Relationships & Living with HIV: We Should Never, Ever Settle

Settling Down
But I’m not going to settle
by John Francis Leonard

I’m at a crossroads in my life. As I’ve written about before, I want a relationship. I’ve had opportunity, but something isn’t working. First of all, there’s the fact that I’m HIV-positive. Many guys I’ve met, especially locally, seem to be fine with that, but suddenly and for no other explicable reason, cease all contact. Texts go unanswered, I’m stood up on dates, they seemingly disappear. They seem fine with the news at first, but then it all hits a wall. No reason is ever given, but I know what it is by now. I forget about it quickly, tell myself that I don’t mind, but it hurts. I’m not even given a chance. When we do meet, it’s obvious that the sex is stilted, they’re afraid of something. I can’t change that, but there are things that I can change.

I’ve widened my scope and met some guys further afield online. Things progress, albeit digitally, and there’s a connection. I’ve met more than a few in person now. They come visit or I visit them, but nothing comes of it. They just don’t want to pursue things further and I’m left wondering what I did wrong. Is there something at fault with me? Sure, I’m not perfect, but I think it goes deeper than that. Sometimes, especially lately, I realize that I’m the one settling. In my fear of being alone, I look to men that I’m just not that into. In the interest of security, of having someone to take care of me and for me to take care of in return I’m looking to men that I’m not all that attracted to in the first place and I’m selling myself short.

This past weekend was a perfect example. A man I met online on the train back from a trip to NYC caught my eye. His profile heading was “LTR.” Here was a guy looking for what I seek, a committed relationship. We texted everyday and talked on the phone for a month. There were warning signs, but I ignored them. He worked seven days a week, totally wrapped up in his job. I’ve been down that road before, a successful man married to his work, not me. But, I decided I’d settle. He had some reservations about my status, but I decided I’d settle. I even questioned whether or not I was really all that attracted to him, but feeling insecure myself lately, I decided I’d settle. I love my cat more than anything and he’s deathly allergic. I resolved myself to finding her a home if things worked out. I still can’t look at her without feeling guilty. But I’m tired of being alone and here was someone who might just settle for me.

But it didn’t work out that way. He came for a night and we did have a nice time, but I felt him holding back. The next day as he was dropping me at home (we stayed in a hotel because of my cat) I asked him, a man I felt no great passion for, if we would see each other again. He said he’d have to think about it. He continued to text me every day when he got home and I finally asked if he’d had time to think. He said he just wanted to be friends. He hadn’t felt “swept off his feet.” Does anyone really think they’ll be “swept off their feet” at our age, I wondered, but kept it to myself. He still texts me daily, so you figure it out. Here I stand now, rejected by a man that I wasn’t so crazy about in the first place. “If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry,” as my Irish grandmother so often said.

I know, I know, I talked about this in last month’s column. I talked about the fact that I needed to do some work on myself before I could really think about a relationship. I know that’s true, but wouldn’t the right guy love me just as I am? Do I really need to settle in order to have a committed relationship? The universe is trying desperately to tell me something here and these men are simply its messengers. I need to step back, take a long hard look and reevaluate my life. They say that you need to be happy on your own before you truly find a relationship that works and I need to take that to heart. The first step? Next month’s column will not be about another attempt at one that fails. I promise you that!

John Francis Leonard is an advocate and writer, as well as a voracious reader of literature, which helps to feed his love of the English language. He has been living with HIV for fifteen years and he is currently at work on his first novel, Fools Rush In. His fiction has been published in the ImageOutWrite literary journal and is a literary critic for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.