My second experience with dating with herpes was, if you can imagine, even more uncomfortable than the first and far less forgiving.
I went out on a Saturday night like every other person in their early twenties tends to do. While chatting with a friend of mine, I noticed a man looking at me from across the bar. (This is all going to sound like a wretched romantic comedy, which is how 80% of our relationship went, but bear with me). I paid little attention to him, and carried on with my night. When ordering a drink later on, I felt someone tap my shoulder and saw him beside me. He made small talk with me and was quite handsome. As my drink came, I politely left to head back to my friends. On my way out of the bar that night he stopped me and asked if he could take me to dinner sometime. It was all very simple and sweet, and he was quite charming so naturally I said yes.
With my lesson learned from my previous date, I made it a point to not go anywhere near this man’s apartment to avoid getting into an intimate setting before I was ready to tell him I had herpes. We met in public for dates, chatted over drinks or dinner, and things went effortlessly smooth. I really fell head over heels for this man in no time at all.
At this point in living with herpes, I hadn’t gotten to the point of acceptance with myself and what this meant for my dating life. I was partially in denial, I was mostly angry and bitter, and I was certain that if I shared this information with anyone, especially him, that they wouldn’t be interested in a relationship with me anymore. Especially if they didn’t also already have herpes, because who dates someone with an STD if they don’t have one themselves?
After a few months of dating, I had finally agreed to go back with him to his apartment after we had been out for a couple of drinks. No discussion of STDs had ever developed up to that point, and I had brought nothing to his attention on my own. We had an entirely normal night lounging around with each other, and eventually it was time to go to bed. I insisted I should go home. He said nothing to me and walked into his bedroom. I continued sitting on the couch debating between whether I should leave or how I was going to tell him I had herpes if I stayed. He called my name out and asked why I was taking so long. I walked into the bedroom and stood in the doorway telling him once again that I should call it a night and head home. He once again insisted I stay and asked what the big deal was.
People without an STD undermine how tempting these situations can be, and assume those of us living with this disease should easily be able to ignore our desires and needs because we’re ‘diseased’, by default. This was hard to do, though. I began caring deeply for this man and wanted nothing more than to lay next to him at the time. You can begin to deny you’re not able to do the things you did before you were diagnosed, because you’re frustrated sexually or because you haven’t fully accepted yourself. This can create bad situations.
I decided to stay, and got into bed next to him.
Then I began to get nervous. Nervous that I would let things go too far.; nervous that this might be the time to tell him and I’m not really sure how to do that; nervous that he would reject me if I told him.
I did not tell him.
He DID ask me if I had any STD’s, after saying he had recently been tested and was clean. He asked me point blank, to my face.
I looked him square in the eyes and answered, “No.”
That was the first time I ever 100% looked a man in the eyes and chose to lie to him. I immediately cringed, simultaneously thinking how easy it was to lie and how horrifying it was that I had.
I did have sex with him.
I didn’t tell him I had herpes until AFTER I had left his apartment the next morning. I woke up and quietly snuck out of his bedroom before he could wake up. I cried the entire way home, feeling a mixture of guilt and self-pity and called him the second I got into my driveway. I couldn’t bear another minute living with myself after what I did and had to tell him.
He broke up with me immediately. He was far calmer than he had to be about the entire thing. I have never spoken to him again.
As devastated as I was, I was far more ashamed for what I had done. I hurt someone I cared very deeply for, which shows you how selfish I was as well. I was so desperate for affection and the ‘normal’ sex life I had before all of this happened to me, that I lied to feel ‘normal’ again. This doesn’t make any of this okay, but it was what went through my head at the time.
I also lost any opportunity of being with him the moment I lied. We tell ourselves that no one will accept us, but if we never even give them the opportunity to, how can we be so sure they won’t? I’ll never know now if he might’ve been willing to have a relationship with me regardless of having herpes. Maybe he wouldn’t of, but I still wonder what he would’ve said if I gave him the chance to discuss this with me instead.
There are multiple options for handling dating with herpes and we would all be lying if we didn’t say that lying is definitely an option. If lying or withholding our STD status was NOT an option, many of us wouldn’t have STDs to begin with. I’m not proud of lying, I’m not proud of bringing harm to a wonderful man that did nothing to deserve it. But I am interested in being brutally honest about the journey through this that may include many wrong turns. And that it’s more important to adjust what we’re doing wrong, than to live in fear and to continue to harm other people because of our own inability to accept ourselves.
He went on to get tested, and didn’t contract herpes from me. Or so I had heard. I went on to realize the consequences of being dishonest and that I needed to take a long hard look in the mirror before dating anyone else.
That date wasn’t bad, but that morning after definitely sucked for both of us.