Savage Love Letter of the Day: The Herpes Blame Game

Comments

1
LW should speak with her doctor about medications to reduce the likelihood of infecting her boyfriend. Besides the practical benefit, I think being proactive will have the collarary benefit of making her feel more in control of her status, reduce her guilt / shame, and allow her to enjoy sex with her boyfriend without the same level of anxiety.

I would also note that LW is 48, and as we get to that age, our immune systems are not as robust as when we are younger, so it possible that she was infected long, long ago and simply never had noticeable systems till now.
2
Firstly, if she's been fucking this dude since August, he has herpes, no matter how careful he has been with condoms. Most STD screenings don't bother checking unless you ask explicitly (as I learned the hard way when my girlfriend told me she had it, even though we both did the ritual STD testing before transitioning away from condoms). Secondly, it seems like she's asking for permission to grind an ax against her ex by spreading a rumor that she believes to be false (even if it turns out he does have herpes). To answer her question: Of course it's horrible. A good rule of thumb might be "how might I feel if my husband told people that I had herpes?" - it's rude even if you're both aware of it. Also, if she thinks her current BF might break up with her if she admitted what she did while she was single - eliding the group sex she had while married - then perhaps she needs a boyfriend who she won't feel the need to lie to every day until she dies? While there are some old-fashioned 40/50-somethings out there, at that age if you are dating you have to understand that people have lead some lives and done some things; no holding out for virgins or anything.
3
HOPING (I'm calling her 'Hoping', not 'Herpes'; it's hardly kind to call anyone HERPES repeatedly) ... well, HOPING's idea of pinning the blame for her herpes on her ex is a residual expression of her grievances towards him. These are many and varied, though only one is relevant to the case: that he had unprotected sex with others while they were still together, and so exposed her to the risk of STDs. But Dan is right: there is no conclusive proof that any person was the 'culprit', the vector for passing this infection along to her. If among the population of people she has sex with are douches who claim to be sheathed while fucking baredicked, well, it's going to be a possibility at the least she could come by herpes in the ordinary course of her sex life. The infection is something to be aware of, sure, to be careful about; but also to understand and, insofar as a reasonably varied and interesting sex life needs acceptance, to accept in oneself.

These feelings, of animosity and partly unconscious vindictiveness, towards her ex are not feelings she needs in her new relationship. She would do better to feel happy to have this new partner--maybe relieved or expectant that her and his, the new guy's, sexual expectations are more synchronized, and that she doesn't (for the time being) have the squicky or iffy threesomes to look forward to. The herpes is something she can explain, explain away if she has to explain away, by saying she's bidding all that goodbye--the sort of off-piste sex that could give her herpes, which she doesn't anticipate indulging in now that she has a more vanilla partner.

There are other worries that could underlie the letter. HOPING could fear that her new lover could be judgmental about her threesomes--undertaken under duress; but to a degree a three is a three is a three, and she _was_ one of the three (at least) in the room. If she isn't going to do it again, say she isn't going to do it again, and call on her boyfriend's trust. The other possible worry is that HOPING might think that sex with her new partner risks getting a bit dull. He's more reliable, less of an asshole than her ex and some of the guys she's dated since ... but is he too steady, too vanilla? If this is her concern, it needs to be dragged out into the light of day and confronted head-on. Will she want other partners? Is he willing to expand his repertoire? Rather than supposing to herself, 'I'll blame my STD on my ex and sign on for a life of sexual conformity henceforth; what an escape from the perverts', the LW needs to ask what kind of sex life is going to be keep her happy and interested in the future. And this is also a question that the couple should broach together.
4
LW, I have HIV. And I've always been glad that I've never known who gave it to me. Because, as Dan says, it really doesn't matter. If blame needs to be assigned, then I am happy to take it. I did, after all choose to have sex without taking the steps needed to protect myself.

But HIV, like HSV is a virus. Like the common cold. There's no morality attached to it. It invades the body. It hijacks some cells. It reproduces. It gets passed on. There are steps you can take to preventing transmission, but viruses are a fact of life. Blame shouldn't even enter into it.

If your boyfriend needs to attach blame somewhere, let him attach it to you. But the fact that he feels blame needs to be assigned is something he probably needs to look at.
5
Blame the toilet seat.

Yeah, that's the ticket, it was the fucking toilet seat.....
6
LW seems not to be aware of something rather important, and Dan failed to mention it: you can get herpes while using condoms. A condom won't cover sores at the base of the penis, for example.
7
Okay, so what is up with a couple of the commenters suggesting that the LW has an axe to grind, is vindictively spreading rumors about her ex, and to a lesser, more plausible extent, is hoping to pin it on her ex as an expression of her grievances agaist him? These things are not in evidence in the letter. The LW didn't tell anyone that her husband gave her herpes, and is not asking if she should tell people that. What she said was that her current BF came to the wrong conclusion and she is wondering if she should correct him or let sleeping dogs lie. That is nowhere near spreading malicious slander about an ex.
8
You can also have "genital" herpes (HSV2) on your lips and "oral" herpes (HSV1) on your naughty bits, so it's a misnomer in that respect.
And you could've picked up either from your sweet old auntie when you were a kid, and she *just couldn't resist* pinching and kissing those adorable little cheeks!!!
9
"My current BF is negative, thankfully, and is being impossibly wonderful. He does not want to break up." Yay! Her boyfriend is so saintly and tolerant, and all-around "impossibly wonderful" that he doesn't want to burn her at the stake for having contracted a pretty minor virus. How lucky is she? But uh oh: who is the bastard who gave this disgusting scourge to her? Pig! Asshole! Irresponsible Pervert! I sure hope the impossibly wonderful boyfriend isn't going to beat up the piece of shit that infected our defective letter writer.

For fucks' sake! We're still here, in 2018 in an era where people talk about fetishes and kinks and polyamory and being ggg and and every other fucking sex-related thing under the sun with nary a disapproving side eye. I am just exhausted of the stigma that herpes still holds. The fact that HSV2 is "genital" but can be on your lips and that you can have "oral" HSV1 on your genitals further complicates the issue and confuses people. The fact that it sometime is but sometimes isn't tested for, that it can't be prevented by condom use or cured; that it may take years to show up or show up once or that there may be decades between outbreaks, or . . . .

And yet none of those facts is enough to take the shame and stigma of this relatively benign virus away. And I speak from the position of having at least 1-2 uncomfortable outbreaks a year, if I don't take my anti-virals. But really: enough with the hand-wringing and finger-pointing already!

I am either going to start wearing a dogtag at all times that says I have herpes, so as to do my part for de-stigmatizing, or just start lying and saying I don't have it. I've been honest for the past 26 years, but I'm so tired of seeing letters like this and I'm sick of being viewed as damaged when truly having herpes, in the overwhelmingly vast majority of cases, is no big deal. I might already have started not disclosing my status, if it wasn't for the fact that I take antivirals which keep me from shedding the virus or from having outbreaks and I wouldn't want to lie about why they're in my medicine chest. Do people with Chlamydia face such a stigma? Asymptomatic Chlamydia is often untreated and untreated Chlamydia can lead to infertility; yet where's the hullabaloo for that infection? I suppose you could say that it's because Chlamydia can be treated and cured and herpes can't. But no one treats someone with a cold like a degenerate pariah, and that is a virus that can't be cured. Herpes hysteria and herpes-shaming smacks of puritanical judgment and this persistent attitude that having herpes renders you a horrible person who deserves shunning is really wearing me down and pissing me off.
10
@8A good point. I was a chubby geek and didn’t get laid until I was 26 - barely even a kiss before that except for nonromantic. Developed hsv1 - likely from my mom who also had it!
11
@9 Get off your high horse. I have herpes too. HSV2. Right on my nuts. And while I agree that it's overly stigmatized and not nearly as big of a deal as people seem to think, it is a change on a particularly sensitive area and people are wholly entitled to decline a sexual relationship that will likely lead to contraction.

If dude is being supportive of her after her diagnosis than yeah, that's a good thing and a sign of a keeper. Looking for blame is dumb and pointless. Time for both of them to move on to acceptance.

And, to be clear, disclosing HSV2 status can be uncomfortable and sometimes leads to rejection by someone you'd really like a roll in the hay with because of it's stigmatization. But you'd be a real piece of shit not to disclose your status to a new partner.
12
@11: Darling, I have never not disclosed. And really, I would never not. I'm just sick of the ignorance and stigma.
13
Or the boyfriend really wants his girlfriend to believe she got herpes from her husband so she doesn't think she got it from him because maybe he also has herpes and doesn't want to own up to it.

Also also, LW does not explain HOW she was diagnosed with herpes. There are a few varieties of HSV tests, and some of them are extremely unreliable. If she just asked for a herpes test as part of a screening, there's a very strong chance that a positive result is false. And, her boyfriend really has no way of knowing if he has herpes either ... Even if he had a test it could have been a false negative.

So, unless LW had a swab of a sore that detected presence of the virus, she may not have herpes.

And NOBODY (who isn't a virgin) really knows that they don't have herpes.
14
Sport@2 ~ ...”Firstly, if she's been fucking this dude since August, he has herpes, no matter how careful he has been with condoms…
ABSOLUTELY FALSE! Geez, the things some people throw out there...this must be an “alternative fact”. I have had herpes since I was in my 20s, and after learning I had it, none of my partners has been infected. The infection is NOT automatically transmitted, and with a little care you can live a normal life.

NoCute@9 ~ ...”I'm sick of being viewed as damaged when truly having herpes, in the overwhelmingly vast majority of cases, is no big deal… Sorry if that has been your experience, NoCute. No one has ever been even a little upset when I fessed up - the reaction has uniformly been, “OK, thanks for telling me.” Either I’ve been good at choosing partners or lucky (or a little of both).

LW, your “impossibly wonderful” boyfriend is a blame-assigning douche. Methinks those “new relationship” goggles are a bit fogged up. A good guy would have said (as my partners did), “OK, thanks for being honest” and left it at that.
15
Hi - I'm the LW. Just to clarify a few things: I have no intention of telling anyone my ex husband gave me herpes; merely entertaining not correcting my boyfriend's assumption. I've never talked shit about my ex during or since our relationship and am not going to start now.
I had an outbreak that I initially thought was a yeast infection. When it was obviously way more I saw my doc. Swab culture and bloodwork are both positive for HSV2. My bf and ex both have had the bloodwork antibody test and they are both negative. Whatever else my ex husband might be he's not a liar. My bf is pretty pure and innocent in my book. I'm only the third person he's ever slept with. I think I'm more fearful of what he may think of my character that I had unenjoyable sex with men and women just to try to keep peace with my ex. He's certainly not thinking of beating anyone up - he's not like that. And I stand by my belief that he's being impossibly wonderful. I'm infected; he's not. We got this news around about our 5th month of dating. I told him I understood if he wanted out. After all, this is putting anxiety on each of us as well as throwing a wrench in the works of our sex life. He continually reminds me how common this is. He's not shaming me.
Also, to be clear, the one other person I told him about is not the same as the non-condom wearer. That guy is negative also and I don't think is lying - he's a physician and on call blood donor who is tested every 3 months. Thanks for your help.
16
NB - I don't know if the non-condom wearer, one-time hookup is negative or positive. He claims he is. I have not told my bf about him and another guy - only about the physician who is negative and pretty sure not lying about his status. Make sense?
17
LW@15, the commenter @2 who incorrectly mentioned you maliciously spreading false rumors about your ex either has poor reading comprehension, projects an awful lot, or a bit of both. Sometimes they make valid points, but their comments on your letter are in line with the kinds of things they say in general and you shouldn't take their negative implications about your character personally. Thanks for joining the comments.
18
@14: DonnyK, I didn't mean that everyone I've disclosed to has viewed me personally as damaged; most of the men have had positive reactions, and some have been really kind in their rejections. Only once or twice has someone behaved in a way that I think was unnecessarily rude.
I was really speaking more generally: as a member of a class of people whom a lot of people view as damaged by virtue of being infected with the virus.
19
Offwhite ~ Thanks for chiming in, its always nice to get the LW involved in the Commentariat. If I may say, you sound a lot younger than 48, or maybe the BF is...most people pushing 50 have long ago come to accept that their partners have had sex with other people, sometimes LOTS of other people. Freaking out because you fucked someone ( or a bunch of someones ) in the past is something I’d expect from a twenty year-old. My attitude has always been, “Glad you got the practice!” Because I’m the one benefitting from all you learned. You said, “…this is putting anxiety on each of us as well as throwing a wrench in the works of our sex life…” Why? This is a relatively common, occasionally annoying virus. BF seems OK with it from what you said, so I’m assuming most of the freaking out is coming from you and a lot of it seems to revolve around “What if BF finds out I FUCKED SOME PEOPLE I WASN’t TOTALLY INTO!!!” Again, something a twenty year-old would say. If THIS is the deal-breaker, then BF is definitely not the one for you. Relationships only work if you accept the other person for who they are, not who you think they should be. Oh, and ALSO, you don’t need to spill the beans about every nasty little secret you might have. Some things are better left buried. To quote the philosopher, Timon, “You gotta put your behind in the past!”
20
NoCute@18 ~ see, I don’t think a lot of people view us as damaged, just the asshole few, and they’re always out there. Just like herpes, they’re just an annoying sore on our ass.
21
@19 ~ Sorry, that quote was from was the philosopher Pumba.
22
Finding that you have an STI is a hell of a way to find out that you have been cheated on
23
A contrarian view. Finding that you have an STI is a hell of a way to find out that you've been cheated on.
24
Perhaps it's the newness of the diagnosis, dealing with getting used to the side effects of the daily suppression therapy (am already on several meds as I have 2 neurological disorders) and it just coming so seemingly out of nowhere that still has me rattled and responding in a way that is younger than my years. Everyone in my life is being incredibly supportive - reminding me it's not the end of the world, it's very common, that I should not beat myself up over this.
A wrench has been thrown in our sex life because now we will be using condoms (yes, I'm aware we should have been and that they aren't 100% as Ricardo pointed out) and I don't want this specter overshadowing the relationship.
My bf is 50. He is quite unlike any man I've been involved with in many ways. He believes in having sex with people you are in love with - hence the three partners. I have no doubt of his love and care for me and feel respected and supported like never before.
In terms of assigning blame, I think we're both kind of stunned by the diagnosis. I mean, it is baffling to me that I have an outbreak for the first time and so many of my recent partners are all negative. I know it can lay dormant in your system for years and some people may never have an outbreak and I now know it's not included in standard STD testing unless symptomatic and/or specifically requested. Rationally we both know it's pointless and impossible to know who/how/when I was exposed. Like I said, it's not like he's looking to beat up my ex or even confront him about it. I think he's just looking for answers (as am I) where there are none and possibly even feeling a little protective of me (that's just a guess). I don't know. I'm sure some think I'm being ridiculous but this is a big thing to deal with.
25
Offwhitewalls: Donny @19 is right, you really should not have to lie about your sexual past to your new beau. And you don't have to tell him every detail either. Either he loves all of you, which includes your past or he doesn't.
Close down the conversation if it comes up about the origin of the virus. What does it matter now, you've got it and you need to manage it.
Any new medical issue is a pain in the arse, but, we adapt and adjust.
26
@7. Tachycardia. The letter is all about the ex. She says only very bland things about her boyfriend--that he's 'impossibly wonderful'. But she brings out a lot of irrelevant information about her ex-husband: 1) that he never used a condom with her--irrelevant for any couple that have been through the ritual of getting tested, and also in that she believes he's herpes-free; 2) that he badgered her into threesomes; 3) that she moved out only eight or nine months ago; 4) that she found it hard to maintain desire for him in a relationship where she mothered him, and so on. I would infer that her mind--understandably, but not in a happy way--is still with her ex, not with her new lover. She has thoughtless unsafe sex as soon as she gets her own place, to show herself she still can (her feeling unsexy was a function of her sour relationship, not because she had lost interest), then settles quickly in a monogamous connection with someone much more vanilla than her ex. This is conceivably, though not necessarily, the behavior of someone on the rebound.

The right thing to say to her new partner is 'I'm 48 and have been having sex for the last 20 years. I'm not ashamed of having had the kind of sex life that led to my getting herpes. Sure, there are one or two encounters that in retrospect I regret--encounters I was talked into or which I plunged into heedlessly. But I'm not going to waste time or psychic energy wondering which of these gave me the virus'. And then, quite possibly and legitimately, the new bf will not find that enough. He will want to know what these risky encounters were. And, to my mind, if HOPING wants her relationship to last, she'll say she was pressured into threesomes in which her husband didn't wear a condom--and that she feels no urge to repeat the experience with 'Impossibly Wonderful'. He will probably want to know why she did this, and she will tell him (e.g. her husband said he would do it anyway without her, and she participated with the idea of keeping some sexual relationship between them going; she couldn't give herself up to be dominated by him as he needed maternal-style guidance in every other area of his life, so this was his only way of demonstrating sexual mastery or competence to her). It is actually fair to her new lover to have this conversation with him. If he is not judgmental, he will try to understand her. He deserves the reassurance that, as someone with a more white bread sexual imagination, he isn't going to be left in the lurch as she eventually resumes a pattern of threesomes or risky sex.
27
@15. Offwhitewalls. Herpes is manageable. It's something new, something uncomfortable and which gets under your skin, literally and metaphorically, when you first get it. Then it becomes part of your life--like a once-slipped disc or arthritis.

Does your new partner love you, or is he starting to love you, enough for the whole truth? There is nothing shameful or reprehensible in the whole of your sexual history. Yes, there were one or two moments when you acted out. Not more, though, than in an average person's sex life--comparably to how a responsible user of alcohol will have got drunk once or twice.

It's estimable that your new lover has stuck to his values in his sex life. (It's not estimable that he's had sex with only three people, nor would it be estimable as such if you had had sex with 333 people). Your relationship will not thrive long-term if you think he's better than you, or more moral in the matter of sex. He will go, eventually, from being 'impossibly wonderful' to 'not all that great'; you're setting yourself up for disillusionment. He's a good person with sound values, and after that he is as he is. If you love him, trust him with your past. It's not your past but your future conduct that's important. If you're not going back to the threesomes, your lover deserves to hear this from you. Let your relationship thrive in the light of the truth.
28
It's as fruitless for a 48yo to worry who gave them herpes as to worry who gave them the common cold.
29
Harriet @ 28 - This should be the absolute last word on the subject.
30
biggie@14: "If she just asked for a herpes test as part of a screening, there's a very strong chance that a positive result is false."

Well, no, actually. Most of the blood tests now have sensitivity and specificity of >96%. The only reason you're likely to get a false negative is if you test too early after infection - serocvonversion occurs in less than 4 weeks in 80% of cases. ( https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/451… )

sportlandia@2: "Firstly, if she's been fucking this dude since August, he has herpes, no matter how careful he has been with condoms."

Actually, the annual seroconversion rate among discordant couples (i.e. how many negative partners becomes positive over a year of unprotected sex) is 3.8% when no suppressive antiviral is used, and only 1.9% when the positive partner receives valacyclovir. ( https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/451… ). For seronegative women, condom use cuts the risk in half (approximately), whereas it has minimal effect in reducing infection for the male partner of a seropositive woman. Based on these findings, it would not be unreasonable for HOPING to take daily Valtrex but forgo condoms with her bf. And it goes without saying that they should abstain from intercourse while she has active lesions.

31
@15/offwhitewalls: Is knowingly failing to correct a wrong assumption the equivalent of lying? No, and there are certainly times when it is an acceptable option. But there are times when misleading my omission will lead to trouble. I think this is just such a circumstance. You haven't really justified not telling your boyfriend the truth, and it sound more like you want to bury the fact that you had more lovers since leaving your husband than your boyfriend has had in his lifetime (let alone the number that you had under duress while married). Either your boyfriend is great and understanding, which should include not caring about the number of sex partners you've had in the past, or he is not, in which case, he's not the man you think he is now. I would give him the benefit of the doubt and tell him the truth.

Moreover, and while you may think that this misinformation may go no further than your boyfriend, you can not now see all roads, some of which may lead to the truth coming out should the falsehood reach your ex-husband or one of your ex-husband's many lovers (past, present, or future). Why would you want that anxiety? Given how much stress you've had to absorb in connection with your sex life, why would you want to add to it unneccessarily?
32
FYI
Knowingly failing to correct a wrong assumption is lying.
33
Offwhite @ 24 - My point was mainly that you may have gotten infected by someone who did use condoms (and who knows how long ago?). I know I was.
34
@Offwhitewalls: I hope you didn't take my rant @9 as being directed at you personally. As you can tell, I get frustrated with the way herpes is treated in our society, which for the record, I think is due to its association with promiscuity. But that's not always the case and even if it were, I dislike the stigma associated with having sex for fun.

But onto your specific situation. There is lots of good advice in the comments above. I think you need to stop blaming yourself for doing what your husband wanted you to do when you were married. Everything you did and every sex act you participated in, you, too, did out of love--love for your husband (or at least commitment to your husband and a desire to make your marriage work). How can you blame yourself for that? How could your boyfriend? If he thinks less of you, you the woman he knows and presumably loves or is starting to love, because he discovers that you have had a few more sexual partners in your past at your husband's request than he has or than just your husband, well, I think you would be well rid of him. But I don't think he's going to do that.

As far as the question of where and when you contacted the herpes, that is a wild goose chase. You will never know, and it seems pointless to fret about it. You should contact your former partners if you can, to tell them that you have it, not to find out if they gave it to you, but to suggest that they get themselves tested. And then let it go. You have a virus. It does not matter where you contracted it.
And it is a pretty manageable virus. If you take Valtrex or Acyclovir, you will do a good job of suppressing it. You may need to take the medication prophylactically daily, but it's just one more pill to add to the vitamin and whatever else regime. That, and avoiding sexual contact when and if you have a lesion, will protect your boyfriend enough so that you don't need to use condoms.

This is a big shock, I get it, but it will settle and become one of the least interesting facts of your life.
Good luck!
35
Offwhite@24 ~ "...(I) am already on several meds as I have 2 neurological disorders..."
I'm assuming you talked to a doctor about adding yet another drug to your regimen, which may or may not be needed. If your immune system is already challenged, suppressing the virus might be a good strategy. Everyone reacts differently to the virus, and unless you are having frequent, severe outbreaks you may be able to get by without it. Some people say they can tell when an outbreak is imminent and can then start taking one of the drugs to lessen its severity and length, some can't. Also, the time between outbreaks tends to get longer as your body adapts...it's been well over a year since I had any symptoms. Depending on what the doctors say, Boyfriend and you might need to have a serious discussion about the pros and cons of you adding even more meds to your regimen as opposed to the chance he might catch this (non-life-threatening, annoyance of a) virus too. Also, stress is a definite factor in promoting outbreaks, so stressing out about it just makes an outbreak more likely. "Keep as cool as you can, face piles of trials with smiles."
36
Offwhite: I agree with the posters who feel the real problem is not who gave you herpes, but your boyfriend's potentially slut-shaming you. Harriet @27 said it best: "Your relationship will not thrive long-term if you think he's better than you, or more moral in the matter of sex." This guy has to accept that not many people his age have had as few partners as he's had. If he loves you, he will view your history with sympathy, not judgment. Your experiences have shaped you; both the bad and the good ones have helped you become the person you are today. Does he love that person? Is he willing to accept that person, past mistakes, past learning experiences, and all? Or will he hold your past over your head in an effort to shame or control you -- like your ex-husband did?

The other question is, is this all in your head? "Current BF is not judgmental," you say. Yay! If he's okay with the fact that you made different choices in your past than he did -- as well as having had some experiences that were not choices, but your staying with your ex-husband was a choice -- then perhaps it's you who should stop slut-shaming yourself. I know it's difficult; a herpes diagnosis does indeed feel like a punishment for having sex with multiple partners. But it's not. People with just one partner can catch herpes; people with dozens can miraculously escape it. You caught herpes because you had sex. Your ex-husband's status, FWIW, is none of your current boyfriend's business. If Boyfriend says something like "that dirtbag who gave you herpes," you could say something like, "We'll never know for sure who gave it to me." The point is that you have a health condition; just focus on managing it and enjoy your new relationship.
37
BDF @ 36 - "People with just one partner can catch herpes".

Indeed. I caught it from a boyfriend who had imposed monogamy on me. Then he proceeded to willingly give me herpes (I suppose it was so I wouldn't leave him because, being stuck with the virus, I would have trouble finding anyone who'd want to be with me...).

Funnily enough, for a guy who's as promiscuous as I am, the only two STIs I ever got were given to me by guys I was in a relationship with.
38
"I'm only the third person he's ever slept with. I think I'm more fearful of what he may think of my character that I had unenjoyable sex with men and women just to try to keep peace with my ex."
Offwhitewalls, I was thinking that the issue of the herpes and who gave it or whether you let your husband take the fall for it is a red herring. The herpes is simply the reason you have (or think you have) to tell your boyfriend that you have had more sexual partners than you feel comfortable in having had or in admitting to. You fear that he will think you're a bad person, but in some ways (the way you characterize the boyfriend as being "pretty pure and innocent in [your] book," and the way you see having contracted herpes as the price you paid for your "stupidity") I think you are judging yourself.

I really urge you to read Harriet_by_the_bulrushes' very insightful and compassionate comments. Let yourself off the hook for having had sex with people you weren't in love with.

You don't need to tell your boyfriend who gave you the herpes--and in fact, you can't honestly, as you don't know and may never find out--it's not germane. But you're afraid that in telling him that you don't know, you are admitting to having had sex with more people than he knows you have. If he's as good and decent as you say, it shouldn't matter to him that you have had sex with more people than he has and for different reasons than he's had. Everything in your past contributes to making you the person he loves now. What matters is who and how you are going forward, not what you did in the past.

39
@38: I forgot to add: you said " Current BF is not judgmental but he's very vanilla and I'm just afraid he'd have a different attitude if he knew about the others. I love this man and we see ourselves together long term."
If he can't accept you and love you knowing that in order to please your husband you had sex with other people, you should find this out sooner rather than later about him.
40
@7: “so what is up with a couple of the commenters suggesting that the LW has an axe to grind”

Projection.

@30: “Well, no, actually.”

Planned Parenthood is currently not even recommending HSV2 tests without any displayed symptoms.
41
In the U.S., 55% of single/divorced/widowed women of letter writer's age have HSV2. Most (80-90%) of these women are unaware they are infected. It's very common and incidence increases with age. Condoms reduce but do not eliminate risk of transmission. Blaming assholes is unnecessary and perpetuates the notion that having HSV2 makes one of a victim (or an asshole) rather than just a sexual human being with a very common sexually transmitted virus.
42
I'll add that I'm another member of the club, I don't know who gave it to me, and it really doesn't matter. I've had a couple people tell me (when I disclosed to them) that they wish the person who gave it to me had informed me. First, this assumes the person knew they had it (usually people don't) and also assumes I would have chosen not to have sex with that person had I known (equally wrong). I have no regrets. I do find the stigma frustrating, though most people I've encountered have been able to put HSV in perspective.
43
Anyone outside the US experienced stigma due to having herpes ? I never even knew it was a thing till I started reading Savage Love.
44
@43. In France when you say 'I have a mouth ulcer' before going down on something, they often pull you in and stick their tongue purposefully into your mouth. This may just be gay French men.

Thank you for nocute for the kind endorsement of my reaction to offwhitewalls's situation.
45
Back with an update. Here's the conversation I had with my bf:
Me: Ex is negative.
Bf: Then you've just had it for years and years and never knew it?
Me: Yeah, seems to be.
Bf: Well, my doctor said that's not uncommon. So, are you hungry?
😊

Thanks so very much to those of you who offered advice with kindness, patience and understanding. This is something that requires time to process. I'm sure when you received the news you did not meet it with the positivity, grace or maturity you have now. I'll get there. I've already lived my life with the stigma of a neurological condition (epilepsy) so this just adds a page to my already complex medical history.
I may not have connected the dots for giving that info on my ex. In my mind it wasn't irrelevant. His refusal to wear condoms made it difficult for me in couples swaps because I felt I couldn't insist on a condom if he wouldn't wear one. At least in a threesome I had a little more control. Perhaps this will be seen as an attempt to blame him. Like I said, it's a process and I'm already on my way to having a better handle on it.
Thank you all again. Peace and love xoxo
46
Offwhite@45 ~ I'm hoping that by now you have arrived at the point where you can insist on condoms (or anything else) because its what you want. You get to say what you want - end of story. Good luck! Hope to see you throwing your two cent's worth in the Commentariat in the future.
47
@45. Offwhitewalls. Then it seems that your bf has no interest whatsoever in blaming you for having a sex life that's been unlike his. This would seem to underline your belief he's a great guy.

You're right in that when I found out I had herpes I met the news with horror and dismay--and the fear I might be getting HIV next.

I think that in the fullness of time your stating the extent of your sexual history is ... well, not exactly a conversation that has to happen with your bf, but a conversation that would be good to have. Right now it's possible that you're feeling you'd be happy--more than happy--to settle down to a rest-of-your-lifetime of restrained monogamy with this man. And maybe that's what will happen; and good luck to you! But the threesomes and any sex jags you may have gone on are not bad or shameful, and it seems they aren't things that it would harm you or your relationship for your partner to know.
48
@2 really? Cause my partner of 2 years has it, and I’ve confirmed via blood test that I don’t
49
Offwhite @45: Yay! You've confirmed all the comments that say it's a much bigger deal to you than it would be to anyone else. And yes, I reacted with horror when I was diagnosed as well, and am still erring on the side of avoiding even having new partners because I don't quite know how to tell them. Thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences of people's reactions; this discussion has been reassuring.
50
Late to the virus party here, but want to add my own experience. I had my first *diagnosed* herpes outbreak when I was about twenty five and had been monogamous with the man who would eventually become my husband for about two years. In retrospect, it was clear I had had outbreaks before - years before - but I was young and dumb and didn’t go to a doctor and so didn’t know I had herpes. I sincerely hope I didn’t pass the virus on to anyone during those undiagnosed years, but the truth is I most likely did. I have now had herpes for somewhere close to thirty years - during which time I have been pregnant and given birth to three perfectly healthy children. Twenty of those years I’ve been monogamous with the same man, and so far he has not had an outbreak. Maybe he has the immune system of steel, I don’t know, but my experience leads me to believe that herpes is generally not nearly the demonic entity that people portray it to be. Half of all people who are infected have a single outbreak and never get another (not the case for me, alas). It isn’t dangerous to a fetus unless you are first infected during pregnancy, or have an active outbreak at delivery. Certainly, herpes can be seriously painful. Also, as I’ve learned to my dismay, it’s possible to spread it around your own body by, say, masturbating and then later scratching your ears or picking your nose. But thank science there are very effective medicines! If you happen to contract this virus please know it isn’t the end of the world, it isn’t the end of your sex life, and it isn’t anything to be ashamed of.