Guest author from our community: WCSDancer2010

I know you may not be able to imagine this right now, but Herpes really CAN become your Wing-man in both your dating and regular life.  The definition of a Wing-man is “… a role that a person may take when a friend needs support with approaching potential partners. A wingman is someone who is on the “inside” and is used to help someone with intimate relationships.” (from Wikipedia)

“That fear of rejection is what keeps most people from talking to anyone about their condition. It’s what forces so many people into the “Herpes Closet” where they live in fear and shame. So let’s look at rejection …”

However, I’m going to extend the definition of a Wing-man to being someone who can help you to attract good people into your life while also helping you to detect and remove the negative and toxic people around you. Great you say… so how the heck can Herpes do that for me?

The Fear of Rejection and How  it Controls Us

Every time we disclose to someone, whether it be a friend or a potential mate/lover, we put ourselves at risk of rejection. That fear of rejection is what keeps most people from talking to anyone about their condition. It’s what forces so many people into the “Herpes Closet” where they live in fear and shame. I’ll tell you, a “Closet” is a lonely, unhealthy place to live.

So let’s look at rejection. Rejection is a very powerful emotion. In fact, it’s one of the most powerful emotions in the animal kingdom. It’s what keeps herd/pack/group based animals in line. It’s what keeps the majority who are lower position in the pecking order from breaking the “rules” of the group. It’s what certain societies/group use to manipulate people into behaving. Just think of the Quakers and how they employ “Shunning”.  Anyone who breaks certain Quaker Laws is kicked out and their FAMILY is forbidden to talk to them or me in any contact with them. Talk about manipulation of the psyche! AND, it works very well!!! Many who try to break free go back and submit themselves to months or years of doing “repentance” to work their way back into the group.

The fear of rejection from a friend, from family, a potential lover, or society in general is what keeps people in what some will call a “Closet”.  As Ash Beckham said in this Ted Talk: “A closet is just a hard conversation that you need to have”.  So fear of rejection is essentially what is keeping you, and most of the people who have Herpes, from opening up and talking to ANYONE about a condition that is, in essence (and according to any doctor you will talk to) a nuisance skin condition in an awkward place. How crazy is that?

The emotion of rejection has had a lot of press lately. It turns out that rejection elicits a response that actually causes us to FEEL pain because it stimulates the nerve pathways that communicate pain to the brain. Studies have actually shown that taking an Advil or similar can actually reduce that physical response when someone has been rejected.

So try this on: Have a conversation with someone where you talk about something that physically hurt you like an accident or an operation. Note that you get NO physical response/reminder of that pain. Now, tell them about your most recent break-up or fight with someone you care about. Note if/where you feel a physical response in your body. Odds are you will have some physical feeling ( a knot in the gut, tearing up, holding your breath, etc) that you likely get in those situations even though the event is in the past.

That is how powerful rejection is to us. The fear of rejection keeps us attached to people and situations that are toxic and unhealthy for us long after we should have walked away. And, knowing this, we can learn to change our behaviors and thought patterns so that we end up surrounding ourselves with amazing, loving, emotionally healthy people and relationships. Pretty cool, eh?

So, you ask: “How does this help me, and how can Herpes become my Wing-man?”

First, you have to understand that when people are or say ugly or nasty things in response to anything about you, that it’s not about you, it’s about them. It’s about their judgments, fears, ignorance, insensitivity, or need to control you or a situation. Learning to not take things that people say or do personally is a huge life lesson that almost everyone I know needs to learn to some extent.  And this is where Herpes can become your Wing-man.

The “Disclosure Talk” can become your practice session to help you weed out someone who might be controlling, judgmental, ignorant (and not willing to become educated) from your life. I mean, really, who wants that kind of person in their life anyway? If someone talks to you or about you to others in a nasty way about your Herpes (or anything else for that matter), they are likely saying and acting like that about all kinds of other things “about” you. And it so is not about you … it’s their judgement and negativity and jealousy that cause them to act that way. When you really, really get that to your core, life suddenly becomes a whole lot easier and less stressful!

So I am going to challenge you to try this on. Pick one friend… the one person you feel really has your back, but that you have not disclosed to. Ask them to come over or meet you for coffee or whatever. Get yourself properly educated beforehand so that if they have questions you can answer them. If you need “notes” then have a copy of the “Disclosure Handout” with you. Start by telling them that you are entrusting them with information that you would appreciate that they keep to themselves (because right now I get it that you don’t want the world to know). And then practice your disclosure talk on them.

Now, there is a small chance it could backfire and they could get ugly and even tell everyone. But I’m willing to bet that 99% of the time they will be loving and understanding and supportive of you. And now you have someone you can talk to while you become more accepting of yourself… because a good friend will likely be more accepting of your situation than you are being right now. Once you have done it one time, you will find it gets easier with time. AND you will find that becoming accepted WITH Herpes by your friends will help you see your situation differently. The Herpes Stigma is ONLY as big as it is because we (H+ people) as a group have allowed ourselves to be convinced that we need to hide our condition because of our fear of rejection. The more positive conversations/disclosures that we have, the more the stigma goes away.

But what happens if they react badly? What happens if they call you a slut, tell you you are dirty, or go tell all your friends? It can happen. And you have to be ready for it. So I want you to think of it this way. If the person “rejects” you, that is a pretty good indication that, as Patty Stranger of the Millionaire Matchmaker says, “Your Picker is off.”  It’s Herpes way of telling you that you are surrounding yourself with people who you really don’t need/want in your life.

And yes, if that happens you may find yourself in a fast-track education about who your real friends are. In the long run you will be better for it. Knowing this can happen and being mentally prepared for it will also help the dust settle a lot faster. If YOU are confident about yourself and if you are ready to prune the “ugly people” from your life, then Herpes can be your litmus test of their friendship and their worthiness to be in your life and your inner circle.

So what about Dating and Disclosure? How does Herpes act as my Wing-man there?

It’s pretty much the same thing, except that you will eliminate those people from your life that much quicker and before you have developed emotional ties with them. How someone reacts to your initial disclosure will tell you a LOT about them. They are likely not emotionally tied to you (or they may be just starting to get there) so it IS easier for them to walk away.

So here’s the deal. You will likely get one of 3 reactions:

1) The Runner:  They can’t get away from you fast enough. The Runner doesn’t want to be educated, and is likely VERY undereducated about STD’s. To the point that there is a really good chance that they have one (and don’t know it) OR they will get one thanks to their ignorance. OR, they are a Class 1 Germophobe/Hypochondriac. Either way, good riddance. Odds are those are the ones I tell many people on the Forums that were not into YOU, they just wanted to GET into you. Anyone who is looking for a really solid, loving, long term emotional relationship will at least slow down long enough to listen to you and get educated. Which brings us to #2 …

2) The Listener: This one will at least give you a chance to talk, will ask questions, and will be interested in getting educated. Now, it’s no guarantee that they will stay, but it DOES tell you they are a decent human being. This one may have to go off and think about things…they may even disappear for a few says because most people have NO idea about the reality of what Herpes is and it CAN be scary. Give them time — and again, don’t take it personally if they choose to walk away. Odds are it was just as painful for them to walk as it is for you to hear their “reasons”. In the end, the truth of the matter is that they will walk for one of two reasons: Either they realized that they really are not that into you and that it isn’t fair to lead you on or that the chance of getting Herpes is just a deal breaker for them. And this is when you really have to understand that their choice is not about you! It’s their boundaries of what they are willing to live with. I for one won’t date a smoker or someone with kids. I’ve had several very wonderful potential partners come into my life who I have walked away from, not because they are disgusting for smoking or undesirable because they have kids. It’s just something I don’t want to have in my relationship … it’s about ME, not THEM … See?

Now, if the Listener eventually decides to continue the relationship, TRUST THEM that they are okay with taking the risk of contracting Herpes from you. Don’t sabotage the relationship by constantly fretting and worrying about whether they will suddenly change their mind. Just do what you can to protect them and ENJOY this wonderful person who accepts you AND your condition! This one has turned into a #3 …

3) The Keeper: This is the one who scoops you up in their arms and tells you it doesn’t matter about what you have, you will work it out and they will love you, blisters, Valtrex, and all. And THAT is what we all want in the end, with OR without Herpes! Someone who loves us unconditionally.

So you see, your Herpes Wing-man will eliminate the potentially unsuitable partners from your life a LOT faster than your “Picker” might do for you. By doing so it immediately opens you up for “The Keeper” to come along. And that is a beautiful thing. And along the way, you will become a stronger, more powerful version of yourself as you learn that when people behave badly towards you, it is NOT a reflection of you, it’s a reflection of THEM.

Peace Out

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Pamela Marshall is Massage Therapist, Health Coach, and Dance Instructor in Upstate NY. As a Herpes “Lifer”, (having obtained HSV1 Oral as a very small child and HSV2 in her first sexual experience), Pam has a unique perspective of the Herpes Experience. When she was first diagnosed Herpes was not nearly as stigmatized as it is now. She has been married and divorced (amicably!), had several relationships with H- partners, and is currently single and looking for her own “Keeper.” Dubbed the “Forum Mom” on the the Herpes Discussion Forums, Pam is known for her “Tough Love” approach while dispensing advice and sharing her experience with others.

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