Do you think I deserve to be loved? I am an attractive 50-year-old woman with herpes (contracted in my 20s). I have been married twice, and both of my husbands were OK about my herpes problem. Now widowed, I’ve been dating for seven years. If I plan to be sexually active with a man, I tell him I have herpes, so he can make a decision. He always rejects me. I have not had any outbreak in 20 years. I take a pill daily to suppress herpes outbreaks. I’ve gone through the death of my husband and other traumas without an outbreak, so do you think I am doing the right thing by telling men I have herpes?
Yes. If the man who gave you herpes had been honest with you, what would you have chosen? Hopefully, your health and not your hormones. Can you respect your dates’ desire to do the same? Actually, I think part of you already does. Otherwise, you would not have admitted that you tell your dates so they can “make a decision.” The difficulty occurs when you believe that if a man decides against risking his health, it means you are unlovable. Your need to repackage the situation into a personal affront probably relates to an old wound in your emotional history. Consider your plea: “Do you think I deserve to be loved?” It smacks of confusion. Sex and love are not the same. Many people have sex without the grace of love. There are also individuals and couples who love deeply but are celibate. Plus, the idea that you are entitled to anything is dangerous, both spiritually and emotionally. It may serve the willfulness of a neurotic ego, but it does not inspire a balanced mind, body and spirit.
The love you long for must begin within you. Love yourself enough to mend the split in your psyche. As a mature adult, you are being truthful with your dates so that they can make mature, adult decisions. Their final decision does not reflect on you as a person; it reveals who they are. Focus on accepting their decision with dignity and moving on to your next great romance.
I’ve been dating the same man for five years. He has two wonderful children, and the four of us are just like the Cleaver family, except that I’m stuffing my own needs and desires. How do I break up with him? He knows that I want to (we’ve been to counseling), but how do I tell the kids?
Children are very sensitive to the energy of conflict. It’s likely that they suspect a problem but are playing along with the Cleaver illusion. So, here’s how to handle details: Break up with your man by saying that you have not been honest. You have been lying about your true feelings so you can please him and have the security of a relationship. Do not blame him. Decide together (over at least two separate conversations) whether you will continue to be in the children’s lives and, if so, in what capacity.
Then tell the children you are leaving. Let them know how much they have meant to you, what you have learned from them and how you will keep in touch. Reassure them that they have done nothing to contribute to the relationship’s closure. Support and accept the feelings they express, but do not side with them if they blame their father. Instead, suggest that they talk to him about their concerns. All of this will be hard for a personality that is oriented toward people-pleasing, but it is the beginning of your healing.