The Positive & Single’s Valentine’s Day
No matter how much we tell ourselves that Valentine’s Day is a corporate, consumer-driven holiday that bears no real value on our lives or relationships, it can still sting sometimes to be single on a day like today.
Those who are single, LBGT and HIV-positive on Valentine’s Day can be hit particularly hard because the holiday is designed to glorify monogamous and hetero-normative relationships; and hookup culture in the gay community can cause relationships to end before the six-month mark, leaving you with no one to celebrate the night with. Similarly, those who have just been recently diagnosed as HIV-positive may experience some new anxieties in trying to navigate the world of dating as an HIV-positive person. And Valentine’s Day may exacerbate these anxieties.
Usually, we only have a few options if we’re single on Valentine’s Day. We either can be in a relationship and do cute couples things like go out to dinner, go out to a movie or let our partners know how much we love them and how close we live to a Walgreen’s by buying a cheesy, generic card, or we can stay in our houses and be bitter, angry and alone, eating comfort foods while watching the flood of social media posts from our friends in relationships clog our phones.
This year, however, give yourself options:
1. Date and celebrate yourself!
It can be easy to believe that you’ll never find love or be in a relationship as an HIV-positive person. Valentine’s Day can cause these negative, fatalistic thought patterns that are filled with self-blame and self-hate, and let them spiral out of control. Instead, you can use Valentine’s Day to “masturdate” or go out on a date alone.
Get ready, look pretty, and take yourself to your favorite restaurant, or go out for a drink. Flying solo might make you more willing to approach strangers, and not having a huge group of friends surrounding you may also make strangers more willing to approach you. You’ll likely bump into people also looking to go out on Valentine’s Day. Chances are you’ll feel better going out alone than if you stayed inside.
2. Erase negative thoughts.
Have you ever thought about how we sometimes speak to ourselves in a way that we never would never speak to a friend? It’s easy to ruminate on all the reasons why you’re unlovable and that you’ll be single forever. It’s important to remember when you’re HIV-positive that you are not alone, and you do not have to be alone.
A great fear of those who are newly-diagnosed is that they won’t feel romantically or sexually connected to anyone ever again. Yet the decades of stories from HIV-positive people in healthy relationships show us again and again how this fear is completely unfounded.
Studies show that HIV-positive people on treatment can live long and healthy lives and will not pass HIV to their partners, so there is no reason to fear that your HIV status will prevent you from being in a long and committed relationship if that’s what you really want. Additionally, each year there more and more HIV-positive oriented websites dedicated to helping HIV-positive singles find partners.
3. Spend the night with people you Love.
Never forget that a friendship is also a type of relationship. If you’re newly HIV-positive, it is especially important to have a good support group consisting of family and friends. Studies show that those who are HIV-positive and have disclosed their status and who received support from their families respond much better to treatment than those who haven’t disclosed their status.
Also, having a healthy support system can be essential to maintaining any type of successful romantic relationship. You need to be able to approach your family and friends for relationship advice and guidance, and that can be hard if you haven’t yet disclosed to them about your sexual orientation or HIV status. Get comfortable with the people who are already in your life before trying to add someone new to the equation. You can use this holiday to reconnect with a friend or family member that you may have lost touch with over the years.
4. Get off of your screen!
Whatever you do, don’t spend excessive time on social media or dating apps. Seeing all the couples posting pictures of their happy relationships can make you feel even worse about your own relationship status. Similarly, dating apps can make you feel even more alone and hopeless about being single.
Chatting with people on dating apps can also cause those who have been recently diagnosed as HIV-positive to have anxiety. A simple “What’s up?” can cause an unnecessary onslaught of disclosure worries, causing you to wonder when you should disclose and worry about how the person will react when you do. Rather than focus on finding someone new, you can spend time focusing on yourself or those who are already in your life.