Declining interest in finding love
Mar 24, 1999
Hello, I have been + for about 2 years now. I'm getting pretty lonely, but I don't seem to put much effort into meeting people anymore. This isn't how I used to be. I used to be quite gregarious and sociable. Maybe I'm afraid of rejection or don't want to even bother discussing the subject with someone new. Is this normal? Thanks for your input. Mike.
Response from Mr. Shernoff
I am very sorry to hear about what you are going through. Unfortunately, yes this is very normal. I was just talking with a friend this week who is also positive. He is an extremely attractive, well built, successful professional man. He was telling me about being puzzled about only going after men who were really not appropropriate for a long term relationship. He finally realized that he hated disclosing so much and feared the rejection so much that he had stopped going after men who were really his peers.
Having HIV does make each of us more vulnerable simply by living with a life threatening illness that is also sexually transmitted and still, even today very stigmatizied. Plus I know that I regularly hear from patients, and even wrestle with this myself in my dating forays and my own therapy, that having HIV at times causes me to feel like "damaged goods" in the dating arena. Now combine this fact with the levels of internalized homophobia each of us has and lives with, and no wonder that so many men just withdraw from meeting people and dating. Additionally there is no good way to tell a new person about being HIV+. I have written extensively on the hows, and timing of disclosure, and counseled scores of men on this topic. Yet, for me in my personal life, I still become anxious and dread having to have "the talk."
The problem is that by leaving the dating realm we only increase our own sense of isolation and reenforce that we are not loveable men who deserve a chance to find and create a long term loving partnership which is healthy and adaptive. Thus just stopping seeking new men is not really an answer. I urge you to get back in the saddle and at least make yourself available to meeting men, not that this will be easy.
The good news is that many many men have not given up searching for and creating new love relationships simply because they are positive. I have dated two different men, each for a long time who knew that I was positive prior to our starting to date.
This issue is so important the here in NY Gay Men's Health Crisis is sponsoring an all day forum for gay men about dating, sex and intimacy on Saturday 27 March. To find out more, call them. I will be conducting a workshop that will specifically deal with sex, intimacy and self image for gay men with HIV.
But also you sound down. Are you in a support group with other HIV+ gay men with whom you can talk about this? If not, please consider calling your local AIDS service organization to inquire about groups they may run. There is also always beginning therapy with a therapist who is skilled in working with gay men who have HIV to get help in moving past this obstacle. In my professional experieince responding the way you describe probably indicates that you have had other issues in your past that are contributing to how you are dealing, or more accurately not dealing adaptively with trying to get your needs for love met in a constructive way. Michael Shernoff, MSW
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