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Negative & positive husband of 12 years

Jun 15, 2000


I am the grandmother who wrote back in December 99 when I was told my grandchild had HIV by her mother, only to find it was a lie. Here I am again...I never dreamed that I would have to post on this site again. My husband and I had purchased 2 kits back in december because of the scare with my granddaughter. We left them sitting around for months. 2 weeks ago we had nothing better to do so we both took the test. We have been married 12 years. He came back positive and I am negative. his viral load is 185 thousand and his T-Cell count is only 300. He just started his meds last week. He is not handling this well .. I fear he will take his own life. He had a gun that sat in the same place for the past 7 years. I saw him cleaning it the other day for the first time in seven years. I was going to hide it but now I can't find it. He has made me promise not to tell anyone about him being positive, not even his parents. I came home from work and I could tell he had been crying. He will not go for counseling ... I don't know what to do. I am having a hard time holding myself together around him. I am afraid to cry ... it might make him more depressed. I am afraid I am going to have to watch my husband die...

Response from Mr. Shernoff

You have to talk to him about all of your feelings. You can not continue to walk on egg shells around him. Stop treating him like a fragile porcelain doll. If you need to cry then go ahead and do it, even in front of him. You will not make him more or less depressed. Hopefully his love for you will shake him out of behaving in such a self-involved and self-pitying way. It is crucial that you tell him that you love him and that he can plan on your staying with him, (as long as you feel that way).

Any kind of a medical crisis like one person coming down with a life-threatening illness will have a tremendous impact on the quality of the relationship. It has the potential to make the relationship stronger if the two people open up to each other and share all of their fears, concerns, worries and feelings about what is going on and about each other. This helps increase the strength of the connection, and the intimacy, improving the relationship so that both people gain an enormous amount of strength to face the emergency from one another and from their relationship. Or the crisis can cause the relationship to disintegrate. This happens if one person shuts down and does not deal with what is happening as both a personal tragedy and a crisis for the relationship.

It sounds like your unwillingness to talk with him and confront him about how he is behaving and what your fears are indicate that you, as well as he, are not handling this situation appropriately. You just might have to "watch your husband die," this is an eventuality any marriage faces at some point, either sooner or later. In order for your marriage to survive and even thrive in the midst of this terrible reality you both need to talk about all of the fears that both of you are harboring.

I am not saying that any of those talks will be easy, but once the two of you are committed to being authentic with each other about how this is making you feel then there is the very real potential for your love to grow. Also, if he is rigorously adherent about taking his medication, there is every possibility that he will live out his normal life span. So don't go out and shop for his coffin is grossly premature to become that morbid, by jumping to that as the only possible outcome.

Michael Shernoff, MSW

cruel isolation due to AIDS

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