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“He Just Told Me He has an STD!”

I recently ended a relationship, and shortly after that, was set with a friend of a friend. The friend and I have never met, however we have had a lot of contact: texting, phone calls, skyping, gaming, emailing. It’s been about a month of constant communication! I have never felt so connected to someone. It is the total opposite of my previous relationship. We share so many interests and beliefs, and I’ve never been so attracted to someone. We just “click”! That said, this weekend we have plans to meet up and finally get things started (we aren’t from the same place which is why it has taken so long). However, last night he told me he has an STD which he had gotten a few years ago when his girlfriend of three years at the time cheated on him. I was in shock. He said he wishes he told me earlier and that he hopes I still want to meet up. I told him that yes, it is an issue, but that I like him for him and would still like to see him. But now, I have been doing some research, and I’m having second thoughts. Should I stay or should I go? — Scared to Fall


Presumably, meeting in person is a chance to see whether your online chemistry and connection translates into real life and if there’s enough interest to pursue a (long distance) relationship. Because, while it may seem like after conversing with this guy for a month, you totally “click,” you really don’t know each other very well yet and it’s important to manage your expectations. The STD revelation is a perfect example of why it’s so important not to get ahead of yourselves. How much more is there you don’t know about him? Probably quite a bit. And some of what you don’t know may be great stuff, and some of it, like learning he has an STD, may give you pause and make you wonder whether this is really the guy for you.

Without knowing any of the details of his STD, I say you should at least see what he’s like in person. You’ve come this far with him — what harm is there in meeting up with him? You certainly don’t have to sleep with him this weekend. Nor should you. But seeing him in person will answer many of the questions you’re now asking yourself, and not meeting him will leave a lot of questions unanswered, the most annoying of which will be: “what if?” And that’s a question that will lead to more sleepless nights than I’m sure you care to have.

Anyway, for all you know, you’ll have zero chemistry with him in person, which will be as much or more a deterrent in pursuing a relationship with him as his STD. On the other hand, your chemistry may be off the charts, in which case, you’ll have a little more information and perspective from which to decide whether the risk of dating him is worth it. You’ll also go a long way in earning this guy’s trust and respect, which will put you in a much better position to ask the kinds of questions about his disease that you need to ask.

Finally — and I hope this goes without saying — before you engage in any sexual activity with him (if you were to get to that point), make sure you are as educated about his disease as you can be and you take as many precautions as possible. Don’t let him talk you into anything you aren’t emotionally or physically prepared for. But also keep in mind that many STDs are manageable and carry a low risk of being passed from partner to partner if the appropriate precautions are taken. Hopefully, as you get to know this guy, you’ll realize that his STD is just a tiny part of his whole package and it doesn’t define who he is as a man, a person, or a partner. If you’re going to let him him, that’s your choice, of course, but you’ll feel better about that decision if you base it on more than just what you know at this moment. Meeting him in person and learning a little more about him and his disease will give you the information you need to make a decision you won’t regret.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

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{ 44 comments… add one }

  • avatar IdaTarbell March 23, 2011, 9:25 am

    You should definately meet him, especially if you like him, but don’t rush anything. STDs are certainly something to worry about, but there are ways around contracting one early (protected sex, avoiding outbreaks, etc.). However, if this turns into a long-term relationship, you may have to accept you’ll get the STD eventually.

    Date the guy, keep things slow, and weigh all the risks. At least he was honest with you!

  • avatar ReginaRey March 23, 2011, 9:36 am

    I agree with Wendy – Don’t jump the gun quite yet! If you go out on some dates, realize you have great chemistry, and are both interested in having a relationship (sexual and otherwise), perhaps you could take a step as a couple and go to a clinic together. It might be beneficial to hear all of the risks associated with being sexually active with someone who has this STD from a qualified professional. It also might go a long way in assuaging your fears…or convincing you “No, this dude isn’t worth it.” I’m sure if he IS worth it to you, there are plenty of preventative and safe steps you can take.

  • avatar rainbow March 23, 2011, 9:42 am

    It would be really helpful if LW mentioned the specific STI. Because if he got it years ago and he still has it, then it’s must be untreatable, and That could be HPV, but it could also be HIV, and that definitely makes a difference.

    • avatar Desiree March 23, 2011, 9:55 am

      I was thinking the same thing. Most sexually active people eventually acquire some form of HPV, and for most it is relatively harmless. HIV is, of course, a much bigger medical issue. I actually read a great story of an HIV-free woman falling in love and marrying an HIV-positive man; she deeply cared for him, and they took huge precautions in their love life. But that would be a lot to ask of the LW. I doubt it is HIV, because I suspect she would have had a stronger initial response to the news. Based on her reaction (“I have been doing some research, and I’m having second thoughts”), I would guess he has genital herpes–it is a permanent condition, like his, and it is manageable but would be serious enough to give her pause. Personally I have great respect for the guy being so upfront about his medical condition, and I hope she gives him a chance. He’s already shown he has integrity.

      • avatar rainbow March 23, 2011, 10:04 am

        “Personally I have great respect for the guy being so upfront about his medical condition, and I hope she gives him a chance. He’s already shown he has integrity.”
        +1

      • avatar _jsw_ March 23, 2011, 10:34 am

        I also strongly agree that it’s a sign of integrity. There are many, many people who would either never mention it or would mention it later on. He did the right thing, even knowing that it could drive her away. Regardless of his other qualities, that’s a huge plus. Also, as we all hopefully know, STDs can be caught even if you’re careful, so having one is unfortunate but isn’t any sign at all of the quality of the person. However, admitting to one well before it is necessary to do so is a very positive indicator.

      • avatar thyme March 23, 2011, 2:40 pm

        Your comment about integrity made me feel better, thank you. I got herpes from my current bf several years ago (he hadn’t ever had any symptoms and didn’t know he had it until I started having outbreaks), and when I was diagnosed I was aboslutely devastated. I felt doomed, thinking, “We’d better be together forever, because nobody else will \want to be with me ever again.” And that wasn’t very realistic only a few weeks into the relationship. Reading all the “at least it isn’t herpes” comments on the HPV question a few weeks ago made me feel pretty shitty too. I dread the possibility that I will ever have to have that conversation with someone new, knowing that it will probably make me revolting, no matter how much they liked me before they knew.

        p.s. Herpes is not included in the standard STD test you get when you ask a doctor for an “STD Test.” Lesson learned the hard way.

        • avatar Desiree March 23, 2011, 3:13 pm

          I am definitely sorry that you have to deal with that complication, but it definitely does NOT make you revolting. People have odd bias about certain things. I have cold sores on my mouth, which means I have herpes, just a different strain. Don’t feel down on yourself–it doesn’t change who you are, and anyone who thinks less of you is just revealing an unfortunate ignorance and is therefore not worth your time.

        • avatar Spark March 23, 2011, 6:09 pm

          Just curious, but how do you know that you got it from him? If neither of you had symptoms before you started dating, and then you had an outbreak, it seems just as likely that you had it first. I’m not trying to be mean or mock you or anything; I’m genuinely curious because I know it isn’t routinely tested.

          • avatar thyme March 23, 2011, 7:52 pm

            Because I hadn’t had sex in over six months when I met him and I had my first outbreak about 2 weeks after I started sleeping with him, and I kept getting excrutiating outbreaks so frequently after that that I had to go on daily valtrex to stop the constant suffering (which, before they came out with the generic was _not_ cheap). My doctor told me that the incubation period for herpes is about 2 weeks, and that it’s incredibly unlikely that I had it previously and it waited until right after I sleeping with this guy to start mauling me. She says that the symptoms get less intense over time, and I hope she is right.

            So I suppose it’s _possible_ that I already had it, but not likely. Also, I’ve always been pretty careful and have only been with 4 partners, and he was not always careful and has been with more people than he can count. So the odds really do lean toward him.

          • avatar thyme March 23, 2011, 7:56 pm

            Can you tell that I’ve wondered about that as well?

    • avatar camille905 March 23, 2011, 10:11 am

      It also might be herpes. I know someone who contracted it when she was a teenager (she’s in her 40′s now). She has been married (more than once) and had a few children and through careful management has not passed it on to any of her partners or children.

    • avatar Katy March 23, 2011, 11:42 am

      Personally- my guess is Herpes. Not as bad as HIV, of course, but permanent and more annoying then HPV.
      The biggest risk associated with HPV – which is usually symptomless, is that for a lot of women it results in Cancer- and infertility (which though devastating, is not as fatal as the cancer..)

  • avatar napoleon1066 March 23, 2011, 10:39 am

    Tiny part of his whole package.

    Hehehehehehehe.

    • avatar SpyGlassez March 24, 2011, 12:03 am

      …I thought I would be the only one who’s internal 12-year-old started giggling like a doofus when I read that.

  • avatar TJ March 23, 2011, 10:39 am

    As someone who lives with HSV, I feel the need to respond:

    I contracted the disease from my ex fiancee, who was upfront about the entire thing before we started dating.

    I took it well, we fell in love, he told me he wanted to marry me-we stopped being careful, because I was gonna be with him forever, right?

    I know I was stupid, and when I met my current boyfriend, I told him within the week. He reassured me that he was not going anywhere, and asked me if I would mind telling him how I got it.

    We have been together for six months, and are very careful. Even though I love him and he loves me, I will not make the same mistake again-I will not pass this on to him, or anyone else who comes into my life, because I assume things will go smoothly in our relationship.

    So I guess my point is you should meet up with him, and if you click, give him a chance. Just remember-the only person there for you in the end is you. No matter how in love you are, or sure of the future, do not risk your personal health. It’s a lesson I wish I had learned the easy way…

    • avatar Desiree March 23, 2011, 10:48 am

      Thank you for sharing your experience. Open societal discussion about this subject is *so* important. I’m glad you found a great guy now!

    • avatar thyme March 23, 2011, 2:54 pm

      It’s really good to hear that there are people willing to look past it. I know it’s a really common disease, but I don’t know anybody else who has it, and with everything you hear from people, it’s easy to feel like a lepper (sp?).

      • avatar TJ March 23, 2011, 4:55 pm

        You’d be surprised-a lot of people around you probably have it and are just not saying anything because they are embarrassed. I have not told very many people that I do, and a lot of my friends and family have no clue.

    • avatar Spark March 23, 2011, 6:11 pm

      I totally agree. I thought the same thing. It could be a risk she’s willing to take now, but she shouldn’t: you never know where things will go, especially in a brand-new relationship.

  • avatar ArtsyGirl March 23, 2011, 10:49 am

    LW – Meet the guy and keep an open mind – it might turn out to be a non-issue. Also I suggest to be wary of what you read on the internet. I am on depo provera and found a bunch of websites which linked depo to miscarriages. Luckily I was able to contact my OB/GYN who reassured me that there is no correlation. After meeting this guy and you still feel interested in pursuing a relationship I would talk to health care providers such as planned parenthood on the risks. Also there are support groups out there for couples who have STIs (depending on the severity) which might be good to utilize. Best of luck

  • avatar WatersEdge March 23, 2011, 11:03 am

    Definitely meet him anyway. I agree that this guy sounds like a keeper based simply on the fact that he told you that he had an STD early on. What integrity. You two can fool around with clothes on for a while while you determine if this is an exclusive relationship. If things proceed to that level, then consult with a doctor about how to take precautions to keep you safe.

    This may be a blessing in disguise. You will probably not rush into sex too soon and you’ll be forced to evaluate this guy for who he is as a person to determine if he is boyfriend material. You’ll have to make some mature decisions about going to the doctor together, etc, that may bring you closer together. You’ll be taking on a challenge and arriving at a mutually beneficial decision on how to protect you from getting the STD, which will help you develop good relationship skills. And you’ll probably know where you stand with him as far as exclusivity goes because he doesn’t seem like the type to casually sleep with a woman and transmit his STD. This may end up being an excellent grounding point for the relationship in the end.

  • avatar lemongrass March 23, 2011, 11:27 am

    As all the other commenters have said: meet the guy! Don’t punish him for his honesty by treating him like a leper. It really depends about which std he has. My guess is herpes, because if it was the clap or others like it he would be treated and over with it. If it was HIV then I think that the LW may have mentioned it. So if it is herpes it is not a big deal! So many people have herpes and don’t know it. Both of my SIL’s have it. Both say it is irritating once in a while but doesn’t really change their life.

    Really, just don’t punish nice guys for doing the right thing.

    • avatar princesspetticoat March 23, 2011, 3:07 pm

      That seems to be the thing about herpes… it’s not having it that’s a big deal, it’s the stigma of having it. The biggest concern about having herpes seems to be dealing with telling people that they have an incurable STD, not dealing with the STD itself.

      Of course it’s not fun to get something irritating that isn’t curable but I also think people need to stop being so afraid of herpes.

      • avatar lemongrass March 23, 2011, 3:46 pm

        I agree, not to mention that there are a ton of us running around who don’t even know if we have it. Lots of people only get one outbreak, figure it was a rash from shaving or whatever and never get it again!

  • TaraMonster TaraMonster March 23, 2011, 12:07 pm

    As few others mentioned herpes and HIV, but seem to be brushing off HPV because it’s so common, but he could have the kind that causes genital warts.

    Reading this, I thought maybe she was dating my best friend’s ex boyfriend (esp the “ex gf who cheated” part) but I think he’s engaged so let’s hope it’s not him. Lol. My point is, HPV, when it causes warts, is just as contractible and permanent as herpes. When my best friend dated him it was a constant struggle. He was so concerned about not passing it on to her that they had a very frustrating sex life, but she never did get it, and though he was a douche in other ways, I always thought how careful and concerned over her health he seemed to be spoke a lot to his character. But having a partner with an STD presents obvious struggles, and I think the LW is right to evaluate whether or not she’s comfortable taking that on.

    As Wendy suggested, she shouldn’t worry too much about this stuff until she meets him in person, but I think this is something she is wise to factor in when considering their compatibility.

    • avatar Jess March 23, 2011, 12:49 pm

      it varies from person to person and strain to strain, but *most* HPV genital wart causing strains are eliminated from the body by your own natural immune system within two years, thus no longer cause symptoms and no longer is contagious. Like the person who gets warts, has them removed, and doesn’t ever have them come back probably falls into this catagory. I don’t think that *ever* happens with Herpes though, so that’s why it’s thought of as permanent while HPV generally isn’t.

      • TaraMonster TaraMonster March 23, 2011, 2:33 pm

        I know he got them removed pretty frequently and they always came back. I guess I was under the impression that certain strains were like herpes in that way- lifelong. That’s how my friend made it sound anyway. I’m guessing I’m wrong. And seriously… why the heck did I get thumbed down for that? I didn’t say I’m an M.D. for cryin out loud.

        • avatar Jess March 23, 2011, 2:50 pm

          He probably has a life long strain then. On the other hand, if he is a smoker, and not eating healthy he is not giving his immune system a chance to really do it’s thing.

        • avatar maynard March 23, 2011, 3:45 pm

          Thumbs down just means “I don’t agree with this,” which is fair. It’s not a “you are dumb” monitor :)

      • avatar Spark March 23, 2011, 6:14 pm

        I think Jess is right. Most of the time, the immune system clears HPV. However, some warts are stubborn and keep coming back. It seems like HPV is more of a quasi-permanent disease. Could be permanent or lifelong, probably won’t be.

  • avatar AKchic March 23, 2011, 1:42 pm

    Why is it that whenever people meet online and converse for a while that when they decide to meet up, at least one of them (usually male) automatically assumes sex is going to be involved?
    He wouldn’t have mentioned the STD unless he thought he was going to get laid. Otherwise, he would have remained silent about it until the in-person relationship naturally progressed to that point (had they not met online).

    An online persona is just that; a persona. People can be very different online than they are in person. I’m not the most trusting person in the world, so, you may want to take what I say with a grain of salt. Were it me in this situation, not only would I be reading up on whatever STD he says he has (you didn’t specify in the letter), I would also be doing a criminal background check just to cover my bases. I would also be grilling my friend who “virtually introduced” us. The friend should be willing to answer all questions honestly. No beating around the bush, no hedging, no sugar coating.

    Hopefully, the guy is honest and you’ve got nothing to worry about, other than his bad luck with his last girlfriend. Here’s to hoping for a fun date with a nice guy that you will “click” with in person! *raises a glass to you*

    • avatar maynard March 23, 2011, 1:50 pm

      I don’t think he was automatically assuming he would get laid, I think he was just showing his cards for what may be a dealbreaker for her, possibly thinking if this was something she was unable to look past, then it would be easier for the two of them to not meet at all.

      • avatar rainbow March 23, 2011, 2:14 pm

        definitely. one of my friends has HIV and he always mentions it in the first long conversation he has with people, even people he doesn’t want to have sex with, so if they’re going to be weird about it he can just move on and not waste his time on them.

      • avatar thyme March 23, 2011, 3:02 pm

        seriously. If I were him, I’d want to tell her before meeting to save myself some shame if it turned out to be a deal-breaker for her. I would think that people who are honest about having an incurable STD would assume that sex probably wouldn’t be on the table until things got pretty damn serious. I tend to give the guy the benefit of the doubt there.

    • avatar anna728 March 23, 2011, 5:49 pm

      I don’t think he assumed he was going to get laid when they meet. But, the whole point is to see if they want to pursue a relationship together, and an STD can certainly be a factor in that. Especially since they live far apart, I think it makes more sense to bring it up before they go to all the trouble to meet up.

    • avatar SpyGlassez March 24, 2011, 12:08 am

      I see where you are coming from, but I honestly think part of it also might have been that he didn’t want them to have the meeting in person, have them click, and THEN have to go through this revelation with someone who was more than just an online friend/someone he was starting a relationship with. Sure, since there HAD been a connection between them, it’s fair to assume that he thought some intimacy might be on the table, but better to tell her now than to wait till clothes are on the floor to blurt, “by the way…..”

  • avatar haggith March 23, 2011, 2:38 pm

    i was in the same predicament as the writer. we had been friends for a little while when we started to develop feelings for each other. then he told me he had genital herpes since he was 19. he also confessed he used to not tell his exes he had it (i know it’s terrible and very douchey). it was difficult because even though he had been honest with me, he put in risk other girls. even with this red flag i took him, of course making sure i was protected and all. we’ve been married for almost a year so far now. the LW needs to be sure she wants to start a relationship with this guy and everything that it implies, including that this may or may not end up being in “forever” (whatever that means). i agree with some other commenters that she needs to think about her own health and take measures not to be infected with anything.

  • avatar HmC March 23, 2011, 3:03 pm

    “Because, while it may seem like after conversing with this guy for a month, you totally “click,” you really don’t know each other very well yet and it’s important to manage your expectations.”

    So true!

    I personally think that after only a month of knowing someone, especially someone you’ve never met in person, the most you can reasonably feel is the *possibility* of a great connection. Emotionally healthy people reveal themselves in layers (as they should!). Allow yourself to be excited and happy for sure, but don’t allow yourself to be completely sold on someone until they have truly earned your trust through their actions (not just words) over time.

  • avatar thyme March 23, 2011, 3:06 pm

    Question: When IS the right time to tell someone you are dating that you have an incurable STD like herpes?

    • avatar princesspetticoat March 23, 2011, 3:19 pm

      Definitely before having sex!!

      I would say once you feel comfortable enough with each other and feel as though the relationship is moving towards intimacy. Somewhere after the first few dates and before becoming exclusive?

      It will differ for the different people as well though. Some will want to be completely upfront with it right away and others will want to make sure it’s someone they are interested in first.

      • avatar maynard March 23, 2011, 3:55 pm

        I agree. It’s going to be a sliding scale from person to person, but within the first 2-3 dates you probably have an idea if you’re seeing someone you want to get to know better, and part of getting to know them better would be sharing information like that.

        The fact is that having an incurrable STD will be a dealbreaker for some people, and I think both parties would want to know that about the other before getting too emotionally attached.

  • avatar SpyGlassez March 24, 2011, 12:14 am

    Of course, there is never a good moment to break the news, and even more so when it is an online friend.

    (My BF plays StarCraft online, so forgive me that it’s the gaming community I’m most familiar with.) I can’t imagine that going well:
    “YEAH! Go team! We totally wiped out that Terran base!”
    “Way to go! And I have an STI!”

    As a lot of people said, he did tell you before you met, and of course he would have been nervous about it. You do have to be conscious and think about the points other posters have raised, and only you can decide about what to do with a potential relationship future. But definitely meet him first – you can’t catch an STI from having lunch with someone, or else we’d all be in a world of hurt.

  • avatar SpyGlassez March 24, 2011, 12:14 am

    Aaaaand…FWIW….there’s always the Stephen Lynch way:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZMGVtIejLs

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