To Have Loved, But Not Lost

A seagull. Photo by Jeremy Alcorn

To the man with my heart in his glorious palms; that’s how it began. I was rummaging through my files today and I reached into a folder labeled nostalgia sure that there was something there I could throw away. It held a single letter. It was one my second wife had written me on my birthday. I had forgot it even existed.

Our relationship was an unlikely one. 18 years of age separated us. Most people didn’t approve. In the end her interest faded; she moved on and so I had to as well.

Her letter was as spectacular now as it was then, I remembered why I loved her so. As I read through her beautiful prose and all of the wonderful things she said about me, about us, I pondered how such emotion and love could ever fade. Sometimes though, it does.

Things can never go back to how they were. That truth is the only thing that made moving on possible. Life is both complicated and simplistic that way.

Her words continue, this time prophetic “our time is something we have to treat as precious, focusing on what we have instead of what we do not have.”

I was the happiest with her. I can’t imagine ever feeling that way again towards another. I hope I will. If I don’t, I’m thankful for the two years we shared. I’m ever grateful that I was able to experience such emotion once in my life and I’m glad it was with her.

I returned the letter to its place with tears cascading down my cheeks and falling from my chin. The folder is like my heart, it holds something dear to me. I can reminisce about what it holds and appreciate how special those moments are to have lived. A heart bereft of love is barely able to be called heart at all. It is just an empty object waiting to be used, to be filled.

As it turns out, everything in the folder and in my heart is placed just as it should be. I was in love and that is enough.

My Partner Told Me They Have Genital Herpes

So you’ve met someone you like and you’re ready to take things to the next level, but your partner has just told you they have genital herpes.

As someone who themself has genital herpes I want you to know a few things about how to approach this situation with grace and be empowered to make a healthy decision.

So what can you do?

Consider yourself respected

If you are with someone who has informed you they have herpes then that’s one sign that you may have found someone who truly values you as a person. After all, between breakouts (of which some people never have) there is no way for you to tell if someone is infected.

By telling you about herpes or any other STI/D before you have sex they are putting your needs before their own. This is pretty sexy in and of itself. They are giving you the gift of informed consent. Something they may not have had.

Ask them questions

The information they have for you is really important. Hopefully, they can tell you what herpes looks like for them, meaning what precautions the two of you can take and the frequency of their outbreaks.

Even better is that talking to them will help you see that they are not what the virus makes them. They are just people getting along in the world like everyone else. They probably don’t define themselves by the fact that they have herpes and neither should you.

Feel free to think about it

If someone springs the info that they have herpes on you while your both naked and ready to throw down then it’s either that things progressed much quicker than they anticipated or they were hoping you would just agree to sex anyway in the heat of the moment. The first is somewhat understandable the second is deplorable.

Either way, you have the right to say “I need to think about this.” You have to determine your risk in a informed and rational way. I for instance, have chosen both to avoid risks and accept them depending on the circumstances. Obviously, you have this right as well.

Do some research

There’s nothing wrong with seeking out sources other than your partner. Not everyone is fully versed on herpes and it will also help you with your piece of mind by knowing the information you have is correct. To this end, use reputable medical sites and not a site that is posing as one.

Don’t say you’re clean

Often the words we choose have unintended consequences. By saying you’re clean (STI/D negative) you are implying that those who are not are dirty. In fact, dirty is a word that is often pointed straight at those who have herpes.

Know that herpes is beyond morality

Herpes is a virus, period. It doesn’t give a shit about your ideology. It doesn’t matter if you live a life of religiously endorsed virtue or one that is a virtue of your own endorsement. A virus reaches across all ideological spectrums.

I say this because I want you to know that while your partner’s situation will be different from everyone else who has herpes that it does not mean they lived a life of depravity. There is nothing wrong with them. You should know this because you’re with them. Whatever attracted you to them still exists.

Herpes isn’t normally screened for so even you may well have the virus and not know it. There’s not a lot of reason to check for herpes until you have symptoms. In one study, 90 percent of people who tested positive for HSV2 (genital herpes) had never experienced any symptoms prior (1). That means there are a lot of people walking around with one of the strains of herpes and will likely never know it.

At any rate, don’t fret over your partner’s means of contracting herpes unless it is important to them to discuss it.

How did I get herpes?

Why is this here? Because you’re probably wondering. Keep in mind that this is information that you really have no right to. So if your talking to someone and they mention their positive HSV status it’s not okay to ask how they got it. They will volunteer that info if they want you to know.

However, I have a blog dealing with this and I’m comfortable talking about it. I think I received herpes through viral shedding. None of my partners had any visible symptoms, none of them informed me about an HSV2 risk and I trust those I was with sexually. I don’t think the person that infected me knew they had it.

Viral shedding is where the virus is attached to a skin cell that falls from one body and then enters the body of another through a mucous membrane or a wound. The herpes virus lives for a very short time outside of the body but when your close to someone a short time is all that it can take.

Because I was infected in a place a condom doesn’t cover it seems likely that the point of entry for me was a razor nick in my skin (some recommend shaving a day before a sexual encounter rather than the day of to allow some time to heal).

I don’t regret anything. This is just one of those things that happen. I abstain from sex during any breakouts (which seemed to have stopped) and wait seven days after healing as recommended. Anyone I’m with sexually knows my status and we work around it when needed. The results have been good and so far I seem to be keeping herpes all to myself, lol. Which is the ideal situation for everyone.

I hope this little bit of info helps about how to address the revelation that your partner has herpes. Couples working with herpes have full and rich relationships and if you choose so can you. As the saying goes stay calm, and carry on.

1 – https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2015/11/02/you-probably-have-herpes-but-thats-really-okay/?utm_term=.d6c8c7199421

An Alternative View of Labels

Like one of the authors of the articles below I have always wondered if labels concerning human sexuality do us more harm than good. I think there are arguments for both sides and I find the interplay of ideas particularly interesting.

Here are two stories of people who though they were stalwart adherents to a particular way of being until someone special helped them discover an unexpected truth about love.

I Came Out as A Lesbian – Then Fell In Love With A Man

How My Sexuality Changed When My Husband Became My Wife

As you can see by the titles, the first story follows a traditional view of relationships while the latter has a more non-traditional story arch. I hope you enjoy them and whoever you love now or come to love in your life, I wish you the greatest happiness.

Why Being A Grammar Elitist Ain’t All That

16473183_699677330213370_2443169300128591197_n

A tip for dating or relationships in general: policing someone’s grammar is a dick move. Here’s why following grammar protocol doesn’t show the good form that you imagine it does.

So-called correct grammar is an appeal to upper class views of what is proper and just in our language. Except that language has never really worked that way. Do you think the railroad workers, saloon owners, or sex workers in the 1800’s spoke perfect English? Me thinketh not. It was more a mixture of broken Chinese, Spanish, French, Irish (Gaelic), German and a whole other host of languages. And yet, these are the people that built America and they got shit done without needing to resort to the queen’s english.

Proper grammar is an elitist approach to the english language. It’s a way of thinking one person is better than another because of how they speak. Grammar elitists place their self worth and others on education without ever once imagining that not everyone has access to the same level or quality of education or sometimes any education at all.

It’s also a form of racism and classism which ignores the cultural influences that can exist in local neighborhoods and regions. Speaking like an upper class WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant) who is well versed in fine speak is not likely to garner you any special level of appreciation from a Tennessee mining community, the Dark Corner, Flint, Michigan or even in New York City.

Granted, it’s a fictional character but Malcolm Reynolds on Firefly spoke about being immortalized saying, “It’s my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of a son of a bitch or another.” It’s not at all proper english but it’s a wonderful quote (one of my favorites I might add) which easily exhibits wisdom. Everyone who is idolized has a darker side that often gets swept away by the need for a hero. Proper word choice isn’t necessarily a display of intelligence, but rather an example of someone following rules just for the sake of it.

The important thing is that we try and understand what the other person is saying and not how they are saying it. If someone from my home town told me “I found bout 5 five pounds of shroons the other day over on Kuhlman Hill.” I’m not about to correct them and say “you mean to say mushrooms” because I would be a colossal prick and their meaning is easily obtained.

Focusing too intently on grammar can also hide our chosen identity when we develop a stalwart adherence to pronoun choice such as him and her as opposed to zir and ze or they. We disrespect people and who they are over word choice.

The final reason that grammar (and word choice) doesn’t matter is that those whose job it is to keep us abreast of the english language aren’t at all concerned about what is proper. This very month Merriam-Webster introduced the words “safe space” and “microaggression” to the dictionary. Since that will piss conservatives off to no end they might be pleased to know that “riding shotgun” is now included as well. The point of cataloging language isn’t about proper usage, but about documenting what is happening. That word that you despise if it persists will one day make it into the dictionary. The kicker is, it was a real word long before that happened.

So the next time you decide to chide someone for not living up to your language standards perhaps you should critically examine those expectations and their privileged origins.

Are You Heading Towards A Sexless Relationship?

I think this is one of the things that, at least in America, doesn’t get talked about enough. Tons of people have struggled with the frequency of sex in a relationship and many of those have gone on to feel like they are merely a roommate to their significant other.

I can say that I was one of those people and while it was occurring I didn’t really speak to anyone about it. Like one of the scenarios mentioned in this article I eventually didn’t have any desire to have sex at all; my body just wasn’t producing those hormones anymore. While it wasn’t the biggest reason for the end of that relationship it was certainly a factor.

So know that others have been through this as well. You’re not alone and if your relationship hasn’t ended maybe there’s something you can do about it.

7 Signs You’re On Your Way To A Sexless Marriage

Fighting In A Relationship Again? – Do this next time instead

So here’s a little discovery I made recently that may help you deal with some relationship problems. When something happens in your relationship and you place blame on the other person for doing something wrong take a step back and try to consider the situation without any blame at all for your partner.

This will force you to view the situation differently. You will still want to come up with an explanation for what occurred but you won’t be able to resort to blame. Because of this it should help change your focus in two ways.

The first is that it will cause you to try and understand why your partner did whatever it is you’re upset about. This is super valuable because you may find that there is a sufficiently valid reason for what happened and that your frustration is misplaced entirely. This way when you see them next the conversation can shift from one of blame to one of reflection, understanding and ultimately support.

The second thing likely to happen is that you will start to question whether you have any blame to shoulder. That’s right, this is a rigged game and while you can’t blame your partner it is perfectly acceptable to look for fault in yourself. This is not a double standard. Remember this is an exercise that is designed to change how you look at particular situations. People don’t generally seek to blame themselves, but you likely have a role to play in this however well-meaning your intentions were.

If you think you found something you have done wrong then own it. The great thing about taking responsibilities for your actions is that when you talk about this with your partner, which you should totally do, they will see that you are capable of self-reflection. This means that they won’t always have to be the one to point these types of things out to you. You are capable of doing so yourself.

Once you start to see things in a new light it’s the perfect time to ask your partner for even more information. Have them help you understand more about what they were feeling and what they feel caused the problem. Together the two of you (or more for you poly folks) can help minimize the impact of similar situations when they occur or even prevent them all together.

So I called this a little discovery, but I think it can actually have a huge impact on the health of your relationship. If you have any experience with this or additional thoughts about this I would love to hear them.

Teaching Moments: Why you shouldn’t tell someone to Google it

Dating (and defining ourselves in general) can be a frustrating experience and often times when people don’t do the research into your identity terms it can be frustrating. However, don’t tell them to look it up. For one that makes you look like a giant dick so leave that shit off your dating profile, plus you don’t know what site they will use. If they go to the urban dictionary, which is complete shit, then they might come away with a pretty toxic view of who you are. Let them ask you if they want and look at it as a teaching moment for them to learn about you in your voice. They want to know about you from you. That’s pretty flattering.

http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2016/01/why-telling-each-other-to-google-it-hurts-our-movements/

The link above has some other good reasons to stop you from telling people to just look it up. Take care and happy dating.

This is Your Brain on Drugs

In his TED Talk entitled, “Relationships Are Hard, But Why?” Stan Tatkin takes an approach you may not have considered previously. Relationship difficulties are largely because of how our brains function. That and because we’re wrong pretty much all of the time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xKXLPuju8U

So learn how to help cope with that crazy shit you think by starting with his speech. It’s helped me immensely.

Your Relationship Probably Ended for One of Two Reasons

This article is brilliant.

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/10/the-2-most-common-reasons-why-people-get-divorced/

The essence of it is that most relationships end:

Because one person gets empowered and outgrows their often stuck partner.

or

Because one person was unable or unwilling to work through the baggage that their partner is triggering in them.

I’ve experienced both of these. How about you?

A Tale of Three Loves: Personal time and relationships

When I was dating the woman who would become my first wife. Initially, I wanted to spend every moment with her that was possible. However, early on (like the first week of us dating) she established Friday nights as the night we would spend with friends. That was a big deal because at the time it established one of the three nights we had available to us for her own interests. After spending the first few nights at home alone hoping she would somehow change her mind, I got my ass out of the house and started making plans with my friends. I realized that Friday night was for my interests as well. That independence was one of the best gifts she could have given me. It allowed me to avoid being one of those people who shed all of their friends as soon as they had a significant other and it caused me to define myself outside of another person.

This led me to develop cycling as a hobby. I established new friends statewide, started racing with some success, co-founded and ran my own race team and helped build and maintain the first mountain bike trail system in a neighboring county. I was one of the people who actually contributed to the growth of the sport. These were good times.

Flash forward a bit (18 years) and I was going through a divorce from my first wife and had started dating my second wife. I was in the best shape of my life and had just completed my first race of the year. It was my best finish ever which was an excellent way to start the year. It was also my last race for almost three years which not coincidentally was nearly the length of my second relationship.

You see my new love expected more of my time than I was used to. While I didn’t mind the idea of spending more time with her I didn’t like that it had to be at the expense of my other interests and even who I was. She leveraged her idea by saying, “This is what couples do. You didn’t spend time together in your last relationship because you two had problems.”

It sounded legit and as it pertains to the tail end of my first marriage it was correct. However, for the first 13 years or so having our own time and space worked remarkably well. Time apart wasn’t what ended my first marriage, but I didn’t really connect those dots at the time. I desperately wanted to please this new person. There was also a practical aspect to the situation. I was using every dime to pay off my debts from my first marriage and racing is an expensive proposition. The money I saved could be put to good use paying bills.

So, I stopped racing, only did trail building a couple of times, gave the remaining interest in my race team to my friends and pretty much just checked out. By this time I was living in a new city which further isolated me from my main source of pleasure and friendship.

Then I moved again, this time 1000 miles away. I played hermit my first year and didn’t make a single friend. When I tried to carve out time for cycling or photography I was made to feel guilty about using some of my time off to do this if she also had the day free. I became completely beholden to her schedule and could only feel good about going out if she was also out. I don’t think either of us were really conscious of this dynamic as it was occurring. She was just speaking to her needs and I was trying to meet those. In reality, I’m sure both of us were acting on our insecurities.

However, I eventually realized that this wasn’t working for me. I started to change the dynamic by saying I wanted more personal time to explore my interests. It took a number of conversations, but eventually we agreed and I did go out. I started working on my photography and throwing a leg over the top tube of my bike again and it was wonderful. It was just like old times and I was having a blast. I felt like I had a small part of the real me back again.

About six months later my second marriage was over. I don’t really think that my newly established independence was the cause of it. If anything, my willingness to give up my time and her desire to garner the majority of my attention was likely the symptom of a deeper flaw. We were just trying to bandage it with being together, both being afraid of what would happen when we weren’t.

Now that I have some distance from that scenario though I can see the mistakes I made. I used to be self-made and independent. I was ashamed of that needy insecure person I was at 17. All it took to reverse my fortune was a new relationship. It renewed my insecurities about a partner’s fidelity which most likely hinges on my perception of self-worth. Even though I didn’t want to relinquish my personal space I let my fears dictate my actions. I gave up the balance that made me who I was. The conversation, and subsequent compromise, should have happened much earlier in the relationship. Maybe I couldn’t afford to race, but just going out to ride or do trail work takes little money.

There’s a practical aspect to this as well. When you give the itinerary of your life over to another person and that relationship ends then you are essentially left with nothing; a place where your life should have been, but isn’t. You are more than just your partner and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s wonderfully healthy.

I read stories about parents who balance work and home life so that they can each go out and go for a run, bike ride or to hang with their friends and I appreciate that. It’s something I need to learn more about and definitely something I have trouble with in a new relationship. When everything is fresh in a relationship and comfort and trust have yet to be established my insecurities can kick in when I’m apart from someone. It’s one of my weaknesses to overcome.

I know that I’m happier with time set aside for myself. I just need to make myself strike that balance until I’m finally comfortable with it. That’s going to take time and tackling a few of my demons (again). To that end, someone bring me a tall glass of beer and a cute priest.