First, I need to apologize for not following up on my last post sooner. I wrote this a while ago, forgot to post it, and have struggled to face it again. Please forgive me.
My Herpes diagnosis last May created additional struggles in our marriage, but they weren’t really new issues.
My diagnosis just amplified the dynamics that our relationship had always operated under. The added stress of going through the crises brought to light my insecurities, bitterness and anger that raged deep inside and that have been simmering for years. Dealing with herpes is a total bummer, but our struggles have created an opportunity for growth. Rather than just finding a new normal, I am choosing to go after deep healing that will have a much greater impact then my diagnosis.
Realities of Herpes
During a Herpes outbreak, virus levels soar and the chance of spreading the virus increases. Any contact with saliva can pass along the virus. So, in May when I had my outbreak, Jim and I immediately made what some might call drastic changes.
I stopped helping with food prep or even setting the table. Hand washing happened often, with towels designated for my use alone. Jim and I stopped sharing food, drinks or even tooth paste. Helping in the kitchen consisted of me clearing dirty dishes.
As far as physical intimacy, the choices felt even harder. I wanted Jim to decide what he felt comfortable with. After all, I was the one with herpes and he was not. My husband catching herpes would only complicate things. Kissing stopped, all forms of sex stopped and even hand holding stopped. Even though these choices made me feel very alone, I also understood them. During my initial outbreak and my mouth wracked with pain, sex wasn’t exactly the first thing on my mind.
Loneliness Set In
Several weeks later as my body began to heal, the loneliness began to grow. I had given Jim all power of choice in order to help him feel safe and yet I could hardly stand it. I felt untouchable, unlovable and in many ways abandoned. Night after night, I would lay in my husband arms, he would gently kiss the top of my head good night and then I would quietly cry myself to sleep.
How long were we going to remain like this? Was he ever going to bring up a conversation about sex? Couldn’t we at least creatively connect through things like mutual masturbation? I could feel my blood begin to boil and disdain grow at his silence.
Now to be fair, my husband and I were traveling at the time and had just hosted his mom’s memorial service. Jim had a lot going on, and my herpes diagnosis had come out of the blue and shocked both of us. Jim longs for nothing more than to make me happy, and yet he couldn’t cure my herpes. I can imagine how painful it felt for him to hear me grieve. He must have felt overwhelmed.
But with each day my feelings of abandonment and anger about the lack of communication and connection continued to grow. When I tried to help Jim understand how desperate I felt for some kind of conversation that would instill hope, he listened but nothing changed.
A week later I lost it. With adrenaline pulsing through my veins, I looked my husband squarely in the eyes and calmly told him something I never imagined I would say, “I hate you!” And then with the expletives flying. I let him have it.
My husband and I have this unhealthy dynamic in our marriage. We get along great for a while. Then I start thinking that he should lead more or talk more so I kind of hang back hoping that he will step up. Eventually I get impatient and upset and bring up my complaints. He apologizes and says he’ll try harder and then we go back to the beginning.
What played out because of my herpes diagnosis wasn’t any different than our usual dynamic, it was just amplified about 1000 times. And as I repeatedly entered into this desperate, crazy, angry attempt at waking my husband up to care for me, all I could think was, “This is not who I am! And this is not who I want to be!”
What I Want
My husband may never change, but I do not want to be an angry, bitter wife that can never see the good things about her husband. I want to honor my husband and respect the journey that he is on. Rather than letting things build, I want to communicate my needs clearly in a loving way. But I also want to be ok, when Jim doesn’t meet those needs. I want to have compassion for Jim and inspire him to greater strength to be the man that God created him to be. I love my husband and I want to live that out.
Now I don’t need to tell you all the messy details of what happened as we worked through my diagnosis of herpes, our lack of intimacy, my husband’s passivity, and my anger, but I will tell you that we are in a much better place. In fact, it would be easy to just write off my episodes of rage and chalk them up to the stress of the situation.
But I don’t want to just forget what we went through or how I acted. Because even though this crisis has passed, I know that we will face hard times again. I believe that how I acted during my herpes diagnosis was a window into the brokenness inside of me. I have things to work on and my struggles are an opportunity for growth.
Opportunity for Growth
Last Fall I started seeing a counselor and I have realized just how hard I am on myself. In the past I might have said, “I had to see a counselor”, because I am so pathetic. Today because of the work I am doing, I say, “I get to see a counselor”. You see, it does not serve me or anyone else to beat myself up. I had a choice, and I chose to seize this opportunity for growth. Seeing a counselor comes from a place of strength, courage and health, not from weakness, fear or brokenness.
In order to love others well, I must learn to love myself well. When I learn to take an honest look at myself and extend compassion, then I can see others honestly and extend compassion to them. I want to love my husband, my kids, my friends, my family, and the people that I minister to with a deeper more profound love.
My struggles created an opportunity for growth. I get to see a counselor to help me become a more loving person. And it is super hard work, but in the long run, I know that it will be worth it. I am seizing the opportunity.
Announcements – I am super excited to teach Awaken Love in April with limited spots available.
For Wives Starting April 6, Wednesdays at 12 central time meeting over Zoom for 6 weeks
For Wives Starting April 4, Monday Nights at 7 pm meeting in Plymouth, MN for 6 weeks
Email Ruth.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to sign up!