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Magnetic Couple - Overflowing love but so much stress
Apr 22, 2011

Dear Dr. Bob,

Let me start off in saying that I have read a decent amount of posts regarding magentic couples on this site. That said, I still wanted to write in, as I've had NO ONE to go to about this issue aside from my partner, though I did start with a therapist today.

In September of 2010 I met a woman who I knew then and know to this day is the woman of my dreams. She has everything I ever dreamed of and more on the inside and out.

Only about two weeks into the relationship she found out she was HIV positive. Since then, the relationship has been like a fairy tale despite the diagnosis. However, the ONLY thing we bicker, disagree, and recently have all out fought, yelled and cried about is the fact that I am still quite hesitant when it comes to sexual intercourse with her.

Not only have I researched the many statistics regarding the low risk of transmission between a positive female and negative male with protected sex, as well as the positive partner on medication (her viral load is undectable & counts are way up), she continually, despite her best efforts, throws statistics at me in attempts to make me feel more comfortable and have intercourse with her.

My answer to her question of whether I ever think I can have sex with her has been honest and consistent throughout all this, which is that personally, I have to say probably not, but that anything is possible and I will do all I can to change that and be comfortable with it because I lover her. This includes me attending groups, going to her doctor's office with her, speaking with counselors, and coming up with the idea of going to couples counseling, etc. Most of which I have done.

Despite my sincere promises to try, as well as my actual efforts to do so, she understandably is not happy. She feels unwanted and of course stresses that she deserves to live a life like anyone else. I agree with her. We both end up feeling guilty and horrible for our positions on the matter, which we can't control no matter how hard we try.

Neither of us want to throw away what we feel is the absolute best person for us, the person that will make us the most happy in our lives and the person we will measure anyone else against that may come along in our life if the unfortunate happens and we don't end up together.

We have spent endless hours going in circles about this, which is the only problem in our relationship. We are both mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. I know this is not healthy for either of us and both of us just want to be the one that makes the other as happy as can be.

Tonight we decided to go our separate ways but this has happened before. The consensus is that couples counseling will not change my fears, even if irrational, and won't change her strong position that she wants to be intimate with me. I do want to be intimate with her, I just can't get past my fears as quick as she'd like ... even if these fears are irrational, of which she continually emphasizes to me.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

B.J.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello B.J.,

Let's start with a few facts:

1. Your positively charged Ms. Right's desires for intimacy and a satisfying sex life are normal and not at all unreasonable. No one wants to be made to feel that his or her touch is toxic!

2. Your fears are to some extent irrational, but very real nonetheless. You may or may not be able to overcome them. For instance, you probably realize there is some degree of risk every time you drive a car, fly in an airplane or walk outside in a rainstorm. However, despite the very real, albeit very slight chance you'll be in a car or plane crash or zapped by an errant bolt of lightening, you still drive, fly and go outside in the rain, correct? So you've managed to overcome worries, even though the consequences could be catastrophic, right? So it is possible to live comfortably with some degree of risk in your life. Working with a good psychiatrist, you may be able to come to the same level of comfort with an equal (or even lesser) risk of something bad happening while having protected sex with your positive partner. If not, you should indeed go your separate ways. She can't be "the woman of your dreams" if she also makes you feel "guilty and horrible." Happily-ever-after is not "spending endless hours going in circles" so that you both are "mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted."

Consequently my advice is that you show this response to your partner. Agree to call a truce. No penetrative sex and no arguments about sex for a period of time while you actively discuss your problems with a psychiatrist. If the psychiatrist decides you are not able to overcome your fears, you should decide to amicably go your separate ways. If, on the other hand, you make progress, then you should begin couples counseling to discuss negotiated risk. This sets the boundaries for your sexual activity and gives both partners equal responsibility in keeping the negative partner negative.

Good luck!

Dr. Bob



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