Originally published in Men's Health Australia.
When I got herpes about 10 years ago I was terrified that it would mean the end of my love life. And for many years I didn’t date because I was so deep in shame.
One winter’s day, I went to my local coffee shop, and the moment I walked in I saw this woman sitting alone reading a book. I chose a nearby table and just sat there thinking, "My God! I have to go up and talk to her!" I was beating myself up for not having the courage to do that.
I got up to leave and was almost out the door when I had this “movie moment”. I’m like, No! I have to do this! And I literally turned around and walked directly up to her table. I made eye contact with her, sat down and commented on her book, and we launched into this conversation about life and feeling lost in life.
In the end, I asked her out, she said yes, and I walked out of that coffee shop on cloud nine.
We went on a few dates and we had this connection. One day she was at my house and we were cuddling and flirting. I started to get nervous, because I knew I wanted to tell her this secret of mine. Previous times when I’d had the herpes talk, it had felt like I was throwing a hand grenade over a wall and ducking for cover. But this was different. I still felt the fear, but I was also seeing this as an opportunity to get closer to her.
I looked in her eyes and said, “Hey, I want to talk to you about something that’s really important. It’s also really scary for me. Are you up for talking?”
She looked a little surprised, and curious, but she said, “Yeah, let’s talk. I’m open.”
We sat up and I said, “First thing is, I’m so appreciating getting to know you. I’d also like to know what you’re thinking about our relationship, about where it might be going. Part two, and this is the scary part . . . before we start getting more intimate – because I’m really attracted to you – I wanted to share with you that I have herpes. I wanted to talk to you about it, see what you already know about it, and see if I can answer any questions.”
She looked at me and smiled, and you could see she was kind of stunned, but in an appreciative way. She actually said, “You’re shaking! I get that that was hard for you to do, but I so appreciate you sharing that with me. It has shown me some deeper qualities about you that I really like.”
That set the tone for us to have a beautiful relationship. It ended up not working out, but not because of the herpes. We broke it off still appreciating each other, but realising this wasn’t the relationship for us.
The experience rammed home for me that there is something more powerful than our fear of rejection. You ask any woman out there what is the sexiest thing in a man, and in a tie with a sense of humour, it’s integrity.
The original published article: