When I was panicking at the thought of having herpes, I called one of my friends, Bernice, who has it. I knew she would understand and provide a helpful perspective. But rather than venting my fears to my therapist first or journaling them out as they came up, I called her and let out a HUGE rant full of my insecurities. Some of the insecurities I told her were:
Who will love me if I have this?
If I have this, I don’t think I’ll have children.
After my rant, she told me it’s manageable and sent money for me to get food that would help ease my breakouts. Once my insurance was reinstated (read more about that in this article), I took another STI test. Once I received my negative test results, I called her immediately with glee.
While she was happy for me, she made it clear that the rant I mentioned earlier hurt her because not only did she once struggle with similar feelings, but she also wondered if that’s how I felt about her having herpes.
Her honesty shocked my system. Even after she found out she had herpes, she has had multiple partners and relationships. She also spoke to me about conversations she’s had with partners about her status, so her having insecurities about having herpes never crossed my mind.
I never wanted to hurt my friend. So, I promptly apologized and explained where my mind was, which led to a deeper discussion between us.
While Bernice has forgiven me for what I said, the situation hasn’t sat right with me since. So, rather than to continuously beat myself up about it, I’ve decided (with her permission) to not only write about our experience but also share how we recovered from that conversation.
Here are 7 approaches that worked for us:
I didn’t run away from self-responsibility
Rather than saying comments like, “I’m sorry you felt that way” or “you knew I was in a bad space, so I didn’t mean it,” I genuinely apologized for hurting her feelings. To me, the comments I mentioned earlier would’ve been insulting and would’ve shown a lack of accountability on my part.
I let Bernice say her piece without interrupting
Although I explained where I was coming from, I wanted Bernice to share how she felt about what I said. In the past (and sometimes in the present), I let people talk but then defended my actions in the midst of them talking. That’s not cool. So, it was important for me to let Bernice say her piece without interruption.
I acknowledged the impact my words had on her
This is important because saying sorry isn’t always enough. Once words are exchanged, the damage is already done. So, one of the things I said during our conversation was, “I know I said I’m sorry, but I also know you still felt the impact of what I said. Let me know if we need to do any recovery around it.”
I provided suggestions on ways we can recover when she asked for clarity
I learned this technique from my work with Jaiya and the Erotic Blueprints. If couples have a disagreement or a miscommunication about something in the bedroom, one of the questions I’ve heard Jaiya ask is if there is any way they can recover from what was said or done.
Although Bernice said she didn’t need us to recover from anything, I wanted to check in with that by giving her suggestions. I asked, “Are you sure?” “Do you need space for a while?” “Is there a specific way you want me to approach the topic if it’s brought again?” Thankfully, she still said we were good, but I wanted to make sure I asked.
I told her we could revisit the conversation if anything else comes up later on
In my experience, it sucked that once I aired out a grievance with someone, I would get push back if I brought it up again. For me, it feels limited because I don’t always know what to say to someone at the moment. I need time to process.
For me, it was important to keep the lines of communication open after our initial conversation. This way, if a repair was needed it could be done on an on-going basis, not just in the moment or when I felt bad.
I had to forgive myself
It sucks to know that I hurt a friend. But I realized it’s important for me to forgive myself, so I don’t let guilt take up space in our friendship. Writing this blog post is part of my self-forgiving process, but it’s not the end of it. It looks differently from moment to moment.
Every friendship has ups and downs but it’s important to know how to bounce back and recover if necessary. I’m grateful Bernice allowed me to write this post and I hope someone finds these approaches useful.
Can you relate to my experience? If so, how did you and your friend recover? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading!