A not untypical case illustrates many of the dilemmas associated with telling others about herpes. Dan (not his real name) fell into the trap of setting himself up for rejection despite the best intention in the world. He contracted herpes from a casual affair after a party but was adamant that the virus would not rule his life
Dan “solved” the arranged dates only when he was symptom-free he worked to keep herpes out of his private life for a year a half, and nobody knew the difference. But the deception began to depress him, and he really wanted to settle down a bit. He met someone he was unusually attracted to, had lunch with her, and decided it was time to cross the bridge he had been avoiding. At their first dinner date, Dan announced, in his usual forthright manner, “I know you want me, but I have a secret to tell you that’s been bothering since we met. I have herpes, and I thought you should know about it right away. Now I don’t want you to get worried it’s not a big deal. I’m just telling you so there is no misunderstanding. I want to be straight with you because if get to know each other better, you’ll have to deal with it.
Not surprisingly, Mary (also a pseudonym) was rather alarmed and somewhat confused. Learn about medical treatments for herpes.
Dan could probably have saved the situation at this point after his openers (it would have been difficult, b possible) had he been able to demonstrate that he could handle herpes responsibly without passing on a large me sure of its burden to his new friend. But as often happens during such an explanation, he got quite carried away with his helplessness and particularly his anger at “the damned doctors and researchers” and the girl that gave him herpes.
Mary really sympathized. It was obvious to Dan she felt for him, for this terrible thing that had happened him. But the game was lost by this time. While very about it, Mary really didn’t want to take on the burden that Dan had presented to her, and not unexpectedly, she politely rejected him on the telephone later in the week.
Can you see what was going on?
Dan, in keeping with his personality and way of handling himself, played it very straight. He was certainly honest. In this case, his history is telling. Dan had broken up a serious relationship just before contracting herpes. He was depressed when he met Mary and a little unsure of his footing, although this was well hidden by his easy charm and attractiveness. But the conversation betrayed his real state of mind. Herpes was a bitch! He’d had an awful time. He was more than sore at physicians, researchers, and life in general – he was outright furious!
There comes a time when that legitimate anger has to be channeled into facing reality. Dan chose to present Mary with all the choices about herpes. He couldn’t deal with it; perhaps she could for him? The scenario was set up for failure. And the failure that occurred veriﬁed Dan’s anger and fear that things could never be the same, that it would be easier not to pursue new friendships. This experience, of course, fed into a deepening sense of helplessness about relationships.
When Dan came to see me, he was, as he described it, close to rock bottom. He wanted a cure, now, and he would raise heaven and hell to get it. Where could he go?
It didn’t take long to clarify the important issues, and Dan was quick to recognize his role in the process and get ready to try again. He made his own peace with herpes (you can’t rewrite the past). Yes, herpes would be a hassle, but he could handle it. And his next venture in honesty was a little more carefully and cleverly handled. Why give a person all the reason in the world to avoid him?
He got to know Jane (another pseudonym) well enough to sense that she was not only sexually attracted to him but also trusted something about him perhaps because he now trusted himself, believing that he had nothing to hide. He had learned from his old liaison and from his recent experience with Mary.
This time his approach was different. During a conversation about men and women and lovers, he was able to insert, “I’m sure you’ve heard about herpes, you know, the cold sore virus?” (It’s hard to miss the media coverage these days.) So, of course, a conversation was generated whereby Dan was able to add that while some of the stories nu reported sounded pretty awful, “It is and it isn’t so b got herpes two years ago. If I’d known then what I k now, it really would have been pretty easy. I’m glad are finally learning what’s really going on with it.”
The rapport, interest, and concern had been built a minimum of alarm. Dan was able to explain about prevention. He didn’t give Jane the latest research articles. Instead he asked if there was anything she would like to know about herpes, and he asked for her trust. He was also to laugh about the seemingly ridiculous way in which V had learned about himself.
This time, his new friend was not turned off. Rat she felt she had a realistic picture of how herpes could be out of hand if one lets it, and how it could be dealt fairly easily. Between them, it wasn’t very difficult to out how to handle the occasional risk of contagion (as well the emotions that might be associated with contagion). While Dan and Jane were concerned, they used the experience to get to know each others’ feelings, and later their bodies.
I have used Dan as an example for both failure success because the case has many of the underlying issues common to a good ninety percent of the problems in telling that I have come across in both sexes. (Clearly, Dan’s I could be Dana; Mary could be Mark; and Jane could} Jeff.) One must first deal with one’s relationship to he s Be calm and direct. Remember how you first learn the facts about herpes, and if it was not a good experience think’ about how you would have liked to have learn them. Then simply describe what it means to you in the here and now.
Since you are not a textbook, but a thinking, feeling person, never mind the details of biochemistry of interest to scientists. I repeat, describe what it means to you and what you do about it. If you have had to go through alarmist introduction to the facts about herpes and have survived that, why force it on someone else? Get comfortable, be personal, and once you’ve started, you’ll find that questions and a sincere rapport will take over.