Dear Christine, Befuddled in Berkley

Dear Christine,

I am a 46 year old man who has been dating a guy for about a year.We have been pretty serious, and I thought exclusive, and now he tells me he just tested HIV Positive!We have always used a condom and practiced safe sex and I am testing negative.I’ve been trying to convince him and myself that it’s ok and that I love him, and I do love him.

We met with the doctor together and I’ve been assured that because his cell count is so goodthat he probably couldn’t spread it even if we we’re safe.Also, that he should live a normal life span and just need to be on meds forever. I’m really having problems though.I’m mad that someone who is usually so conscientious of what’s going on out there let it happen to himself.I am also finding it impossible to be intimate again.It breaks my heart that I know I have to walk away.

We have a lot of friends dealing with the same thing, one partner positive, the other not, and it doesn’t seem to bother them.I feel like a selfish frightened shit.Why are people still being so careless?

Befuddled in Berkley

Dear Befuddled,

Yes, you have a lot of company: couples where one is positive and the other is negative. Sometimes those relationships can be very strong and long lasting, other times, not so much. I am concerned about what your discussion and understanding of your and his HIV status when you started the relationship. Was he HIV negative then too? Clearly you discussed using safe sex practices and used them with each other. What were the boundaries of your relationship? Did you believe this to be a closed, monogamous relationship, or did you agree to an open relationship (perhaps only if safe sex was practiced with other people as well as each other)? Did you actually discuss this and agree or were the boundaries never really discussed and mutually set. I know, it’s hard to have those discussions in a new relationship, when you both are weak in the knees and can’t wait to be together! Given that HIV is now a chronic disease, it is not as urgent as 20 years ago to have that discussion when being positive was a death sentence. Those were horrible times; may we not return there! The bottom line is do you trust your partner? Do you trust your life with him? If you don’t, then that’s where the discussion needs to start. He could give you HIV, and that worries you, even though the doctor says all is well right now. He expects to live a normal lifespan, but how will his life be affected by treatment and being safe? And how will your life be affected? These may seem like “selfish” questions, but you have to look out for yourself in your life. Others cannot and will not do it as well as you can.

Intimacy can be thought of as the phrase: “into me you see” meaning that intimacy is the ultimate closeness, openness and safety with another. Having difficulty with sexual intimacy and/or emotional intimacy makes sense after a breach of trust. This is a pretty big breach! Remember, as you have some long overdue heart-to-hearts with your partner, you cannot change him and you have to trust him if you are going to have a healthy relationship. What do you need from him in order to trust him again? Can you accept him fully, as he is, HIV+, failures and warts and all? If not, what would help? Or will nothing be able to restore your trust in him. You won’t ever know what he’s doing and what’s going on when you’re not there, and trying to spy on him, checking his phone, his emails and texts, etc, only destroys whatever trust might still be left in him for you. Take some time to really think about what you need in a relationship. Do you need trust? Do you need someone who is HIV+ or HIV-? Do you need someone who is honest and keeps agreed upon boundaries? Do you need to take care of someone? Do you need to be taken care of? What matters here is what you discern that you need in your life at this time. It’s not right or wrong, good or bad. It may look selfish to others, but you have to take care of you and you can only do that if you are honest with yourself, and then

others, but you have to take care of you and you can only do that if you are honest with yourself, and then share that honesty with others. If this relationship no longer has what you need in it, see if there is anything that he can do or you can do, and make that request. It’s only a request, and he has the right to say “no” and you have to be able to live with yourself if he says “no”. And if trust is broken again? What is your strategy then? How will you take care of yourself? Will you stay or will you leave. Good luck, and keep me posted. Christine Cantrell

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067

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