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I’ve been spending a lot of time with this guy. I’ve spent the night with him three days a week for the past year. We were rarely intimate, but I had found out last week that he had herpes and didn’t tell me. I [don’t have it], thankfully, but I was really hurt by that. We had a talk about it, and I asked him to define our relationship. He told me that “You’re definitely a friend to me, and I would never want to lose that friendship.”I feel like he led me on, so I haven’t talked to him in a week, but he hasn’t tried to contact me either. I feel bad for ghosting him, and I miss him. I wonder if I would be able to continue our “friendship,” but I just don’t feel like he’s been a true friend to me. Should I explain to him why I haven’t talked to him or is it just water under the bridge?
—Less Than Friends
Hi Less Than Friends,
I am so incredibly sorry this happened to you. Any aspect of this situation by itself would be hurtful but bundled all together it’s a lot. It looks like you’re making the right, mature steps (even if he isn’t) to move forward. Good job getting tested, pushing for an honest conversation about the status of your relationship and gaining the distance you need to see things more clearly.
I think you are absolutely right — this person has not been a good friend. If a platonic pal invited you over to hang out all night and binge watch shows, and then the next day you learned the reason they weren’t leaving the house was because they had the chicken pox, and you hadn’t had the chicken pox (or the vaccine!), you’d be furious they didn’t tell you — whether you caught the chicken pox or not. You’d be both alarmed and baffled that someone you considered a friend, who should be concerned about your health and well-being, would put you in that kind of jeopardy. And I seriously doubt you’d consider continuing a friendship with that person. So, why is it that when we add a little romance to the mix, our rules around what behavior makes someone a bad friend get lax?
Yes, there is a stigma around herpes. And people who have the virus are often made to feel bad about it, even though it’s easy to catch, and a large portion of our population are carriers (and may not know it). This can make it difficult for people to be honest about their status. I have a close friend who had a partner who didn’t know how to talk about it, so he didn’t. She was incredibly upset when she learned the truth. They were able to work through his dishonesty and his shame and get him the information he needed so they could make safer choices. So, I think it is possible to come back from this situation.
However, I don’t think this is your situation. This person was dishonest with you about their sexual health but was also emotionally deceitful. As you said, you were more than a year into spending a considerable amount of time with him before he laid the “we’re just friends” line on ya. It sounds to me like you’d like to be more than friends, and you’re just not going to get that from someone who’s proven themselves to be less than a friend to you in so many ways.
Going forward, I recommend having these uncomfortable convos around sexual status and what you’d like out of a relationship on the front end. Usually, we don’t because we’re scared of what the other person might say, so we put it off hoping they’ll self-disclose and that we arrive at the same place emotionally, eventually. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve played myself doing this exact same thing. And the longer I let things go on without the convo, the more obsessed I’d become about wanting that person to want me because I’d compromised my standards and needed something to show for it in the end besides heartbreak. So, ask yourself: Is it better to just move on and cope with your feelings around missing him, or do you want to look back after another year and realize you miss who you were before him?