My boyfriend told me that nobody else would want me because I have HIV. I feel so hurt but I can’t stop think that it’s true.
I’m sorry your boyfriend said that to you. It was really unkind. And it sounds like it threw your self-confidence out of whack. Hurtful comments from people we care about have a way of doing that to us.
My clients often talk to me about how being HIV positive makes them feel like damaged goods. As if their HIV status is like a big sign they were wearing that warns everybody from getting close to them. When you’re already dealing with some of those feelings — especially if you were recently diagnosed — the last thing you need is to have someone you care about put the damaged goods label on you.
So here are some ideas on how to undo the damage.
First, take a look at the facts. By staying compliant with the medications, and taking good care of themselves, HIV-positive people are living full lives. For many with undetectable viral loads, their chance of passing HIV to a partner is close to zero.
Second, take a look at your self-talk. Are you repeating his words to yourself, like a baseball bat that you keep hitting yourself over the head with? Give yourself some encouragement. Talk back to the negative dialogue in your head. Encouraging yourself is the best antidote to the poison of negative thinking.
Remind yourself of who you are. HIV hasn’t diminished who are as a person. You are still the same person you have always been, lovable and capable of showing love to others.
Review your foundation. What are your strengths? Your accomplishments? Who are the people who are there for you no matter what? Your foundation is unshakable, even when an unkind comment gets tossed in your direction.
Have an attitude of gratitude. What’s good today? Every day, identify a reason to feel grateful. That’s a great way to help keep yourself focused in a positive direction.
Get support. Reach out to your friendship network. There’s nothing like spending time with a friend to help you to stay grounded and to give your self-esteem a boost.
My concern here is with you and how these words have affected you. I also think it might help to look at your perspective on your boyfriend’s words. Or as the saying goes, consider the source of these words.
I’m definitely not trying to make excuses for him. But it has been my experience that angry, hurtful words are often motivated by fear. He may be fearful of how your HIV status will impact your health over time. Or how it might impact your ability to build a relationship together. Or he may even fear that you will decide you don’t want to be with him any longer. Who knows?
What I am saying here is that it might be useful at some point to sit down and have a talk about your HIV status and what this means for your relationship. During this conversation, you might ask him how he is feeling about your HIV status. Especially any concerns or fears that he might have. Encourage him to talk about his feelings by reassuring him that you are willing and able to listen. While you’re at it, request that he work on owning his feelings, even the uncomfortable ones. And not take out them out on you. (And do know that a partner who constantly tells you nobody else will want you, for whatever reason, is not someone you should consider a catch. That can border on abuse, but let's assume your boyfriend sad this once, innocently enough.)
Here’s how to deal with people like your boyfriend who think they can predict your future. Refuse to accept any limitations that someone else – well-meaning or otherwise – might attempt to place on you. People who attempt to limit others are really projecting their own prejudices and fears. That’s their stuff to deal with, not yours.
You deserve people in your life who can be supportive, who can offer encouragement, and who can help you to be your best. If your boyfriend can’t step up to the plate and be there for you, then maybe he doesn’t need to be part of your life. Right?