left alone with a lifelong issue.  I know there are no guarantees (I never thought I'd be divorced/single at 40!), and I shouldn't expect them, but how do people approach this fear?  I want to overcome it.  

Thanks for any advice.  I assume these questions have been asked before, but the context might be different.

I may have more questions later, too.  If people have questions for me, I will answer so long as they don't break any trust with (her).  

~Joe 

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You sound like a really great guy Joe. The stigma around this disease is really unfair and makes a lot of us suffering ashamed and hate ourselves. Like you said, this can happen to anyone. Whether you have slept with one person or 25 people, it only takes one. You can even get this genitally from using protection because condoms don’t cover everything and also from oral sex if someone has coldsores. It doesn’t matter if it’s type 1 or 2 it manifests the same way and the fact that some people don’t have symptoms or symptoms show up years later make it a very tricky disease and very easily spreadable.

I give the woman you’re seeing so much credit. It is extremely hard to disclose because of the stigma. The first thing that comes to mind when you’re diagnosed is “who will love me now?” I think the best thing you can do is be there for her. Communicate with her. I don’t know of therapy is the way to go unless she would want to because of her feelings surrounding it. If she is on valtrex for suppression that will usually cut the transmission rate and if you do use condoms that will lower transmission even more. However, everyone is different. You can still contract this even if she doesn’t have an outbreak, but, you may be someone who’s immune system can fight off the virus and it may not be an issue for you saying she did give it to you. To be honest, from my experience and from talking to others on this site, the medical professionals are useless. They give you textbook information and a prescription for antivirals and send you on your way. Because the virus won’t kill you, like cancer, I don’t think they really care to work hard for a cure or better treatments. But I pray everyday that they do. I can imagine it is nerve racking thinking “if I’m with this person for a few years and I contract this, and we break up, then what?”  Nothing in life in certain. It is something that can be managed. It’s a chance you have to take like anything else. Since you are the non H person in the relationship I would like to send you a message and ask for your advice on my relationship if thats ok.

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53 minutes ago, ash128083 said:

You sound like a really great guy Joe. The stigma around this disease is really unfair and makes a lot of us suffering ashamed and hate ourselves. Like you said, this can happen to anyone. Whether you have slept with one person or 25 people, it only takes one. You can even get this genitally from using protection because condoms don’t cover everything and also from oral sex if someone has coldsores. It doesn’t matter if it’s type 1 or 2 it manifests the same way and the fact that some people don’t have symptoms or symptoms show up years later make it a very tricky disease and very easily spreadable.

I give the woman you’re seeing so much credit. It is extremely hard to disclose because of the stigma. The first thing that comes to mind when you’re diagnosed is “who will love me now?” I think the best thing you can do is be there for her. Communicate with her. I don’t know of therapy is the way to go unless she would want to because of her feelings surrounding it. If she is on valtrex for suppression that will usually cut the transmission rate and if you do use condoms that will lower transmission even more. However, everyone is different. You can still contract this even if she doesn’t have an outbreak, but, you may be someone who’s immune system can fight off the virus and it may not be an issue for you saying she did give it to you. To be honest, from my experience and from talking to others on this site, the medical professionals are useless. They give you textbook information and a prescription for antivirals and send you on your way. Because the virus won’t kill you, like cancer, I don’t think they really care to work hard for a cure or better treatments. But I pray everyday that they do. I can imagine it is nerve racking thinking “if I’m with this person for a few years and I contract this, and we break up, then what?”  Nothing in life in certain. It is something that can be managed. It’s a chance you have to take like anything else. Since you are the non H person in the relationship I would like to send you a message and ask for your advice on my relationship if thats ok.

Thank you for this insight, Ash.  I am going to reread your reply a few times to really process what you wrote. 

The woman I am seeing definitely deserves a lot of credit for her bravery today!  It was unnecessary bravery because I was able to handle the news, but she didn't know that.  Her courage impressed me, and her willingness to trust me.  I feel like she demonstrated a vulnerability that only made me esteem her higher, if that makes any sense.  Also, the raw emotion on her face... I wanted to hold her forever.  

Now it seems silly that I would offer to go to therapy sessions.  Of course only if she asks.  My brain is trying to catch up and some of the ideas that come to mind will not be the correct reaction.  That's why I am so glad this forum exists and a person like yourself was willing to take time to help me.  I guess she's my girlfriend (just realized I can use that term since we are beyond casual dating now!) and she should take the lead on most things in direct regards to the diagnosis, and then I will support where asked.  However, it seems affirmations of her worth and desirability are OK.  I would have given those anyway, but maybe they are even more important now.  

Also, it makes sense what you said about a non-terminal condition lacking priority in medical research.  It's unfortunate, but at least the wheels are turning slowly (Valtrex, et al.) and who knows when a breakthrough may occur with the work that is being done?  There could even be an advancement in medical science regarding pathology in general that would be like a rising tide lifting all ships and herpes could benefit, too.  Who knows?  I'm not going to spend too much time thinking about it, though.  It really was a matter of curiosity, nothing more.  

You are welcome to message me any questions you have, of course.  You have helped me; anything I can do in return without disclosing personal information about my girlfriend is fine.  

Let me close by saying that the happiness I feel from making a real connection with someone I admire is wonderful and the herpes is just something she and I shall address together as needed.  It will not define us as a couple.  HSV-2 does not define her as a woman.  It's just something to know about and deal with.  

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