From a reader:
I have been married for 12+ years faithfully. To the best of my knowledge my husband has also been faithful. He says as much and I believe him. Recently I was diagnosed with genital herpes. As you may imagine we were both shocked and mystified.
I can only conclude that this is the result of some sin on my part prior to marriage and that the virus was dormant in my body all this time. However, assuming that blood tests come back negative for my husband, how do we go on as husband and wife? My understanding is that love does not harm the beloved. There is no way for us to be intimate without some risk of harm coming to him. For me the experience was very physically painful and I don’t want him to suffer infection.
Also, in the event of my death, I would not want him burdened with the consequences of my premarital sin. Medical protocol is to abstain during outbreaks and to use condoms at all other times. As Catholics we feel that we would not be able to use condoms, but even if we could, it would only mitigate risk of transmission, which is not acceptable to me.
This may sound like an over-reaction, but I can’t help but feel that the only solution is for him to divorce me and seek an annulment. He had a right to know about my status before we married. And to be honest, had I known that I was positive for herpes, I would not have discerned marriage for myself. My very sweet and loving husband bears me no ill will, no suspicion, does not wish a divorce, and assures me cheerfully that “we’ll have herpes together”. I am blessed more richly than I deserve. Still I don’t know morally what I can do in good conscience.
Father, any clarity you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Please pray for me, this has been a horrible trauma, like satan has reached out from the past to permanently foul me body and soul. I am trying to cope for the sake of my husband and children, but I don’t know how I will ever feel normal again. I pray for you also. God Bless.
I am so sorry that you have to go through this. However, from what you write you seem to be deepening your relationship with God and your husband in spite of your anxiety for him. God permits trials to test and strengthen us in our love for Him and each other. The sacrament of matrimony can give you actual graces in this hard time. Stay close to the confessional and Holy Communion.
I don’t think you have a case for a “null marriage”. Had you known about the herpes before your marriage and had you hidden the knowledge from your husband, that deception could perhaps have been a ground of nullity. On the other hand his reaction to the news of the your diagnosis suggests that knowing about your condition might not have had an impact on his consent. It sounds as if he loves you with true spousal love, the sacrificial love which Christ model on the Cross. This is the kind of love which always seeks the good of the other. His response, “we’ll have herpes together” sounds, if crudely worded, a true expression of spousal love.
This is easy for me to say, don’t be too hard on yourself. I doubt the herpes is “divine punishment” or satanic interference. It is a disease. It was, we grant, contracted in the course of sinful activity. Since you have confessed the sin, you need not dwell too much the guilt of that past sin. It was forgiven.
There is no sin we little mortals can commit that is so bad that God will not forgive us if we ask for forgiveness. Our past mistakes and sins can be grist that grinds off the hard edges of our pride. Good can come from evil. Think of the loving support – outwardly and willingly expressed – you have from your husband. How many women have that sort of man?