We have two letters today. They're similar, so I'm putting them together.
Q: I am a 59-year-old female who was married for 30 years. My husband died a few years ago and I am now hoping to start my life again. My problem is that before we were married, one of us contracted herpes. (We never placed blame and we never knew which of us gave the other the virus.) I don't know if I should spend the rest of my life alone to avoid spreading the virus to someone else. I don't know if anyone will want to date me. It somehow seems embarrassing to tell. Do I tell up front so that the person can make a decision right away? Do I wait a while? Will anyone want to be intimate with me? I would still enjoy and miss having an intimate relationship. Am I being selfish in wanting one? Please help me figure out the right thing to do.
– Alone, lonely, and hoping for a another chance at love, South Shore
Q: Long time reader here. I'm a fairly good catch by LL standards. I'm successful in my career and have a thriving business. I have a really great relationship with my kids (college and high school students). Strangers (not just friends) have recently gone out of their way to compliment me on my appearance. I'm not perfect by any measure, but a lot of great people like and respect me.
1) I have herpes (*bubble bursts*). My lovely (now-ex) husband gave it to me, but regardless of *how* I got it, it's now this BIG THING. I've been single almost seven years now and have pretty much eliminated myself from the dating pool because of it.
In my mid-40s now and this is getting pretty old, but I really can't imagine any potential date willingly exposing himself to this. So I really don't date. I want an honest reaction from readers of whether they would knowingly date someone with herpes. Would they? When is the right time to reveal this news?
How do you date with this condition? Or do I just have to call it quits forever?
2) The lovely disease-passing ex was also abusive and is currently in jail for his actions. I am over the abuse for the most part. But I tend to gloss over this part of my past as much as possible (no one really wants to know about this level of crazy) and the man *will* be released from jail. So at what point am I obligated to bring this up?
Am I dateable? What do I need to reveal when?
– Have the Herp, Worcester
A: I get a lot of letters about herpes. A lot. That makes sense, based on the numbers.
Last I checked, about 50 million people in the US have herpes. And many people walk around undiagnosed. I'm not mentioning this to scare you. I just want you both to feel less like pariahs. You're absolutely allowed to date. You're absolutely allowed to be human. Just make sure that you're honest when it's time to get physical. Just ask, simply, "Can we have a talk about STDs?" The talk is for you, too. You need to know whether your partners have anything to reveal. Because odds are, they do.
I recommend that you both arm yourself with knowledge about your disease. If you tell someone that you have herpes, they'll have questions. It helps to have answers. It shows that you care deeply about protecting the health of your partners. Talk to your doctor about how you should explain the disease to a potential partner, and how you can have the safest sex possible.
We all have issues to reveal. Sometimes it's a health problem. Sometimes it's credit card debt. Sometimes it's an abusive ex. For some people, the issue is that there's nothing to reveal at all. We just have to bring these things up as we get to know someone, the bad with the good.
Some people will bail because they don't want to deal with our problems. But some will stick around because they like us and want to make it work.
Go date. Just make sure that as you get to know someone, you ask questions and pay attention. You can't sit around panicking about when you're going to say the H-word. You have to get out of your own head to make any relationship work.
Readers? When would you expect someone to tell you about an STD -- or an abusive ex? Would you be open to dating someone with these problems? How can these letter writers go about dating? Help.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.