Monthly Archives: September 2019

Tale of a Polyamorous Heartbreak

No one ever said it would hurt any less. 

I’ve read a few books, some articles, and asked strangers all over the internet. They made the poly lifestyle seem like a walk in the park; open and honest communication and affection between partners; nothing could go wrong. They all said it would require constant work, but, none of them ever said; when the journey had run its course, it would still hurt like hell. Had they told me I could’ve prepared; but, since they didn’t, I had to learn it the old-fashioned way. 

I connected with him on Hinge, he was Latino and, a few years younger. He lived in New Jersey, so I was hesitant at first, but I figured I should take a chance and see what would happen; in the very least, I would end up with a good friend. Surprisingly, we hit it off, almost immediately; we bonded while discussing current events, music, food, tv, and movies we both liked; we were off to a great start.  

Our first date we walked to get dinner at Mexicue; three tacos and two margaritas in, the conversation flowed like a river. He was just as cool in person, as he was over the phone. We talked, laughed, and joked the time away. When we were finished, he got the check; then we left. We walked side by side as we made our way to Barcade (a bar with arcade games). He got us beers (me a cider), then exchanged dollars for game coins. I offered to give him some cash, but he turned it down. We played a plethora of games; from Tetris, to Pacman, to shooting games, and driving games. It was obvious he was in his element, and I actually enjoyed seeing him in his element. When we ran out of coins, I suggested we walk to get dessert; so, from 23rd street, we walked down to Spot on St Marks Place. It was the usual hour wait; but, with him, the time passed by. Once we were called, we each ordered dessert, I ordered a latte and he ordered a matcha beer. This time when the check came, I paid it; a few times he fought me on it, but eventually he let me pay. Our date ended at a karaoke bar, a few doors down. He paid for our drinks, I paid for the songs; and it was there, while we were sitting close that he leaned in to kiss me; ever so gently. He held me close as our mouths and tongues danced together; and although his kisses were passionate, he maintained being a total gentleman. We continued making out the rest of the time at the bar; we would caress my arm as we sat at the bar, we’d take a drink, then we would begin kissing again. When the bar closed, we walked up to 14th street. He got on the Path train back to New Jersey, and I took an Uber home. The next day when my friends and I went wine tasting, I told them it was, quite possibly, the most amazing first date I ever had.  

We spoke every day after that. Our next date was a week later and we went to the movies to see Toy Story 4 (in 4D); and it was awesome! After the movies, we walked around for a bit; we talked abouyt favorite holiday songs, movies, and traditions; then we stopped to eat at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. When we finished eating, we walked back downtown. From 22nd street, we walked all the way through the village. It was the weekend of the pride parade and the everyone was out and proud. We stopped to get ice cream, and we walked past the Stonewall memorial. We continued walking down to the path train; hand in hand, and stealing occasional kisses. When we got to the train, it was a 20-minute wait; we started kissing, 40 minutes later, no train had arrived and we were still kissing, after an hour of standing in the station, waiting for the train that never came, kissing the entire time; when we resurfaced, both of our lips were slightly swollen. Even though our kisses were extremely passionate, he was still a gentleman; other than our bodies pressing up against one another and the occasional cheek grab; none of his actions were super aggressive. I wondered, if we were in his apartment, would he have the same restraint. Earlier in the date, he had suggested our next date be on his side of the water and I told him; I would look forward to that. He called his uber and it came right away. I contemplated walking around a bit, but decided against it and called my uber home. That, unfortunately, was the last time I saw him.  

On our first date, it was my mission to make clear my polyamorous position; so, we briefly spoke about the people we were dating. I briefly mentioned the guys I was dating and he had mentioned a girl, and that was that. A few weeks after our last date, when I returned from camping; I messaged him. I had noticed his messages becoming less and less, so I wanted to know what was going on. He explained to me that, things were progressing with the girl he was dating. He explained that he felt dishonest seeing both of us. Neither of them was in the lifestyle, and although he walked around to the deep end of the pool, he was not ready to take the dive in. He told me he had to stop seeing me; I thanked him for his honesty, and I wished him luck.  

When I put the phone down, my body began to warm up; from my toes all the way to my face, I was hot with emotions. Then, they all pooled out, in the form of tears. This wasn’t supposed to happen. He wasn’t supposed to break up with me. This was not why I decided to be polyamorous. I dived into this pool to build bonds with people; that would last a lifetime; so, how was I just supposed to walk away? Was I supposed to take those great memories and burn them? This was a feeling I did not want; but I had to live with it.  

On day 2, I was feeling better; and he messaged me. He still wanted to be friends, which is what I wanted too. I genuinely enjoyed his company and our conversations; so, we agreed to try and go back to being friends; I would respect his boundaries and he would respect mine.  

On day 3, he sent me a message that wasn’t like the others; this message had a sexual tone that had never existed between us before. He was showing signs of a fuck-boy. It crossed my mind to play with the matches he was laying out. One or two things were obvious; either he was second guessing his decision to just be friends, and still wanted to test the waters; or, all the good boy actions were just a façade. I wasn’t quite sure yet, so I continued to proceed with no caution for the outcome.  

A few days later, another sexual message passed across my phone; so this time I decided to play into the fantasy. I knew what I was dealing with and I felt confident that my emotions were intact. We did this dance for a few more weeks; and then I realized just how morally different we were.  

He sent me some clip of some conservative (probably religious) man, essentially blaming women for men that can’t control themselves. In the clip; the man claimed that women only use their bodies to get ahead; which I, of course, wholeheartedly disagreed with. That was our last real conversation. I messaged him when the podcast episode dropped; to let him know and see how he was doing. All was good on his end and all was great on mine; and I was fine with closing the chapter forever.  

I didn’t want to close the door when it was forced upon me; but I was quite elated when the choice was mine. In the end, I know it wouldn’t have ever worked out; but it was fun while it lasted. Once I weathered the storm of my first poly-heartbreak; I knew that when the time came again, I would be much better prepared.  

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HOW DO I TELL THEM?

Now that you have this horrible thing plaguing you, how can you ever live a normal life again? That was a question I asked myself once I was, finally, ready to get back into the dating world. Part of the answer is, having herpes is only as horrible as you make it. Another thing to consider is… What is normal?

We all have traveled different roads and have different stories to tell; and since people living with this virus are often secretive about it; this road is rarely ever paved, for the next person’s journey. There is a lot of trial and error in dealing with this virus; and I’ve tried quite a few things and here were my results.  

First things first: I want to stress the importance of taking time to actually heal after being diagnosed. I’m talking about emotional, spiritual, and mental healing. The first thing we often struggle with, post positive, is – Who will want me? I’ll tell you now, the answer is “Somebody!” Maybe not the person you thought, but there are enough people in the world that will see you and see beyond the virus. But, I deeply stress self-healing because; there are just as many people that will see your desire for acceptance and use that to have control over you. And what was once a great romance; soon becomes an abusive, manipulative, unfaithful, and sad situation. You’ll find yourself staying in that bad situation because you fear that no one else will want to be with you.  

You have to want yourself more than you want them. No person (herpes or not) that comes into your life should complete you. You have to be complete with yourself; that way, anyone that you allow to occupy time in your life, only adds a bonus. Think of how good it felt to see that 110% on a test because you answered the bonus question- that’s the feeling you want. 

ALL ON FRONT STREET (Immediate & Early Disclosure): “I’d rather not waste my time, so I just tell them to get it out of the way.”  

I only encourage this approach in hook-up scenarios (online or in person). I’ve online dated for a very long time, and most often than not, conversations turn to sex. So, as a tactic to get to the point I state the following:  

“So, just so you’re aware, before we go any further (before I come over); 10 years (X time) ago, I was diagnosed with genital herpes. None of my partners have tested positive, and I’ll do what I can to keep you negative; but you need to be aware of the risks.”  

The above, script gets the fact out there, with details in relation to my diagnosis and the partners that I’ve had that have not been affected by the virus. I allow the person to think about it, I honestly answer any questions they have and I allow them to make a choice. 

If you have not had this virus and you don’t have a record to reflect on; I used to say this: 

Before we go any further (before I come over); I need to let you know that, I was diagnosed with genital herpes (however long ago). I’m not having any symptoms right now, so the risk is minimal; but you should be aware of the risks.” 

It should be stated, that you will have the most recurrent outbreaks and episodes of shedding, within the first year. Antivirals (valtrex or acyclovir) and an overall healthier way of living will minimize the frequency of these episodes. But just because you’re not showing symptoms, that does not mean the virus isn’t present. This year period is a good time to self-reflect. Take the year to learn your body and what your triggers are. Adapt a healthier and stress-free life and move forward.  

*** 

I don’t like the AOFS approach when it’s a person you want to pursue in a more romantic way. When you blurt out herpes; you’re not allowing them to get to know you. Every person’s experience with this virus is different, but the image of what herpes is (magnified by the STIGMA) is always bad. Telling a person too soon, may cause them to only see the virus and not you. I realize that; nothing hurts more than dating a person, really falling for them, then when you finally disclose, they run for the hills. This rejection can send you into a downward spiral and make you never want to try again. But consider this fact; that people will reject you for a plethora of reasons: your education, past, finances, sexual past, the list goes on. Sure, you probably envisioned that they would be “The One” and now your hopes and dreams are shattered. But I promise you, they were not “The One”, they were simply the one you wanted.  

IN DUE TIME (Tactical Disclosure): “I like to wait a few dates in or before we become intimate” 

I advocate for this option for many reasons.  

1. I’ve encountered many men that seem to be nice, that turn out to be ass-hats. Not to mention, you’ll be grateful that you didn’t tell them if the ending turns disrespectful. In cases where I was called a bitch, I was happy the words “dirty” or “diseased” weren’t placed in front of it. 

2. There’s no need in disclosing something about yourself if you never make it to date one. With the dating culture filled with ghosts; the last thing you need, is to think someone didn’t show up because of you having herpes. I run out of hair follicles if I try to count how many times I’ve been ghosted, without them ever knowing I have herpes.  

3. The phone (or text) conversations seemed to flow like water; but the in-person date was so dry, you swear they hired a ghost-writer. If you never make it to date two, was all the stress to disclose really worth it? 

4. What’s wrong with just enjoying a date for the sake of a date? Again, the pressure and realization of this virus forces us to act with haste to find a partner, settle down, and be done with it all. So, we get all jazzed up to put our best foot forward to be chosen. But the truth is; there is nothing wrong with dating. Go on a date, share a kiss or two; it’s totally fine. Take your time and think to yourself; Would I want to be with this person, if I didn’t have herpes?” If the answer is yes then; set up a time to get ready to have the conversation. But if the answer is no; just enjoy the date. 

*** 

So, once you’ve determined you like this person, what do you say? The answer is, there is no perfect answer. The truth is, some people will NEVER want to take that risk, and you’ll have to accept that. It doesn’t make them bad and it doesn’t make you dirty or whatever; it just makes them “UNWILLING TO TAKE THE RISK”. I strongly advise confiding in a family member or friend and practicing. It may also help telling people that you have no genuine desire to be with. I’ve found the best approach is confidence combined with a dose of education. The fact is; many people know nothing about herpes. They know: they know it’s called an STD, they don’t want to get it, it’s forever, and causes blisters. Arming your conversation with facts will only help when disclosing. Facts help to dismantle the stigma; and it also shows people they don’t know all they thought they did. Practice makes perfect! 

I’ve disclosed; over the phone, via text message, and I’ve displayed my status on dating apps; but I’ve found that I prefer disclosing in person. I like the in-person approach, because I like to see their face as I tell them. I often realize that their face displays one of shock or surprise, because I don’t look like a person that has herpes. (Because people with herpes, have “A LOOK”). I can see their brain reprogramming itself as I go on and on with details and stats.  

One of the last dates, when I disclosed in person; went something like this. (We met on OKCupid, after date #2, and after date one he was already talking about giving me a ‘body massage’. I suggested we walk to the park and talk for a bit) 

Me: So, before we go back to your place, there is something you should know. 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with genital herpes. I’ve had boyfriends and partners since then, all of whom have never tested positive. I always do what I can to keep my partners negative, but as there is always a risk, that I have to make my partners aware of. 

Him: Wow! I wasn’t expecting that. Sorry you’re dealing with that. You know I really care about my health; I get tested after every partner, so I don’t think this will work.  

Me: Don’t be sorry. Many people have it and many people are unaware they may be carriers of the virus, so I just do what I can to inform my partners 

Him: Wait what? Don’t you get like blisters and stuff? 

Me: Some people do, but majority of people that have the virus show no symptoms; and many tests don’t include it. So, a lot of people are walking around, assuming they are negative, and all the while- are carriers of the virus and can spread it.  

Him: I didn’t know that.  

Me: Many people don’t. I would suggest that you and your partner get tested and share results before, if you care that much; since after would be too late. I told you, because I know, but like I said; many people don’t know, some people don’t tell, and many doctors don’t enforce telling.  

With the above, I was honest, direct, and was specific about my experience with the virus. The date didn’t continue, but there weren’t any hard feelings (I wasn’t head over heels for him), but even if I had been; I would still consider it a good disclosure story. There was no anger, disrespect, he asked questions and I answered.  

The below is a great way to feel a person out, if you’re still afraid to put yourself out there. This will be easier if there is an easy segue to the conversation, but with practice you’ll get better. 

SCENARIO 1: 

Me: My friend’s boyfriend (girlfriend) just found out that they tested positive for herpes.  

Him/Her: I’ll that’s disgusting! Was he/she cheating on him/her? 

Me: Not that she knows of. But, you know a lot of people have herpes, and most don’t know it. 

Him/Her: No! Only dirty people get herpes. 

Me: Would you call a child that gets cold sores dirty? Cold sores are herpes too.  

Him/Her: No it’s not! 

Me: It’s actually the (almost) identical virus. There’s actually a rise on genital HSV1 from people contracting it from oral sex.  

Him/Her: But, I get cold sores too. What does that mean for me? 

Me: Welcome to the club. I have herpes too.  

SCENARIO 2: 

Me: So, when was the last time you went to the doctor? 

Him/Her: (Enter date) hopefully! Why? 

Me: Well, I just want to make sure we both get tested and know our status before we plan to have sex. I feel knowledge of sexual health status is very important.  

Him/Her: Well, I’m good! I don’t have anything. What about you? 

Me: How would you know? 

Him/Her: Because I always use condoms and I don’t mess with dirty people. 

Now, the following is pending on the conversations you two may have had; like how soon the topic of sex was brought up during your previous conversations 

Me: So, you’ve seen the test results of every person you had sex with (including oral)? And you know condoms don’t protect you from everything; right? 

Him/Her: No. But I know the people I sleep with, and they’re good, so I know I’m good! 

With this response (and strong mental arrogance) you now have enough knowledge to either enforce testing before you continue, or simply walk away. 

One mistake I made early on (and sometimes still do, on occasion); I would assume that I’m the worst option on the table. I have herpes; so, nothing can top that. I only cared that they knew my status, but I NEVER enforced confirming theirs; it was enough for me to know they wanted me. I simply assumed, like we all do/did that the other person was STD/I negative. We put all the responsibility on the positive person to have to disclose, but rarely do we ask or confirm. Assumption is not Confirmation.  

So, before you lay down or engage with a person (especially if you don’t want to use condoms or other barriers) know their status. No one virus or infection is better than another, but I’d prefer to not add any additional ones to my list.