Features 36 Question Mark
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Dear Mark,
I met this guy about a week ago. He is adorable and a bit older than I (51), I am 40. I have no problems with older men; in fact, I tend to date them more than people my age. There is a lot to be said about people who are more stable in their life. For some reason I am very attracted to him physically, mentally, etc. He is fun, witty, smart and seems to have his life together….

Features 36 Question Mark

 

Dear Mark,

 

I met this guy about a week ago. He is adorable and a bit older than I (51), I am 40. I have no problems with older men; in fact, I tend to date them more than people my age. There is a lot to be said about people who are more stable in their life. For some reason I am very attracted to him physically, mentally, etc. He is fun, witty, smart and seems to have his life together.

Just a few days ago I get a note from him “letting me off the hook.” The note stated that he knows how much I value honesty, etc. He had been fighting a bad cold and stated he really needs to take care of himself because he has tested positive for herpes. That never came up in our earlier conversations, but I have to say I thought something was “wrong” when I could not get him to commit to an actual dinner date and a movie.

His note was quite odd in that I felt as though he was releasing me from a plague or something. I responded to his note after a few days of thinking about my response. To me, it does not change who he is as a person, it does not change the fact that he is truly adorable. What does change is sex.

I have to say that I am somewhat ignorant when it comes to herpes and what a person is going through and what I should or should not be doing with them. I am always safe with the people I am with or have been with. He was diagnosed in 1995. I got through to him last night and told him I still want to go to dinner and see his play that he is in (he is an actor ). I have to say it would be hard not to give him a big kiss and want to spend some quality time with him.

Can you help me with a few things please?

1) Do people with herpes still have a satisfying sex life? How safe is it for a person who doesn’t have herpes to have sex with someone who does?
2) Leave it alone or pursue it?

Signed,
Brian, Middle River Terrace

Dear Brian,

First, to answer your questions. Yes, people with herpes have sex all the time. Great sex, in fact. Herpes is an STD (sexually transmitted disease) you should take some time to find out more about. Many people have been infected with herpes worldwide. It is thought that as many as one in six people carry the virus. It can be transmitted sexually. Usually, although not always, it is when a person has had an outbreak that he/she could transmit the virus. Talk with your doctor or check out some information online. A good website for general info is Herpes.com

There are a few precautions that a person should take when having sex with someone who has herpes. You should avoid sexual activity if your partner has an active outbreak. There is up to a 75% chance you could become infected as well if you have sex with a person who has an active outbreak. That being said, there are some good medications, such as Valtrex, that keep outbreaks to a minimum.

Your last question is a more personal one. You asked if you should pursue it or leave it alone. That is something you will have to decide. My thoughts are that if you have a special connection with this man it would be a shame not to explore all the possibilities. Some people understandably shy away from people with herpes. In my opinion this tells a lot about the fears of the person doing the rejecting. Refusing to get to know someone because of a difference in their blood is shallow and limiting. It’s also a false sense of safety. No one knows with any certainty of their own status unless they are already positive for the virus or have tested negative and have had no sex whatsoever in between testing times. Your best bet is to assume everyone is potentially infected and gauge your sexual behavior accordingly.

I say give this nice man a call. His behavior tells me he is afraid of your rejection because of his status. That explains the “under the radar” disclosure. I am sure he has been rejected before and, because he has a connection with you, is being extra cautious. I suggest you have an honest and open discussion with him about your thoughts and concerns. Hear what is on his mind as well. Who knows…he could be the love of your life. Or just really hot, and safe, sex. It’s all good.

Mark Rutherford is a  licensed psychotherapist in private practice in West Palm Beach.  He can be reached at 561-835-6821 or at MDRutherford@aol.com

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