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How long do you wait for someone to decide how they feel about herpes?

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I've been dating a man I love very much for the past two years. It's honestly the best relationship I've ever been in, I enjoy spending time with him more than anyone, and I want to us to be together for a very long time. About a year ago I had a mild outbreak and found out I was positive for genital herpes. I told my partner, while sobbing, and he held me and said all the right things, "It's not a big deal, it's very common, it's just a skin condition with an overblown stigma." However, it soon became apparent that even though he objectively knew all those things, he no longer wanted to have penetrative sex due to his fear of getting it as well. We went from having sex multiple times a week, to getting intimate (handjobs for me and blowjobs for him, or mutual masturbation) once every few weeks. It's not that I don't think that those are valid forms of sex, it's just that I have always preferred the feeling and kind of intimacy that comes from penetrative sex. He said he just needed time, and I gave it to him. A few months ago I told him we needed to talk about our sex life and herpes, and a few minutes into our talk he said he didn't know what he had been so afraid of, and we had sex. We had sex a few more times over the next month, and then he told me he was feeling scared again and we stopped. At this point, I don't know what else to do to help educate him or help him get over his anxiety. He has admitted to feeling guilty over his anxiety, and I feel manipulative whenever I cry or send him another article or resource about herpes. I asked him this weekend where he was feeling on everything, and he said he just needed to keep learning and thinking about it. How much time is too much time? Am I being crazy to think he will ever come around? Do I give up someone I love being with because I can't have a certain kind of sex with him? (We are non monogamous but neither of us is actively dating anyone else, so I do have the possibility for anal and vaginal sex with other people). Is there any way for us to work through this or are we just incompatible because of my status? It make me furious and depressed to think that something so common, inconsequential, and harmless could cause me so much heartache. This weekend has felt especially difficult for me, and either option (ending things with him, or continuing to wait for him to feel ok with it indefinitely) seem equally awful. I'm open to any support, advice, words of wisdom, etc. Thank you.

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Sorry to read that things are unsteady.

You are totally justified in wondering "how long do I wait". Even though that would be a terrible sentence to start a conversation with, it does boil down to a very important point.

Your time and energy are valuable. You don't want to feel like you have wasted them.


That said, he can't fake his way through the anxiety and fear he feels, nor should he.


I'm sure you've had conversations about the situation. I wonder if they have been a matter of his voicing his fears in an honest way with you. Probably something to the effect of, " I see how you felt when you found out by surprise. I don't want to feel that way." And maybe, "I'm afraid that it might bring an end to a lifestyle I am very happy with."

And to be fair, not only are those very common concerns, you could probably empathize directly in a lot of ways.


It is worth asking if you have each gathered the courage, patience and understanding that it requires to have the really hard conversations that could clear up your uncertainty. Knowing that having that conversation could mean that you choose to part ways can be anxiety-inducing. But if each of you wants things to work, and trys to make things work, they will.


It is certainly a matter of how much time it may take for him to accept the situation.

But it is also a matter of him gainingvthe assurance that not only will you be there for him in the future, that it will be a fulfilling, loving future together. One where you are the same great you, and you feel it, know it and act like it. Likewise, where he will feel know and act the same.


Quite the challenge on your hands.

But if I could offer some personal experience:


I had my first outbreak after dating my current girlfriend for a couple months. She got tested and was diagnosed as well soon after.

We were straight forward and perfectly honest with each other. And it was tough.

I asked her, "How did you get it? Did you know before we met?"

She asked me, "Did you cheat? How many people have you slept with this year?"

Those kinds of questions almost beg defensiveness and hostility. Absolutely feeling of resentment and suspicion ruled our instincts. It could have been a complete mess.

But it wasn't.

Because we took our time to speak honestly and bluntly, knowing feelings woulbbe hurt amd moods would be harsh.

Then, we took the time to demonstrate empathy and compassion. She asked what she needed to ask, just as I did. And we answered with total honesty. It didn't settle things in just one conversation, and certainly didn't settle things the day after the last conversation we had about it.

But it did immediately put our cards on the table and help us to decide what we were going to do about the situation.

We tentatively agreed that it would be a shame for us to split up over JUST herpes. That if it were herpes and some other issues that would also ruin a relationship, then ot would make sense to break up.

We did abstain for a long time. But because we had spoken so directly about what was up and how we felt, it didn't feel like endless waiting. We each knew the other needed some time to feel right about themself as well as about the other. And that can take a lot of introspection in addition to a lot of "feeling it out" when we were together.

Things have worked out so far. About 8 months after, we are doing pretty well together and things are fun (except for the occasional normal relationship stuff).


You can do that, too. But you both have to be ready to feel upset, or voice regrets or resentment in a way that doesn't add more accusation and hostility than absolutely necessary. Then you've got to empathize.


Gather up these thoughts you wrote out into a brief set of direct questions. Expect that he will have even more questions that are even harder to ask and answer.

And remember that there isn't any rulebook other than the one you write for yourself.

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I can relate! I have been seeing someone for about two years. I found out I had herpes a few months into it. We have amazing chemistry. The only thing we have ever argued about is sex. He is OCD about his health, and even though he knows he's being ridiculous, he still can't bring himself to have uninhibited penetrative sex with me. We have parted ways three times, and can't seem to stay away from each other because of the rest of what we have. Even though I am frustrated by not being able to have "geeen light" sex (do whatever I want to sex), our relationship is much more intimate and fulfilling than any I have ever had. I'm in my 40's and have had my share of relationships and great sex. I think sometimes about ending the relationship so I can be with someone with whom I can do all the sexy things I want, but I don't want to because he makes me laugh and feel special and want to be a better person. Most of the time it's not even an issue, but occasionally I feel like I'm "not good enough," so I pressure him and then we both feel bad. Then he invariably does or says something that reminds me of what is more important to me. It's so easy to find someone to have sex with, but that real intimacy is much harder to come by. There is no timeframe for you to decide how long you can wait for him to be okay with herpes, or for him to not be anxious about it, and its okay if one or both of you decide this is your deal breaker. But you have to discuss it. Your time and your love is valuable. Tell him what you need, what makes you feel loved and accepted. You are not any less worth loving now because you have herpes. It does not define you and you don't have to settle because of it. You decide if he is worthy of you, if you can see a future with him. You decide if you're willing to accept his issues. Tell each other what your needs are and if see if the other is meeting them or at least is trying.


When I talk to close friends about my relationship (Ive been open about my diagnosis) and occasional frustration with his hesitancy and anxiety, they say I deserve better, that I should move on and be with someone who accepts the herpes. Maybe. But it's my decision and for now I've decided that green light sex isn't as important as the way he holds me and listens when I've had a bad day and how he makes me feel like the most beautiful and sexy woman in the world--even without what most people consider a necessity. We do all kinds of things in bed and we actually get pretty creative and he works pretty hard to please me, but it's not the usual P in V that most people consider sex. Regardleas of how good it feels, still the best part is holding each other talking and laughing afterwards. That's what works for us. If you really care about each other, either you will find a way to make the relationship work or you will be able to let each other go so ypu can both have your best life, even if its not together. If thats the case, yes, it might hurt for a time, but will be easier to let go. Many people in relationships don't have sex, or do very seldom. Usually it's because one can't for some physical reason, but it really isn't the most important part of a relationship, not even close. Many people feel close to someone they are intimate with, but never get to real intimacy. When sex is off the table for some reaaon, they no longer feel close. Its a bonus of a relationship, but not the basis for one. Otherwise we could just have sex with anyone and wouldn't have to worry about feelings and acceptance beyond the moment. You have to decide what works for you and what you can or cant live without. I agree with Regular Guy. Talk about it, put it all on the table and get down to the nitty gritty of it. Be honest with each other. See how you both feel, what you want and what you need to make a relationship work for you--not just the sex but also anything else that might be worrying you- and whether you can agrre or at least compromise on those things or not. Good luck.

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