Dear Ethel-Mae,

I’m in my mid-50’s and am looking at my future as a lonely and dark one.

The reason? My last boyfriend, whom I dated for several months, gave me genital herpes.

How do I live with such a social stigma? I was married for over 25 years and hadn’t dated for nearly 6 years when I met “Stan.” Stan and I were devoted and I never thought someone of his age and caliber (he’s a dentist) could have done this to me.

It broke us up. I couldn’t accept his deceit and lack of consideration. He said he was too afraid to tell me and just had hoped it wouldn’t become an issue.

I’m sick with shame and fear for my future. How do people live with this? What would you recommend?

A part of me wants to sue him for damages but I don’t want to make this public.

—Scarred for Life in California

Dear Scarred for Life in California,

Wow, I totally hear your pain and you have every right to feel angry and mistrustful. He obviously was a jerk about this, more afraid that he would lose you if he told you the truth about his herpes instead of caring about you and your health.

Here’s the deal… you might be surprised about the number of so-called “high caliber” people who live with genital herpes on a daily basis, especially among older adults. You’re not alone. In the United States alone, it’s estimated that one in four women and one in five men have genital herpes; 50% – 75% of unmarried American women between 45 and 50 having genital herpes. Source

The key here is NOT to beat yourself up. There are recommendations for living with herpes that you can seek out, and there are men who will not judge you for having this issue. Self-forgiveness is in order, then acceptance. Stan gave you a big red flag in a short period of time about who he really is—his true self—that you may NEVER have truly gotten to see if this didn’t happen. Not quite a silver lining, but at least you didn’t marry and discover his selfishness and lack of consideration for your wellbeing AFTER the wedding.

Take heart, the right guy is out there. And he will love you for who you are. Many couples with STD’s still enjoy relationships. Educate yourself about your STD and in the future, insist on having the “sex talk” before jumping into bed, full disclosure on your part, too! If he won’t agree to get tested or show you proof that he’s STD-free, then you’ll find out BEFORE getting physically involved, a much quicker way of weeding out a partner who doesn’t truly care for and respect you in the first place.


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