Posted on Monday, November 23rd, 2015 at 2:36 am.
I’m glad to hear that your previous girlfriend was straightforward with you. I’m not sure what practices you used to be safe, but most of the time precautions do work to prevent transmission of the virus. However, this is not always the case.
Avoiding unprotected sexual contact during outbreaks is generally an effective (though not foolproof) way to avoid transmitting herpes to a partner. However, newer research indicates that during a small percentage of days in a month the person with herpes can have “asymptomatic shedding” of the virus. This means that at times the virus may be present in the genital tract in the absence of visible outbreaks making it possible to unintentionally transmit the virus to your partner in the absence of any obvious symptoms.
This creates a tricky situation for potential partners trying to protect uninfected partners. In fact, a new partner who doesn’t believe they have herpes and has never had an outbreak may already be carrying the virus due to prior asymptomatic transmission of the virus from a previous partner. Without proper testing you may not know the other person also has the virus since many people never manifest the virus in obvious outbreaks. Thus, protection is a two-way street.
Herpes virus antibodies have been determined to be present in about 22% of the US adult population. Herpes has been described by one expert as “a life adversity, nothing more and nothing less.” It is not a life-threatening illness. Fortunately, lots of research has been done that indicates that asymptomatic viral shedding as well as outbreaks can be significantly reduced by taking anti-viral medications on a regular basis. Protected sex using condoms is also an effective method for greatly reducing the risk of infecting an uninfected partner.
The best thing to do is to inform yourself of the facts of your condition and communicate clearly and honestly the risk factors to any new potential sexual partner. Most people find that their partner is willing to work with them on this issue even if they are uninfected. A great resource for education is the website www.herpes.org. It has the most recent high quality information on herpes prevention and treatments.
Having herpes need not be a barrier to having a satisfying sexual-romantic relationship. It just requires a bit of preparation and caution to minimize the chances of becoming infected or infecting a new partner. Ultimately, you are the person and that can and will make the best decisions about when and how to disclose to potential partners. The important thing is to share this information with your potential partner before you have sex and to be honest and informed.
Posted on Saturday, November 21st, 2015 at 7:56 pm.
Dr. Beth, I am 28, single, and about 6 months out of a relationship with a woman that was quite important to me. I feel like I am pretty well over the ending of that relationship and ready to start dating again. The problem is that my last girlfriend had herpes. Even though she told me about it and we tried to be safe, I still ended up getting herpes too. Now I am worried about dating and having to tell a new partner that I have an STD. How do I go about doing this?
Posted on Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 at 5:18 am.
The issue of whether to legalize marijuana has been a topic of intense debate for our states and our nation for decades now. Until recently, the majority of citizens in our state and other states have been vehemently opposed to the legalization of pot. Gradually over time the demographics of the population have changed and many people have become accepting of pot as a recreational drug on par with alcohol—not necessarily good for you but a substance informed adults should be able to make their own decisions about.
The legal and political issues around this topic are extremely complex and those are not my areas of expertise. As we know, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Colorado (and Washington State) have both passed referendums legalizing possession and use of small quantities of pot and both states are in active periods of hammering out implementation guidelines about the recent legalization. One thing that is definite is that use of marijuana, like alcohol, is illegal for minors. In that sense, nothing has changed for you as a parent of children who are minors.
How to parent around this issue is a trickier matter. While alcohol and pot are not the same in either public perception or effect, in some ways the issues are analogous. Think about how you parent your children around alcohol. Some parents don’t consume alcohol on a regular basis in their homes and strongly discourage their children from using alcohol. Some families consume alcohol on a casual social basis and still strongly discourage their children from drinking until they are permitted to make their own decisions as adults.
Parents need not change their own personal parenting values around drugs and alcohol just because a substance becomes legal. Have frank, open, non-judgmental discussions with your children about your views on recreational use of marijuana when it seems timely and age-appropriate to do so. You can acknowledge that different members of society view recreational use of pot in different ways and let them know how you see it.
Give them a clear sense of your expectations and encourage their resistance to peer pressure just as you would around any type of unhealthy behavior. Denying or ignoring the fact of legalization or going into lengthy moral lectures about the wrongness of legalization is unlikely to be helpful in any way, but it is fine to point out that neither the majority of states nor the federal government have yet legalized the drug and that there are definite risks associated with using pot.
Ultimately, you have to decide as a parent what the consequences will be if you find out that your child is experimenting with pot, alcohol, or other drugs. If your children are on the cusp of the age of majority, you may have to decide how to deal with your adult child’s decision to perhaps use this substance now that it is legal. These are tricky issues for families but open, honest, non-coercive communication is the key to maintaining healthy relationships with your adolescent and young adult children.
Posted on Monday, November 16th, 2015 at 4:53 am.
Dear Dr. Beth, I am the parent of 2 young teenagers who attend middle school in the area. I am very concerned about the new law that legalizes pot smoking. I have tried to steer my kids away from drugs and now it feels like our state is giving kids the message that smoking pot is OK and even “cool”. How do I keep them going in the right direction?
Posted on Friday, November 13th, 2015 at 5:41 am.
I am sorry to hear of your family’s loss. Grief is a complicated thing, experienced differently by every member of the family. Holidays are also complicated, even when everyone you love is still living. You put the two together and you have complicated complications.
Loss of a parent or loss of a long-time spouse are certainly two of the most difficult kinds of losses we deal with in our lifetimes. It is certainly understandable that your father is having trouble generating any desire to “celebrate” at such a painful time. It is also natural and understandable that you and your siblings would want to honor your mother’s memory by carrying forward the traditions that were important to her and to the family during her lifetime. So what to do?
You have several choices. Given that you are a young adult and that your siblings are probably fairly close in age, I would guess that you have celebrated the majority of your holidays at your parents’ home. So one question is where to hold the holiday events: holding them in the family home will obviously evoke more emotion than celebrating the holidays at one of your sibling’s homes or at another relative’s home.
If your Dad were to be willing to be part of these gatherings, would it be more acceptable to him to have them in the family home or in the home of other family members? While he may not be receptive to this question now, he may be open to the question in a week or two and asking him is very respectful.
Second, it would certainly be thoughtful for you and your siblings to offer to do the “work” of the holidays so that there is no additional pressure or stress on your father. Discuss with your siblings what you would each be willing to do and ask your father what is most important to him—a family meal? Decorating a tree? Or just seeing other members of the family? Do your best not to be too attached to what he might want or might not want. Stay flexible in your own needs and expectations of him and also of each other.
Of course, the challenge of the holidays is certainly not only your father’s challenge. You, too, are no doubt going through your own intense grieving process and the holidays will likely make this process even more intense. One or more of your siblings may also feel too overwhelmed to play a large part in the holiday preparations. It is helpful if there are other relatives or close friends who are willing to step in and help. Maybe another family member or close family friend would be willing to shoulder the majority of the load for this year by hosting at their home and handing things such as meals, house decorations, etc.
I suggest planning something meaningful but not too elaborate this year. Keep it fairly simple. Of course, it helps a lot with the energy of the holidays if younger children are involved. They bring a lightness, energy and joy to every holiday. You can borrow from their freshness and innocent happiness to help you navigate your own way through the holidays.
Just know that this first holiday season after your mother’s death will be the most difficult year to move through. Be gentle and patient with yourself and with one another. Try to make it a time of both fond remembrances and openly expressed feelings about your mother’s death. Let it be whatever it needs to be this year and move forward into this New Year knowing that all of you have done the best you could to move through a difficult time.
Posted on Thursday, November 12th, 2015 at 5:39 am.
Dr. Beth, The holidays are upon us and I am dreading them. My mother died 7 months ago and this will be our first Thanksgiving and Christmas without her. I am a single young adult and have always spent the holidays with my family. My father is totally broken up about Mom’s death and says he doesn’t want to do anything at all for the holidays. My brother and sister are also struggling, but all of us siblings would like to go forward with celebrating the holidays and making it a time of positive (though also sad) remembrance of our mother, who always loved the holidays. I am especially concerned about my Dad. What is the right thing to do in this situation?
Posted on Monday, November 9th, 2015 at 5:24 am.
It sounds like you are in an extremely painful and unfulfilling marriage and this painful situation has been going on for a very long time. This is obviously a very sticky situation. The fact that children are involved in your relationship makes it all the more challenging. I’m sure you also have some personal shortcomings that contribute to the unhappiness in your marriage and your wife’s obvious dissatisfaction. However, regardless of each of your role in the marital misery, something obviously has to change.
If you have tried communicating about these issues with her over and over and she has been unwilling to communicate and unresponsive to your deep concerns, marriage counseling is probably your best shot for trying to ensure the survival and healing of the marriage. People can exist for years, even decades, in miserable relationships and a part of their soul dies in the process. You may already be at this point.
I would suggest making another concerted effort to see if the marriage can be improved or saved. Really listen to her and if you have not already done so, do your best to change the behaviors she is most unhappy about. You might try reading the book, “After the Honeymoon: How conflict can improve your relationship” by Daniel B. Wile. This is one of many excellent books that deal with how to change the dynamics in troubled marriages; and there are many other excellent resources available as well.
Clearly convey to your wife the critical point you are at in the relationship and let her know that you are at a personal tipping point in your ability to continue in the marriage. Encourage her to view marriage counseling as a valid option for addressing these serious marital issues and encourage her to choose the counselor if she wishes. The consequences of not doing so are the potential dissolution of the marriage.
If none of this works, you really only have two realistic options: you can leave the marriage or you can decide to stay and make the best of a terrible marital relationship. Your decision will depend on a variety of factors: your age, the age of your children, your life-stage, and which situation you believe will ultimately be the least damaging to the kids. Sometimes there is no good solution and in this case you would have to decide whether the damage to you and your children is greater by having them live with parents who are together in a highly dysfunctional marriage or living in a situation of divorce with the sadness and complications that inevitably accompany this difficult life decision.
There is no right answer. But if the marriage is sucking your soul out of you and robbing you of your sense of worth and value, you have to assess the costs associated with staying or leaving the marriage. Children are usually resilient and have a great capacity for healing. You and your wife both have the potential to find fulfillment in other relationships characterized by greater health and, hopefully, a better partner fit for each of you.
Whether or not to divorce is a wrenching and heart-rending decision. Given your wife’s tendencies toward avoidance, passivity and emotional harshness, it seems that this decision and taking the initiative will probably fall onto you. I would advise you to seek counseling to sort out your needs and feelings and what will be best for you and the family in the long-term before taking irreversible action. There are situations that can be healed and some that cannot. Only you can determine whether this marriage can truly heal or whether it is best to let go.
Posted on Sunday, November 8th, 2015 at 2:00 am.
Dr. Beth, My wife and I have been having problems for years now. We don’t agree on finances, we disagree on disciplining the kids, she criticizes me for not making enough money, and there is no affection in our marriage much less sex. I have been dissatisfied for years and I know she can’t be happy either even though she won’t talk about it. I have tried off and on to get her to agree to go to marriage counseling, but she refuses, saying that counseling is just a bunch of psychobabble and couldn’t help someone get out of a paper bag much less save a marriage. I’m at my wits end. I don’t want to end my marriage but I am at the breaking point and I can’t stay in the marriage the way it is. What are my options?
Posted on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015 at 4:39 am.
Anyone that thinks being home to raise children is easier than having a job outside the home is quite mistaken. The task you have taken on is a formidable challenge but very worthwhile, as I am sure you have already discovered. Exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed are definitely part of the package, but if they are your constant and unrelenting companions you probably need to do something different.
That “something different” falls into three broad categories: practical assistance, self-care, and changing your expectations. In the practical assistance category I find that many mothers are really quite reluctant to ask for help or accept help, even when it is offered by people they care about with no strings attached. They have always been highly competent and independent women and carry these traits into their mothering role. There is nothing wrong with that, but we all need a little help sometimes and mothers can often use more than a little help. Allow yourself to ask for and accept help from others. In most instances they feel good about giving and it really is OK to ask and to feel OK about receiving the help. It will actually make you better as a mother, not worse.
Self-care is the hardest thing to talk to mothers about. It’s hard to see how doing something for oneself can be justified when the needs of the children and household are so endless. However, that is the whole point: those needs are endless. You can either exhaust yourself without replenishment, which leads to burnout and impatience with your children and partner, or you can exhaust yourself and then replenish. Doing so can lengthen your irritability fuse and increase your patience. It also ties in with suggestion three: changing expectations.
Many mothers think changing their expectations or standards for housekeeping and other things is the same as being lazy and letting her off the hook of personal responsibility. There is another interpretation of what it means to change your expectations: it’s called being realistic. Exhaustion and chronic feelings of not being enough, not doing enough and not having enough are always interwoven with our expectations. It’s fine to have aspirations, but the reality of having children is that they consume huge amounts of time and energy. This necessitates alterations in your life patterns and in how many things you can expect to get done and do well. By lowering some of your self-expectations you can do things and you might even feel a sense of accomplishment instead of a constant sense of failure.
In spite of the growth of whole industries to help mothers and provide gadgets that make their jobs a little easier, mothering young children never really becomes less work. Children’s needs don’t diminish even if the tools we have for meeting those needs have become more and more sophisticated. Even at its easiest, parenting is an incredibly demanding job. Give yourself a break and take the time to enjoy your children instead of berating yourself for all that no longer fits on your plate.
Posted on Sunday, November 1st, 2015 at 10:08 pm.
Dr. Beth, I am the mother of 3 young children (7, 4, and 2) and I feel constantly overwhelmed. My husband and I decided that it would be best if I stayed at home with the children until they are all in elementary school or beyond. Even though I miss the adult companionship I got from being at work, I love being a mother and being home with my children. Still, I am exhausted and never seem to live up to my own expectations. Any suggestions?