How do I handle my husband’s change in attitude toward my having herpes?

Dear Dr. Amy:

I have been with the same man (Chris) for 7 years, 2 of those years in marriage. Before we had any sexual involvement, I told him I contracted genital herpes from my first boyfriend when I was 19. He was away at college having unprotected sex with other girls. At the time I told him, Chris understood and said he loved me no matter what. I am now 30, he is 42. We have a 1 year old little boy. For the past year, Chris hasn’t been interested in sexual relations with me. If we had sex, it was him on top and that was it…no oral or foreplay, which we used to have constantly. Well, it all came out in the wash today during a big explosion that Chris has a problem with me having herpes. Dr. Amy, I haven’t had another single outbreak since the initial one and feel extremely fortunate for that. When I asked Chris why he didn’t feel that way when I told him, he said he was young and didn’t care, now he’s older, 42 and doesn’t want to risk getting herpes. I explained to him that transmission is only when I have an “outbreak” or tingling sensation at my nerve endings…which I experienced both with my initial outbreak and am fully aware of what they look and feel like. Now, Chris doesn’t want to have sex at all…and if we do, he wants it to be just normal, straight out sex with him using a condom. No foreplay and definitely no oral. He feels he’s been lucky all these years and isn’t rolling the dice. I told him he’s been lucky all these years because I’ve been responsible and wouldn’t dare have relations with him if I thought I was having an outbreak. I’m confused on how to deal with this. I feel as though I repulse my husband and I’m not sure if I can live like this. Do you have ANY suggestions at all for me as to how to approach this subject or what I should do?
Thank you! Theresa

Dr. Amy’s Response:

Dear Theresa:

I, too, wonder after reading your letter, why after 11 years, your boyfriend is worried about getting herpes and that he is behaving as though you repulse him. When his explanation to you is that he was young when you were first together, I also find that somewhat unusual considering that he was 31 years old. Most times, when people consider themselves young, it’s usually under the age of 20. This raises some questions for me. His change in sexual freedom and spontaneity has been affected by something, since you described that the change occurred so abruptly. And it sounds like getting some kind of professional help with someone specializing in sex therapy would really be the best route to take, because the marked change, that you are seeing in his sexual activity and the fear he is having, seem to indicate something is going on here.

When you ask me about what you can do about that, I would again recommend that you go see a sex therapist whether you go together, whether he goes, so you can get yourselves back on track with the sexual part of your relationship, because that is a very vital part of being together. The impact that this is having on you, you feeling like he is being repulsed by you, it sound like the two of you are going to need help in get through this and determine why this is occurring in this point in time. 


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