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Hiv positive partner is draining me
Nov 16, 1999

Hello Dr. Shernoff , My partner tested hiv positive in March of 1998. I love him very much but our lifestyle has changed so much as a result of his positive diagnosis . When I fell in love with my partner he was very social and loved to go out and have a good time . Now he is content to sit at home and read a book on the weekend instead . We never go out anymore . He has become quite new agey has taken up meditation and has decorated our apartment in the color purple because "the color has healing energy ". He has surrounded himself with a close circle of friends all of whom are hiv positive . Sometimes I feel left out by his friends . When I mentioned this to him he just laughed and said I am distorting the truth and being oversensitive . When I suggested we join a gym together for some time alone together to talk and get to know each other again without discussing hiv , medications , side effects or cell counts he just stared blankly at me and said we can not afford it . I feel we cant afford not to. I am still in love with my partner and I dont plan to leave him but I feel he is shutting me and my feelings out . I just would like him to be the fun and loving man I once knew . Will time change our situation as he adjusts to life as an hiv positive man ? I dont know what to do anymore . The joy I once felt being with him is slowly draining away .How can I reach him ? Please help .

Response from Mr. Shernoff

Everybody needs time to adjust to their being HIV positive, and it appears as if your partner is so focused on what he feels he needs to do that he is unaware that his HIV status has a tremendous impact upon you as well. I hear how sad and concerned you are at this time, and I think that hearing your situation your reactions are understandable.

Since he says he is not amenable to joining a gym, this is not the only way you can recreate some private time together. Have you asked him to have one or two nights a week that are just for the two of you to have a date? Some examples of things that could occur might be to stay home and eat a quiet dinner and connect while catching up; renting a film, doing nonsexual massage, reading aloud to each other from a book that is of mutual interest, etc. You get the idea.

It is important that you tell him that while you completely support his taking the actions he needs to take better care of himself, he is not expressing any concern about how this is effecting you, and that is causing distance to grow between the two of you. If he just dismisses your feelings again, it will be important to point out what he just did in that moment by gently saying, I am not asking you to agree with me, but just to understand and accept that I have these feelings and it is not helpful if you just blow them off.

If none of this helps then I suggest that you try to get him to see a counselor who is a specialist in working with male couples and also HIV. HIV has a significant but different impact upon the infected person, his or her partner and upon the relationship. Sometimes it takes a skilled professional to help sort out the various needs and feelings. If you live in a city where there is an AIDS service organization you may also want to explore whether they offer a group for couples where one or both partners are living with HIV. This can be very helpful as well. Best of luck. MIchael Shernoff, MSW



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