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Dear Christine, Confused in Clawson

| January 7, 2019

Dear Christine,

I read your columns every week and many of them have hit home for me. I have a question of my own now. I am a straight woman and my best friend is a gay man who I have known since high school some 40+ years ago. We like to joke that we are the real life Will And Grace.  We even dated for a bit before he came out. My “Will” has always been safe when it comes to sexual relationships and he’s had quite a few. In the last year he went through quite a run of sexual encounters which he told me about more graphically than I would have needed to know!

Three months ago he informed me he is HIV positive. I’m sad and even angry at him for being careless. His behavior has changed so much recently that he has been pulling away from our friendship. I’ve called, left messages, he doesn’t return my calls. This is someone I spoke to several times a week and now he won’t speak to me. Do you have any advice as to what I should do? I’m heartbroken and miss him a lot. Thanks,

Confused in Clawson 

Dear Confused,
It’s hard and confusing when other’s behaviors change in ways that you find uncomfortable.  I hear your sadness and anger at your “Will” pulling away from you after a year when he has been irresponsible sexually to the point of becoming HIV+.  First, know that an HIV+ diagnosis is not the death sentence it was 30 – 35 years ago.  There are excellent medications that can keep it in check, making it more of a chronic illness.  And unless our 45th President takes it away, the government has helped fund insurance and medications for people with HIV+/AIDS.  For those readers who prefer to reduce the risk of HIV, please use condoms, and there is a medication called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/prep/index.htmlin a daily pill.  Check with your doctor about this. 

It’s a fact that Will has pulled away and there is not a lot you can do.  It only takes one  to end a friendship or romantic relationship.  You leave messages, but he doesn’t respond.  Clearly, he is going through some changes and he isn’t sharing what those are.  Maybe he believes he is protecting you?  Maybe he is protecting himself?  Maybe he can’t process these things within himself, much less with anyone else.  Try to remember that this is about him.  He is running away, emotionally and/or physically.   He is not be able to converse and hear your  emotions or judgment in your voice. Talking can move too fast, spilling out words not carefully thought out, possibly causing further damage to your friendship.


Try writing him a letter or email that he can read when he is ready, so he can read and reread alone as much as he needs and wants.  Let him know you miss him and that you are concerned for him.  If you can, let him know you aren’t judging his variety of changed behaviors.  Let him know you are there for him, to listen to and support him in this challenging time. 

The bottom line here is that he has pulled away from your friendship.  He is allowed to do that.  And there may be consequences to any friendship when one person disappears.    If you used to visit each other’s homes on a regular basis, maybe stop by, and leave a card if he doesn’t answer the door.  Don’t hound him as he seems to need more space, more time.


Keep him in your thoughts, send him love and light, and remember the good times you shared.  When he is able, he may return.  And if he returns, remember that he already is a very changed person.  Meanwhile, take care of you and lean on other friends. 

Take care,
Christine Cantrell, PhD,

Licensed Psychologist

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