In my work providing counseling for couples of all kinds (M-W, W-W, M-M), I find that the partners frustrate themselves all too frequently by falling into certain common traps that impair communication. These are some of the ones I see; the “roles” that you want to avoid in order to have productive communication:
In part I of this article, I described some of the very practical HIV transmission risk management issues involved in sex between HIV negative and positive guys. Other issues that often confront “magnetic” or “serodiscordant” couples include not fully understanding the burden that HIV is to your partner, and being only partially able to sympathize and “relate” with his various fears, frustrations, and symptoms.
[NOTE: This article was written before PrEP. I’ve been a gay men’s specialist therapist and blogger for a VERY long time…]
You’re on your third date with someone who very well could be Mr. Right. You’re impressed that you got him to go to your favorite restaurant when you weren’t sure he would like it. You’re staring across the candle-lit table at those beautiful green eyes of his. He pauses and then takes a deep breath, a little sigh, and says, “So… I guess I should tell you that I’m HIV-positive.”
[NOTE: THIS BLOG ARTICLE IS FROM 2005, AND HAS MANY ANTIQUATED IDEAS IN IT, SUCH AS THE TIME BEFORE PREP, TASP, AND U=U. IF YOU DON’T KNOW THESE ACRONYM TERMS, PLEASE LOOK THEM UP BEFORE READING THIS ARTICLE. THIS ARTICLE IS INCLUDED HERE ONLY FOR AN HISTORICAL REFERENCE, AND IS ONLY PARTIALLY RELEVANT PRESENTLY. PART OF BEING EDUCATED…UB2 IS BEING UP TO DATE; THIS ARTICLE IS NOW OBSOLETE, EXCEPT IN ADDRESSING SOME REMAINING STIGMA IN SERO-DISCORDANT (POZ/NEG) DATING, A TOPIC I EXPLORE IN MORE DETAIL IN OTHER ARTICLES.]
Recently I was browsing through online personal ads in various online services for gay men. I was surprised at how often the term “UB2” came up. This is an appreviation for, “You be, too!”, in reference to a negative HIV status. It seems to say, in those succinct three characters,
Living with HIV and being in a domestic violence relationship often bring up similar issues. Domestic violence, like HIV, is something stigmatized and often hidden, with many people suffering in silence and isolation when what they really need is human contact and specific help. Both HIV and domestic violence are related to human interpersonal relationships, and both have high emotional stakes. The damage done by each is gradual and insidious, and gets worse with time if it is not stridently addressed in a comprehensive plan for help. Women are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence, but it’s important to note that men can be victims, too, and it can occur in opposite- and same-sex relationships.
Recently my friends, colleagues and I have debated the idea of “magnetic” or “sero-discordant” romantic relationships, where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is HIV-negative. It seems opinions for and against can be adamant. My predecessor writing this column, Dr. Tony Zimbardi, is also a psychotherapist living with HIV, and he and I are friends and colleagues in Los Angeles. He has written about this topic before, but we disagree on this issue.
It seems everybody is a therapist these days — or at least calling themselves that. Our society is so much in need of support in these fast-paced, overworked, multiply-stressed days that we’re seeking help anywhere we can find it. Maybe I’m biased because I live in Los Angeles and I’m used to seeing all kinds of new-age “practitioners” – people who offer “professional services” to change your life if only you had your chakras balanced, your high colon cleaned out, your aura adjusted, your astrological chart analyzed, or a thorough assessment (on the phone, no less) with Miss Cleo and her associates at the Psychic Friends Network.