Another Failed Relationship, Another Lesson Learned

Bright Lights, Small City

by John Francis Leonard

Another Failed Relationship
Another lesson learned

In my last column, I mentioned a trip I was taking to Baltimore to visit yet another guy I had met online. It didn’t work out for us, but we actually had a nice weekend regardless. I also fell in love with the city and it’s reasonable cost of living. Like a friend said to me when I was texting him about how little this guy was going to rent his beautiful one bedroom condo for, “It’s too bad you can’t date the condo.” Things didn’t work out for a lot of reasons, and I really am not disappointed. There were some serious issues, and one of the most serious were Paul’s backwards and downright judgmental views on HIV.

I told him about my status early on, as I often do, and to say that he freaked out would be putting it mildly. I’m used to all kinds of reactions when I tell someone I’m interested in about my status, as we all are. He didn’t go anywhere, he didn’t cut off communication so I guess I thought that there was a chance too he could come to terms with it—and as far as taking precautions and having safe sex, he might have. But he had absolutely no faith in U=U and the extensive studies that tell us we can have sex and not pass the virus on, even without a condom. He was vehemently anti-PrEP and wouldn’t listen when I told him it had a higher efficacy rate than condom usage alone. Paul felt that no one could absolutely guarantee that he wouldn’t get AIDS and that that was all he needed to know. End of story.

Now, I’ve said in this very column that I feel that it is completely up to the negative partner what precautions to take and it was time to put my money where my mouth is. I would prefer that I not use condoms when I’m talking about a serious, long-term relationship, of course. But if my partner is negative and he’s not comfortable with that, so be it. What I found that I’m not willing to do, is constantly debate perfectly sound scientific research. In my line of work, I spend too much time researching and talking to experts and advocates to go down that road ad nauseam. The subject came up and it came up often, and Paul is a perfect example of someone who feels that they are right in their assumptions and is not willing to learn.

I could get beyond all that, I really could. What I couldn’t get beyond was the judgment. The idea that somehow those of us with HIV deserve it because we should have known better. He felt superior because he had avoided it. Things are over with Paul, but it’s still bothering me that I was willing to accept his backwards and prejudiced ideas on HIV transmission. What does that say about me? Am I so desperate for a relationship that I would swallow his garbage? Is it a reflection of the fact that somehow, after all these years, I still judge myself for my status? There were a lot of reasons that a relationship with this man wasn’t in the cards. But his views on my status weren’t the tipping point and that’s still bothering me.

On the opposite end of the spectrum there’s Andy. He’s not exactly a serious relationship, he’s married to a guy in another city and their relationship is open. What Andy and I have been enjoying for a few months now is a wonderful friendship with a sexual component. Andy is also negative, but his work involves various major HIV and AIDS organizations and he is much more enlightened and comfortable with someone who’s poz. We don’t talk about his husband a lot, but I suspect that he’s HIV-positive as well. There’s no worry about transmission because he knows that I’m undetectable. We can be close sexually without a condom coming between us. If he did want to use one, I would be fine with it. Most importantly, there is no judgment involved. Andy leans as far to the left as Paul does to the right. If the circumstances were different, we’d be a much better match. What he shows me is the kind of guy that I need for a partner—just as much as Paul shows me the kind I don’t. Every relationship is a lesson. We just have to be open to learning it.

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. His fiction has been published in the ImageOutWrite literary journal and he is a literary critic for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.