- Gender and Relationships
How I Told His Other Woman He Had Herpes
Imagine 50 of These -- On You Know Where
And The Facts That Convinced Me to Do It
I complained that seeing him every 5 or 7 weeks was not often enough, and that his one-line replies to my recent emails felt like a brushoff.
He said, "I see other women."
I froze. The man beside me, whom I had thought honest and fair in all dealings, a man I'd loved for almost three years -- suddenly my love and respect for him plunged to zero.
He said he now loved a married woman living three states away. She'd been his college classmate. After 40 years she found him on Facebook and told him how "she'd always been so fascinated by me." He glowed as he said that. I asked why he hadn't told me so I could step aside -- and avoid any diseases he and these women might be trading. "I didn't want to hurt you," he explained, and he added defensively, "I never lied to you." No, he'd only withheld the truth. Now the truth was out.
"She's married?" I said.
His face went blank, then assumed an expression I'd never seen; this very intelligent man now looked crazy, even stupid. "It's not a marriage," he insisted. "Oh, yes it is," I said. Oh, wow, I thought. Two cheaters. That's his chosen relationship.
"Did you tell her you have herpes?" I said.
He said yes.
"What did she say?"
He shrugged. I'd learned a lot about him in the last few seconds, and the shrug meant, "I'm not going to speak a lie, but you can infer I am lying by omission."
I was certain, right then, that he hadn't told her. He'd given me herpes a year after we'd been together. I called him after the first painful outbreak, when the doctor confirmed it, in August. And then I spent a day searching the internet for facts and sharing them with him:
- One out of every four U.S. adults has genital herpes.
- It is possible to have herpes and not know it (a doctor added, "But not very likely.")
- One can have sex with an infected person for a long time before the virus is shed and creates that shocking and painful first breakout.
- Condoms are not protective against herpes. Genital herpes can appear, and be transmitted, from waistline to thighs, front and back.
- Herpes can look like heat rash, blisters, acne, inflammation, or purple spots.
- Women pick up the virus faster than men do.
- Herpes won't kill or scar you, but if the virus gets to your eyes it can blind you. If a pregnant woman has it, it can harm or kill her baby.
Herpes can look like heat rash
It's a Crime to Transmit STDs
- It is a crime to knowingly pass on STDs. Legally the charge is sexual battery. Those who do it belong on the public list of sexual offenders. If you can prosecute for medical expenses, you should. Because the herpes virus can lie dormant for long periods it is, however, hard to prove that a particular person gave it to you.
Let me add what I know from experience:
- Many people with herpes won't tell you they have it!
For a guy who said he loved me, he had seemed strangely uninterested in my suffering (fever and chills, nausea, painful blisters) and sadness and the $400 it cost me to have diagnosed a disease I'll have for life. I'd just ended 7 years of post-divorce celibacy, so I asked him to apologize for giving me herpes. He whispered, "I'm sorry I and the universe gave you herpes." I'd thought that really odd. When he had blisters or when I did, we dealt with it, chalking it all up to bad luck, and didn't talk much about it. We were going to stay together anyway. We were both over 50. He'd said I was his last love.
Dumping cheaters and liars on the spot has saved me a lot of time and trouble. I recommend it. I packed my things. He panicked. Wasn't I hungry? Didn't I want dinner? "No." Couldn't we keep things going as they were? I said, "I'm nobody's recreation. I won't be on your string." How about staying the night? I said, "Only a foolish woman would stay." He followed me out to my car in his bare feet, repeating, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
I said, "Have fun," and drove away.
I'm mature enough to know that cheaters cheat; that's what they do; it's a flaw in their moral character, and they're liars too if they hide it; and it's not me nor the "other" who is at fault. If it wasn't the married woman, it'd be someone else. He'd given me her name. I found an address and phone number. I wondered if he'd told her he had herpes. My bet was that he hadn't. Was it wrong to let her know? Or irresponsible not to let her know? I looked for advice, legal, moral, any kind:
- Most advice says "Don't call the other woman. What he is doing with her is not your business."
- I thought of writing her a letter. But I didn't want anything on paper.
- I didn't have her email address.
- Although I found her on Facebook, you can't go on the Net, like Facebook, and post that a specific person has herpes, because legally that's an invasion of privacy.
But I put myself in her situation. I would want to know. I talked with two close friends. One said, "If she already knows he has herpes, calling her will do no harm. If she doesn't know, she ought to." Another said, "Somebody has to say that they know what he's doing and it's wrong, or he will keep doing it."
Would I be punished for speaking up? With harassment? A lawsuit? After I solidly believed that telling her was the right thing to do, as one woman to another, I decided to accept any consequences that might come. I forced myself to formulate my message fairly, calmly and carefully, not saying "X gave me herpes" -- I couldn't prove that -- but say, "X has herpes," which was inarguable. One morning I left a short and very polite phone message with my name and phone number.
Heard nothing back. I went on with my life.
But she located an email address I seldom use and three weeks later I found her reply there, just as polite as mine. No, she hadn't known he had herpes. She'd been shocked to learn that. And yes, in January, 13 days after she first slept with X, she got the painful breakout that sends us all to the doctor and warps our sex lives forever. And after her breakout she'd asked X if he had herpes, and he'd said, "Not that I know of."
I'd told him in August. He'd knowingly chosen to infect her in January and then lied about it, to this woman he supposedly loved.(Beware of the "love" you find on Facebook!)
Like me, through X's dishonesty she had believed she was his one and only. She was sorry to have caused trouble for me, she wrote. I replied don't be sorry; thank you for forcing an end to the relationship.
We emailed back and forth discussing how X could be charming but had some awfully weird ways. She said they'd had a talk and he'd agreed he should warn any future lovers about his herpes. But he won't, I wrote. The proof is what he did to you. I told her she could sue and said I'd be her witness.
She didn't do that, but gave it a few weeks of thought and then broke up with him. He's probably doing it to some other lady now. And then another lady. But he'll have a lonely old age because he is promiscuous, selfish and a liar. Of course he can't advertise those traits, and admit to having herpes, too, and still get women. Why he wants to harm women while pretending to love them, I will never know.
X loves posting photos of himself cuddling and playing with kids; it's part of his image-making. I imagine telling him, "One day when that sweet little girl grows up, a man will knowingly choose, without warning her, to infect her with his herpes. What would you think of a man like that? Do you think that's okay?"