When a plane is going down, it’s more important to put the oxygen mask on yourself first; then onto the person next to you. If I’m spending time trying to get the mask onto you, in addition to losing oxygen, I may lose consciousness and die; then we’re both screwed. As simple as it may seem; a lot of people have a great deal of difficulty applying this very simple logic to their everyday life.
You can’t give water from an empty cup, but so many people continue to try. Unlike the cup that is obviously empty, there is no visual correlation for your spirit, state of mind, or heart. A broken heart can be fixed; but once a heart it drained, it dries up and can no longer function.
When we are young, we’re told to be nice and share our toys with the other kids; because, sharing is caring. We’re subjected to forced playdates, the buddy system, and group projects. It’s no wonder why so many people are, not only, co-dependent, but so many of us are givers. We were bred to be this way, and at some point, it has to stop.
SAVE YOURSELF FIRST!
I used to be the person that loved to please, support, and be there for others. Unfortunately, many times, it left me emotionally broken and struggling to find my own happiness. In past relationships, I dismissed all my wants and needs to make myself what my partner wanted; totally becoming a person that I no longer recognized. If a friend had a bad day, I would take on their feelings as my own and that energy would eventually weigh me down.
After I broke up with my ex; after my 100th cry, my 50th cancelled date, and my 20th weekend alone; I had finally had enough. It was then that I told myself; “I refuse to be unhappy and have herpes”. The fact of the matter was, since I couldn’t get rid of herpes, I made the choice to get rid of the guy.
I began applying that theme to factors beyond my relationship. I applied it to work; if I didn’t like my job, I did what was needed to get a new one. I applied it to my friends and acquaintances; I became more mindful of the energy I allowed to be around me, and I stopped letting negative people affect me. Lastly, I applied it to my family. Naturally, I couldn’t get rid of my family; and trying to change them would be more work than it was worth. I did, however, adjust my reactions to what they did. I realized that I had much more control over my own emotions (in response to their actions) than their initial actions that would cause said emotion.
It became important to me to do some heavy self-reflecting and healing; and during my journey I found my peace.
People often say I have great energy, along with confidence, and spirit. Whether it’s a friend’s friend I met at a bar, a media personality, or a friend I hadn’t seen in 10 years; they all say the same thing. When they ask me how I manage, I make it very clear.
I put myself first; above all else.
Yes! It sounds selfish as hell, but it’s the remedy that I live by. A few years ago, I read (audio book) The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck; it was what I needed to hear to put my way of doing things into perspective. The book wasn’t really about, not giving a fuck; it was more about only addressing the things you have the ability to change and acknowledging that the grass may not be greener on the other side.
Comparing where I was in life and/or in my relationship to those of my friends, often left me feeling lonely and depressed. But when they would complain to me about their partner or spouse; I was ecstatic to know I was much happier in my reality that I thought they were in the fantasy of their lives that I created in my mind.
When I re-evaluated the men that I sought; for a very long time, I realized that I was a magnet for those that needed support. I, unknowingly, operated as a human crutch for many years. I loved being that ride or die, support her man woman. I often turned the other cheek, and I always thought optimistically of my partners. Supporting people and lifting them up to where they wanted and/or needed to be; was what I was good at. However, when I looked back, I realize that; while I did so much for others, I did nothing for myself. And time and time again, I had to start over.
It took a while for me to learn my lesson; because each time Soul-Sucker came around, they were a little different. The first time- they had long hair, the next time- it was short, the next time- they wore glasses, another time- they showed up with a limp. Their appearance kept changing, but their behaviors and actions would always, eventually, reveal their true identity.
With dating polyamorously, I had to be extra careful of whom was in my space; but, above all else I had to be sure to maintain my autonomy.
I make time for my partners (primary and secondary), family, and friends; but the most important time is that I have with myself. For the record- I LOVE MYSELF! And I love being by myself. Time by myself is used to evaluate my position, mission, and goals. Sometimes I work out, watch tv, or listen to music. I may decide to go for a walk alone or try out a new restaurant, or go see a movie; all by myself. I love my alone time; because it allows me the ability to take a necessary inventory of my feelings and check in to make sure all elements that make me who I am are in alignment. I may go hours without looking at my phone or I may look but decide to not respond, because it’s my alone time.
We’ve been conditioned to seek the constant comfort of others, but we came into this world alone (most of us anyway) and we’re going to die alone. We all have to find happiness in being alone and being selfish, with ourselves, is the first step.
Joke: If you google random symptoms, all roads will lead to cancer. If you have sex, all roads will lead to herpes; it’s almost inevitable.
5-Lastly, PEOPLE LOVE SEX! And the general public’s unwillingness to change their sexual habits is the leading reason people continue to get STD/Is.
Take HIV for example; HIV, unlike herpes (HSV), is a fluid transmissible virus (passed via blood, semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk, and in rare specific* cases saliva). The virus has to enter the person’s blood stream in order to replicate. The most common and effective way to minimize their chances of getting HIV, are to simply use condoms/barriers and test your partners before having sex (before Prep and Pep, etc). Seems simple enough right… WRONG!!!!
The truth of the matter is; many people don’t use condoms. For whatever reasons people give: they’re too tight, they feel uncomfortable, allergic, or they lose sensations, etc. It all balls (pun intended) down to people don’t want to use them. I’ve had plenty of partners throughout the years (before and after herpes) that will get annoyed with me when I stop and tell them to get a condom. When it comes to the topic of getting tested; I remember asking men and they’re response was “Why? You think I got something?” or “Don’t worry, I’m clean”; without even being able to tell me when was the last time they actually went to the doctor. So, when you consider the reality that the use of condoms can minimize the spread of HIV; and people still don’t want to use them; that’s proof that people would much rather live in the moment and worry about the possible consequences later. And, for what it’s worth- there is nothing wrong with that. If you want to live a sexually empowered life, then do it. But, in this era of sex positivity, the conversation of sexual health is often not had.
The above (5) examples play a major role in the spread of herpes. I find it highly imbalanced to only focus on people not disclosing as the main reason this virus spreads.
Truth Serum: I can tell a man that I have herpes and educate him on all the possible ways of contraction; and that man may decline to be with me (which is totally fine). That same man, will still go out the following night and sleep with the next woman (who may not know she’s positive), and still end up with herpes.
This little story, is just another one of the many reasons why I can’t get behind the attack of a single individual for not disclosing. Everyone that had consensual sex (myself included) could’ve taken extra steps; but we(I) didn’t. Even if I had taken the extra steps (as I lined out in Part 1), I still may have contracted herpes. But in my case, I looked at my partner, allowed my trust in him and my feelings for him to be all the proof that I needed. The use of my feelings, that allowed me to assume his words and actions, as proof of his sexual health, was in-fact a choice, MY CHOICE. This acceptance of choice is what allowed me to get rid of the anger and find peace with my diagnosis; and that allowed me to heal.
Many of the toxic people I describe, and often debate with, hold onto that anger; and when someone even hints at not disclosing they go into attack mode; because (I believe) they’re still very angry. Some people choose to sit in the anger and dish it out rather than do the self-reflection and acknowledge the choices they made that landed them where they are. In the end it’s not about blame, it’s about choice. A choice that we had and made; a choice that, had we not contracted herpes as a result of it, we’d be proud to have made. Just because the end result was one that was not desired, that does not make the entire act any less of a choice. When we agreed to have sex, we all signed an invisible contract, without acknowledging the fine print.
So, getting on an invisible pedestal to degrade another person, just because their choices don’t align with yours, does not make you any better. At the end of the day; it takes two to tango, and each individual should be responsible for their own sexual health. We all should want to know our partner’s status; not just think and or assume it; but many people don’t ask. We all should get tested regularly, and be able to happily exchange results with our partners before we have sex; but many people don’t.
The reality is, many people would rather not spoil the mood or miss the opportunity. Most people won’t even talk about sexual health before they have sex. And, many people would be very happy not knowing the truth. People want to continue living and loving as if nothing has changed; hoping for the best.
It’s ok to encourage people to disclose by sharing your experiences. But to attack them, only puts people on defense and often times, they’ve already checked out of the conversation. Navigating this virus isn’t easy; we don’t have to make it any more difficult than it already is.
It’s time to change the conversation on herpes and start being proactive about our sexual health.
With a constant rise in new cases of herpes diagnoses, more and more people are seeking support. When I was diagnosed, in 2009, there was only the internet. The internet at that time offered only information, and no support for someone that was newly diagnosed. Thankfully, I had family and random friends for support to get me through.
Almost a decade later, there are now dating apps (Positive Sines), podcasts (Something Positive for Positive People), activists and the HANDS organization (Herpes Activists Networking to Dismantle Stigma), books (Asking for a Friend), in person support groups (Love Profound); and lastly, a whole host of Facebook & Reddit Subgroups. Many are filled with support and positive energy; and for a person struggling with the virus, these options will offer you the most peace of mind.
When I was diagnosed, sites like Facebook and Reddit weren’t as popular, as they are now. Now, there are plenty of great support groups on Facebook and Reddit, but the problem with these groups (and the problem with the internet period) is that, more often than not, they are filled with toxic people. I joined to hear the stories and offer advice. I felt that my journey of dating while being herpes positive, would be able to help others. I was shocked to find that there was so much stigma, shame, and degrading of others within these, so called, support groups. So much so that, I sometimes look back and think… Thank God! I was diagnosed when I was! Because there is no guarantee my journey would’ve been so positive had the “support” been as negative as what I see in some of these groups now.
There are many studies that show groups that are often degraded will, in an attempt to reclaim their power, degrade those within the same group. The act of putting others down, to elevate the other’s position is rife within the herpes community. No topic garners more hateful, degrading, shaming, and stigmatizing speech than the issue of disclosing.
Now, before I jump into things let me make it very clear. If you know that you have an incurable virus that may forever impact the life of another human being, you should disclose (tell them). Full consent does require their full knowledge of the risks involved. There! It’s done! The spread of herpes will now be forever halted- Right…Not Even Close!
In a perfect world, disclosing only works for those that know they have the virus, in the first place. If we walk away from Fantasy World, and get back to the real world; we’ll realize that there are many more factors that contribute to the spread and contraction of herpes. The herpes virus is a HUMAN virus. Sure, there may be strains that live in the animal kingdom; but we are talking about humans, humans that process the cognitive ability to think, process, and then act. I will not touch on acts of rape and/or assault, as the entire event was not a choice. I am specifically talking about two consenting individuals making the choice to have sexual relations.
No matter how old you are, we all had some form of sexual education. I, for example, went to catholic school; so, the information I received was more abstinence based. But the message that sex could lead to disease and un-planned pregnancy was evident. Don’t have sex or this or that will happen. So, even if it wasn’t the most fully informed education, we all knew that sex carried some risks. When we chose to have sex; engaging in the act, was signing an invisible contract that assumed whatever risk may come our way.
When I was diagnosed after being in a committed relationship, I was furious. I was hurt, shocked, heart-broken, and briefly depressed. For a moment I wanted to scour the internet to find him and call him out. However, I had to take a step back and realize the role I played in this. Sure, I asked him and he said he was “clean” and we used a condom. But there were other tools at my disposal that I negated to use. I could’ve asked to see his test; but I didn’t. I could’ve postponed having sex until we both got tested, and exchanged results; but I didn’t. Even if I had, there’s no guarantee that his test would’ve included herpes (as most don’t); and because of that; I would’ve seen his results, that were absent of herpes (assumed he was negative), still made the choice to have sex, and ended up with herpes.
A lot more goes into minimizing the spread of herpes than just disclosing one has herpes. So, I can’t get behind this moral compass of blaming someone else for the choices that we all knew, on some level, carried some risk. They aren’t called Sexually Transmitted Diseases because you get them sharing a hug. You get them when engaging in an act of sex.
Now, there are many individuals that have herpes passed to them from a family member via an act of affection, and not sex (almost always a kiss). More often than not, this is classified as cold sores (oral herpes), most often Type1. But these cold sores (oral herpes), that most people forget they even get, have the ability to be passed to another person’s mouth or genitals, and they will then have (Genital Herpes Type 1_GHSV1), adding to the number of newly diagnosed genital herpes cases.
There are many reasons why this virus continues to spread, and here are the ones that should be getting the attention, instead of attacking one person at a time, for not disclosing.
1-The CDC does not require testing for Herpes 1&2. So, many times when you go and ask for “everything” you are not getting tested for herpes (HSV) or HPV. The medical community, outside of the CDC, are resistant to giving the test, when specifically asked by patients to be tested. Doctors are also constantly misinforming patients on what they should do after being diagnosed.
Doctors have told patients as long as they take meds and use condoms, and refrain from sex during an outbreak, that they don’t have to disclose. (Completely forgetting that both Type1 & Type2 are capable of being passed with no symptoms present (Asymptomatic Shedding)
Doctors have told patients with herpes antibodies that, because they have no visible outbreak or symptoms that they were only “exposed” to the virus, but don’t in fact “have” the virus; leaving them to believe that they pose no threat to sexual partners.
2-Access to testing & education, play a major role in the spread of herpes, in the youth community and those communities that lack financial infrastructure.
If education was mandated to talk about the herpes virus from a medical stand point; young kids would know that cold sores are herpes and have the ability to be contagious.
If access to testing was affordable, many people would know their status. The reason why HSV is not often included is because it’s more expensive, so many people already have it, and the risk of a false-positive diagnosis.
In addition, a person that’s never had a sore or bump isn’t thinking to ask for testing. People often assume NO SYMPTOMS = NEGATIVE, when that’s not always the case.
3-Public Perception: Commercials have done such a great job at marketing cold sores as something you just put a little cream on, and you’ll be fine.
Marketing doesn’t tell you that your cold sore is actually ORAL HERPES (most often, but not exclusively HSV1)
Marketing also doesn’t tell you that your cold sore, can shed when you’re not having an outbreak; and if you happen to perform oral sex on your partner, you can then pass them Genital Herpes Type1
4-This virus is tricky AS FUCK!
When it comes to herpes, condoms don’t always work to protect a partner (if it did, I wouldn’t be GHSV2+). So, even if you use condoms and a partner is asymptomatically shedding; they can transmit the virus.
Add to that, If you ask a partner to get tested, there’s often a 3-6 month window where the virus may be setting up shop before it’s visible on a test. The fact remains that even if you make your partner get tested and exchange results, there is still a risk that someone could have herpes. So, after you’ve had the conversations, waited to have sex, got the tests, then proceeded, and months later – still contract herpes!!!! What could you have done any differently? What do you do now?
With this, I push you to stop looking at this virus as something that’s more than sexual, IT’S HUMAN. The most recent data says 1in3 have HSV1 and 1in8 have HSV2. So, it’s very likely you may have already been with a herpes positive individual, and not have known it.
Love is defined as: an intense feeling of deep affection; a great interest and pleasure in something; and the list goes on.
On some level, we all can identify something or someone that we love. I love my family; although I may not always like them; the love I genuinely feel for them is undeniable.
Another thing I love are desserts; especially Applebee’s Triple Chocolate Meltdown. Even though, I hate what it does to my waistline and my conscience, I can’t deny that; when that microwaved chocolate cake with chocolate syrup center, drizzled with way too sweet white and dark chocolate, with the scoop of ice cream comes to my table; the outside world does not exist. From the first break of the cake as the chocolate oozes, and I try to repeatedly gather the perfect bite with just enough ice cream, to the final bite; I can undoubtedly say that I am in love; if only for 5 minutes. I can scream from the mountain top, the love I have for something that has probably, single handedly, been the cause of all the new diabetes diagnoses, since its inception. But telling someone I love them… Ugh! Can we just eat cake!
I grew up with the image of love as one person to another. Sure, I always knew of polyamorous love; I just never saw examples of it working in real life. When I decided to live a polyamorous life, after years of being a serial monogamist, I wasn’t sure what to expect; all I knew was that I loved the feeling of butterflies and I needed that aspect to intensify any connection I would garner. Then I met you.
I felt your love for me early on. Maybe it was how often we spoke; or the fact that you always wanted to be around me. But, from the very beginning, when you first laid eyes on me; and I was in a threesome with two other men; I didn’t have to be anyone but myself. Sure, you didn’t love me that night, but after our first few dates, I was certain you soon would.
You said (actually texted) the words when I was going through a dark patch with my family. I knew you was going to say it before the message came through; and although it was great to know your true feelings; it did absolutely nothing to make the situation better. It just meant that you were going to be there for me, and that was enough.
The last time I said I love you was in 2013. In 2012, I met my now ex-boyfriend. We had connected on the dating app Badoo; I was so confident that he was the one, and that there would never be another. So, within a month of us online dating, before we even met in person; he told me he loved me and I told him back. We dated for just over a year before the once strong and undying love I had for him actually died. When I finally ended the relationship; he told me that I never really loved him. Hmm? I was certain that I did, in fact, love him, at some point during our relationship. I looked back at our pictures and they looked like love. I though back to all the times I cried for him, (I cry very easily, so maybe that’s not the best example). When I looked at all that I had done for him during our relationship, I knew that I wouldn’t have done any of it, if I didn’t love him. So, what the fuck was he talking about? How could tell me, the feelings that I had for him were never real? Then, years later, it finally hit me… His love was not my love.
My love isn’t the jump off a cliff, walk into the fire, sacrifice my life for you love; like his was. My love is practical yet whimsical. My love is stern, but it can also be pliable; it can be loud and it can be quiet, it can be suffocating and it can be distant. However, above all things, my love for another will never be stronger than the love I have for myself. I can love someone with all my might, but if that relationship no longer brings me joy, I have no problems walking away to be on my own.
So, after him, I reserved the declaration; because if tomorrow comes and I want to go back into my shell; it’s important to know what we shared was real and it was love, even if it didn’t and/or doesn’t last forever.
I was sitting at a jazz show, listening to the music being played. As the lady on the stage sang about love; it was in that moment I knew I loved you. It struck me as odd because I was at the performance to see one of my other partners perform; but, the thought of you ran through my mind and found a home in my heart. I started to get warm all over, it could’ve been the 3 drinks that I had; but then it happened again. When I was walking down the street talking to myself (as I sometimes do); Boom! There you were again. I tried to apply logic and reason, I picked the way I felt about you apart, I dissected it like a dead frog on a metal table, and it still came back – love.
I could drive myself mad trying to define and break down what it means to be in love while polyamorous, but I just know I love how I feel now. The love that we share doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s, because we are not like everyone else. I simply want to live and love in this feeling for as long as we’re meant to.
Two weeks ago, I finally deactivated and deleted my remaining dating apps (Tinder & Hinge). I came to the conclusion that; with the writing of this blog, working on my memoir, trying to get into shape, being an advocate for herpes, and dating 3 men; I have no energy, nor desire, to meet anyone new. So, I decided to call it quits and to focus on further building the connections I already have established.
Over the past few months, after claiming my polyamorous label; I have put a lot of time, energy, and emotions into maintaining my relationships. So, it rubs me the wrong way when people dismiss my identification and connections, and say “so you’re just fuckin’ people!”; because, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! There is so much more to it than that.
When I decided to live this lifestyle, I was prepared to answer the many questions that the monogamous world would ask. The; “what does polyamory mean?” or “how can I be comfortable knowing someone I care about is with someone else?” The answer to those two questions often goes something like this…
You love your mother, father, and siblings. When you start a family of your own you love your partner, your child, etc.; love just keeps on growing. LOVE NEVER RUNS OUT. Now, you may fall out of love with someone, but love cannot be measured as a chart that gets divided amongst your loved ones, because it’s forever replenishing. So, when I identify as polyamorous, that is my goal; but before love, comes like.
The above questions are fine; especially growing up in a monogamy-aiming society, there are bound to be people that do not understand the idea of having multiple romantic loves.
However, I wasn’t prepared to have to defend said lifestyle. Against A) those that choose to belittle the decisions that we make with statements like: “if he loves you, he won’t share you” OR B) “what about all the STDs out there?” First of all, I’m a woman, not a pie. What does love look like anyway? And, secondly, I’ve found that those in this non-traditional lifestyle often get tested far more frequently and are more open to talking about sexual health, than those that are extremely close-minded to this way of living/loving. (Not to mention; I got herpes from what I thought was a monogamous relationship).
In addition to defending my lifestyle choices, I’m also fighting off the, what I like to call, lifestyle-nomads. Lifestyle-nomads: are those people that truly have no desire to build connections. They may be the ones trying it on for size, or latch to the label because, on paper, it mirrors what they’re doing, but it lacks the deeper foundation. Just because you want to fuck a bunch of people and you want a date or two before, that does not make you polyamorous; that makes you non-monogamous. Living towards a polyamorous love-style is the ability to like freely and honestly, with the goal for like to become love. The goal is to have long-lasting connections of the heart and spirit, regardless if there is sexual intimacy.
Now, being the sex-positive woman that I am, (who is, in layman’s terms- single); I can, technically, have sex with as many men and women I want. But, that’s NOT what I want. I love the connections, conversations, butterflies, honesty, and vulnerability that dating, in a romantic capacity brings. I never did and I still don’t get those feelings with just sex. Outside the walls of a sex-club (where a nick-name and a condom are enough); emotional, spiritual, and intellectual stimulation are necessary for me to become repeatedly engaged. I have conversations with my partners, I go on dates with my partners I spend time with my partners, and in addition to them knowing about what I do when I am not with them, they all know of each other. There is an honesty and transparency I associate with being poly, that I didn’t associate, when I was dating prior. My partners make me happy and put a smile on my face, and I can only assume I do the same for them. So, when someone absentmindedly dismisses them as just a phase or sexual object; ignoring the amorous (love) aspect from the title and only focuses on the poly (many); not only is it very unsettling, it’s also not true.
The second thing I didn’t expect was encountering so many half-assers.
As started prior, polyamory is not for those that just like a lot of sex. For those people that are always horny and just want to have sex with everything that walks; that is non-monogamy. Another major part of being truly polyamorous is arriving at that space of love, and finding joy watching your partner experience love with someone else, with no fear of their love diminishing your own. COMPERSION!
This COMPERSION is the part that many people find most difficult. Many people are happy to be open/non-monogamous/swingers, but the idea of love being added to the relationship, many people don’t want to explore that reality.
In addition to the lack of compersion, I encounter a lot of misogynistic imbalance as well, in the poly community. I do now, and always have felt that polyamory, non-monogamy, and open-relationships only work when both partners are willing participants. One partner cannot be allowed to play the field, while the other has to sit on the side lines.
Ladies, if your man can be with another women; yet you can’t be with another man; then that relationship is imbalanced. Ladies (and men) if your partner won’t stop cheating; so, you turn a blind eye and claim non-monogamy; again, that relationship is imbalanced.
The recipe for a successful alternative relationship is an even playing field, constant communication, and checking in; there are rules within the storm, and both/all parties have to agree and follow the rules. That does not mean, if he/she has 3 partners, I need 3 partners too- NO! My schedule may only allow me 1 partner in addition to my primary, and that’s totally fine; after all, it’s not a competition. Decide what it is you want and do what works within the confines of the union that you two have set up.
The last thing that bugs me, is the oversexualization of the polyamorous and non-monogamous community.
We are Sex Positive; NOT Sex Addicts.
Sorry to burst your erotic bubble; but I DO NOT think about sex all day long. Now, there is nothing wrong with those that do; I’m just stating that’s not me. If there are 24 hours in a day, I may spend all of 5 minutes total with sex on my brain, and that’s not even every day. So, it’s literally a turn-off when every exchange is about sex. I’ve joined several group chats, claiming to be for the poly community; and it was a stream of titties, vaginas, penises, and sex positions; I left each one within a week. I’m too busy to think and talk about sex all day long. Especially when it’s with people that I may or may not ever have sex with.
I love sex when I want it; that goes for type, and locations. I enjoy anal play and anal sex; that does not mean that every night I want my ass fucked. I enjoy going to sex parties and engaging with multiple partner; that does not mean I want to go to them every weekend. Lastly, I enjoy being with women; that does not mean I need to eat pussy every day. It’s important that people understand that about me and other sex-positive people. Just because we openly talk about sex, that does not mean it’s on our minds 24/7. After all… polyamorous does not mean sex-addict.
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.
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.
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.
Variety is the spice of life; sure, we could fair just fine if we were all limited to just one essential item to survive with, but we all like having options (just not too many). I wouldn’t walk into a buffet and only get one thing. I look at the buffet, see what my options are, and attack accordingly. I try a little bit of this and a little bit of that; that way, when I go back for seconds, I know what to pile on and what to disregard. Stepping into polyamory, I applied this same idea to love and relationships.
I love knowing that I have a connection with another human being. I love knowing that someone supports me and I support them; and above all else, I love knowing that I don’t have to sugar-coat my life or belittle myself to fit a mold. I also put the responsibility on my partner to make me happy. Then, I heard Jada Pinkett-Smith (on her show, Red Table Talk) discuss the importance of self-satisfaction and completion. She stressed the importance of being happy in your own life; not requiring outside things and/or people to make you happy. I interpreted this message in a way that made sense and it worked for me; and with that I was able to come into my truth and step into my polyamorous identity.
I told my family, all in a group at my brother’s apartment, at the time. They didn’t quite understand what I meant (as they were all, like most people, monogamous); so, I had to break it down in simpler terms. After explaining, I don’t know if they fully understood my decision in lifestyle, but they said that they supported me, and that was enough. I currently have three men I’m dating; two men that I met in the beginning of my journey; and one that entered my life in, what seemed to me at the time, the most unlikely place (Hey Baby!- That story’s for another post). Since my journey began there was one other, but we’ve ceased communication. It was nice while it lasted, but as he was not “in the lifestyle”, trying to live a non-monogamous life was difficult for him, so we dialed it back to friends/occasional acquaintances.
When I started this journey, I didn’t know what would happen; so, it was important to lay down some ground rules.
Rule 1: Connection had to be more important, than the sex.
Rule 2: Discuss and Disclose
I won’t deny; that there have been moments where, going back to a monogamous way of living seemed easier. I’d find myself liking a moment and thinking, how nice it would be to have only him. Then I remember, living this lifestyle means I can honestly and ethically have it all. I can grab drinks and make-out one evening; and the next day I can do it all again, and finish it with mind-blowing sex. Knowing that I don’t have to limit myself has made all the difference.
I won’t deny the fact that, it does require effort and time to periodically check in and make sure I’m attentive to all my connections, but it’s an effort of passion, rather than obligation. When I was monogamous, I felt obligated to call, text, and make time. Now, I do all of that, because I truly want to.
For people that live monogamous lifestyles, they don’t understand my choice. It’s one thing to ‘get it’ it’s another thing to understand it fully. Many people, family and friends included, just think my decision to live this lifestyle is temporary. They think that my decision is parallel to that of someone who’s dating around or doing this until I find the one. When I speak of my primary, whom checks all of my boxes, they don’t understand why I keep the other men around. I have to re-iterate to them that the connections I have with my partners are stronger than that, and not easily dismissed.
When the topic of marriage comes up, they wonder there as well. Being fully transparent with my partners, they all know that other men exist, in a perfect world, they may become acquaintances. If one desires to legally solidify our union, it would be understood that the other men would still be in my life in the same capacity.
When the topic of children comes up, it’s essentially the same situation. For the next 2-3 years the baby making factory is closed, as I am on birth control. I’ve always known that weather or not, I’m asked to be a wife, being a mother was always a title that I desired. Of course, the concern arises; Whom would be the father? How would you choose? How would you raise them? Wouldn’t they get confused? I often counter; Many positive male role models is better than one. The father would be the father, just like a monogamous relationship. My other partners would be a figure in my child’s life in the capacity of a family friend or uncle; and when my child is older, I would sit him or her down and explain our lifestyle to them.
Sure, it sounds crazy and complicated; but isn’t an honest, loving, and transparent relationships with my partners, and hypothetical-future children better than a broken home? I’d much rather see my partners getting along, my child surrounded by lots of love, and a few extra people. The saying, it takes a village to raise a child, should not be ignored in this lifestyle.
When all is said and done, when the times are right; I will address each situation and make the best decision for myself and my family, along with my partner(s).