some things i didn’t learn in sex ed

Yesterday I went to the eye doctor and got to check the box marked ‘herpes’ in my medical history so that felt just GREAT. Like an extra treat- not only do I get to have this shitty virus the rest of my life, I also get to tell people like my dentist and my eye doctor about it now!

At this point, I figure I might as well tell a couple bloggy people about it too.

My thought process is this: the problem I have is embarrassing. It’s a little taboo and a little hard to talk about, and it all inspires a rainbow of feelings. I figure if I’m having this experience, chances are someone else is too. 

Whether it’s herpes or some other annoying BS, there’s always someone else going through something similar. There’s no need for any of us to feel isolated, especially over herpes, especially when literally millions of people have it.

And to be honest, when I was first dealing with this I couldn’t find anyone to relate to, so I’d like to be that space for someone else.

Especially in a conservative Christian community, talking about things like this feels very off-putting. It’s not quite kosher, not indicative of a life well-lived, doesn’t point to the the white-washed purity that is the cookie-cutter goal. However, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Christianity is not about perfection. It is where our imperfect, messy, human lives come in contact with grace beyond comprehension. These things we hide in the dark, herpes included, are the very things that deserve to be brought to the light for healing. Jesus didn’t come for us and our perfect track record. He came to meet us where we are weak. He specifically met with the rejects of society, and I imagine they didn’t get ignored or shamed when they looked into His eyes. I imagine they were reminded of their beloved-ness and were invited into love. 

We cannot fully embrace each other, or even ourselves, if we are allowing ourselves to hide in such shame we can’t see our own goodness.  

Of course, I appreciate privacy and protecting yourself from those that will hurt you. I am being open in my experience here, and not everyone is called to do that. That’s okay. Read on and know you are not alone.

In the meantime, I’d also like to call into question the version of Christianity that left me too ashamed to talk about something that happened to me because there are those with uneducated opinions about the way the world works for some of us living messier lives. This content might be too explicit for some communities, but it’s explicit content that I lived, and that doesn’t make my walk towards eternity any less holy. 

Some of us are suffering for the poor decision making of others, and some of us have made our own poor decisions. Some of us got herpes. That doesn’t make any of us less worthy of love, less pure, less whole, or less good.


Stepping off my soap box, I’m going to give you a little glimpse into the experience of someone who’s just found out they have herpes. Exciting!

I see it plenty at work- the moment someone finds out that, yes, those bumps aren’t from shaving/bug bites/allergies. There’s usually plenty of tears. Sometimes the loud theatrical type, sometimes more of the soft weepy display. Luckily for me I was the quiet type (my co-workers would be proud!). 

Anyway, after all the crying and the milkshakes and the wine came the anger. I was angry for a very long time. Silly me, I had thought I had left my marriage behind. Now, instead, I have a permanent reminder that can pop back up for my enjoyment at any moment! A literal permanent mark in my body reminding me, hey, someone loved enough to treat you like shit. You thought you left it all behind, didn’t you?!

I was angry for the future, too. Angry for whatever marriage I might someday enter into; how unfair to someone else to have to risk sharing this affliction. Sharing pain is a normal burden to carry in marriage, but this just felt unfair. And what a hassle, having to add this to the list of prenatal care worries if I ever got to have kids. I could pass this on, I could require surgery, it could complicate things more than I imagined. 

On top of all that was the sense of violation. Something had happened to my body and changed it without my authorization. Without invitation. My boundaries were intruded upon and my DNA altered without permission. 

And then there was the shame. Literally, I was dirty. It didn’t help when I saw a forum where girls were discussing whether or not they’d date guys with HPV. I guess that’s their prerogative, whether or not they want to risk contracting viruses- it’s a choice I didn’t get to make. Still, I hope someone is more open minded towards me in the future. I wouldn’t reduce someone else’s potential to what baggage they carry from their past, so I hope I’d be shown the same courtesy. Whether or not that looks like a virus, a heartbreak, a bad habit (or two), we all carry something from where we were before.

It all seems quite unreasonable. I followed the rules as best I could. I tried to love well and work hard, and instead I got this. I’ve always known there were permanent consequences for certain behaviors. It’s just unfortunate I have to pay the price for someone else’s.


So there it is, in one neat little package. I am less than pure. I’ve been marked, I’ve been violated, and I am always going to have this in the back of my mind with the rest of my relationships for the rest of my life.

And at the same time, it doesn’t bother me as much today as it did before. This illness is only a symptom of the primary one: the sickness of a dysfunctional relationship. There are other things that left deeper scars and, hopefully not, but what feels like more permanent damage. This was a byproduct, and really, there is a part of me that just shrugs my shoulders and says, well, of course, this is what I expected, isn’t it? I’m honestly not that shocked.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what rules you did or didn’t follow or who gave who what. It sucks either way. I’ll still be your friend. 

And, guess what? Either way, you’re still good. I’m still good. Someday somebody will love me anyway and, really, plenty of people already do.

lying and cheating

The other day it occurred to me that maybe he’s glad I left him. I’d never really considered the version of the story where he wanted me to leave… Somehow in my mind he was missing me more than I was missing him and he was sorry. Strange to think he could move on, too.

That’s not the way the world works, though, and, really, it shouldn’t feel new to me that he doesn’t want me. There were a million little ways he didn’t want me before. 

For today, I find myself considering the less-frequent-but-more-significant ways he didn’t choose me. Maybe that’s not the right way to say that- I’d like to think it was was less about not wanting me and more about just wanting someone else. 

However you want to say it, I think it happens more than we realize. Infidelity, that is. None of us can talk about it- sometimes to protect the integrity of a relationship, sometimes because we’re afraid. Maybe a little of both. Sometimes that’s okay. What isn’t okay: when secrets are kept so well that we isolate ourselves, unable to talk to those we trust about the blurry lines between normal and intolerable. This hyper-privacy breeds isolation and only allows bad behavior and poor decision making to perpetuate. We shouldn’t be shutting out the wise guidance and input of those we trust. 

Either way, secret or not, I hate that cheating happens. I hate it for me, and I hate it for everyone else who’s had to deal with it. I hate that it calls into question everything we thought we knew. Trust. Worth. Desirability. Are we good enough? Are we worth loving? Are we worth faithfulness if we’re busy, or tired, or not having as much interesting sex as other girls in the world? If we are covered in baby spit-up or tired from night shift or we forgot to shave our legs one too many days in a row? 

It’s sad. Sad and hard. However, truly, I don’t think it’s impossible to come back from unfaithfulness. I really don’t. I think if there’s respect and transparency involved, real vulnerability and love, there can be redemption. I believe in redemption. I have to.

So do I believe that once a cheater, always a cheater? 

I think not. If that were the case and we all were stuck with the sins we committed on occasion, we’d be doomed to the faults of our childhood. Once a liar, screamer, biter, fighter, etc., etc., etc. We grow up and grow on. 

On the other hand, I wonder if I didn’t so passionately believe in second chances if I would have let things get so far. Sometimes I wonder if I brought this on myself. Maybe I treated my relationship with a boyfriend with a grace and permanency it didn’t deserve. I put in the work, poured out forgiveness, and took back what I probably should have let go. 

Or maybe I just got damn unlucky when I tied myself to someone who forgot to grow up and just grew worse. Or better, possibly, but at lying. You tell me.

* * *

The first time it was just a kiss at a club that I found out about a couple months later. When I got home from studying abroad he told me about it: it was nothing, really, he was drunk, it was quick, he didn’t even know her name. Somehow, though, he was able to Skype me, email me, call me, even visit me overseas without mentioning it. For months? Weird. But whatever. It was small. He was probably lonely. He was drinking, he didn’t mean it, fine. Somehow the delay in disclosure was because he was worrying what I’d do. Okay. I lighten up. I don’t tell anyone.

But then it happened again. 

Let me put a disclaimer in here. I’m telling this story to remove the isolated secrecy of the past, however, I am also aware that this one-sided story telling might not lend itself to a balanced narrative. So, in the spirit of fairness, I will admit my own weakness. I will tell you that this was the moment that should have been the red flag in the damn mountain of sand. This was what should have told me to run for the freaking hills as fast as I could. This was when, instead, I pulled that flag out of that sand and promptly buried my head in as far as it would go. I was hopelessly naive, stupid, young…All of it. All in the name of love. I take some of the blame. No, I didn’t deserve to be treated the way I did. And no, this doesn’t excuse shitty behavior. But should I have been smarter? Probably.

Anyway, let me set the scene. We’re juniors in college. He’s at a military school, stressed and busy. I’m in nursing school, stressed and busy. I’m having significant problems with anxiety and mood swings (nursing brings out the best in us, amiright?).

Somehow we make it to Christmas break, where he tells me a story about a party he had at his house that fall. There were some friends over from high school, some of them girls he used to know. Everyone’s drinking and ends up spending the night, and one of those girls sneaks into his room. She comes onto him, starts fooling around, he manages to fend her off in his drunken stupor. I buy the story, wondering why he waited so long to tell me. Wondering why I only heard about her persistent phone calls weeks after that.

I tell the tale to some friends, really very proud of how loyal my guy was being. So tempted! So amazing! So loyal! 

They pull me aside a few days later and ask me if I’m sure I’m getting the truth. They don’t really buy it and something isn’t sitting right. 

I ask him about it again. Is there anything else I’m missing? Any parts of the story you want to fill in? No, that was it. 

Let’s fast forward some. We’re engaged. It’s summer time. He was able to hold onto his damn lie for that long and had the balls to PROPOSE to me in the meantime. Turns out, they had slept together. She convinced him I was going to break up with him soon. We’d been fighting a lot, mood swings are a bitch, school sucks for everyone. We were obviously donezo. 

My consolation prize was that he was too drunk to finish.

I wish I had left then. Not just because he had cheated. Not just because I was betrayed. Not just because I was working really hard to save sex for marriage and he turned around and gave it away to some girl he barely knew.

The real problem was the lie.

It still blows my mind that someone could be capable of such deception. To go day in and out telling me they loved me, telling me they were faithful, picking out rings and promising forever, when all along they were carrying that shit around.

And still, I didn’t talk about it. 

Even after we got married, as much as I tried, it was always in the back of my mind. If I was too busy, if I was too anxious, if I wasn’t cute enough or fun enough or just enough, there would be trouble. And I was gullible enough to buy his stories once, what was to keep it from happening again?

It didn’t help that there were a couple bizarre things that fed my pet suspicion. Not enough on its own to ring alarms, but enough all put together. Like how I wasn’t allowed to look through his phone. Couldn’t know his password, couldn’t look at his messages, couldn’t look at the browser. Wasn’t allowed to track him, even when we were on road trips. 

There was the girl who called in the middle of the night once, wanting to know where he was, wanted to know if he would meet her out. Was shocked when I picked up the phone while he was sleeping. Said she was from college and didn’t know he had a wife.

And then, like times before, he couldn’t keep it together during sex and was getting withdrawn. Wasn’t telling me when he was coming home or picking up his phone, wasn’t inviting me out anymore or putting any effort in to talk to me. 

And of course, there was that weird bump I thought was a spider bite. Found it right after our anniversary last summer. I remember making a joke to him about herpes and we both laughed. 

L to the O to the freaking L.

Even at the end he said there was no one else. I’ll never really know for sure, which sometimes makes it worse. Even when that bite came back last February and, shocker, wasn’t from a spider, he still denied it. I get it, that shit is a virus and it can come up anytime from anyone. Just unusual to have that first outbreak when you’ve been in a monogamous relationship for four years. 

But, again, whatever. You can draw your own conclusions about where it came from. I tried to ask about it, and all I got in response was “leave me the fuck alone” and “watch out.” 

Interesting. Ok.

Anyway. 

Infidelity sucks. 

I’m sorry if it’s happened to you.

I’m glad if you can find a way to heal. I’m glad if you hold out hope for redemption.

Just know, more than anything, that you are not alone. You don’t have to hide. I see you. And you are good. You are loved. You are beautiful. 

You are enough. 

And that’s the truth.