You Know What I Mean?
Dear Fayza: Should I break up with my HIV-positive boyfriend before it's too late?
You've probably heard it more times than you care to admit: Relationships aren't easy. Between compromise and growing together and making both yourself and each other happy, relationships can be quite painful indeed.
We're often ready for the emotional sacrifice it takes to make a relationship work. But what if there's physical pain involved?
What if the relationship you enter into could threaten your life? Is the possibility of bodily harm worth the risk of that relationship?
Well, that's what this week's letter writer is asking himself.
I'm a gay man, and the guy I'm seeing told me last night he's HIV-positive. I was tested, and will be tested again in three months. So far, I'm negative.
We've been safe, so I'm not worried about that. But it was hard to be told after a few weeks of hanging out, "I am poz."
We don't know where we're going, so this is quite a speed bump. Do I continue on in this relationship, or do I end things before I get in too deep?
- I'm Negative, He's Not
Kudos to you for handling such a serious situation like the adult you are. Instead of running away in blind fear and ignorance, you've stopped to take a moment to reclaim the knee-jerk, assess the facts, reflect and then react.
You're a bigger person than most for getting this far. But that doesn't mean you're obligated to stick it out just because your head is still attached to your shoulders. You're not a bad person if you decide that these circumstances really aren't for you.
But since it seems you have yet to choose a path to conquer your emotional crossroads, I can help you weigh your options.
I'm glad you've already figured out that you can be sexually involved with this mister without compromising your immune system. While that's all well and good, have you ever considered abstaining altogether — at least for a little while? You've only been dating for a few weeks. Wouldn't holding off hurt less, at this point, than pressing on?
Look, you don't have to tell me that sex is one of the finer things in life. But until you get to know each other better — namely, until you've decided whether this man is worth the possible risk of contracting HIV — maybe you ought to put the love making on hold indefinitely.
Since celibacy's seemingly off the table, let's talk about what you can and should do — your research. This is sex ed like your junior high health teacher couldn't handle. In what activities can you engage with him and still be deemed in the clear? What strain of the virus does he have? What life expectancy is associated with it? What treatments will he have to undergo? What will be the side effects? What are the financial costs associated with living with HIV?
Read, read, and read some more. And after you have all the hard facts, don't dismiss the gray areas in your gray matter. Your emotions count for something here, too.
Relationships are always an investment — whether short-term or long-term — on which we'll never see a return, if and when they don't work out. HIV or not, you'll never know the outcome of any relationship from the outset. You just put all your eggs in that basket, and hope for the best.
Can you handle the reality that your partner carries a virus that will (eventually) end his life? Can you be emotionally strong when treatment or this disease make him physically weak? What happens if you contract it? Is it acceptable that sex will never, ever be completely spontaneous? Are you ready to cushion the burden of the inevitable (and unfair) societal stigma on HIV-positive men?
If I had the answers, I'd give them to you. But I'm no doctor, I'm no clairvoyant, and I'm no fool — and I can't make such significant judgment calls for you.
So I'll say this: Relationships are always an investment — whether short-term or long-term — on which we'll never see a return, if and when they don't work out. HIV or not, you'll never know the outcome of any relationship from the outset. You just put all your eggs in that basket, and hope for the best.
Things could end in two days, two months, two years, or two decades (a la Magic Johnson) — relationships don't come prepackaged with expiration dates or commitment agreements. Sometimes it simply doesn't work out, but sometimes the causes are beyond our control. Car accidents happen. Cancer happens. Suicide happens. War happens. We don't have a crystal ball to know what the future holds. All we can do is move forward with what we do know.
Is it better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all? Only you can honestly answer that question for yourself. But if we lived each day in fear of what would happen the next, we wouldn't really do much living at all, would we?
Whether it threatens your real life, your social life, or anything in between, I can handle it — I'm multifaceted. Send an e-mail to email@example.com, message me on Facebook or Twitter, or leave a question in the comments below. Life is short. Consult with me first.