Months ago, boyfriend told me he has herpes. It still bothers me. What now?
December 2, 2012 9:15 AM   Subscribe

On herpes and forgiveness. Nine months into our relationship, my boyfriend told me that he has HSV-2. That was almost a year ago. It still bothers me. What now?

Almost two years ago, I met a guy online. We lived in different cities, but a lively correspondence led to an in-person meet-up. He was an eccentric but compelling character, and we had great sexual chemistry and interesting conversations. After some time without a boyfriend, it felt great to have someone to share the details of life with.

We began visiting back and forth. Last winter, on a trip we were taking together, he told me he had some very painful news to share. He revealed that he has genital herpes (HSV-2), and that he felt a flare-up coming on. He hadn't told me yet, he said, because he gets flare-ups infrequently, almost always when he's traveling alone and not sexually active. He acknowledged he'd been in denial or semi-denial about his condition, which he'd had for six years, and that it was inappropriate of him not to have told me earlier. We had been sleeping together for about nine months, albeit more infrequently than many couples because of the distance thing.

I was livid and nearly dumped him on the spot. Compounding my anger was the fact that we'd been having unprotected sex, something I felt reasonably okay doing because when we first met, he strongly implied that he had a clean bill of sexual health. He told me he'd recently "been to Planned Parenthood," and I didn't press for specifics (which was bad of me, know).

He apologized, as he has many more times over the months, but somehow his apology didn't feel deep or real to me. When I mention this to him, he gets defensive, along the lines of: 'I've apologized a million times, and you continue to stigmatize me!'

I'm not sure why I didn't actually send him packing right then and there. But I think it has something to do with the fact that I was coming off the most stressful year of my life, and I must have been feeling too fragile to deal with a breakup. I don't necessarily feel proud of continuing to date him, but that's what I did. Three or four months later, I moved to his city and into the house that he shares with housemates.

Early on in our time of living together, we fought about the herpes issue. I did internet research and discovered that regular use of condoms and daily use of suppressive anti-viral drugs by him would greatly reduce the risk of transmission. He agreed to use condoms, and we do, but he still resists the regular use of antivirals. He insists that his case is mild (maybe two flare-ups a year), that he hates the thought of daily prescription drugs, etc. I have some sympathy for that point of view, but I also feel as though, after concealing herpes from me for so long, he should have bent over backwards to make things right. He continues to say he simply doesn't think he'll give it to me, and I continue to think 'wtf, the risk may be low, but of course it's there.'

He's all right with using condoms but from time to time mentions that having sex without them, eventually, is an important goal for him. For my part, I feel less sexually comfortable with him than I might, and I'd like that to change someday too, but it's hard to see how it can. He often points out that with herpes, the bark is worse than the bite (e.g., the stigma can be harder to handle than the disease itself). He has a point. And if I were 100% sure about marrying him and being together forever, I could likely become more relaxed about the risks. It is not a life-threatening disease. Nearly a fifth of Americans have it. I know. Look at it from one angle, and it's not such a big deal.

But there's the catch-22: it's hard to feel 100% sure about marrying and being together forever with someone who has violated my trust in this way.

FWIW, I am early 30s and he's around 40. I'd like to get married and have kids someday. I'm aware that the window of opportunity for that doesn't last forever. He's quite sure he wants to be with me. That certainty has been a big part of his attraction. But there's more too: the aforementioned joy of companionship. He keeps me organized, on an even keel. We are both independent workers, so we're together just about 24/7. And we haven't killed each other yet.

He feels that I am holding him at arm's length emotionally—which I am—and he would very much like me to make a commitment to him, in terms of establishing a rough timeline for buying a house, getting married, having a kid, or at least making clear my intentions to do one or all of those things with him. He accuses me of using the herpes issue like a trump card, alleging that I was ambivalent about him in a bigger way from the start. Again, there's some truth to that. From the beginning, I've been both sincerely drawn to him, and regularly confused/taken aback/annoyed in some of our interactions.

In a sense, that pattern has stayed constant. From my end, the relationship often feels like the proverbial frog that bumps its ass on the ground when it hops: for hours, days, or even weeks I'll feel hopeful—This could be it!!—and then that old anger, indignation, and/or nonplussed-ness will come back, accompanied by massive amounts of guilt that I'm not loving him right, that I haven't really committed.

I don't have other major trust issues with him, e.g. I don't believe he's ever cheated on me, and I'm not that worried that he will. The only thing I can really relate to this is that he can be a private person: if he doesn't feel like sharing, getting him to explain how he feels about a particular thing is like pulling teeth.

Also FWIW, I had my blood tested for herpes a couple months after he first told me, and came up negative. I don't believe I am infected now, though of course if I ever go back to dating I'll have to find out definitively, and probably be prepared to disclose my history of exposure even if I do test negative.

MeFites, what am I asking? Am I over-reacting? Under-reacting? How bad was the thing my boyfriend did? Am I going to be able to forgive him? Or am I just letting my day-to-day comfort and the fear of disruption that a breakup would cause lead me to kick the can down the road, wasting both of our time? Is this relationship dead? Or am I fretting myself out of a humanly imperfect but in many ways good thing?

I will own that I am, by nature, someone who has a hard time making up her mind, and is inclined to agonize over decisions. I'm moderately neurotic, and while I've always had good friends and, often, a romantic relationship, it may be that I have a hard time letting people in. I think my boyfriend loves me. I've had numerous opportunities to walk away from him, and I haven't taken them. The idea of just saying 'yes' and moving forward has a great appeal. On the other hand, my ambivalence has been wearing on people in my life (and also confusing them, since I don't generally tell the whole story), and I know it's been wearing on my boyfriend and on myself too.

Because someone's gonna suggest therapy: shortly after I moved to his city, I implored my bf to go to Planned Parenthood. He did, and someone there gave him a lead on some inexpensive couples therapy. We haven't made an appointment yet, though I bring it up from time to time when we fight. If anybody thinks it'd be worthwhile (or not), opinions welcome.

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I'm not sure why I didn't actually send him packing right then and there.

You can still do this now. You can find someone else who won't conceal their disease status from you and who would actually do everything in their control to keep from infecting you. This guy sounds selfish and manipulative, and he's not going to change his ways.
posted by grouse at 9:28 AM on December 2, 2012 [44 favorites]

I don't think you are under-reacting at all. He violated your trust and appears to be manipulating the situation to make you feel guilty for the feelings you have around the issue. There is a wall between the two of you that isn't going to disappear without a little (or a lot of) work.

Yes, I am going to suggest therapy!! It is definitely worthwhile, as this is a long-standing issue that is getting in the way of fully trusting someone who you may spend the rest of your life with. This is no small matter and attempting therapy would at least give you comfort that you tried everything you could to figure out if this is the relationship that is right for you.

Don't wait!! You are worth it. In my opinion, if he refuses therapy, I think you have an answer about the future of your relationship with him. Either way, I think individual therapy might be a good idea for you.
posted by retrofitted at 9:30 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't see much reason to stay with this dude. People are going to comment here that it's not a big deal because some uncertain percentage of all of humanity is already carrying HSV around without knowing it, but here's the thing: YOU DON'T HAVE IT. You know this. Why would you risk being with someone who has proven time and again that protecting your non-infected status is not important to him? He's lied to you about it and had unprotected sex with you despite knowing full well you could be infected (although admittedly the decision was yours as well, and a stupid one), and is not interested in taking the medication that could reduce your risk.

He says that future unprotected sex with you is "a goal"? Yeah, no.
posted by elizardbits at 9:34 AM on December 2, 2012 [24 favorites]

Oh man, I'd be pissed if someone knew they had an STI and encouraged me to think they didn't. And then also had unprotected sex with me.

And while I think people can change, six years of denial is a loooong time.

I think what you do with the feelings on his lying are all up to you, and it is possible you might never be ok with what he did. That's not wrong or bad of you, and I don't think it would be unreasonable either.
posted by zippy at 9:36 AM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I was reading this, I kept thinking this guy had to be in his 20s at the oldest. But you're saying he's nearly 40, claims to have been "in denial" about his herpes, knowingly exposed you to herpes for a loooong time before he admitted he had it, has breakouts twice a year -- and now won't even take the anti-virals to reduce your chance of getting it? That's just ridiculous. He's a child.

I could understand his not wanting to take the medication if it was just himself who was concerned, but he's putting you at risk, too. (Also, if you ever decided to have a kid, and he had given you herpes, it can cause a whole song and dance of complications and interventions on behalf of the baby. If your doctor thinks they are warranted.)

Herpes is extremely stigmatized in a way it doesn't need to be. It's not really a big deal for most (but not all!) people. You're aware of that. But it's not really about how common or not-a-big-deal that herpes usually is. This guy is not an adult. He cares a lot more about his ego than he does about your health and your ability to trust him. To actually say, "quit stigmatizing me!, I SAID I was sorry", when he violated your trust so selfishly and with such disregard for your heath and happiness? You didn't do anything wrong! He introduced this whole issue by trying to go the route of asking for forgiveness rather than permission.

I would walk out on this guy. He doesn't deserve any of the time you have given him.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:37 AM on December 2, 2012 [23 favorites]

As someone who had to share this painful news to the person I was in love with, there are no excuses for not telling someone. It is completely understandable that you would have a hard time getting past this -- how are you supposed to do something like marry this person if one of the basic tenets of ANY relationship is trust, and that has been broken?

You will move on, find someone worthy of your fine self, and he will survive, too, disease or no.
posted by Ham_On_Rye at 9:41 AM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, re: the baby-having thing - you could google neonatal ocular herpes for more info but I would recommend that you turn off browser images.
posted by elizardbits at 9:42 AM on December 2, 2012 [9 favorites]

"He's all right with using condoms but from time to time mentions that having sex without them, eventually, is an important goal for him."

If this is really so important for him he can go find a nice lady with HSV-2 to do it with. You don't owe this deuchebag shit, he clearly doesn't think he even owes you a basic consideration for your health or autonomy.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:43 AM on December 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

I was livid and nearly dumped him on the spot.

Finish the job. Find someone who does care about your health. This is basic.
posted by John Cohen at 9:55 AM on December 2, 2012 [8 favorites]

He's apologized, months have gone by... I think you have your answer that you're not comfortable being with someone who has this disease and/or with someone who didn't tell you about it until after you'd had sex. Especially since he doesn't want to take the antivirals.

It's okay to stay with someone thinking you can handle a certain issue or thing they did and then realize down the line that you can't. You can still end it over this and it sounds like that's what you should do.
posted by Autumn at 9:55 AM on December 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

If it's still bugging you after a year, that's that, as far as the relationship is concerned. It's fix-it-or-nix-it time. The latter is quicker and cheaper and has less potential of being a huge waste of time.

I'd like to get married and have kids someday. I'm aware that the window of opportunity for that doesn't last forever.

Do not let this be a major factor in your decision. You have plenty of time and there are plenty of other men. (Besides, I can't help but notice you haven't mentioned whether he wants either of those things.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:57 AM on December 2, 2012

What you've learned about this guy is that he doesn't handle difficult issues well. Obviously herpes and disclosure are difficult issues for everyone, and the stigma is unfair. But his response was:

1. "Semi-denial"
2. Lying (lying through strong implication, like telling someone you've "been to Planned Parenthood," suggesting you've been tested for STDs, is still a lie)
3. Concealment
4. Taking responsibility for your actions over your head (unprotected sex? This is a decision you get to make knowing all the facts)
5. Arguing unfairly (painting your totally reasonable distrust of him because of his lies as "stigmatizing" him because of his herpes)
6. Refusing to take fairly simple steps to reduce the risk to you and make you feel more comfortable (guess who else takes daily prescription drugs to reduce the worries of sex for them and their partners? Millions of women on birth control! People do this all the time! Refusing to even talk to a doctor about this sounds like foot-dragging because he doesn't want to think about it)

If you take the big steps of marriage, kids, etc with this guy, the two of you will be dealing with issues just as hard as this -- together -- for the rest of your lives. Think about him dealing with, say, serious financial issues this way. This guy has shown that he cannot deal with serious problems maturely or fairly.

Also, you say you want to be with him because he loves you, because you can live together without killing each other, because he keeps you on an even keel, because he is in some ways enjoyable to be around, because he's unlikely to cheat on you, and because you're worried about the kid window. Honestly, that doesn't sound like the kind of undying love that's worth putting up with this shit for. If you're worried about being able to have children, that just means you should go out and find someone you can really feel comfortable with and trust sooner rather than later.
posted by ostro at 9:58 AM on December 2, 2012 [28 favorites]

It is much easier for the person who already has herpes to say that it is not a big deal, or that it is a mild case. Since you don't have herpes, you are the one who gets to decide if it is a big deal for you.

Ultimately if you stay with this person, there's a significant risk you're going to end up with herpes as well, especially because you are saying he's not interested in taking medication and has unprotected sex as "a goal".

I don't think anyone here can tell you if you will be able to forgive him or not, that's more to do with you and how you process this kind of thing. But I do think that what he did was, and is, serious, and should give you pause.

I do think you should decide one way or the other if you're going to commit to this guy or not; it'll be better for you and for him as well. Personally, it's not the herpes that is the issue so much as the way that he's reacted about it - for me, that would be the dealbreaker.

Edit: The Planned Parenthood thing - seriously, what was he saying he was doing there, if not getting checked out for STIs? That sounds to me like straight up deception.
posted by dubold at 9:59 AM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

What? There can't possibly be anything so redeeming about this MF that you shouldn't DTA.

He lied for sexual gratification in such a way as to endanger your health and then manipulated you to feel bad about it. That's abusive, and this asshole is dangerous. If you were my friend I'd encourage no contact whatsoever after you tell him it's over because this is sociopathic behavior on his part.
posted by cmoj at 9:59 AM on December 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

I guess I'm the only one so far that thinks you're overreacting. He's apologized and you're still upset.

That being said, I don't think that this relationship is a good fit for you. If you're holding on to this for this long, then you'll always hold on to it. It's time to let this relationship go.
posted by patheral at 10:01 AM on December 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Lying (lying through strong implication, like telling someone you've "been to Planned Parenthood," suggesting you've been tested for STDs, is still a lie)

Holy fucking shit, I missed that on the first and second read-throughs. This guy is a worthless fucking douchebag and you should run as fast as you fucking can. AS FAST AS YOU CAN.
posted by elizardbits at 10:04 AM on December 2, 2012 [17 favorites]

Yeah, he sounds squirrelly in a way that would make me nervous:

- it's not like he has one outbreak every couple of years, which facilitates denial of an embarrassing thing (which may still suck, but happens, and is understandable). 2 outbreaks a year is kind of a lot, enough to make it a salient thing to discuss.
- his reasoning for not taking valtrex doesn't hold up. If there were genuine concerns about side effects, or if he knew that he would be allergic to it, that's one thing. But just not wanting to, just because, even though he knows how important it would be to you, or how it would do wonders to rebuild trust...squirrelly. Selfish and squirrelly.
- the planned parenthood thing? A lie. Lies are bad. Lies don't generally mean good things.


Again, there's some truth to that. From the beginning, I've been both sincerely drawn to him, and regularly confused/taken aback/annoyed in some of our interactions.

I also get the sense you are denying your own feelings about this relationship. This might be why you are so upset about the herpes issue: you know that this doesn't feel like a lifelong partnership to you, so you are railing against accommodating a herpes risk with someone you know you won't want to be with in the long-term.

Maybe? It's a sense I get. You know, people will describe having moments of confusion or conflict with their bf, but when they were resolved, they feel they actually learned something about him, and their relationship, and felt greater intimacy as a result. You seem to be describing a persistent pattern of dissatisfaction, yes? Start listening to that gut feeling.
posted by vivid postcard at 10:09 AM on December 2, 2012 [7 favorites]

He could have been honest with you at an appropriate juncture, and he chose not to be. Had he told you he had herpes before sleeping together, you'd most likely still trust and respect him and get to make a decision that is your to make. Instead, he lied to get what he wanted without you getting in the way (you - your comfort level, your safety, your wishes, your agency). It's his dishonesty and guilt trips that are the problem (herpes doesn't even get to begin to factor in as an issue if you can't at all trust the person).
posted by marimeko at 10:10 AM on December 2, 2012 [7 favorites]

I dunno, I kind of agree with patheral. I can see his position. The first part of his behavior was immature (the quasi-deception, the stalling), but the second part is understandable (anti-virals have side effects and it is unlikely you will spend the next 50 years of your lives using condoms, impossible if you want to have children together).

So I get where he's coming from.

I think at this point you should stop fighting with him and make a decision.

Do you want to marry HIM and have children? Does the idea of little versions of him make you happy? Is your life better with or without him? Do you want to wake up next to him for the rest of your life?

If so, you have to figure out how to make this work. Maybe it means that you accept that you may develop the same chronic condition he has. Maybe it means you adopt instead of conceiving children. Maybe you approach with empathy and listen to his concerns about anti-virals but he agrees to try them for a few months.

I don't tend to DTMFA (as you can see from my question posting history here). A lot of people have told me to at this point. Maybe I'm totally wrong, but I think love is rare and special, and should be cherished when it occurs. If you want to, you can find a way to make this work. (Of course, you don't have to want to.)
posted by 3491again at 10:10 AM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's not just that he lied. It's not just that he's pressuring you for sex. It's not just that he has behaved in a way that has threatened your physical well-being. It's not just that he continues to behave in this way. It's not just that he's further behaving in a way that leaves you feeling bad and guilty for your desire to maintain your physical well-being....

It's all of them together. Take one of those individually, and I can imagine some circumstance where it would be appropriate to forgive the person, to move on with therapy and mutual support... But you can't take one of those individually; they come as a group.

And as a group, what do they add up to? They add up to this: a fundamental lack of concern. He's not concerned about you. His behavior expresses a complete lack of care for you. It expresses a lack of respect for you.

Do you want to be in a relationship with someone who doesn't care for you, for your well-being?
posted by meese at 10:16 AM on December 2, 2012 [13 favorites]

Regardless of whether his behavior was right or wrong or forgivable, the point seems to be that you don't want to and/or can't forgive him. Which is okay! I doubt I would.

If you can't move past it you should move on. If you really want to be with him forever and get married, try couples therapy and see if it is feasible to even work toward. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. (My vote is - is not! But only you can say that.)

Don't just marry him cause you have a dozen years of childbearing time left. That's plenty of time to pursue other options that include or don't include partners with whom you can truly build trust.
posted by manicure12 at 10:19 AM on December 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

I strongly suspect this guy wants to make sure you get herpes too so that you'll have to stay with him and settle down--because you'll feel tainted and like you can't get anyone else, right?

Seriously, what a fucking jerk. Don't marry and have babies with him, even if he's your last shot at having marriage and babies. Ugh, ugh, ugh. It doesn't sound like you love him (and indeed, perhaps you shouldn't), you're just debating settling for him. Don't.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:21 AM on December 2, 2012 [20 favorites]


He's quite sure he wants to be with me. That certainty has been a big part of his attraction.

Whenever I hear women say this, my brain goes AROOGA! AROOGA! and I want to remind them that they need to actually love who they're with, otherwise they're just choosing to remain on a ship that, inevitably, is going to go down.
posted by vivid postcard at 10:24 AM on December 2, 2012 [20 favorites]

I think that it was very deeply shitty of him not to tell you ahead of time and then to blow off your understandable concerns about the exposure. It sounds like the combination of the severe stigma of the disease and the relative mildness of his outbreaks sort of combined in his mind to make him rationalize not telling you (wrongly). It's especially shitty that he lied by omission in making you think he'd been cleared for STDs.

I do think that it's not fair to ask him to go on daily antivirals, any more than it would be fair to ask a woman to take birth control pills if she doesn't feel that's the best thing for her. Asking anyone to start on a daily long-term medication that they don't themselves need for health reasons is a very big and serious thing to do.

That said, you're clear that you feel really ambivalent about him, and I wonder if it's all due to this issue. I'm not sure couples therapy would be helpful here--maybe individual therapy would help you clarify what you want or would need from him to make a commitment? Or that you don't want to commit to him? If that's the case, it's really the kindest thing for both of you to move on. Just because you didn't dump him when you found out about the HSV doesn't mean you can't break up with him now, if that's what you want to do.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 10:40 AM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Herpes isn't really a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but lying to you and taking risks with your sexual health? Not cool. Dump this jerk.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:41 AM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

If it were me, I'd walk. Not because of the herpes itself--lots of people have it, as you've mentioned, but because of the deception involved and because from what you're describing, it doesn't seem like your feelings about it have registered with him. And that's a really good reason to leave someone.

It's like he's got a blind spot to something that's really, really important to you. For him to call it a "trump card" or whatever, and to bring up how you're keeping him at arm's length over it if it's coming up in conversation, or to focus the conversation on the clinical aspects of herpes instead of the emotional aspect of what he did... Well, to me, that looks like he's not owning up to his responsibility here to make things right with you over a betrayal, and instead framing the conversation so that you're being unreasonable.

And to him, maybe it DOES really look that way. But that's because the impact of the betrayal is still invisible to him. He just doesn't get it, and I doubt he will.

For another perspective, think about this... There are people walking around with STIs, who absolutely, 100%, respect their partners' right to know what they're getting into, and who disclose their status even to relative strangers, because the thought of putting a partner (even a casual one) through what you're going through right now is absolutely abhorrent to them.
posted by alphanerd at 10:41 AM on December 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

I can see his position. The first part of his behavior was immature (the quasi-deception, the stalling), but the second part is understandable (anti-virals have side effects and it is unlikely you will spend the next 50 years of your lives using condoms, impossible if you want to have children together).

So what? The OP should have been allowed to make an informed choice about whether the pros outweighed the cons. Instead, he deprived her of the right to make the choice. It doesn't matter if she might have been OK with it. If that would have been so reasonable, then what was his reason for concealing it from her?

Also, OP, consider this a life lesson: if someone says "I've been to Planned Parenthood," that does not mean "I have no STDs." Planned Parenthood provides lots of different unisex or male-specific services. Contrary to popular belief, they don't just deal with STDs and abortion. And even if someone you're dating says "I've been tested for STDs," that ain't good enough. You owe it to yourself to ask which tests were done and what the results were. You're right that he basically lied in a way that was detrimental to your well-being, and I'm shocked that you're still with him.
posted by John Cohen at 10:44 AM on December 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Valtrex is just about the most damn benign shit you can give/take. Someone who whines about taking it daily is a weenie. That is a groundless excuse.

I would be *pissed* - herpes is extremely stigmatized, yes, to the extent it doesn't need to be, but it's not like it's no biggie. Lying to you about a communicable disease, failing to take measures that reduce risk of transmission, for stupid reasons?
mostly the lying about something straightforward, denying you your agency in this situation to make your own decision before having unprotected sex, it's absolutely OK and very reasonable and very justified to be angry and hurt about it. What other things is he going to conceal from you? Or lie about? A lie of omission is still a lie.

Him saying that you're keeping him at arm's length (whining about this) is a tactic (consciously or not) to place the blame on you. You don't owe him your trust and intimacy - he screwed it up in the first place, and should be the one trying to build that trust/intimacy back up. It's not like he's entitled to it regardless of what he's done.

if you don't dump this guy, your very first herpes outbreak (the primary outbreak is the worst) will probably give you a real push to call things off with him.
posted by circle_b at 10:48 AM on December 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

I strongly suspect this guy wants to make sure you get herpes too so that you'll have to stay with him and settle down--because you'll feel tainted and like you can't get anyone else, right?

Yep, this was my thought, too. Because once you catch the herp, then he'll have the green light for bareback sex forever, right?

I don't think herpes is necessarily as big of a deal as some people make it out to be, but his handling of this makes my skin crawl. At every step in your life, you have a choice: Do you act like an adult, or like a spoiled child? And at each moment, he's been taking the spoiled child path, sadly. The adult route can be harder, but think of how much better (and more loving and respectful) it would have been had he a) told you immediately, b) wore a condom unless you mutually agreed to accept the extra risk, and c) made the effort to reduce your risk by taking his antivirals and monitoring signs of outbreaks. Wouldn't that have been fantastic?

Instead, you've got a dude acting bratty and basically trying to infect you. Not cool.
posted by Forktine at 10:57 AM on December 2, 2012 [14 favorites]

The fact that the guy has herpes isn't really a big deal.

The fact that the guy deliberately misled you about his STD status for several months while you were sexually active, and now whines about not wanting to wear condoms OR take pills (which suggests that he's fine with YOU having to take pills every day, since you don't want kids now, as long as he doesn't have to bother, and is fine with you having to take those same pills when you are pregnant (the anti-virals)) is a big deal.
posted by jeather at 11:04 AM on December 2, 2012 [16 favorites]

OH HELL NO. lying about an STI is never ever okay. it's the violated trust that's the problem, not the herp. also... the thing where he makes it about 'stigmatization' instead of violated trust is manipulation.

great advice upthread. DTMFA.
posted by woodvine at 11:13 AM on December 2, 2012

When I mention this to him, he gets defensive, along the lines of: 'I've apologized a million times, and you continue to stigmatize me!'

Stigmitize? Sounds like he thinks it's all about the HSV, not the betrayal of trust and taking risks with your health without consulting you. You might have to call him on this - that it's not about a lack of sorries, or a lack of forgiveness, but simply that it's hard to evaluate with certainty whether he has genuinely reformed his character. Sorries are easy, they're not great evidence.
posted by anonymisc at 11:16 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

He's shown you over and over that he prioritizes his comfort and wants over your health and well-being. Then, instead of actually being sorry about what he's done and changing his behavior, he plays the victim and badgers you about stigmatizing him. He is showing you who he really is. You deserve better.
posted by quince at 11:22 AM on December 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you get infected, it's going to limit your choices of future partners, for one thing. Great for him as long as he wants to keep you around (not a comment on your desirability, but on his flakiness), not so great for you. I've seen guys pull this s**t on some of my friends; to say it was devastating is an understatement.

Get out while you can do so physically unscathed. You do not want this disease, and the predictability of the shedding of the virus/protection that condoms afford is nowhere near certain.
posted by Currer Belfry at 11:47 AM on December 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

He doesn't love you. He would rather hurt you than inconvenience himself.

He doesn't love you.
posted by aielen at 11:52 AM on December 2, 2012 [16 favorites]

he strongly implied that he had a clean bill of sexual health. He told me he'd recently "been to Planned Parenthood," and I didn't press for specifics (which was bad of me, know).

It wasn't bad of you. Please don't shift the blame from him to yourself. By withholding that very essential piece of information from you, he prevented you from making an informed decision. He knowingly allowed you to enter into a sexual relationship without fully informed consent, and allowed you to bond with him over time before he finally sacked up and spoke up.

Fuck everything about that.
posted by nacho fries at 11:55 AM on December 2, 2012 [7 favorites]

Nthing the folks who suspect he might be hoping you catch HSV2 from him, because that would tilt the power in his direction (ostensibly. But not in reality, unless you let it become reality). I'm not saying he hopes this consciously, or is trying to deliberately infect you, but I do think that his actions are those of a person who would not mind, at all, if you caught herpes from him.

Also Nthing everyone who said that herpes itself does not need to be a dealbreaker, but his initial deception should have been a dealbreaker -- and, even more importantly, his continuing attitude is a DEFINITE dealbreaker.

What we have here is a man who is listening to you express your uneasiness and discomfort, and in response, is choosing NOT to do everything in his power to make sure you're comfortable. Instead, he is not only prioritizing his own comfort (not a strategy that makes for great relationships, let me tell you), but he's also trying to make you feel GUILTY about your discomfort and unease.

Your first responsibility in this life is to look out for yourself. To care for yourself and love yourself and treat yourself with respect and love.

A good relationship goes far to helping you fulfill that responsibility to yourself. A good relationship means being with a partner who looks after your best interests and loves and cares for you as much as you do -- and as much as he does for himself. (Hence the reason that the best relationships involve two people with strong senses of self-worth and self-respect. It's hard to love someone well and truly when you don't love yourself well and truly.)

Part of the magic of this kind of relationship is that, because you feel loved and cared for and protected, you TRUST that person effortlessly -- and you also return his love and care and protection tenfold, without (for the most part) any feeling of strain or effort.

Your intermittent but longstanding feelings of discomfort and doubt about this relationship? They're born of your gut-deep knowledge that he isn't caring for and protecting you as well you care for and protect yourself. Instead, you're trying to safeguard yourself against him -- his actions, his decision not to take medication to keep his virus under control, his expressed longing to go without condoms.

How exhausting and soul-destroying it must be to feel on guard against the person you love!

It's not worth it.
You're still young.
There is a man out there who will respect and love you as much as you do. He will make your comfort his priority.
posted by artemisia at 12:35 PM on December 2, 2012 [10 favorites]

Herpes is not the world's biggest deal, but I do think that honesty and caretaking-for-your-partner are the world's biggest deals in relationships.

If you said you were madly in love with him, but just having trouble with trust and forgiveness, I'd say try couple's therapy. He's done some disturbing stuff here (lying to you, then refusing to take one precaution and complaining about the other), but if you were otherwise over the moon for him then I'd say try and work it out. I'd want to see evidence that he understood why it was so shitty and that he'd come to Jesus (or whoever you come to when you decide to stop lying and putting yourself first).

But I'm not sure you're madly in love with him. You sound like he's just "good enough," only with the lying and the minimizing he might not even make "good enough." Is that how it is? Because in that case I'd say you guys are not right for each other, and breaking up now will save you a lot of time.
posted by feets at 1:03 PM on December 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would date someone with herpes, it's common and doesn't erase a person's character, which is what I'm showing up for. I wouldn't date your guy though, with or without the herpes, he's shown you a part of himself that is an enourmous deal breaker.

He will lie by omission, thoroughly drags his feet about taking part in protecting your health, actively puts you at risk while denying you information that would let you make informed choices for yourself, then expects you to play along like it didn't happen.

I dated a guy who lied by omission for two years, spent the whole time trying to get him to see how damaging it is, never succeeded. He could mouth the words he thought I wanted to hear, but then would turn around and do it again. He really wanted to remain in a relationship with me, and really struggled to work on this, but it was so deep and so ingrained.

Don't have kids with a man you can't trust. Don't force a father onto children that they won't be able to rely on. When it comes down to it this man puts his desires above the health and free choice of those he professes to love, and when his true colors are shown he demands they act as though nothing was wrong.

At 20, I'd give him a chance to mature, at 40? Pfft.
posted by Dynex at 1:04 PM on December 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

He won't take a pill for you, but expects you to play herpes lottery by going bareback for him? This guy has clearly proven (repeatedly!) that what he wants is more important than your wellbeing - don't build a life like that. Leave while you still have a clean bill of health.
posted by Space Kitty at 1:11 PM on December 2, 2012 [8 favorites]

I don't see anything in this post that says you actually LIKE this guy. It seems like you just tolerate him. You're content with him because hey, you already live with him, and it's easy. But you talk about a future (you wanting to have kids) without really weaving thoughts of him into it (you don't mention wanting to have kids with him, you don't mention him being a father). You can't move past his lie because you're just not that crazy about him. Stop trying to force yourself to be because you're already dating him.
posted by buteo at 3:04 PM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

You can't have children with someone who lied in this manner. It would be too difficult, and then end in divorce, anyway.

You have plenty of time. Go find someone you can truly partner up with and feel good about all of the time. This guy isn't that.
posted by jbenben at 3:51 PM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh. And talk to your doctor....

If after you break up with this guy, and your blood tests are negative for the required amount of time, I personally don't think you must disclose anything to future partners. Once you are sure you are negative, mentioning anything just seems Dramaz.

Don't let this situation poison your present or future any more than it has to.

(Specifically I am thinking about the lying, and the sensitive nature of that lie. I'm sure you'll be concealing the real reason for your break-up out of respect for your BF's privacy, but that doesn't mean you'll need to carry the burden of his lie into your future relationships once you are proven negative for the virus. Ya dig? Going overboard with TMI won't even the score or make up for anything, because it isn't your burden to mitigate or make up for in the first place.)
posted by jbenben at 4:05 PM on December 2, 2012

Having unprotected sex with you knowing he had herpes but not telling you until months later? That's a giant dealbreaker right there. I'm with the DTMFA crowd.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:24 PM on December 2, 2012

You've gotten some very good advice, but I had a thought I haven't seen covered.

You now know that your boyfriend has no problem making statements that sound like something that they aren't. So have you asked him, straight up, if he's had a full STD check? And have you had a full STD check, not just a herpes test, since you've been with him?

If he's been in denial about his herpes for six years, he may well not have gotten tested for other things, either. He may figure that as he has what's probably the second-worst STD out there, the others don't really matter. But they should matter to you. There are STDs that can be asymptomatic in men but can cause, for example, infertility issues in women. And since the two of you were cheerfully having unprotected sex, he could easily have passed them on to you.

You need to make sure you can't catch anything else from his guy, and that you haven't gotten anything already.

(Honestly, this situation makes me so mad on your behalf. You deserve a guy who values your health and wellbeing, anonymous!)
posted by Georgina at 2:11 AM on December 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

there are no words, as others said for how much his comort is prioritised over your health.
If you broke your arm and needed help getting to the emergency room and your boyfreind's response was," but it's freezing and I'll miss the game! get a taxi instead"

what would you say?

this is a fundmental lack of caring and respect. You do not want to live your life with someone who has so little respect for you, do you?
posted by Wilder at 6:21 AM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

That was almost a year ago. It still bothers me. What now?

I think the reason you can't get past it is that it's a current problem.

Refusing to take antivirals? Happening right now.
"Goal" of unprotected sex? Happening now.
Not bending over backwards to make things right by practicing super super safe sex? Now.

This is not a problem that happened a year ago - it's a problem that started a year ago and is ongoing.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:28 AM on December 3, 2012 [16 favorites]

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