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Negative female falling for positive male

Dec 4, 1997

I am a healthy heterosexual female who has had a platonic friendship with a male friend 10 years my junior the past year year and a half. I have known for a while that he has had a crush on me, even while I was in another relationship. With that relationship ending earlier this year, our friendship has grown tremendously with my admitting to myself finally that I have feelings for him. We share the same interest, are both spiritually deep and enjoy each others company. I have suspected for a while that he is HIV+, after seeing lesions on his body (back and arm). Despite my attempt to assure him that whatever occured in his past would not affect my being supportive of him or loving him, he will not share this. As our relationship changes becoming more intense, I need feedback on how to confront him. After an arousing hug a few weeks ago, he has become less communicative, depressed (I'm a MFCC), with energy loss. I also sense anger, denial and pride, as he is possibly trying to protect me. Knowing I am an AIDS advocate, I'm certain he knows I am not ignorant to the symptomology. He has been married, but separated for several years, another issue we discuss. Any suggestions what be helpful. As a professional I've wanted to confront him for months, as a caring friend I'm lost. Help!!

Response from Mr. Shernoff

As a mental health professional you know how difficult it can be when a person has strong feelings for someone who may not be able to be communicative, open and easily sharing of highly sensitive information. He certainly sounds like he is struggling around his reactions to and feelings about you. I don't know if you really want to confront him about having AIDS. If you have to drag that information out of him, ask yourself, what that tells you about his potential to be self-disclosing about other important areas of his life or past.

While I am not suggesting that you stop seeing this man, it sounds like you might need to put the focus on trying to take a step back emotionally in order to protect yourself. I don't see that his having AIDS is the big issue here. Rather, that a level of intimacy and honesty that you want with him, he is unable to share with you. Instead of keeping the focus on him, ask yourself if this man is really someone you want to make that kind of commitment to? Sometimes people in the helping professions are drawn to relationships where we are also caretakers in our personal lives. What are you getting emotionally from letting yourself continue to fall for this man? He sounds like he might be a good friend, but does he have all the attritubes you want in a partner/spouse?

Michael Shernoff, MSW

HIV negative woman with positive man - how do I cope?
Beginning a new Relationship

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