After Tinder, couple faces time of testing
Michael, a professor in a reputable university, knows heartbreak. After suffering an unrequited love for a colleague for three years, he finally decided to seek love out.
Earlier this year he was in a relationship which ended because “he loved me too much.” A second chance did not prosper. So in the age of social media, Michael did what everyone else was doing—he downloaded Tinder.
Michael found a match, but their first date was marred by a hefty revelation: Don, his date, was HIV-positive.
“In fairness to him, he told me right away. I told myself, my problems are petty compared to his. But I told him, that shouldn’t stop me from dating or seeing you.”
But he knew the consequences and the responsibilities of dating an HIV-positive. That meant no sex. He started reading scientific papers, and even asked a doctor about the dos and don’ts of loving a person living with HIV.
“I’m the kind of person who would carry on a relationship without [sex],” he said. “Masaya na kaming nagkukwentuhan at naghaharutan. (We are happy just sharing stories and flirting.) That’s the most we can do.”
Don and Michael (not their real names) officially became a couple after a month or two of dating. “It’s the first time I truly felt loved,” Michael said.
But the relationship was soon undermined by Don’s infidelity. Don, apparently, had been cheating on Michael—paid-off one night stands, spa “extra service,” despite his illness.
Michael was devastated. Don claimed he was the kind of person who could separate sex and emotion.
“I told him, You’re exchanging my love for you for 30 minutes of pleasure? I told him it pains me a lot not only because he’s not supposed to do it anymore, he has to be responsible with other people, but because we couldn’t even do it together,” Michael said.
“I told him, despite the fact that you love yourself, you don’t respect yourself.”
Michael had never been sweet with anyone before Don. “The sweetest part of me was actually with him. I walked the extra mile with him. Whenever people ask me, I say I love him so much. But if they ask if I’m happy, I say I’m not,” he said. “I also don’t get it.”
Michael forgave Don, but remains wary of the complicated set-up they have. “I already forgave him. But I won’t forget what he did. Of course, he shouldn’t go back to what happened before. But I already forgave him, and I’m okay with that.”
Don promised to be more loyal to him and to stop the sexual adventurism. Michael also had Don talk to psychiatrists and psychologists, if only to help him change his lifestyle. “I walked the extra mile with him. People say I have a Messianic complex, like I could change him,” Michael said.
A doctor gave him frank advice. “He said it’s not about love every time. Instead of getting paranoid, I just better get out of the relationship,” Michael said. “But when I said I love him anyway, the doctor said he didn’t mean not to love him anymore. He just meant that it shouldn’t be me.”
“It does make sense, but still, I stayed.”
Don and Michael are still together, leading a disciplined, loyal relationship. Michael actually planned to give him a special Christmas gift, if only to make him feel special on the most wonderful time of the year. “It may not be the happiest. Christmas is a happy season but its overwhelming happiness triggers the sadness in me. But it certainly will be memorable, because I have a partner,” Michael said.
Michael is aware that Don remains at great risk. But he remains hopeful that constant medication, a positive disposition in life, and his special kind of love would keep the debilitating hands of the virus at bay.
“There is always the possibility of him leaving the world sooner than expected. I want to give him hope, [like] he’s having another chapter in his life. The thing that makes Christmas meaningful is the thought, What if this is the last?”
“You always have to give it your best shot.”
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