Thursday, March 21, 2013

Real Talk With Rachel: Curing the Disease of Loneliness

by Rachel Kurzius

Dear Rachel,

I have been divorced from my husband for four years. When I started dating again for the first time in 20 years, I almost gave up. Then “Mike” came along. We’ve really hit it off and been seeing each other for almost two months now.

There’s only one problem. Mike told me he had gential herpes, so we haven’t slept together. He got herpes from his wife, who cheated on him. I feel badly for the way he contracted it, but I am very afraid to risk getting it myself if we are intimate. He is on medication and is not supposed to be contagious unless he has an outbreak, but there’s always a chance.

Mike wants for us to take our relationship to the next level, and so do I, but I don’t want genital herpes. At the same time, he did tell me that he had it in the first place, and he is the first new man I’ve  felt crazy about in more than 26 years.

Am I crazy not to take the risk?

Love Is a Disease

Dear Love Is a Disease,

Let me start with what jumped out at me first -- that Mike telling you he had herpes was a reason to consider the risk. Yes, your partner disclosed information you need to correctly evaluate your relationship. That is a respectful move, and a good way for him to start building trust. Remember, though, that’s the floor, not the ceiling. You always deserve someone who will tell you.

In trying to research your conundrum, I found that it’s difficult to quantify your risk level here. Each study cages numbers with the phrase “dependent on multiple factors.” There are ways to limit your risk, though.

Mike is already doing one by taking suppressive medication, which ought to limit his number of outbreaks. Another important way to decrease your risk is condoms.

But you already know this, Love Is a Disease, and that despite all precautionary measures, you could still end up with herpes. So the question remains -- should you risk it?

Well, it depends how important sex is to you, and to Mike. Do you feel like your relationship can’t move forward without this intimacy?  While this complication certainly, well...complicates things, it also acts as a filter to help you and Mike figure out if you’ve got compatible views of intimacy.

You’ve got to weigh your feelings about sex with how you’d react to actually having genital herpes. According to, nearly one in four women and one in eight men in the US are afflicted. That means you already know many people who deal with herpes.

Listen, things may or may not work out with Mike. The equation isn’t as simple as a relationship filled with herpes or an STI and partner-free life. Life always has less certain than that. Just keep this in perspective: relationships run more risks than just the potential for STI-transfer.

All my best,



Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via or advice @

No comments:

Post a Comment