Q. I have been in a relationship with a wonderful woman for a year now, and things have been great for us so far. She’s a truly selfless person, makes me laugh, and I can count on her for anything. We have so much fun together, and I feel at ease whenever I’m with her. However, I recently found out that she passed a permanent STI to me (she did not know she had it), and it has left me reeling. She is incredibly sad and apologetic and is doing whatever she can to support me in this.
At the same time, she has to move away for at least a few months for her job. We planned to continue dating long-distance, though recently I’ve been wondering whether the relationship has the foundation to survive long-term. Notably, we may want different things in the future. I’ve always planned to move close to my family later on in life, but she would rather stay where we are now. I am also a planner and like to work out every detail, whereas she is more about going with the flow. I’ve always found that dynamic to be a benefit in our relationship, but as other life responsibilities get closer (marriage, starting a family, buying a house, etc.), I wonder whether our approaches are too different.
The recent diagnosis has, without a doubt, changed things. I was angry and hurt, and while I’m somewhat past it, I’m still struggling to move forward. I want to emphasize that my feelings of doubt in our relationship were not there (or at least were very small) before this issue, and I’m worried it’s clouding my judgment. To that end, I also feel my dating prospects in the future will be limited, and I should try to see this relationship through since I do sincerely care about her.
People say this condition should not define your life, but I know it will be a significant complication. I worry that if I stay, I may feel as though I was forced into the relationship and will grow resentful, but if I go, I’ll be sad, alone, and without support. Worth noting, I am also beginning therapy soon to work through some of these issues. I’m struggling as I figure out where we go from here. Am I getting ahead of myself? Or does this seem like a lost cause?
A. “Am I getting ahead of myself?”
Yes to this question. Take a deep breath and acknowledge that it’s OK not to have answers.
You said that you’re the planner, and that your girlfriend is the one who goes with the flow, but in this case, you’ll have to be patient and acknowledge that you don’t know what you want. It will take time (maybe a lot of time) to process your feelings about the diagnosis. It’s too soon to know whether these relationship doubts are rooted in resentment and stress.
Therapy will help — I’m so glad you’re going — but again, don’t expect immediate clarity. Remember that even before the STI, you weren’t ready to make decisions about your shared future.
The good news is that with your girlfriend gone, you can process all of these feelings without an audience. Take advantage of the space by talking to friends, doing some self-care, and enjoying the parts of you life that have little to do with your romantic relationship. Think about whether you miss her and why.
For the record, the people who’ve said that this STI should not define your life are right. STIs can be managed and are very common. It’s a change, but it should not take over your dating identity.
The fact that you’re worried about your dating prospects in the future doesn’t exactly make me believe that this relationship was on solid ground to begin with.
Staying in a relationship with someone because you feel that there may not be someone else out there for you is not a good reason to stay with them.
Sadly, I believe this is the basis for many relationships.
In spite of the number of people [who might blame] the girlfriend for not getting tested — she did get tested. That’s how she knows she has an STI — which sorry folks, is the correct term as STD is outdated. Many infections can be asymptomatic and some are not routinely tested for (like high risk HPV) and may not show symptoms for years or ever. In short, give this lady a break. It happens and we don’t know her story so we really shouldn’t judge because it’s not like STIs only happen to people with lax morals. As for the person who wrote in . . . your girlfriend didn’t do it on purpose. Forgive yourself. Forgive your girlfriend. Accept your situation. For all you know, you gave her the STI and that’s why it’s showing up now.
The STI just CHANGES the way you date. It doesn’t eliminate it completely. When you meet the right person, be honest with them, and if they truly care for you it won’t change their mind about being with you. Trust me.
If she really didn’t know that she had this condition, then she is going through a lot right now, too, because that means she also just discovered she has a “permanent” STD and she caught it from someone else she obviously trusted. Your letter doesn’t mention her feelings at all. I know this is bad for you but it is bad for her too.
You don’t have to have it all sorted out now. Take it one step at a time with some help.