The situations and experiences we’ve all had that ended with us having herpes vary greatly. Not everyone contracted herpes the exact same way, so not everyone will always benefit from each bit of advice we can give each other. This post may not be helpful to people that contracted herpes in ways different than the way I did. I got herpes from a sexual relationship with my boyfriend at the time that had it and didn’t tell me. He chose not to disclose to me that he had an STD when I had unprotected sex with him for the first time. He didn’t disclose it to me after I contracted herpes. Many people never get to know who gave herpes to them, just like many people don’t know they have herpes because they have no symptoms.
I’ve previously written about why people lie about having herpes here. When I wrote that post about a year ago, I was still in a relationship and I was feeling very wise, secure and mature. I spouted off all of the reasons it’s necessary to disclose your STD status to your sexual partners. I even “proved” it’s worth mentioning by stating I had told my boyfriend and he still cared enough about me to continue dating me. I still agree with many of those statements and I will always believe the moral thing to do is to tell your sexual partners you have an STD if you do have one. I think in a perfect world people would take full responsibility for their actions and prevent harming other people in any ways they can.
It’s easy to feel qualified to give advice inside the security of a relationship, but much more difficult to believe your own advice when you’re single. Many times when someone finds out they have herpes the focus is on the person that gave them herpes, not on themselves. We wonder why that person didn’t mention it and give us a choice. We also know this happens frequently considering many of us contracted herpes from a person we didn’t know had it in the first place. In some situations, the person that gave us herpes may honestly not have known that they had it. Statistics are still high when it comes to the amount of people that have herpes and are unaware because they don’t have any traditional symptoms. In these situations how much judgement can we truly hold against someone if they didn’t know they had it in the first place?
In other circumstances, the person that gave us herpes knowingly did so. This is how I contracted herpes. My partner at the time knew he had herpes and still slept with me without disclosing to me that he had it. Shortly after we had slept together, I had developed symptoms I’d never had before and went to the doctor. After receiving testing, and waiting for results, I finally found out I had herpes. Once I found this out I contacted my boyfriend at the time and he acted completely aloof. He had no idea what I was talking about, he said, but he reassured me he still cared about me and that we would work everything out. I later found out other women had contracted herpes from him, and he had lied to those women as well. I was angry with him, and rightfully so, and I told myself I could never forgive him. He had changed my entire life without even letting me have a choice as to whether or not that was something I wanted to risk.
To look back now and say I could not forgive him would make me a hypocrite because I am him. I promised myself once I received the news that I had herpes that I would never do to another person what my boyfriend did to me. I felt violated and ruined and spent a great deal of time learning to love myself again with this new part of my life. But years later, I did precisely what he did and what I said I would never do, I slept with someone without telling them I had herpes. What makes us a victim of something painful and then turns us into the inflictor of the painful situation? I still don’t know.
Many of us can say what we would do in certain situations without having lived them. We can be appalled at another person’s behavior, convinced we would never replicate their actions. But throughout life we may be put into situations we never expected, or could never comprehend. We may act in ways we didn’t believe we would, or could. But the lines are not always black and white in life, indeed they hardly ever are. The complexities of human beings are vast and never-ending. So, in response to the question of whether or not I could forgive the person that gave me herpes, I would say no. But only because forgiving him would mean forgiving myself for committing the same actions he did. And I’m not ready to believe I deserve that kind of forgiveness yet.