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Grieving for a relationship lost to herpes

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Hi all,


I'm new here and have been so impressed with the compassion I'm seeing from everyone who posts on this site. I think it would help me to write out the story of how I got herpes, just to get it out of myself so (hopefully) I can stop dwelling on it so much. Any feedback on how to live with this situation would be appreciated - you all seem like wise, kind people and I'd love to hear your thoughts! (Be warned, it might get long - feel free to skim. Key points if you're skimming: I met a really great person. I fell in love. I got herpes. We broke up. I'm sad and confused.)


So: this past September, I met a man via online dating and we clicked in a way I've never experienced before. Our emotional and physical chemistry was dazzling. I felt that I could truly be my whole self with him; he seemed to recognize and value facets of me (loyalty, passion, a sense of adventure) that other men had overlooked because I wasn't a life-of-the-party, center-of-attention type. When I was with him, it was easy to be a version of myself that I admired and loved. He was compassionate, he treated me with more thoughtfulness and respect than I'd ever experienced from a man, he saw the beauty in life and tried to experience it fully, he was artistically inclined and had tremendous respect for my own artistic pursuits. I was profoundly happy. The only flaw in the foundation was that he said he wasn't ready for a serious partner; he'd spent the last four years in med school which had not allowed him any time for dating, and he didn't feel ready to make a serious commitment. I understood and could live with this; we agreed to keep it casual and I never pressured him to "take it to the next level" or call me his girlfriend. My strong sense was that we were so compatible that he would come to want this on his own eventually, and all of his actions indicated that he was very emotionally invested. All the same, I tried not to invest too much. It was a losing battle though - I'm pretty sure I was in love with him after about a month (as much as one can be after a short time, anyway).


I had a genital herpes outbreak two months after we started dating. My doctor judged by my symptoms (swollen lymph nodes?) that it was a first outbreak. I asked if I should contact previous partners to let them know that they should be tested. She felt, however, that the likeliest scenario was that I'd gotten it recently and that there was no need. My partner didn't have any symptoms of herpes, but had been through med school and worked in a hospital environment, and I thought he could have contracted the virus there. I immediately emailed my partner, letting him know about my diagnosis and also telling him what I knew about herpes - not really a big deal, really no serious health consequences, didn't need to have a big effect on our sex life as long as we took reasonable precautions.


We talked on the phone that night and again in person the next day, and although at first it didn't occur to him that he could have given it to me (I think he initially thought I'd been sleeping with somebody else) I explained how the virus can be dormant and that if, for instance, he'd ever had a cold sore, he could have transmitted the virus to me that way. He said then that he'd had cold sores in the past and seemed truly sorry that he had most likely passed herpes to me. I wasn't angry; I had always known that a common STI was a likely outcome of having sex, and to me sex was worth it. However, the conversation about herpes led to one about how we were each feeling about the relationship. He reiterated that he still wasn't looking for anything serious and wanted to make sure that we were still ok with casual. I came clean and told him that the longer I knew him, the more I cared for him and didn't see that pattern changing. What followed was a heartwrenching conversation with lots of tears on both sides about how we could both get what we wanted out of the relationship (him, to date some other people casually; me, to keep him in my life). In the end, we decided mutually that the thing to do was separate for a while so that he could see other people. We agreed that we seemed to be really good together and there was a strong likelihood that we would get back together; we both seemed agonized at the thought of parting but didn't really see a way around it. We agreed that we could stay in touch via email (he asked if we could still hang out but I didn't think I could handle that). I felt horrible as I walked away from him, but firmly believed that I would see him again, even if we ultimately decided to stay split up. The strength of our connection, I thought, was such that we would be in each other's lives in some way even if it wasn't as partners.


I never saw him again. Two months after that I wrote him a message saying that I missed him and that if he was open to the idea, I'd like to meet and see how it felt. But he wrote back that having had time apart, he felt that separating was the right thing to do. I was devastated and in disbelief that I wouldn't even have the chance to say goodbye to him in person. I tried to get on with my life; I did everything I could think of to move on (started new activities, eventually tried dating again, went to counseling, kept a journal, asked for support from friends and family) but felt and continue to feel crippling grief over the abrupt disappearance of this man who had seemed to care for me so very much before herpes. A month or so after his last email I asked to speak to him on the phone, hoping it would give me some closure; he seemed very cold and distant, not at all like the man I had spent so much time with. He also informed me that "what he had thought were cold sores were actually canker sores" (this is someone who has been through med school!) and that his doctor had told him that since he had no symptoms of herpes, he should "behave as though he doesn't have it." Although I don't want to wish him ill, I was and am furious that while I have to now disclose to every future potential partner as well as try to get through a broken heart, he has absolutely no consequences. I'm surprised at his immaturity and inability to deal with the fact that he might have herpes (at the very least, he knows he's been exposed). Underneath all of that, though, I just terribly miss the kind, beautiful man I spent those two gorgeous months with. I can't reconcile that man with the one who isn't even willing to see my face one more time. I miss him every single day, all of these long days, and I can't seem to make myself hurt any less. It has been long enough that I feel I should be over it, but I can't seem to find any closure. I want to see him, so that I can say what I need to say to him in person and then walk away, but there's no way to do that without asking him to meet.


I know that he wasn't ready and I know that I deserve someone who can act with a lot more maturity and understanding in this situation. But I still love the man he seemed to be while we were dating, and I don't know how to move on. Add to that my confusion over what actually happened, health-wise (could I have gotten it from a previous partner, and should I contact them? How dare his doctor give him a get-out-of-jail-free card in the form of "behave as though you don't have it"?? How can I reconcile his doctor's "you don't have it" with my doctor's "he gave it to you"? Also, my doctor took a swab test but I never got any results back - why not, and how can I find out what form of herpes I have?) and it's just a soup of unresolved feelings and grief. How do I move on? How do I live with the fact that I still love him, or at least the version of himself that he presented to me? How do I hold that love in a way that makes room for somebody else? How do I find the courage to ever, ever do this again?


Thank you for reading the long rant, guys - it's been helpful to write all of this.

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Part of me wants to say sorry for what you are going through but the reality is that you deserve someone that LOVES you and wants to be in an exclusive relationship with you.


I think you are grieving the idea of a relationship you wanted and just so you know... that is easier to heal! I have been there, when you realize how much you loved and truly how your love was not appreciated it... Be thankful for knowing how much you are capable of giving and loving - but also use this opportunity to learn what is that you want from a relationship :) and know that you deserve it :)


As to what is next, having herpes and developing new relationships - :\"> I will be right here and share the journey ... what is important (beyond herpes and who/why/how gave it to us) is to stay as healthy as possible, positive thinking and NEVER give up hope :)


Stay strong, healthy, love yourself... and SMILE :D



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Dear OneDayAtATime,


Your story is eerily similar to mine in regards to how I got herpes and the aftermath that ensued.


I will never forget the look on his face when I told him..and how he abandoned me in my room sobbing. That was three months ago and my heart still aches, but I AM feeling better about it. I think I understand exactly what you're going through, and I want you to know that the pain will lessen, your confidence will bounce back, and as corny as it sounds.. you are one step closer to finding the person that is meant for you.


The abrupt ending of your relationship is traumatic and will take a lot of strength to get through that grief. If you can, do anything in your power to not contact him. Block him on Facebook. Erase his number. Whatever you can do to push him out of your mind. Once the feelings surrounding him start to fade, you can get back to your happiness. Time truly does heal all wounds :)


This guy sounds like a complete jerkwad, and I can tell by your post you are a sweetheart. I'm so sorry this happened to you. Yes it does seem totally unfair! I get that. Just know you've got people on your side, fighting the same messed up battles as you. We're here for you, keep your chin up :)

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Thank you both for your support - it really helped me to write out all of that and it helped even more to hear from both of you. :) MoveOn, I think you were right that I was grieving for the idea of what the relationship could have been rather than what it actually was... It's been hard to let go of that idea but I think I'm finally starting to be able to remember the ways that we weren't compatible as well as the ways we were! I really liked what you said about learning how capable you are of giving and loving - it sounds like you've done this and I would really like come out of this experience a stronger, more generous person, so I'll be keeping that thought in mind.


SunnyDays, that is eerily similar, and I'm so sorry you had to go through that as well. You're obviously an incredibly strong person, though - I'm embarrassed to admit how long ago my breakup happened but it was longer than 3 months and still driving me crazy, so I'm really admiring your great perspective on things. :) It's so awful to be abandoned like that by someone you thought cared, right at the time when you most need that person. On the other hand, it's a great opportunity to learn that you have the strength to rely on yourself...



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Hi OneDayAtATime,


I am so sorry to hear about what you have been through. It is so hard to care so much and feel like someone you had such strong, genuine feelings for could just dismiss you like that. Mr. Wonderful sounds like he has issues with commitment and loving. I have met my share of people on the internet and what I have learned is that you can never really be sure what their true story is. All you know is what they tell you.


You can walk away from this situation knowing a few things though - that you are a loving, caring, honest person who is looking for a committed relationship and you are ready to make a commitment with the right person. Next time someone tells you they are not ready for a relationship you will believe them AND you may not invest as you have. You have learned that you need to be true to yourself and you don't need to settle for someone who is not in the same place you are. If he cannot appreciate the beautiful spirit you are and cannot respect and cherish the amazing connection you had, then he so does not deserve you. You can thank him now for not wasting years of your life with you in limbo, waiting, waiting. Now you can do what you need to do to heal, in your own time, and then when you are ready, you can move forward and open your heart to a man who truly deserves you.


Not having closure is so hard. Have you tried writing a letter saying goodbye? Not one you mail, but one where you pour your heart out and tell him how you feel, your love, your hurt, your disappointment? And then say goodbye. Thank him for showing you what a connection like that looks like and that now you know what you are looking for with the right man. Once you write it either bury it or burn it and let it go. Let the angels carry that hurt and make it to something good. Imagine how amazing it will be to find someone who gives back what you give to him? Wow! THAT my friend is worth waiting for. Now you know what you want. Go out there and find it because you know what, it's out there waiting for you. You would not have had this experience and now have this desire for that kind of connection if it was not meant for you. When you find "Mr. Fabulous" you will now cherish him even more knowing what you went through.


Hugs and all the very best wishes,


Brenda xoxo

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Hi Brenda,


Thank you so much for your insightful words. I think you're right about Mr. Wonderful; in fact, he pretty much said as much to me in the one phone conversation we had after the breakup. I know that our split had very little to do with me and a lot to do with him, but it was still hard to reconcile all of his wonderful actions with the way things ended.


I have to admit that I have written him not one, but dozens of letters like the one you suggested, so many pages it would be embarrassing if anyone saw them. :) The thing that I haven't done is get rid of them - they're all still sitting as email drafts in my outbox. I know you're right and that the thing to do is delete them all. I'm not sure why I'm keeping them - maybe I feel like they're a link to him, even though I've never sent them and he'll never see them. It certainly doesn't make me feel any better to see them there. I think the time is coming when I'm ready to let go, and then I'll finally get rid of them.


There's a bit of an update on my situation: All of this happened long enough ago (it's been more than six months) that I've been attempting to date again, in spite of my unresolved feelings for this man, because I haven't known what to do to get over him and I want to feel like I'm getting on with my life instead of stuck in my grief. I haven't been sure whether it's a good idea or not, but starting to look for someone else helped me to feel like I was taking action to move forward, which seemed like a good thing. Anyway, I've been out four times now with someone I met online (and am seeing him again tonight) and although we don't yet seem to have the kind of incredibly intense, mind-blowing connection that I felt almost right away with my previous partner, he seems to me like a really decent, kind, honest man with a lot of integrity and depth. I think he's like me in that he might take a while to really get to know people, so we're taking things really slowly, which given my current situation suits me fine. It's too soon to know whether this will be a long-term thing, but already one really positive thing has come out of dating him: on our third date, we were having a really great time (awesome conversation, a bit of making out in the park ;) ) and I felt that we had enough of a connection (i.e. I think we'll be having sex eventually) that I told him about having herpes. His reaction was totally awesome. He said he'd done some research on it in the past, that it wasn't a big deal to him and that it seemed like it was more of an inconvenience than anything, and understood that he could get it from me but felt that the risk was worth it. Basically, he reacted really calmly and with a lot of maturity - the complete opposite of my previous partner. It really helped me see how not-ready my previous partner was for the kind of emotional maturity and honesty I want in a relationship, and showed me that not everyone is going to leave me over this virus. Whether or not the guy I'm dating now turns out to be a serious partner, I now know what kind of reaction I want to get from a partner when I disclose, and I know that there are men out there for whom herpes isn't a dealbreaker. It was a big step and I feel like it's helped me heal from that past rejection in some way. Also - not to be petty, but his awesome reaction made my previous partner look really bad in comparison, and that's helping me see the ways in which Mr. Wonderful was actually not quite as wonderful as I had thought. :)


You guys have been so supportive, so willing to share your own stories, and so inspiring - thanks for welcoming me into this community. It's helped me so much to post here and read everyone's supportive responses. You're all amazing people. :)

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Hi OneDayAtATime,


Thanks so much for the update! See, you are already moving forward and you are taking that learning from "Mr. Wonderful" in to your next relationship. You have attracted someone who is mature, caring, reasonable, thoughtful and is willing to take the time to really get to know you. Even if he isn't "the One" you are getting so much from this relationship. It sounds like seeing the differences is helping you to heal. You are seeing that although Mr. Wonderful was a whirlwind of "wow", there is more to a mature relationship. There is something to be said for slowly getting to know someone, building that trust, learning to really care for the person. It takes time to really get to know a person, with clear eyes. The excitement and "wow" can be very distracting. It's sort of like smoke and mirrors because once you get past the "wow", you realize there may not be the depth and trust you need.


Enjoy this new relationship and take in all the lessons. Don't try to rush it or make it be anything. If it is meant to be, then you will know it in good time.


As for the emails to "Mr. Wonderful", I can tell you from my own experience, burning them was really therapeutic. I really felt a sense of "release". Shredding them or burying them may have the same effect. As long as those emails sit in your drafts, that relationship is holding you back. When you are ready to let it go, get rid of them in whatever way feels right for you. Ceremony is a good thing. There is a reason for it and so take some time to really release. Light some candles or say a prayer or have a mediation, go out in nature, do whatever you feel is right and take the time to release. You will feel like the weight of the world is lifted off your shoulders and then you can move on.


Keep us posted on this new relationship. I am SO excited for you!


Brenda xoxo

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