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Trying to keep my head above water

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New here and need a new perspective or something....

my backstory:

After 20 years in a terrible loveless verging on abusive marriage, I mustered up the courage to leave. I quickly entered a couple groovy "friends with benefits" relationships which woke up passion inside me that I didn't even know existed. Then I met HIM...the one who awoke EVERY passion I had, emotionally, physically and sexually. The fireworks soon faded when I suddenly got very sick...high fever which caused me to pass out on the side of highway (pulled and got out of the car to get air) and ended up with road rash over my face and a concussion. I thought that was the end of it...then found the sores which ended up being herpes. I immediately broke up with fireworks man because I felt such incredible shame and betrayal.

After a period of "mourning" and self-loathing, I met another incredible man. We got along wonderfully until "the talk". He couldn't handle the risk so ta-da..enter self-loathing and the feeling I was broken...a toxic wasteland.


A few weeks later, I met another man that I didn't particularly click with but I was desperate for acceptance. We started dating and eventually got serious. I disclosed to him and he didn't think twice. We were careful and I faithfully took my medication. Soon, he decided that he didn't want to use condoms anymore.


Everything was going good until a year and half into it all. Every once in a while he would ask if I was still taking my meds and such but didn't express any other concerns. About a month ago, a year and half into the relationship and a month after he moved in, he informed me that he couldn't have sex anymore with me. That he had been thinking about it for a while and that he couldn't "play with fire" anymore. He expressed that I could still orally pleasure him and he would manually pleasure me but that would be the extent of it. Needless to say, the me pleasuring him happens but I am left alone to take care of myself.


I feel like I have been diagnosed all over again. Those initial feelings we have all felt upon hearing those words came rushing back and this time I don't seem to be able to let them go. The feelings are getting worse and worse. I feel a growing resentment towards him and towards my body.


I live in a very small town and am a 46 year old woman....the thought of entering the dating field again scares me and I do love this man and want to build a life with him. I just can't imagine life without intimacy, passion and sex. Talking to him is like talking to a wall...he does not see that there is a second side to it.


I am a professional woman, I use to teach sexual health to teachers, parents and youth. I am smart and know everything there needs to be known about STI's and herpes which adds to the shame.



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@Tiredofshame I'm sorry you're feeling shame. You might want to scroll to one of @HikingGirl's recent posts that touches on shame and mentions some resources specific to working through shame.


You mentioned knowing all there is to know about STIs/herpes adds to your shame, but I'm not sure why. As you know, genital herpes is very common, especially among women, including those who've had very few partners and always practiced safe sex. If you could travel back in time and live a life of celibacy to avoid HSV risk, would you do it? Personally, I would not.


As for your guy, I would consider that a dealbreaker. However, if you are reluctant to end things but wanting to be sexually satisfied, perhaps he would consider an open relationship? I know a discordant couple in an open relationship, actually. They do have sex with each other but use an open model to meet other needs unrelated to their discordant status. Open relationships typically benefit women more than men (by that I mean it is easier for women to find willing partners in such arrangements) and that is the case for the couple I know, even though it's the woman who is HSV2+.


It's a tricky situation because he is entitled to decide whether he's comfortable having sex with a partner, regardless of the reason, but his decision results in an enormous compatibility issue. Personally, I'd end it and never look back, but I understand that's easy to say when you aren't emotionally attached to the person.


You might also want to ask him some open ended questions to try to determine whether his decision is based strictly on an increased level of anxiety that he is experiencing or if there is a component of him already being mentally and/or emotionally checked out of your relationship.



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Thank you @optimist for your response. I will defintitely check out the previous entries about shame. It has been a huge barrier to my emotional healing around all this.


I do not "blame" him for his fears and I believe that he is still as "into" me as he was and he tells me that he still loves me and wants to only be with me. That he is just scared to death of getting it. I just feel duped that he took his acceptance off the table after I invested so much (does that make sense?).

He is still getting his satisfaction and cannot seem to understand that I need the same. It very likely may end up being a deal breaker for me, although i feel selfish saying that sex is that important to me.

double ug....

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@Tiredofshame You asked for a new perspective, so let me ask you this...


If you told him you were no longer interested in having intercourse because you were afraid of transmitting the virus, but you guys could still have oral sex because the risk is lower, would you consider him selfish if he decided that a total lack of intercourse would be too restrictive and would not work for him?


If you had a long-term romantic partner who said kissing was entirely off the table because you once had a cold sore and he was afraid to catch oral herpes, would you consider that a reasonable accommodation? Or would you decide it's simply too great an incompatibility and move on?


It's not selfish to desire sex and affection in an adult, romantic partnership. That doesn't mean he isn't entitled to a choice not have sex, but you are not selfish for wanting it.







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I just can't imagine life without intimacy, passion and sex.


Hi @Tiredofshame. I'm sorry you're going through this--it sounds very frustrating and painful. The above statement really jumped out at me when I read your post because it describes where you're at right now with this man. Intimacy is impossible without communication, you're already feeling resentment toward him, and he has stated his unwillingness to have intercourse in the future.


Have you thought about the possibility of taking a "time-out" from dating and focusing on you? I don't know you at all, but a number of statements in your post (including...."didn't particularly click with but desperate for acceptance"....) triggered within me something I've been dealing with myself.


I was also married a long time (15 years)--most of that time there was a serious lack of true love and a poopload of resentment. He was also sometimes emotionally abusive. I admire your courage for leaving your ex. My biggest regret is that I didn't have the guts to leave. My ex had to "cut the cord" because I couldn't. Several months after the divorce became final, I started seeing someone long distance and later found out I had herpes because I asked for an STD test with a Pap smear. That relationship quickly went cold and I entered a very dark time in my life. Shame sucks the life out of you and it's miserable.


I realized late last year that I had been getting all of my validation from other people. So even though I'm now doing much better and am curious about dating again, I'm intentionally holding off because I've decided I need to learn to be happy as a single person first. It's a pretty scary place to be, because my previous sources of validation (ex-husband, former boss) are no longer in my life, I don't have kids, I neglected female friendships while married and am now having to start all over in that respect, and am not close with most of my family. But I'm willing to keep rebuilding my life as a single person because I believe I will make a better future partner if I'm not dependent on someone else for my self-worth or my happiness. This is a totally new concept for me at age 43, but it really resonates with me, so I'm giving it everything I've got.


Anyway, your experience may be totally different. I just felt compelled to share what I experienced. I wish you peace and strength for whichever direction your current situation goes.


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@hikingGirl- thank you so much for sharing your experience. Your situation definitely resonates similarities...i blamed myself for contracting herpes, that it was a punishment. That was the only explanation I could conclude after suffering through the 20 years before leaving. I was suppose to be finally living and eventually finding a partner that would love and value me that I could share the rest of my life with...then BOOM. I, irrationally felt/feel that no one is going to love me because of this. I, too, entered a dark time of my life. I feel a comfort with knowing that you too experienced a very similar experience of diagnosis (age and situation).

Validation from other people is one of my downfalls and I have recognized that for years. I struggle with it but it is so deep rooted. I am not ready or even able to "break up" with him. Our situation is fairly complicated, I won't bore you with those details. I have allowed a lot of poor choices and actions on his part because I was scared I wouldn't find anyone else to love me or give me a chance. Sounds so icky as I type it...lol. Withdrawing sex though, may be the deal breaker for me...I find myself slipping back into a very dark spot because he is confirming the terrible things I feel about my body. I know that I need to heal myself and he is only adding poison at this point.

Thank you again!!! Please enjoy your journey and take care.



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