DEAR ABBY: A young mother wrote that her husband had given her herpes-2, and asked you to help her decide whether to stay or to leave the marriage. She said that the virus was a constant reminder of his indiscretion, and asked if any other man could love her if he knew. Please give her this message:
I also contracted herpes-2 (HSV-2) from my ex-husband during our marriage. We divorced and I married my soul mate. While we were dating, I told him about the virus and waited to hear him say, "Adios." Instead, to my amazement, his response was, "I love you. This isn't your fault and we'll deal with it."
I, too, am angry during an outbreak because it is a reminder that the person I trusted most betrayed me. But remember that stress is one of the triggers for an outbreak. Then remind yourself that this virus doesn't change who you are inside. You have done nothing wrong. Get all the information you can because knowledge is empowering. No matter what decision you make about your marriage, your heart will heal. My thoughts are with you. -- LIVING HAPPILY EVER AFTER
DEAR LIVING: Thank you for the beautiful testimonial that a full life is possible after an HSV-2 diagnosis. People who have this infection often feel isolated because it is not a condition that is easily discussed. For anyone who might have missed it in my previous column, the National Herpes Hotline -- (919) 361-8488 -- operates from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern time. The staff provides information and referrals to support groups.
I'm pleased to say you are not the only caring reader who wrote to offer support to that young woman. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I contracted herpes-2 after a one-night stand 10 years ago. Since the age of 17, I have struggled with feelings of anger, humiliation and the fear of never finding love. I, too, felt "robbed of my dignity, my self-image and my future." But I have slowly arrived at the acceptance stage, and so will that young wife.
She can save her marriage if she truly loves her husband "in sickness and health." Living with HSV-2 is possible; many people do it. She should ask herself if she can live without the family unit the two of them have built together.
I am still single since my diagnosis, but I have had two healthy relationships over six years' time. The key is honesty and healthy communication. -- LIVING STRONG IN LOS ANGELES
DEAR LIVING STRONG: I agree, and that is true in any healthy relationship. I would be shirking my responsibility as an advice columnist, however, if I didn't point out that more than half of all teenagers today are sexually active. That is why they need clear, concise sex education -- beyond "just say no" -- to help them avoid sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. While most adults prefer that teens and pre-teens abstain from having sex, it is obvious that many are NOT abstaining.