August 28, 2015

Ask Me Anything: How Should I Handle an STD Confession? {Weekly Advice Column}

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*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal opinion, view or experience of the authors, and can not reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here. 

Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, where no question is out of bounds! To submit questions for next week, please email me at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you! ~ Erica



Dear Erica,

I am newly dating a man, whom up until last night, I could not find a single thing that didn’t make me excited. He’s established and knows who he is and what he wants, is emotionally available, looks at me in a way no one has in awhile, is caring, and wants the same things I do.

We connected on an emotional level quickly and I care for this man.

We have not “hooked up.” However, he was very open with me recently and shared what I know would be very hard to tell anyone: he has herpes. He was with someone for five years, and he was cheated on. After he tested positive, he confronted her and she told him what she had done.

Now, he hasn’t dated in the last year as he tried to sort out his emotions in his head and how it would affect his future relationships.

Fast forward a year…to me.

Not that sex is everything, but we are so attracted to one another. We enjoy many other things together, we can talk about anything, and we have the same passions in some areas.

My question is: he has left this decision in my hands. He doesn’t wish to share any feelings or thoughts on “us” as he doesn’t wish to sway my decision and wants to ensure that it’s something I decide on my own.

What do I do? How do I decide?

I know it’s as common than asthma now with one in five people having the virus. How do I make this decision as I don’t want to have him out of my life but also don’t want to pick up this virus either.

~ Conflicted


Dear Conflicted,

That is such a tough situation.

I agree that your guy was very brave in being honest with you about his STD, and that he shows great character in giving you the space and freedom to decide what to do with the information. What happened to him is extremely unfortunate and he is handling himself well.

Right there he gets my vote for “boyfriend material.”

Nevertheless, herpes is a serious, incurable disease, and not one you want to be burdened with yourself.

A great website, Herpes.org, confirmed your statement that genital herpes is a common ailment, with 10% of American men and 25% of American women currently infected.

To someone in your situation they say: 

You should know up front that although transmission of herpes is very unlikely unless there is actual close physical contact of a sexual nature, however the use of condoms and spermicides is NOT 100 percent effective in prevention, although they have been reported to reduce the risk. There are many cases where one person has herpes and never gives it to the intimate partner even though they are having regular unprotected sex—there are also many cases where herpes was transmitted during the first sexual encounter when there was not an outbreak in progress. Remember that herpes CAN be transmitted even when the infected partner is not having symptoms.

Based on this information, you could never be in a sexual relationship with this man and be confident that you wouldn’t contract his disease.

Only you can decide what to do. At this point, I would recommend taking things extremely slowly and giving yourself lots of time to see how you feel.


Dear Erica,

I’m 23 years old and I’ve fallen in love three times now.

Once was with a high school sweetheart and we dated in and off until high school graduation. We split up only because I wanted to see my life outside of Texas and I had to do it for myself. We were dear friends even after college.

During my college years, I met a guy who was a complete gentleman unlike anyone I’ve ever known. He had beautiful values but I was smothered in this relationship and from the get-go he wanted us to work more than I truly wanted us to. We finally decided it wasn’t working and from that day on I was the happiest I’ve ever been.

Then I met someone very special to me. He is the absolute man of my dreams, a man who has better music taste than I did. I know it sounds cocky but I melted when we found out how many interests we shared. Our tastes were just the same and he is the best, most easiest person I have ever shared my life with.

We lived oceans apart for almost two years after he went back home, but we met up again and again, and now live with each other in a Canada. It’s been hard being away from friends and family but having done this big move for the simple sake of curiosity and love, I could never regret it.

There’s just one little problem—my first love keeps popping into my dreams, then thoughts, uncontrollably.

I feel so in love with my man now, but for some reason I keep thinking about the ‘what if we had stayed together?’ and ‘what would happen if we tried again?’.

How do I truly, really, actually let go of him?! It’s driving me insane and I have moved on from him so many times but for some reason my mind loves to go back to him.

How do I stop doing this and just be happy with what I have right in front of me?



Dear Trapped,

You sound like a true romantic, someone who believes the sun must rise and set on the person you are with or the relationship isn’t good enough.

The reality of love is quite a bit messier than that.

You say you have left your friends and family behind in order to be with your current boyfriend—it’s not so surprising that you long for a more secure and familiar time in your life. Being in a foreign country with few ties and relationships is exceptionally challenging, to say the least.

The fact is, your first love was long ago, and many things have changed for both of you since then. Can you really imagine getting back together with your ex, or is fantasizing about it just an escape from the pressures of your life now?

If you think there is something more to your recurring thoughts about the old boyfriend than stress related to your present situation, you owe it to your boyfriend to discuss what’s on your mind. It’s not fair to harbor such feelings and not disclose them.

On the other hand, if you think you are, as I said, simply homesick, then take heart—you will find your way and your place in your new home over time.





Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: studio tdes at Flickr 


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