Sunday, May 17, 2015

Guest Blogger "I Didn't Ask For This" by Barbara Dempson


Recently, I received a message on social media from someone requesting relationship advice - a gentleman. He indicated that he had read several of my postings regarding relationships and thought that they were insightful so he decided to write to me for advice. His message was exhaustive so I will give you the condensed version. 

He was dating a woman that he grossly admired. The relationship seemed to be going very well until she shared some shocking news with him. The woman shared that she had contracted the herpes virus from her former partner. He, upon learning such news, decided it was best to end the relationship, immediately. He indicated that he had shared this information with a few of his close friends. His friends warned him not to sleep with her and advised him not to continue the relationship with her. After laying it all out, he just wanted to know if he was wrong or selfish for wanting to put the brakes on the relationship; to slow things down so he could have a chance to inhale what she had shared with him. He decided to write to me and ask for my help because he wanted to understand his actions and he also wanted to be fair to her.

I thought... Wow! This is heavy!  This was a very sensitive matter; one that needed to be handled delicately. I decided to meditate on the matter for a few days before responding to his message because I wanted to be sure that I was giving him a "Godly response", not a "Barbara answer". I wanted to be fair and give thought to both parties not just him.

Concerning him: I did not find his actions to be wrong or selfish. I did however sense that he was afraid and rightfully so as he was entering uncharted territory - a place unknown to him. It was obvious that he cared about her feelings as it relates to his actions hence the reason for writing me. Consequently, his immediate response to end the relationship was not surprising, because, oftentimes, the "shock of revelation" is much greater than the revelation itself. When a man encounters a woman, especially a woman that he feels a connection with, his mind automatically drifts to a place that is far beyond the moment. There is a movie playing inside his head with her as the leading lady. He sees the woman on his arm. He sees himself engaging in activities with the woman. He sees himself having intimate relations with the woman. So, now, upon learning such information, he is in a state of shock because he has to re-pattern his thoughts when all he wanted to do was play out the scenes inside his head. He looks down at his ticket stub and exclaims, "I didn't ask for this!"  He figured he must be watching the wrong movie because this is clearly not the movie that he paid to see. It isn't until the shock wears off and he has had a chance to digest what she has shared that he begins to have second thoughts.

Concerning her: I commend her for her transparency and her bravery because she could have chosen to be dishonest with him. I, however, cannot imagine the hurt, humiliation and horror of sharing something so personal only to have the person with whom you have shared toss you aside like day old bread. She shared because, apparently, he had proven himself trustworthy. And, because, he showed her that he cared for her his response was not what she expected. When we share our private moments we must err on the side of caution because there is a thin line between being transparent with someone that we may have feelings for and someone that God has given us the discernment to know that this is the person that He has chosen for us. We can make the mistake of sharing with the wrong person and our private affliction becomes our public nightmare.  As I realize that this is a delicate matter some might say that the best advice would be to tell him to "Run, Forrest!  Run!" But, this would mean standing in judgment of her. She didn't ask for this!  She didn't choose this virus. This virus chose her. I'm sure if she could, she would ask for a do-over. Unfortunately, life doesn't afford us do-overs, but God offers us "do-betters" - the chance to make better choices and the opportunity to do better by someone then what was previously done to us. I believe her being open and honest with him was her do-better. She laid her cards out. She was honest - a privilege that was not afforded her by her former partner, and, as a result, she became infected with the virus. Her integrity, care and compassion for this gentleman should be applauded.   

Neither party asked for what they received. He met someone that he had a strong connection with only to be paralyzed by her revelation. She on the other hand felt that she was doing the right thing, the honorable thing, only to be hurt by his reaction. She's forced to live with the shame and guilt of having to disclose her condition to every potential partner. When in fact the only thing she is guilty of is having unprotected sex; a practice many of us are guilty of! 

As I crafted my response, it was important for me NOT to give him the same advice that his friends had given him because I believe their advice was based on what they would do or how they would handle the situation, but one usually cannot predict how they will handle a situation once the heart becomes involved. Further, in my opinion, his friends' advice was reactionary and not based on medical facts or statistical data. Had they done their research they would be surprised to learn how common genital herpes is. One in five people are carriers of the herpes virus. Additionally, 85% of people with genital herpes don't know they have it. That's nearly 50 million Americans who are unaware that they have genital herpes. Fortunately, for those infected with the virus, it is highly manageable and people who get it can still have healthy sex lives with some never transmitting the virus to their uninfected partners IF they take precaution to avoid having sex during and around the time of an outbreak, use condoms, and take antiviral medication which helps to drastically reduce the likelihood of transmission.

In my response to his gentleman, I highlighted a few critical points as it relates to his situation and dating in general. First, if learning about a person's past changes the way you feel about them then he or she is not the person for you. We cannot change someone's past and neither can they change our past. We have to decide if a person's past mistakes are going to change us or change our feelings toward them, because, quite frankly, people are flawed. We all are. It just so happens that herpes is her flaw. What does this have to do with the content of her character or the faithfulness of her heart? Many good people have made poor choices and horrible mistakes albeit still deserving of God's best. Second, if you are a person in your 30s, 40s or older and dating or in a relationship with someone in the same age range changes are whomever you are dating or in a relationship with will have some baggage or residue from their past relationships. It is unavoidable; because, the longer we live, the more living we are going to do. To be alive is a blessing, but with it comes ups and downs, failures and successes, heartaches and heartbreaks, actions and consequences, and choices and challenges. Third, relationships are not perfect, because people are imperfect. But, two imperfect people who are perfect for one another create the PERFECT balance of love, harmony and strength. 

In closing, I did not advise this gentleman to continue the relationship or end the relationship. I did however suggest that he do his research and if this relationship is what he wants then the two of them should consult a doctor together. I also suggested that he pray on the matter, as God will instruct him on what to do.   
Last Word
There is power in truth. If a person cannot accept your truth then that person cannot accept you. 

Message "I Didn't Ask For This" written by Barbara M. Dempson, Founder, She-Attitudes LLC.  This post is republished with the permission from the author.

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