What’s Been Eating Emmy

The last few weeks have been stressful. I have mentioned that. I have been vague. I have been a bit elusive in terms of what has been going on. And I really had no intentions of sharing what has been going on. It was not something I wanted to do. I wasn’t sure I was bullet proof enough to share as the emotions and stress is too raw – too near the surface yet.  But after some discussion, I have decided I am going to share.

In short, Garbanzo was diagnosed with an STD – herpes.

For some people, they are probably snickering  – thinking that’s what you get for swinging. Assuming that if you don’t destroy the marriage, you are going to do something like this instead. If you are going to go down that path, skip it – leave now – because I’m not in the mood for it – specifically, I’m not in the mood for the uninformed.

Here is what you should know if you don’t:

  • 1 in 5 adults have herpes
  • 90% of those who have it, do not know they have it because they never have an outbreak – or the outbreak does not include blisters.
  • Even without an outbreak, herpes can still be spread. 
  • Condoms offer some protection against it, but herpes is transmitted skin to skin. Wherever boxers cover is where the herpes virus can be spread.
  • Herpes does not pose any long term health risks. It’s the stigma that affects people more than the disease.
I should mention clearly that I do not have it. All of my tests were negative. I may use the terms “us” and “we” when I write about it because even though I do not have it, we do have to deal with it. We have to live with it. Because even if I never have sex with another partner but my husband, I will still have to use caution.

Garbanzo is on suppression medicine. He is one of those 90% above who did not have an outbreak. It was diagnosed via STD testing. This is why we have been so fucking shocked by it. Imagine getting that phone call. Now imagine not understanding how you got it because you have been “playing safe”. As he explained to his doctor, we grew up during the AIDS scare. We know condoms protect. To hear that is not the case for this one is shocking.

We continue to tell partners. We are not looking for the person to blame. We are trying to be clear about that. We decided to take the approach that someone is in the 90% that didn’t know because there were no symptoms. We are recommending everyone get tested for their own piece of mind (and ours too). In some cases, we have had to educate those around us as to the symptoms – or lack their of. Of the risk despite the use of condoms. We have had to help them sort the myth from the facts.

Overall, people have been supportive. We have had a couple people freak out. Mainly people have been concerned about Garbanzo and how he is taking the news. While this seems like a horrible thing, it is the emotional stigma that cause the greater problems. It is worrying about how people will react. Worrying about infecting me. Worrying about what’s next.  We have read and been told that many times people end up in counseling to help them deal with the news – or get diagnosed with depression.

We are thankful though. Thankful it was not worse. Thankful that this wasn’t gotten because of a cheating situation or a failing relationship. We don’t have that stress to deal with on top of it. Thankful that the reactions of those we care about have been understanding, not judgmental. Thankful the docs are all understanding, reassuring that this is not something we are alone in dealing with, and very helpful in terms of providing good information.

One of the reasons we decided to write about this was to talk about something we don’t talk about enough in swinging. STDs do happen. Most swingers put on their profiles “must be disease free” or something to that effect. All couples and singles we have been with have involved that discussion – use condoms – been tested, etc. But, to be honest, I have not had a single couple or single actually ask “when were you last tested”.  Most say “we don’t do the one night stand thing” but intention versus actuality can be different – just like it can be in the single world.  Even the parties where it is expected and even stated that everyone must be disease free can expose people to diseases. Again, it’s all based on everyone’s honesty and word. And, like I’ve stated, 90% don’t know they have it. At the time they may be honest, but truly, one cannot know without a blood test.

Very few people we know swap tests. Or if they do, they don’t do it 100% of the time. Some people we know do find ways of reducing their risks. Some will not play at parties….ever. Some are pretty cleanliness conscious by taking a shower before and after – or even wash hands between partners. (Yes according to the doctor and literature, you could pass it between people via fingers – as long as everything is warm and moist, the virus survives.)

Swinging does involve risks but so does having sex in general. If you are not in a 100% monogamous relationship (or 100% closed relationship), make sure you know that. Make sure you are getting FULL STD screens. Why do I say “full”? We learned that if the doctor doesn’t understand your full sex history, they may not order a full STD panel unless you insist upon it. Make sure you have blood work done. That is key to diagnosing herpes as they look for the antibodies which means you have been exposed.

Ask questions – more than just “are you disease free”. If you are willing to talk about favorite sex positions, you need to be willing to ask “when was your last STD test?” or “how many partners have you played with” or “did you have a full STD screening”?

Be honest with yourself. Intention versus actuality are two different things. Remember the phrase goes “the path to hell is paved with good intention”.  A yearly test is good for most, but if you find you are playing with a larger than usual number of people, go get retested.  Put yourself and your future partners mind at ease. I’m not advocating paranoia. I’m advocating being realistic. I have known some people who don’t swing (but who are single) who ask their potential sex partners to get a test with them before having sex with them the first time – just to make sure everyone is safe. Why not be willing to do that in the swinging world?

Lastly, understand that you could do everything right – and still end up with something. Be careful to judge those around you who do. It just takes one exposure to get it. Someone who has it may have gotten it the first time they had sex – others may get it because they have sex with tons of people. The only explanation that is universally true is that someone got it because they unknowingly had sex with an infected person. Number of people they had sex with doesn’t matter. Frequency doesn’t matter. Number of partners doesn’t matter.

As we discovered, it only takes one partner.

Where are we going from here? We don’t know. We are still processing the news. Still trying to figure it out. I guess we’ll see where we go. All I do know is that any and all conversations will now include more STD talk than they ever have before.

18 Comments Add yours

  1. Thank you for sharing this.

    I think it’s admirable that despite how personal of an issue this is, you took the time to post it to stress the importance of discussion and testing between partners.

    Keeping you guys in prayers (or positive thoughts – whichever you prefer).

  2. Aurore says:

    I don’t have the time right at this moment but I will respond later.

    Thank you for this – you have no idea how important this issue is to me personally.

    You are so brave for sharing it and you are both in my thoughts. *hugs*

  3. Hubman says:

    I’m so sorry to hear that you and Garbonzo are having to deal with this, but I admire the maturity with which you are doing so.

    I’ve thought about it before, but this post reminds me, I don’t think I’ve ever had a partner point blank ask me about STD history and testing. And I’m also reminded that I’m due to be tested again, but with a blood test this time…

  4. Dana says:

    Having spent a year working in the STD clinic in Korea, STD’s don’t scare me. I don’t mean that in an “I’ll never get one” way (because I have), but in a “It’s no different than any other physical ailment one might get” way. Yet there is such an unfortunate stigma.

    I love this post – not because of the content, but because it is so well balanced between the emotional “trauma” and the medical reality.

    I am sorry the two of you are having to deal with this, but somehow – *knowing* the two of you – I can’t help but think it will make your relationship stronger.

  5. Sharing this is very brave, but that is one of the things I love about you, that you are willing to get so deeply personal.

    You and Garbanzo are in my thoughts, but I know that you will deal with this in the open, honest, no-nonsense way you deal with everything.

  6. Osbasso says:

    From the post title, I was expecting something completely different…

  7. Oasis says:

    Awesome for you guys to be sharing this. STDs are probably the one thing that most swinging couples (at least the ones that I’ve met) purposefully ignore. Can’t tell you how many times we’ve met couples who believe that – because swingers are “honest” and mostly play with other couples – they are somehow immune to STDs. As you pointed out, it is so easy to have an STD and not even know it. And so easy to pass along.

    Its true that you can be as careful as possible and still run into trouble. You can practice safe sex and still pick up something. You can leave your house, cross the street, and get hit by a bus. But unless you’re an idiot you look both ways before you cross the street. I am a HUGE believer that everyone – even those who believe they are in a 100% monogamous relationship – should be STD tested regularly. It takes very little time and there are places you can go where it doesn’t cost a lot of money either (most county health departments will do complete tests very cheaply). I get HIV tested every couple of months, and full-panel every six.

    Shit happens, and the more partners you have the more likely you could contract an STD. I’m careful, but I know I could still get one and I deal with that. Its the thought of getting an STD and not knowing it, and then passing it along to someone else, that scares me silly.

    Good for you guys for getting tested, and GREAT for you guys for being responsible about the results. Its shitty news, but it sounds like you’re dealing with it in the best way that you can.

  8. Beryl says:

    I know we’ve already talked, but I just wanted to add my hugs here, too.

    I’m very proud to know you!


  9. IveyLane says:

    I’m so sorry for this Emmy. I won’t reiterate what the rest of the folks have said other than thank you for your usual direct and frank sharing. As you said, it is a manageable condition, one that needs to be adjusted to. I’m confident that together you and Garbonzo will weather this just fine. My thoughts are with you both as you adjust to the “new normal.”


  10. Sa says:

    Thank you for dispelling ignorance and myths.

    I wish you the best; to Garbanzo of course but also to you, dear Emmy.

  11. Beautifully written post! Let me stand up and say this – I know exactly how Garbanzo feels…because I got it too. I have been symptom free since but that doesn’t mean I don’t have it. Thank you for putting it out there for everyone. Ohh! The word verification is “harsh”. Damn.

  12. Just me... says:

    Hugs to you both!!
    It’s a pure bitch that this happened, but you two are tough and can handle it.. Of that, I have no doubt!!

  13. Autumn says:

    it was very brave of you to post this here. i think we’ve to a pretty open minded group of bloggers and readers around here, but it can be hard sometimes to unload stressful things. (((HUGS)))

    i’m not judging you. i’m loving that you’re talking about this. i’m getting bloodwork this week in fact to be tested overall and for STD’s also. i will be happy to know it for a fact and not just from my last test, you know?

    thank you very much for sharing this. i’m hoping this in some small way can help you deal a little better. i’m sorry this happened, and i think you have a very good attitude about it.

    thinking of you…

    loves autumn

  14. Maggie says:

    I’m sorry this happened, and I second or third what everyone else said.

    On a less serious side note, mad props for the Giant Microbes photo. 🙂

  15. I am so sorry you two are going through this and commend you for being open and public about this subject.

    Even with growing up in this day and age with AIDS and using condoms faithfully some of the good ones still get this STD. When you can pass this with genitals, hands/fingers, and mouth it’s hard to pin it down.

    You are right that it doesn’t matter how you got it because the disease is there and not going anywhere, unfortunately.

    But one thing you have to remember is you and the other party (you may swap results with) are only good from that moment the test was done….any sexual activity makes the test invalid even in a closed relationship due to the fact you don’t know if you have it and just don’t have any symptoms.

    I wish you luck. You are in my thoughts.

  16. Thank you for sharing this. There is such a stigma attached to STDs which I think prevents people from being as safe and as careful as they should be. It sucks that despite your caution you still got affected, but I am sure that you are not the only onces who have had this problem.

    It will only be from people being as brave as you in sharing this that more will become aware of the true extent of the situation.

    Thinking of you, hope all is well 🙂


  17. Vixen says:

    I am so sorry you guys are having to deal with this. What an expected, crazy…shocking, life altering (is it?) thing to happen.

    I appreciate and admire you sharing this with us. *Thank you*

    *hugs* to you guys….

  18. Babe Lincoln says:

    I’m joining the chorus here to say thank you for sharing this with us… I think you’ve given everyone food for thought on a topic that doesn’t get much attention amidst all the sexy talk. Much love to the both of you as you move forward!

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