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A "Negative" Outlook: Dr. Steve Natterstad Shares Secrets to a Successful Magnetic Relationship

August 10, 2010

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And you just have to love being with each other. Bob and I are very different in many ways, particularly in terms of personality. Bob is very much "out there," very outgoing, loves being in the public eye. It doesn't bother him to have attention flowing his way. I tend to be one who likes to sort of stay in the back orchestra more than in those front orchestra seats. So we're different in terms of that. He really lives in the moment, which I love about him. I think that's characteristic of his personality type, which I admire and certainly try to learn from.

But we're also similar in terms of our interests in life. We just love to do a lot of the same kinds of things. When we talk to other people about what we're interested in, a lot of people are amazed that we found each other because they see us as so similar in terms of interests. We both play the piano. We are both doctors. We like similar cultural events, music, movies, and love to read and love to travel. I think that's essential.

As often as we say that opposites attract -- and I do think that Bob and I are "opposites" that have attracted in many ways, personality-wise as well as Bob's being positive and my being negative -- you've still got to love being together. In any addition to being my lawfully wedded husband -- which he is now, since we managed to squeak in under the wire here in California a couple years ago -- he's my best buddy as well. Can't spend enough time with him.

Bob is famous on for giving no-nonsense tips to folks in magnetic partnerships in his Safe Sex and HIV Prevention forum. What's your advice for HIV-negative folks, particularly for gay men, as they enter and build relationships with HIV-positive partners?


The first piece of advice I would give to any prospective member of a romance would be: Don't limit yourself. Don't think you know what you're looking for. I certainly never would have guessed I would have ended up with Bob as my life partner. And that doesn't only have to do with his gender. Certainly, years ago when I was trying my darnedest to be a straight guy, I would have thought I would have eventually ended up with a woman. But beyond that, he is completely different from the person I thought I would have been looking for 20 years ago. I think you need to keep yourself from pigeonholing your prospects. I give that advice frequently to people that are having trouble finding love.

As a corollary to that, certainly don't limit yourself to those that share the same serostatus. For those of us who are negative, there's a pretty incredible world of people out there that are positive. I know this not just from living with Bob, but from my medical practice, which predominantly consists of HIV-positive people. These folks have had a life experience that I think has taught them a lot about the value of life. You don't always find that when you're meeting new people and trying to form relationships.

"If you do hook up with someone who's HIV positive, try to take part in that positive partner's positivity. ... It's a huge part of the life of someone who's positive. That can really strengthen a relationship if the negative partner takes an interest."

The best thing I would say is, if you do hook up with someone who's positive, try to take part in that positive partner's positivity. I don't see this as often as I would like. I'd like to see more negative partners come to the doctor's appointments and learn more about HIV. It's a huge part of the life of someone who's positive. That can really strengthen a relationship if the negative partner takes an interest, and even tries to lighten the burden of the HIV-positive partner.

One thing that I've done for Bob from the get-go is to do his medicines. It's a small thing, but considering he has to throw down fistfuls of antivirals twice a day now, it's perhaps a little less horrific if he doesn't have to sort them out and put them in the piles. He can just go to his pillbox and grab a glass of water and throw them down without thinking about it. There are ways that we as the negative components can help out.

Let's not forget that HIV is not the bubonic plague. It is an infectious disease, but it's preventable even in the context of intimate relationships. Both Bob and I have attested many times on that it has not kept us from having an incredibly satisfying intimate relationship.

So those are my pearls that come to mind. Love is hard to find -- don't limit your prospects. I'm certainly glad that I found a life partner that I definitely wasn't looking for.

Thank you so much for speaking with me today.

Absolutely. It's a pleasure.

The pleasure's been all mine.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

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