His Health Problems

Q: I'm 21. I was born with hemophilia, which is a genetic disease that does not enable blood to clot properly. Because of treatment methods in the past, I contracted Hepatitis C virus (which infects the liver). There currently is no cure and no vaccine for it, and it is transmittable. I am always worried that I will transmit the disease to someone I love. Granted, I would say that I'm much better off than people with HIV (which is also likely for hemophiliacs). I am beginning to find that girls like confident guys. Yet I can't really feel and act confident in order to have a girl fall for me, because of my health problems. I often feel that there are other people that can take care of people I love more than I can. Am I thinking too much? -- Alan

Dr. Susan: It's not "thinking" that's the culprit, but thinking irrationally. While you have been dealt a challenging hand in life, it doesn't mean you don't deserve a loving relationship. I'm not that kind of doctor, but I read that Hepatitis C doesn't readily spread between partners in stable, monogamous relationships. Still, safe sex is always a good idea until you've done thorough research on the matter.

But your concern is less sexual, it seems, than whether you've got something of value to offer a woman. By focusing on your imperfections, you do a number on your own self-esteem. Confidence is appealing, it's true. But not arrogance, or deceit, or false bravado. A certain vulnerability combined with utter honesty is also appealing, and probably more appealing to the kind of woman who would stick by you regardless of health problems.

Don't mistake being able to "take care of" someone as the only kind of love. I suspect that with your particular health issues, you and your eventual partner will be taking care of one another, both emotionally and in other ways. Your genuine concern for someone you haven't even met yet is very generous and responsible. Just be yourself, warts and viruses and all, and find out all you can about how to keep a partner safe. Good luck!

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