May #81 : Love Handles - by Patrick Califia

POZ - Health, Life and HIV
Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
E-newsletters
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join
Username:
Password:

Back to home » Archives » POZ Magazine issues




Table of Contents

Divinely Driven Dick

The Doctor Is Out

Say Aaaaah!

Unveiled

HMOs & HIV

Loan Ranger

Raging Bull

Global Yodel

Bush 2, MaryJane 0

Milestones

Afghan AIDS

Hemo Hero

Georgia on My Mind

I Want My HIV TV

Jock Sock

Gal-lery

Spin Cycle

Seattle Rattle

Prime Time

Rhesus in Pieces

Fast Lane T Cells

Sustiva Diva

Coke Is It

Obituary

Marathon Man

Love Handles

Publisher's Letter

Mailbox

Playing (for Keeps) in Poughkeepsie

AZT Ace

NEG/POS



Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle

Shingles

Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV


email print

May 2002

Love Handles

by Patrick Califia

Falling in love but feeling infectious? Therapist Patrick Califia helps you get a grip on HIV intimacy issues


Dear Sexpert:

The good news is, I'm in love. The bad news is, he's negative -- and I'm scared shitless that I'll infect him. It just seems inevitable. Whenever I bring these anxieties up, my boyfriend calmly reassures me that we will always take precautions, use condoms when fucking and deal day by day. But after four months, he is losing patience with my fears and complains that I'm pushing him away. This is the first relationship I have risked since testing positive in 1992 -- I spent a whole decade having sex with strangers -- and I feel hopelessly at sea. We are (were?) hoping to move in together. Save me before I sabotage it.

-- Mixed-Status & Mixed-Up

Dear M&M,

Your upsetness about infecting your beloved shows that you care deeply about him -- and that, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing. Creating a safe-sex ritual is something all mixed-status couples must do from scratch, and Martha is no help at all. You just have to start with all your issues open. And take heart that many serodiverse (serodiscordant is so, well, discordant) partnerships succeed beautifully.

It sounds like you feel some shame about the nights you stayed up counting everything but sheep. But you weren't necessarily "avoiding commitment." When the right opportunity to get involved presented itself, you bit. The social and erotic skills you developed when you hit the parks, sex clubs and other cruisey spots can help you build a strong relationship, not hinder it. You got game, my man.

Of course, HIV can make even a sex god feel his touch is toxic. And yet the need for pleasure and intimacy rarely declines with your CD4-cell count -- nor should it. Having sex with strangers is one coping mechanism. There may be a greater sense of freedom if you know the other person is also positive, so some HIVers will cruise only those who share their serostatus. Celibacy may seem like a safe retreat, but it can lead to a sense of deprivation that only encourages acting out. A loving relationship in which each partner accepts the other -- infections, imperfections and all -- may be the best way to handle life's hardships without isolating yourself or drowning in mindless excess.

Your lover-man needs to find some time to open his heart so that you can vent about your anxieties. His solution -- dealing day by day -- is the only pragmatic one, but he's putting it forward too soon; perhaps as a defense against his own fears. Behind his calm reassurance is a hidden message that there is nothing to talk about here, and that's so wrong. Ironically, it would probably make you feel better to hear that he shares your worries. While the guilt you feel about having HIV (or being an erotically adventurous homo) may contribute to your transmission troubles, he needs to unpack his own baggage -- guilt about having escaped the virus, say, or fear about your getting sick someday.

To master your mutual anxieties, communication -- and the trust that it births -- goes a long way. Explore what being positive and negative means to each of you. Accept that you are different from each other and try to respect, even enjoy, the friction this causes. Get graphic about your sexual experiences and fantasies. Linger over the topic of what each thinks is unsafe. This will help you come up with an agreement about what you will and won't do based on your individual comfort levels as well as the medical facts. Do you dream that it would be easier if you were both positive? Expressing such wishes, even if they must not come true, can defuse their power. Taking sexual risks is often an attempt to deny differences, to prove one's love or to express anger about the virus. It's easier, not harder, to use condoms if you can talk about the ways they limit pleasure. Does the inability to share fluids feel like a loss? Give tongue to it. And have a back-up plan in case a condom breaks: quick access to post-exposure prophylaxis.

Are you sabotaging a good thing? Although it is self-destructive to reject love, it can feel right -- like infecting your beloved, "it just seems inevitable" -- if deep-down we don't believe we deserve happiness. The HIV issue may loom so large that it obscures other obstacles to intimacy, such as why you may feel "safer" alone. This is where a therapist can work wonders. The secrets we keep from each other and ourselves wind up making us run in circles and breaking leases.

Repeat after me: HIV is not the only threat to human happiness. We will all die of something. This tragedy is only enhanced when we refuse to connect with each other in the short time we do have. Men and women marry, and their gender differences can wreak more havoc than any retrovirus. Bet you a subscription to Martha Stewart Living and a gross of Rough Riders that you and Mr. Right will have a better relationship than your parents managed.


At a loss in love or lust? Ask the POZ Sexpert, 1 Little W. 12th St., 6th Floor, New York, NY 10014, or e-mail sexpert@poz.com.




[Go to top]

Join POZ Facebook Twitter Google+ MySpace YouTube Tumblr Flickr
Quick Links
Current Issue

HIV 101
HIV Testing
Safer Sex
Find a Date
Newly Diagnosed
Disclosing Your Status
Starting Treatment
Search for the Cure
POZ Stories
POZ TV
Read the Blogs
Visit the Forums
Women
African American
Latino
Providers
Job Listings
Events Calendar


    charliehunter
    San Francisco
    California


    Sin_Grinder
    Reno
    Nevada


    usuallyhappy
    Palm Springs
    California


    kmfdm221
    Arcata
    California
Click here to join POZ Personals!
Ask POZ Pharmacist

Talk to Us
Poll
Do you enjoy books with HIV-positive characters?
Yes
No

Survey
Mind Matters

more surveys
Contact Us
We welcome your comments!
[ about Smart + Strong | about POZ | POZ advisory board | partner links | advertising policy | advertise/contact us | site map]
© 2014 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy.
Smart + Strong® is a registered trademark of CDM Publishing, LLC.