Advice

Miss Information: My boyfriend gave me herpes — where do we go from here?

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Dear Miss Information,

I’m a fifty-four-year-old woman, and my significant other of about seven years was constantly saying that I got "too wet" during sex. All the men I have been with in the past took it as a compliment! This guy won’t French kiss, and doesn’t enjoy going down on me because it makes me "too wet to fuck," according to him.

Is this normal behavior? Am I wrong to feel there may be something wrong with him? We have since split up, but now I am paranoid about sleeping with anyone else because of this. What do you think? — Wet and Not So Wild

Dear Wet and Not So Wild,

There isn’t anything pathologically wrong with him, though I wouldn’t suggest a career as a diplomat or dental hygienist. He’s a lousy communicator and clearly has issues with bodily fluids and textures. Still, he likes what he likes, and you can’t fault him for that. You can fault him for not approaching it in a more delicate manner. He could have expressed his desire for a drier experience and offered up some solutions instead of limiting your sexual repertoire and throwing you into a box with "unfuckable" written on the side in Sharpie.

With the exception of some illegal stuff, no one’s "too whatever" to do whatever, provided both parties are cooperative and creative. You could have just as easily said he’s "too uptight to fuck" or "too whiny to fuck" but you’re probably a nicer person than that. If not nicer, than smarter, because you recognized it wasn’t working and ended it. I’ll go out on a very broad and sturdy limb and say this was probably one of a number of issues affecting the relationship.

Should you worry about this issue with the next guy? If this is the first complaint you’ve ever heard, then I wouldn’t assign much weight to it. However, at fifty-four and fresh out of a seven-year union, you might also have to think about what my mother calls the "Change of Life," a phrase that always conjures up images of falling leaves, calcium supplements, or vampires. Had I known that all it meant was the end of your period and some bodily weirdness I probably wouldn’t have been so scared for my female relatives. I kept waiting for them to fall gravely ill or turn into total strangers. Has the wetness gotten more intense or have you always been this way? If it’s the former, you might want to check with your gyno to see if it’s hormonal.

Pre-emptive strategies include keeping a clean towel or cotton handkerchief handy for periodic dry-offs. You can also try having sex with your panties on. It increases friction and will help soak up some of the excess fluid. If that’s not working, what about experimenting with different types of penis sleeves and condoms? Pregnancy might not be as much of a worry for you, but there are still STDs and STIs out there, so make sure you’re taking the proper precautions and know who you’re fucking. French ticklers are designed for fun, not disease prevention.

Readers, has excess wetness ever been a problem for you? If so, how did you deal with it? Given that "leakage" is a buzzword these days, how do think a major oil company would approach this problem?

Dear Miss Information,

So I’m dating this awesome guy for a while, it looks like it’s going to be long term and lovely. Six months in, I’m diagnosed with herpes from him. Now, I don’t hate him — it was a cold sore, and I know he never would want to do something like this to anyone. But I’m so angry. He says he loves me, won’t back out, and takes full responsibility. And I do love him, even though I don’t want to say it. But I’m way too young for this to happen. I don’t know what to do: continue this, even though I feel like a social pariah and detest the idea of dating someone who has endangered me so badly, accidentally or no; or end it, and miss out on whatever might have come next. — Simplex Complex

Dear Simplex Complex,

Let’s deal with feelings first, bodily issues second.

You’ve been with him at least six months, and yet you "don’t want to" say that you love him. What’s holding you back? Is it anger over the viral issue, or were you feeling unsure before your diagnosis? I realize "I love you" doesn’t come easily to some people, but most who find themselves unable to say it would at least like to be able to say it at some level. There’s a difference between "can’t, but trying" and "don’t wanna." Maybe you love him, but not enough to be in a long-term relationship? Maybe you love him, but aren’t at a point where you can commit yourself fully, whether it’s because of your age or life situation?

Anger is a totally normal reaction to what’s happened, as is the desire to distance yourself. There are questions of honesty, fidelity, intention, and trust. You can believe every word he says, or get caught up in the forensics of who gave what to whom and drive yourself crazy thinking about how he could be stringing you along.

It sounds like you have a great deal of faith that’s he’s a standup guy, which is promising. However, no matter how much he stands by you or takes responsibility, he’s not a shrink or a doctor. This is a big deal, and "I love you"s aren’t enough. You need to take care of your emotional and physical health. You can’t put this all on him, as tempting as that might seem. He would wind up resentful, and in the long view, it’s much more empowering if you take charge of your own problems.

Become a professor of your own affliction. A knowledge seeker, an activist, and/or a support group member, even if that means ditching the cheesy church-basement meetings and organizing a meet-up group where fellow herpes peeps in your area drink beer, talk smack, and play skeeball.

As for you and your boyfriend, it might make sense to look into couples counseling, as this isn’t run-of-the-mill bickering. The downside is that counseling can be expensive, not to mention emotionally draining. You should be doing it because you want to make it work, not because you’re afraid that your "social pariah" status will make you unfit to date anyone else. If you decide to break it off, you can and will meet someone else. I won’t lie and say it won’t be more difficult, but it’s hard to meet someone you like, herpes or no herpes. You’re not that much worse off (if any worse off) than the rest of us.

Herpes-having readers, what’s your dating life been like post-diagnosis? What’s the one thing you wish you knew then that you knew now?