Choosing Yourself Over Rejection
When we receive a herpes diagnosis, it's not uncommon to feel paralyzed at the thought of dating. I know I certainly did. I remained in a relationship for two more years than I should have, mainly because I didn't know how to disclose my condition, and I was overwhelmed by the fear of rejection.
Over the years, as I've spoken to thousands of people since starting "Life With Herpes" in 2017, a recurring theme I've observed is the tendency to push away someone we're genuinely interested in. This behavior is especially prevalent among women, and it typically occurs when we're dating someone and experiencing all those exhilarating emotions: the butterflies, excitement, and the sense that this connection could truly go somewhere meaningful.
I'm not talking about the occasional date where we have a lukewarm feeling, like "It was fun, and they were nice, so I guess I'll go out again." No, this is about those dates where we are all in, having the time of our lives, or worse, when we have these intense feelings but refuse to let ourselves fully experience them. Why? It's because we know that the dreaded moment for "the conversation" is lurking around the corner. That's when we must have "the herpes talk." Instead of facing it, we often choose to ghost the person. We might self-sabotage the relationship or just push the person away. Personally, when I hear about this, it saddens me deeply. It's disheartening to think that we let a microscopic virus dictate our dating destiny and our happiness. When we behave this way, we are doing a great disservice to ourselves and to the person we're dating.
Who are we to decide if this person wants to date us with herpes? How can we possibly know if this potential partner has herpes too, and is secretly hoping that we'll accept them? When we unilaterally push someone away, we're making a one-sided decision, and that's not what a relationship should be about. A relationship is built on communication, give and take, and support.
So, why do we push our potential lovers away?
One significant reason is the genuine fear of rejection. This fear can stem from past rejections that left us emotionally scarred, making us reluctant to open up and expose our vulnerabilities. It's natural to worry that expressing our emotions might lead to another devastating rejection, which can make us adopt a defensive stance, making it difficult to fully engage in a relationship.
Furthermore, past traumas and trust issues, often rooted in our childhood, can be another underlying cause. Betrayal, heartbreak, or emotional trauma from earlier experiences can create emotional barriers that we build to protect ourselves from potential pain, even if we genuinely like the new person in our life.
Lastly, there's a profound fear of vulnerability. Being vulnerable in a relationship can be terrifying because it requires us to share our innermost thoughts, fears, and insecurities. Some people fear that if they open up, they will lose their sense of control or independence. It takes courage to let down emotional defenses and expose oneself to potential emotional risks.
My hope is that by reading this blog post, you'll become aware of these behaviors if they resonate with you, and you'll realize that you're not doing anything wrong. Instead, view this as an opportunity to heal and challenge yourself. Reflect on why you might have a significant fear of rejection, whether you have unresolved past traumas, and why being vulnerable is challenging. Consider journaling about these feelings, meditating, and seeking support.
This topic has been a hot one recently and was also discussed during this week's support group call. If you're going through this right now, know that you're not alone, and I'm sending you all the love and support you need.