I’m hesitant to write about this topic for a few reasons. For one, it is very much so something I’m still working through. I don’t yet have the benefit of hindsight to tell readers (or myself) the happy ending. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it’s coming. It’s that very hope I have clung onto the tightest when I’m feeling the lowest. I also know that what I’m going through pails in comparison to others’ experiences. No one died. My life, as it currently is, will not be going through any major change as a result of this. This by no means will be the “great tragedy” of my years on this earth, but for a twenty-something, I’ll admit, it feels big. Another reason I’m hesitant to write about this, it isn’t my story to tell. Consider me collateral damage. I’ll avoid telling his story, and stick to my own.
Now that I’ve done my usual vague prologue, won’t keep you waiting any longer.
A week and a half ago my ex-boyfriend of 7 months asked to get coffee to tell me he has genital herpes, and has had it for 6 years. If you as a reader are quickly mentally rolodex-ing through everything you know about herpes, how its spread, and any other panicked google searches you’ve ever made any time an in-grown hair pops up down there, then you can imagine how I felt sitting across the table as these words came out of his mouth. Is it contagious? Yes. Even if you use a condom? Less so, but yes. How about if the diagnosed isn’t experiencing a breakout, is it still contagious? There are periods of time before and after breakouts where it is infectious, so yes. What about if the diagnosed is on the anti-viral medication for it? Less so, but still yes. Before I could even get a word out this was all explained to me.
Although it feels like an irrelevant detail, I’ll get it out of the way. I don’t have herpes. 6 months of occasional unprotected sex, and my fate that he bargained with turned out all right. However, it is hardly about the herpes. I agree, it is a highly stigmatized STD that has emotional effects MUCH deeper than physical. In his own words, it’s “no worse than a pimple on your face”. The thoughts and feelings that led him to the decision to keep this from me, is only for me to speculate, and something I might not ever fully understand. But that’s ok. It isn’t necessary for healing.
I do have the benefit of hindsight on our relationship. While I can pretend I was caught off guard, it was DOA. He was completely emotionally unavailable and a couple months in, it became obvious we were on a dead-end road. When it ended, I was devastated nonetheless. I was crazy about him and could only blame myself for things not working out. I couldn’t figure out WHY he didn’t want to meet my parents or make plans for the future. All my friends had these seemingly healthy, serious relationships, meanwhile I was left with the guy to whom which I fell about #5 on the priority list. My self worth took a major hit, but I didn’t blame him completely. It was clear to me I had some attachment issues I wanted to work on before getting into another relationship. We had mutual friends, so I made it my goal to remain completely civil.
I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of our break up. Especially considering this revelation of his turned it upside down (or, should I say, right side up). With this shocking, head-spinning news, I gained clarity. I felt as though I moved the couch to vacuum and discovered the missing piece of a puzzle I worked on for MONTHS and ultimately threw off the table in a fit of rage because I just couldn’t make sense of it. After a few weeks of desperately seeking closure from him. I’m talking showing up drunk on his doorstep at 2am level, as you can imagine I was ended up being essentially told to “fuck off”. After this, I turned inward. I started going to therapy (no, not 100% because of my break up, but because of some of the SERIOUSLY flawed thought patterns I discovered in the aftermath of that relationship). I started going to yoga weekly and have found a community there. I moved to a new neighborhood that I’m quickly falling in love with. I reconnected with friends that had fallen to the side after I was swept up by a new relationship and friend group that surrounded it. (I won’t be caught dead watching a rugby game, I can tell you that much).
My therapist has helped me realize his deceit has absolutely NOTHING to do with me. It could have been Gigi Hadid lying next to him, and it would have been the same outcome. Hell, he did the same thing to his previous girlfriend and she looked pretty great! No amount of “should have done that” or “if only I hadn’t said that” would have ended his destructive behavior.
I guess the point I’m trying to make hear, is as AWFUL as something can feel at the time. The break up. The betrayal. Feeling like a pile of dog poop someone stepped on. There is always a silver lining (closure) and hope for the future. Being lied to absolutely sucks. Whether it’s a hidden STD, other lies, or cheating, it has 100% to do with the perpetrator.