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How long is too long to wait for someone to accept me with herpes?


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I am a woman in my 40s and contracted HSV1 and HSV2 almost two years ago from someone who outright lied to me about his sexual health.  I have had two sexual partners since then, disclosed very early on both times, though they did not develop into loving relationships.  For the last six months, I have been dating a wonderful man. I disclosed my sexual health to him very early on and he said we would deal with it together.  He is kind, thoughtful, attentive, and generous, we enjoy each other's company immensely, and we talk about sharing our lives together into retirement and old age.  We are very affectionate and touch and fondle, and it gets "hot and heavy" BUT he stops short of intercourse - nothing vaginal or oral.  I take daily antivirals and monitor my body - my outbreaks are very infrequent and mild, gratefully.  I am open to condom use as a stepping stone, though I also told him early on that for me, I want a long term, committed, monogamous relationship where we could be sexually free with each other without condoms.  He is requesting to wait a full year before intercourse, and even then, he wants condoms/dental dams only for a long while after.  We love each other and talk about spending the rest of our lives together. He wants as many guarantees as possible that we will never break up and that he won't be left with this virus which he fears will render him forever undatable and lonely.  I have shared articles, fact sheets, discussion forums, contact info for clinics and doctors for him to ask any and all questions, and offered to read/visit any information sources together.  He has done some reading but dragged his feet about talking to anyone but me.  The reality is, to be with me means to accept the risk of getting herpes.  This is a good man and a very special relationship, and it would be very hard for me to walk away from him.  But he remains as fearful of getting herpes as he was when I first told him I have it.  Oh, he already has HSV1, long before he ever met me.  But he is freaking out about HSV2.  A big part of me worries that if he hasn't come to accept all of me by now, he never really will, and I am wasting my time (and his) waiting for him.  He has asked me to be patient and said he may be open to condom use soon but my patience is all but gone.  Is waiting one year for sex crazy in the context of a loving relationships with herpes?  (I think it is but I don't want to be unfair to him.)  Have other people encountered this?  What have you done?  What would you do? 

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It's already been too long. 

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e is requesting to wait a full year before intercourse, and even then, he wants condoms/dental dams only for a long while after.  We love each other and talk about spending the rest of our lives together. He wants as many guarantees as possible that we will never break up and that he won't be left with this virus which he fears will render him forever undatable and lonely.....  Oh, he already has HSV1, long before he ever met me.

The irony is that he has herpes and is just a risk to people that don't have it themselves. He could give someone genital herpes. His HSV1 makes it much more likelier that he never develops symptoms if he gets HSV2. 

He loves you? He wouldn't treat you like a biohazard. He either thinks you're worth it, or not. At his age, more than 1/4 of women have HSV2 and he's almost certainly encountered someone with this unknowingly. 

Someone that claims to love you wouldn't treat you in this manner and would accept you very early on. This is emotional abuse, whether or not he realizes it. He's reducing you to a virus, a strain of which HE ALREADY HAS. 

I would issue an ultimatum. 

If the shoe was on the other foot and he had HSV2 and you didn't, are you acting this way or do you accept him?

Secondly, this just confirms the stigma. All genital herpes is is cold sores on another part of the body. He already has herpes on the mouth, WHY does it matter where else it is? Stigma. Stigma. Stigma. 

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Dear Chapstick,

Thank you so much for the candor in your reply.  He's a good man and we are a good match in a million important ways, and that is very hard to walk away from.  He has every right to avoid HSV2.  That just means that I'm not the woman for him.  And he isn't the man for me.  Very sad.  The stigma of herpes is so damaging.  Honestly, I had a cancer scare a few months ago and blessedly it turned out to be nothing but he was right by my side for that.  Cancer could kill me, and he had no problem signing up for that.  But this he just cannot accept.  A real shame.  


Again, thank you for your reply.  It was clarifying.

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So sorry you are in this situation. I have been there too and it’s very difficult. I waited a week for my partner to ‘think about things’ after I told him. During that time I setup a call with a doctor to discuss the chances of transmission and let him think things over. He said he did want to stay with me but it was about 2 -3 weeks before we had protected sex. We have used condoms (male and female) and I take suppressive medication. In the last few months we have had unprotected sex which now concerns me more than him .

Bottom line is no one wants herpes and while I agree with space and time to think - a year is too long for a person to sit around waiting for someone else to decide if they are worth the risk. I think it is unkind of him to do that to you and there ARE other men out there. I’m not saying I don’t respect his dersire to not get it BUT waiting erodes and hurts you by making you feel ‘not good enough or not worth the risk’ and that’s not right. We all deserve to be loved. Like you I got hsv2 from a partner who lied to me. I wouldn’t want to do that to anyone. If someone leaves me because of this then they’re not for me. 

I would talk to your partner and explain how you feel. If he refuses to be close to you and love you then you can move on knowing you did all you could. I met my partner at 46 - there are lots of good partners out there and you absolutely deserve love and commitment. 

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Thank you so much for sharing your experience and your opinion.  A year is too long.  Six months feels too long.  I can't change that I have HSV2.  And if he can't change his mind and embrace all of me, then I have to leave.  

We have talked about this many, many times.  I think I have to tell him I'm no longer willing to wait.  I'm a great catch.  And so is he.  This is a real disappointment.  We will be sad, and then we will both carry on and be fine.  (Still holding out hope that he changes his mind, but it would take a lot for me to trust that anyway since he has been so reluctant/unwilling for so long.)  

Thank you DistressedLady.  And I hope you are less distressed now than when you chose that name as your handle.  Best wishes to you.

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In case anyone is reading this thread... I just talked to him.  I went with prepared notes.  I told him that while I understand his desire to avoid HSV2, I am no longer willing to wait for him to decide if I am worth the risk.  I reminded him that this was a virus of minor medical consequence and that he already carries one of the two strains, and that it is not worth throwing away such a promising loving and joyful relationship.  His replies showed continued ignorance about the virus and deference to the stigma.  I told him I thought he was making a terrible mistake, but that it was his right to make.  I told him that I hope he changes his mind very soon and if he does he should call me.  He tried to reassure me that he loves me and I countered that if he loved me, he wouldn't treat me as less-than for so long.  And I left.  That was two hours ago.  Silence.  

I feel humiliated.  Rejected.  Like toxic waste.  I hate the man that did this to me, knowingly and without informing me of my risk (he was DEFINITELY not worth the risk and I knew that at the time).  And I'm so mad at my now ex-boyfriend for being unable to accept all of me.  We had a lot going for us but still, I guess, not enough.

What makes it worse is that I have only shared my HSV status with very few friends, and not my besties.  So I've narrowed my network of support.  And I'm sad.  And hurt.  And angry.  And disappointed.  And (I wish it wasn't true but) ashamed.

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I am truly sorry about your partner. As you said this is something you can’t change about yourself - and it wasn’t your choice to get it. You have done the right thing and been open and honest with him. You can’t make it go away but you can keep your dignity and self worth. You deserve better and are so much more than this pesky annoying cold sore. I think he will realise that in time but you need to heal and do what’s best for you and sitting waiting is not best for you. 
My partner left me over it too - after 9 months together. It caused a lot of damage but in time I got over it. We got back together and have had our ups and downs but are now together 4 years and closer than ever.
Give him space and if he comes back then you can decide what you want to do. If he doesn’t then you deserve better and in time you will see that. Now you are hurt and disappointed- and rightly so. Be gentle on yourself but know that this is something you unfortunately can’t change and you absolutely deserve more from a partner. 
Think one day at a time for now. 

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Hey @Farishta,

It's really brave of you to share your story here. The situation you're in is tough, no doubt. It's clear you've got a lot of love for this guy, and it's heartwarming he's been supportive in so many ways. But it sounds like there's a big "but" when it comes to fully embracing the relationship because of what amounts to a simple, stigmatized skin condition.

@chapstick1520 is right about the irony of him having HSV1 and the stigma around HSV2—it's all herpes at the end of the day! And @DistressedLady — I love your perspective on self-worth. It's so true. 

Your updates hit hard. It's a raw deal, feeling like you're in limbo over something that's part of you, but certainly not all of you. Making the tough call to not wait indefinitely shows a lot of respect for yourself and your needs. I commend you for that. 

The silence after your talk must be really tough. But remember, you're not toxic waste—not even close. Don't dig yourself into that hole because of his response (or lack thereof). You're a person who's capable of deep love and deserves the same in return, without reservations. It's okay to feel all those emotions, and it's okay to mourn what could have been.

Your experience and strength in handling this are going to be a beacon for someone else in the same boat. And remember, your worth isn't defined by anyone's acceptance or rejection of a part of you. If anything, this step you've taken is claiming your self-worth on a deep level and having clear expectations about what you are looking for in a relationship. 

Sending you a lot of support and hope. Remember, one day at a time as DistressedLady said. You're not alone in this.

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This content is for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute medical advice or diagnosis. I'm not a medical professional, so please take this as friendly peer support. 

Helpful resources:

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Thank you all for your replies.  I'm feeling really low.  I hadn't been this hopeful about a relationship in a very, very long time and it hurts to be rejected because of this.  And now, of course, I feel less hopeful about my romantic future than ever.  Still hoping against hope that he'll come to his senses but the disappointing reality is staring me in the face.  I've been through worse.  Onwards.

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I remember how ignorant I was about herpes before I was diagnosed.  I remember how I plunged into fear and shame and darkness and rage when I found out.  I remember my very excellent therapist describing my experience as medical trauma.  

I also remember my general physician, who I usually like very much, being so nonchalant about my diagnosis while I cried in his office and I couldn't tell which one of us was crazy.  It was a non-issue to him bc it's so common and usually not harmful to the individual.  Then I remember my gynecologist being more sensitive to my feelings while also reassuring me that this was a medically minimally significant virus, and that was reassuring.  

I was never in a position to accept or reject someone based on their sexual health because no one had or disclosed anything to me in the past.  And the person who infected me deliberately withheld his status, and outright lied to me when we talked about our sexual health prior to sleeping together.  I would not have accepted the risk of herpes for that person because I knew he was not a long-term prospect. 

So the best I can do is guess how I would have handled it if my ex boyfriend told me he was positive and I had no strain of herpes.  I know me.  I'm cautious and in general a no- to low-risk taker.  But I'm also an academic, and I pride myself on being non-judgmental (or minimally judgmental - I'm getting curmudgeonly in middle age) of all people and experiences.  If I really liked this man - and I can tell you that our connection was not immediate but it developed quickly and our compatibility on so many things is wonderful and rare - I would have read and researched everything I could have.  I would have talked to doctors or sexual health clinic workers.  I probably would have read every relevant thread in this forum.  And knowing what I know now, I would take it slow with him but I would not pass up the possibility of a really good life together for a "mild skin condition with a bad reputation" (I think that was the choice of phrase of our fabulous moderator).  When I learned about the power of the stigma relative to the impact of the virus, I would have read and discovered everything I needed to find a way to be with this man and build a life together.  If he was open to condoms and antivirals and looking out for me, I would have gotten there.  Admittedly, I probably would have been on the slow track too.

I'll be honest.  I'm so very upset and feeling so very low.  I regret leaving him last week.  I wish I had given him more of the time he asked for.  I think short term loss (even though six months to a year feels long when you're in it) for long term gain might have been worth it.  I have reached out to him again and not heard anything back so maybe he's relieved I ended it and saved him from having to deal with HSV2 anymore.  Maybe his indecision these months was a decision.

I have been discriminated against for race and religion before, but this was new and not expected.  I guess what I thought we had was worth more to me than it was to him.  

And I'm still a fool in denial thinking he will come to his senses.  

 

I'd still be curious to hear from others how long they may have waited for their partners to be comfortable with sex.  In the past, I had two other partners (one requested condoms, one did not, and I was always on antivirals and monitored my body).  They came to the decision within a week or so.  Maybe I was unfair to this man I claim to love who asked for more time.

 

I hate this.

 

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Slow, I get it. But NOT SIX MONTHS. One or two months would be the max I'd be willing to wait for someone. 

You wouldn't taken the risk for the guy because he wasn't a long-term prospect. You have quickly discarded him for someone "disease-free" (which is a misnomer because we carry multiple incurable viruses in the herpesvirus family already). That's why he didn't disclose. You would have treated him differently, when in reality he probably didn't do anything different than you in acquiring it. 

My ex-gf who gave me HSV2 when I was 26, she didn't disclose because initially she thought I was a one-night-stand. After living with it for 5 years and hardly ANY symptoms in the last 4, I'm not mad at her for not disclosing, because I'll be honest, you do the research and this isn't something that's on ANYONE's radar  40 years ago. Stigma was created artificially by a combination of drug companies, super-Conservative preachers, an end to the hippie movement, and hysteria from the media. 

Genital herpes stigma history: how an innocuous skin condition became “sexual leprosy” and sparked a myth about drug companies. (slate.com)

I always provide this little article, because while I think it's perfectly sound to not want to have bumps on your mouth and/or genitals, truth is most people with it don't. Most people that have it don't know, and most importantly, MOST PEOPLE HAVE IT, if you count HSV1 and 2 (which I do - some people make a difference, but the symptoms are the same and the only main difference is preferred location and transmission rates/shedding depending on the location).  

We only talk about it as a thing - this forum only exists, people's fears only exist, because of that hype that snowballed in the late 1970s. Because any medical person will tell you - this is harmless, except to babies (and that is easily mitigated). You or your guy wouldn't be having the conversation 

When I was 17 years old, my high school girlfriend committed suicide. I remember at one point both of our parents made us get STI tests at 16. Turns out, she claimed to have been raped or sexually assaulted by her stepfather and there was a chance she could have gotten something. I never remember caring and was worried about her. I wouldn't have left her if she was positive, even for HIV. I LOVED HER. She was my first - my high school sweetheart. I thought I was going to marry her. I wear a tattoo of a flamingo in her memory and while I tried to kill myself in the past, I'm determined to live and love again, because if I end it now, I will only ensure that my fear of dying along comes true. 

After I left my gifter, I felt like I was the man. I was free... and I tore my ACL that very day playing sports, but I didn't let it deter me. 

Two months later (back in October 2022), I disclosed to this beautiful tall blonde at the end of our fourth date. She's a special-ed teacher, and within four dates, I was fully in love with her. She was everything I wanted and more - physical, our conversations flowed... I remember the butterflies in my stomach that I got at the beginning of every date I was on with her.She was leading me into my bedroom and was going to have sex with me, no questions asked. She was my first major disclosure, so I didn't really know when to have the conversation. I just remember the color draining from her face and then she said "I gotta think about it". We still got intimate short of PIV.

Ironically, she told me she gets cold sores - which is what kind of pisses me off here in hindsight.

She HAS herpes too. Your guy has herpes too. You've been exposing yourself to herpes your entire life because 1/2 of the men you come across have at least HSV1.

Why do we fear HSV2? The symptoms are the same. Your guy and my love interest are fully capable of creating their own dealbreaker and capable of creating someone like you and me. Obviously it would have been genital HSV1 in this case, but as far as I'm concerned, herpes is herpes- the symptoms are the same. 

Btw, she never disclosed her oral herpes to me until I disclosed my genital herpes a month in. Ironic, right?

A week passes and we have the best date of the six that we were on. I'm haunted by the memory of her near the end pulling me in to her by my shirt, kissing me, and looking up at me saying "[My name], I DO LIKE YOU." I had mentioned that I wanted to take things slowly to make her feel more comfortable; she responded by making with me and then taking me over to the hedges where she pulled me into her. 

She ended it after the next date, where we went hiking by the river. I'm overwhelmed by my feelings for her and I ask her if she wanted to be exclusive.

"I gotta think about it."

She ended it the night of my ACL surgery, two nights later. 

"I'm sorry! I've been thinking about I don't see this getting serious. I DO like you, but I'm not in the right headspace and I wanted to be honest."

It's been two and a half years. I cried last night and this morning. I've thought about her every single day for two and a half years. And she probably doesn't think about me at all, and if she does, she thinks I'm a nut. I tried reaching out to her after she ended and I just laid my heart out... overwhelmed her, and probably really scared her. 

The irony is that I've had the vast majority of my disclosures go well - I've been denied by her and two other women out of 15 disclosures. 

I'm in a relationship now with someone else who's positive. But I'm not sure if it will last. I still get nightmares about that girl. I sometimes think that I'm living in some alternate universe that wasn't supposed to happen. 

Thing is, I don't care about having herpes. I care that other people care. If you were someone I really liked or the teacher I disclosed to had it, and I was negative, I doubt I have the same reaction. I probably would not have cared.

Which is kind of a blessing, isn't it? I would have made the jump for her. If she couldn't for me, could she truly ever love me in the way that I want. Could she have ever reciprocated my potential love for her. The answer is no.

Same with your guy. The silence is deafening, isn't it? If he cared, he would have reached out, wouldn't he have?

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Please don’t feel bad. You left the door wide open for him so don’t feel like ‘you didn’t give him enough time’ because you did. In time you will realize he was not the one for you. 
My previous boyfriend left me because of it and told me ‘he disapproved of the lifestyle I had led’. I’m a prude who has never had a 1 night stand and who has only been with a few men. He made me feel so dirty and unlovable that I didn’t date for over 10 years. I’m so glad I didn’t end up with him but I was heartbroken at the time. 
You have HSV2 and that’s it. He either accepts it or not and you’ve already told him how you feel and that you want to be with him. If he doesn’t want the same you need to move on. It won’t be too much for the right person. Let him go. If it’s meant to be he will come back to you. 
my current partner left me for a few months. I had started to move on and was thinking about dating again and he came back to me saying he was so sorry for how he had behaved and how he had made me feel and he really missed me and wanted to be with me regardless. If this guy has half a brain he won’t let this ruin what you have - but he might. 
I am so thankful I didn’t end up with my previous partner because I was so desperate to be accepted by him and so fearful about the future I totally missed all the other signs that he was completely wrong for me. And he was so wrong for me (racist, sexist, homophobic etc. a horrible man) but I desperately wanted to be accepted so I knew there was more to me than this. 
 

if your partner wants to leave let him. It hurts but it’s not your fault and you really do deserve more than to be made feel less than. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hope you two can work it out. Time keeps moving on without the intimacy you want. When it comes down to it don’t let herpes decide for you. The stigma is big but the virus is small.  He already had it so it’s hard to understand why he’s worried. If you love someone it shouldn’t matter. 

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GOOD NEWS UPDATE: So... I was really regretting ending the relationship.  After about a week, we met up and had a long talk about our relationship, conflict styles, and herpes.  We reconciled!  And in the weeks after that, we began having sex with condoms.  There are so many aspects of our relationship that are joyful, compatible, and healthy.  That said, the way we handled herpes was messy and far from textbook.  

Thank you to everyone here who read my story and offered their perspective and support.  There's no one way to navigate these waters.  Was it Churchill who said, "When you're going through hell, keep going"?  Keep going. 

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Thank you for the update, @Farishta, and congrats on reconciling! We humans can be pretty messy, especially when it comes to romantic relationships, but a superpower we have is the capacity to repair what needs repairing in the relationships we want to nurture in our lives. Good work! And yes, love that quote. Because even going through hell can give us an experience that has us appreciate our lives in a more profound way on the other side of it ...

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This content is for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute medical advice or diagnosis. I'm not a medical professional, so please take this as friendly peer support. 

Helpful resources:

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