Dr. Amy answers questions about herpes, Page 2

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Girl talks about resentment

Dear Dr. Amy:

I am now 28 years old and I contracted herpes 2 years ago from a man I recently got married to. He had a cold sore and it was passed on to me through sexual contact. I am often very depressed about having contracted this disease and having to look at the person who gave it to me everyday of my life. I have seeked professional help for my depression, but it doesn't seem to be helping me. I cry everyday. I love my husband very much, and I know that he loves me and doesn't feel any differently about me, but I feel different about myself and my sexuality. My sex drive is 0. I have no interest in having sex with my husband especially since he is the one who gave me this disease. What can I do? Please help!!!!

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Depressed 28 Year Old:
You probably need some help resolving your resentment toward your husband. It wasn’t clear from your letter how recent your wedding was. But the question I would have, is that if you knew your fiancé had herpes prior to marriage, why are the emotions and depression, your changing feelings toward your husband, and your lack of interest in sex surfacing now? I think this is the most important thing for you to be able to understand; why was there such a delayed reaction to this? Because, until you are able to view yourself in a positive and healthy way, neither your lover’s words of affection nor your sex drive are going to be felt.

I think that when you are asking what it is you can do, you’ve got to get in touch with where that resentment is coming from, because if you are angry and you are resentful toward your partner, that is certainly going to be a huge factor in your lack of desire of sex. Again, my recommendation is for you to seek some counseling. Also, when you are talking about depression, what you have to take a look at is other things that are going on that you’re feeling depressed about. Sometimes when we get into that negative frame of mind, everything that has gone bad, now becomes so much more predominant. So that may also be the case. Professional screening would be very helpful.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I have been with the same man (Chris) for 7 years, 2 of those years in marriage. Before we had any sexual involvement, I told him I contracted genital herpes from my first boyfriend when I was 19. He was away at college having unprotected sex with other girls. At the time I told him, Chris understood and said he loved me no matter what. I am now 30, he is 42. We have a 1 year old little boy. For the past year, Chris hasn't been interested in sexual relations with me. If we had sex, it was him on top and that was it...no oral or foreplay, which we used to have constantly. Well, it all came out in the wash today during a big explosion that Chris has a problem with me having herpes. Dr. Amy, I haven't had another single outbreak since the initial one and feel extremely fortunate for that. When I asked Chris why he didn't feel that way when I told him, he said he was young and didn't care, now he's older, 42 and doesn't want to risk getting herpes. I explained to him that transmission is only when I have an "outbreak" or tingling sensation at my nerve endings...which I experienced both with my initial outbreak and am fully aware of what they look and feel like. Now, Chris doesn't want to have sex at all...and if we do, he wants it to be just normal, straight out sex with him using a condom. No foreplay and definitely no oral. He feels he's been lucky all these years and isn't rolling the dice. I told him he's been lucky all these years because I've been responsible and wouldn't dare have relations with him if I thought I was having an outbreak. I'm confused on how to deal with this. I feel as though I repulse my husband and I'm not sure if I can live like this. Do you have ANY suggestions at all for me as to how to approach this subject or what I should do?
Thank you! Theresa

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Theresa:

I, too, wonder after reading your letter, why after 11 years, your boyfriend is worried about getting herpes and that he is behaving as though you repulse him. When his explanation to you is that he was young when you were first together, I also find that somewhat unusual considering that he was 31 years old. Most times, when people consider themselves young, it’s usually under the age of 20. This raises some questions for me. His change in sexual freedom and spontaneity has been affected by something, since you described that the change occurred so abruptly. And it sounds like getting some kind of professional help with someone specializing in sex therapy would really be the best route to take, because the marked change, that you are seeing in his sexual activity and the fear he is having, seem to indicate something is going on here.

When you ask me about what you can do about that, I would again recommend that you go see a sex therapist whether you go together, whether he goes, so you can get yourselves back on track with the sexual part of your relationship, because that is a very vital part of being together. The impact that this is having on you, you feeling like he is being repulsed by you, it sound like the two of you are going to need help in get through this and determine why this is occurring in this point in time.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I was wondering if a bisexual man with genital herpes could give it to another man by just giving him oral service?

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear One Who Asks About Bisexual Male:

To begin with, labels of sexual orientation are not reliable indicators of what sexual behaviors have occurred. So, instead of addressing sexual orientation, let’s take a look at the activities themselves because it’s the activities that are going to generate the greater risk. In terms of your question about if you have genital herpes, can you give a man genital herpes through oral contact, if you do not have herpes on your mouth, then transmitting the virus orally, is highly unlikely.

The reason I am saying that, is I would recommend further testing for yourself to make sure that the virus is just contained in one area. Could it be in other areas and you are not having an outbreak? In that case, you wouldn’t even be aware of it. So, it is difficult to know if you are 100% safe to partake in certain activities. I would consult with a professional who is well versed with the medical aspects of this virus.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I get herpes on my lips once and a while and I was wondering if I have a sore on my lips and I perform oral sex on a man, is it possible to give him genital herpes? What about if I don't have a sore, can he still get it?
Thanks Jessica

Dr. Amy answers questions about
Oral Herpes

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Jessica:

The riskiest time for you to perform oral sex on your partner would be when you have a sore on your lip, because that is indicating very clearly, that you are having an active outbreak. This would be a high risk activity at this time.

When the sore is not present, you can still transmit herpes to his genitals. It is not as likely, but again, there is no guarantee that you would not be shedding the virus after the sore has healed. To practice safe sex when performing oral sex, to maintain optimum protection for yourself as well as for your partner, it is recommended your partner wear a condom. When choosing a condom for oral sex, do not use one that is lubricated since you will be placing it in your mouth. The taste will generally be disagreeable.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I am a 52 year old white male. I have had herpes for almost thirty years. I have not had an outbreak in over ten years.

I have recently remarried and my wife and I are thinking about having a child. We haven't been having sex for a few years and we are wanting to get more sexually active. Several years ago when having sex I did not pass the virus onto her. To the best of my knowledge I have never passed the virus onto any other person. I have been aware of outbreaks when they occurred.

Do you think we can have sex safely without concern in an effort to get pregnant? If we get pregnant do you think it will be OK for the baby?

Thanks!! Any help you could be would be appreciated!!

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Chet:

First, it is important for you not to be in denial about the fact that you have been diagnosed with herpes and that you have been a carrier of this virus for almost 30 years. You have not had an outbreak in 10 years, however, there is really no way of predicting when, how, or if you are going to have another outbreak. So, even though, as you said, you don’t believe that you transmitted it to anybody else and that you have been aware of when outbreaks are occurring, you are now considering getting pregnant.

To look at it as, I haven’t had an outbreak for 10 years and this will be OK and just shelve it and not bring this information out in the open, is certainly NOT recommended. It is absolutely imperative that you speak with your wife’s obstetrician, so he/she can make informed decisions about the health and wellbeing of your baby-to-be.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I was diagnosed with Type II genital herpes about 2 months ago. Since I was not aware that I had contracted herpes, I did not see a physician for several days and the initial outbreak was prolonged and painful. Since then, I have had 2 minor outbreaks (only 1 or 2 sores) and was prescribed Valtrex. I understand that stress is a major contributor, but presently I have several areas of my life that are causing stress such as career, finances, and relationships.

I have met someone and have informed him of my condition. We want to know what precautions are necessary to help prevent him from contracting herpes also. I know condoms are generally considered the safest way to have sex, but naturally he doesn't enjoy using them. I've read that herpes can be spread even when the sores aren't present by shedding. Also, is there any safe method or time that you can still have oral sex? Basically, we want to have as normal of an active sex life as possible without increasing his chances of getting the virus. Any answers or suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Newly Diagnosed with Type II:

First of all, it sounds like you have been very responsible and have taken action in terms of getting yourself some treatment for the genital herpes you were diagnosed with a couple of months ago. Your awareness in recognizing that stress is a major contributor, is again, working in your favor. Of course, a suggestion is to look at some ways to help you distress. Numerous people, such as yourself, are having troubles with career, finances, and relationships. It is important when we live these busy and very involved types of lifestyles, to take that much needed time to recharge yourself. It would be beneficial to simply take quiet time. Many find taking baths, soft music, lighting some candles, just relaxing, and unwinding can be very helpful to reduce stress. You don’t have to plan a huge amount of time, because it is the time factor that is often causing the stress. If you can take 10 or 15 minutes a day, and just give yourself that time, the results can be tremendous in terms of reducing stress.

Another thing that is going to reduce your stress is the fact that, right from the beginning, you did inform your partner about your condition. You don’t have to carry that around with you; it’s a terrible stress factor when you are not being open and honest with a partner. You also ask about the use of condoms, and that your partner does not enjoy using them. First of all, condoms are never guaranteed to be 100% foolproof, but certainly, the use of condoms will dramatically reduce the risks of acquiring STD’s. Some people also find that by eroticizing the use of a condom on them, by placing it on your partner in a seductive, playful, or sexual manner, that it can add to the foreplay part of your lovemaking. What your partner may want to do, if he is not used to wearing a condom or the sensation with that, is for him to masturbate with a condom, so that he can start to get himself more familiar with how it feels and how his body responds, and become, kind of. better friends with condoms, then it won’t seem to be such a foreign material.

Another trick you might want to do, is to put the condom on with your mouth. The way you will do that is, first, open up the condom and just unroll it a little ways. Now open your lips and form a letter “O” with them. You can put the condom between your upper and lower lip in front of your teeth. Of course, make sure that it is facing in the right direction. Then, when you are holding on to the penis, you put your mouth on the penis, tighten your lips, and push down on the rim of the condom. Now push from the neck to unroll the condom, so you make sure that it goes all the way down the penis. So, that can take some practice, but that can also add a new twist to the use of condoms! You might be surprised at your partner’s response to that.

The other questions you had about herpes, being spread even when sores aren’t present due to shedding, that can occur, but the most contagious times are going to be when you are having an actual outbreak. But again, there is never going to be a time that you can say, “OK. This is going to be a time when there is no chance of me spreading the virus to my partner.” There is always going to be some risk, and you want to minimize it as much as possible.

In terms of you still having oral sex, you definitely can. Dental damns are available, which are used to cover your genitals in order to prevent your partner from coming in direct contact with your infected area. These are pieces of latex that you can purchase from a medical supply store or sex shop. There is a better variety in sex shops; some options include flavored dental damns, and even panties can be ordered. Squares of plastic wrap, specifically Saran Wrap, can be readily made right at home. See more detailed instructions for making dental damns from condoms and latex gloves in the answer to “ Dear recently diagnosed lesbian with genital herpes”. As warned in that question/answer, carefully dispose of these damns after each use.

I also really like your attitude about having an active sex life without increasing his chances of getting the virus, because what you are looking to do is have fun in a healthy, responsible fashion. That is wonderful. If you have that attitude and he has that attitude, there are so many other ways of exploring being sexual with one another and dispelling the idea that sex is so focused on genitals. When one has genital herpes, sometimes, it’s seems like you are almost more focused on the fact that it has got to be “genitals”, “contact with genitals” and that’s the only way to have sex, but certainly, there are so many other ways of pleasing one another. This could really be an opportunity for the two of you to expand your sexual repertoire and to open up your horizons. When you are looking for different kinds of suggestions, find out other various erogenous zones you have in your bodies when doing massage, kissing, playing, and luxuriating together. I would look at all the things you can do. Definitely try not to focus on the times that you are having outbreaks and that you would not want to be risking infecting your partner. That shouldn’t stop you from pleasing him in many ways, as well as him being able to find ways of pleasing you.

Dear Dr. Amy:

My age 26 yrs My problem: I have started masturbating at the age of 19. I used to enjoy it when I was doing it. But for a few days I have a weak erection and there is an immense fear in my mind that I did a wrong thing in life and I cannot get back to normal position. How do I get rid of this fear and come back to normal position. Is it merely enough to stop masturbation to come back to normal condition? Sexologists always say most sex related problems can be curable including impotence. Is it true?

I have also get some doubts: 1) How much/many times can anybody have sex? 2) I have lost interest in masturbating/ sex because of guilty feeling and also have a weak erection. Am I curable? Would you please reply to this mail? Will god or doctor give me second chance in my life? Please advise.
With regards, B

Dr. Amy's Response:

Dear B: The question I would wonder about is, after 7 years of masturbating, you are no longer enjoying what it is that you are doing. You mentioned that from a few days ago you had a weak erection and an immense fear that you were doing something wrong. Again, I would really take a look at what has gone on recently that is giving you the fear that you have done something wrong. Now, I can’t tell from your letter, but if this coincides with a herpes outbreak, then that could be the source of why you are having this fear that you have done something wrong. But, without that information, I can’t give you an accurate answer.

Certainly, if you are experiencing fear, then being able to have an erection is going to be affected by that. Having anxious thoughts, and not having sexy thoughts, is going to influence your desire as well as your ability to activate your sexual response.

The other question, when you said you that you could not get back to normal position, I am, once more, not quite sure what you mean. If you are saying that your penis is not in a correct position or there has been some abnormal bending of your penis, then you definitely need to go to an urologist to see if that is indicative of a systemic disorder. The penis will very often have a bend to it, but if there as been a marked change in the position, or you are having any pain associated with the bend, then you will want to see a doctor to rule out what could be symptomatic of something else like Perroni’s Disease. That’s a recommendation, but, as I stated earlier, I’m not quite sure exactly what your problem is from your description.

If medically that does not clear up what your fear is, then I do suggest that you speak with a sexologist. These professionals can help you understand why masturbating is now bringing you fear and different kinds of emotions that are arising.

Your next inquiry was about sexual related problems being curable. Many times, what sexologists will do, is yes, work with the specific problem that the person is having. But, a lot of times, there’s also that preconceived notion where people have a certain set idea about how they are supposed to be performing sexually and what things are supposed to be like. There is a certain base of comparison of normalcy that people very often are carrying around with them. Many times it’s a matter of really taking a look at what sex means to you, and being able to work with your goals and your attitudes, and really what it is that you are seeking from a sexual experience. I see this as being more important, dealing more directly with the total person, instead of separating the person into having a specific sexual problem.

You mention as well, that you have some doubts. Having doubts about sexual information is not surprising, considering that there are limited resources for really getting accurate information. Our basic resource for the posture taken on what we think is normal comes from what we hear, what people say, and what we read in magazines. As a result, it is so very important that you seek correct information from those who are professionals. This would be a great step in the right direction for you.

You also ask how many times anybody can have sex. Lucky for us, the body does not contain a limited supply of orgasms. It’s not a matter that you are going to burn your body out by having too much sex. You may find that certain types of activities that are repeated frequently, or over prolonged periods of time, such as basic friction, can cause discomfort. If that is the case, there are many other types of sexual activities that a body can engage in, which are pleasurable. So if there is any discomfort, pay attention to what type of activity is going on, as well as using proper lubricants and those kinds of products. Having discomfort is not going to add to your pleasure.

In your final question, you express your lack of interest in masturbating and sex. You have pretty well defined that it is because of the guilty feelings you are having, and the weak erection. What I can conclude from your letter, is that probably, these are very much connected. These types of guilty feelings are not conducive for your body to respond sexually. So, if it is determined that this is not a medical problem, I highly recommend that you speak with a sexologist and find out what has changed for you. It’s probably something recent, because you’re describing no difficulties for the last 7 years. Again, without a history, that’s not something that can be determined. But since this is a new problem for you, the sooner you take care of it, the better it will be. Otherwise, you can cause more anxiety and greater apprehension.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I just found out about 3 months ago that I have HSV1 genital herpes. My question to you is how can I have sex with my husband now knowing that I can turn right around and give it to him? We have been married for 6 years and we have had a wonderful sex life together, but now that I know, I feel I hold back a lot of emotion during our lovemaking and I am afraid it might put a damper on our wonderful relationship.. I love him enough to do what ever I can to keep this disease from him.

Dr. Amy's Response:

There are precautions that you can take such as use of condoms and dental dams for oral sex. These are not 100% safe so there is some possibility of risk. However, I hear from many couples that they do continue to have satisfying sex even being aware of the risk. This may be an opportunity to expand and explore your sexual menu beyond the confines of genital sex. Sensuous touch, fantasy, and erotic art, are but a few suggestions.

Your partner may or may not contract herpes. Have you discussed how this has affected him? You both might have similar concerns and perhaps you can initiate a conversation where you can begin to express the emotions that are holding you back sexually. For many couples, the sharing of emotional intimacy is more difficult than sharing sexual intimacy. These two types of intimacy are closely intertwined, as you are well aware. The sharing of oneself on many levels adds closeness and depth to a relationship.

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