Section One

April 29, 2005

Volume 33,
Issue 17

Sat, Feb 27, 2016


Dear Glenn
by Glenn Pressel, M.A, LMHC, LMTF
Dear Glenn,

A recent column of yours got me thinking about my sexual behavior. I don’t think I’m sexually addicted but my sex drive is controlling much of my life. I’m single, 43 years old and HIV positive. I would love to be in a relationship but I had resigned myself to the idea that I’d be single. Not many men are interested in someone my age that’s in good health but has the dreaded virus.

I have good friends and a close family so I’m not alone but often lonely. I’ve met and dated several men over the years. Most I find to have some kind of attitude or are too insecure and too eager to get hitched.

So, over the years I’ve developed two different lives. One is with my friends and family and the other is my own private world where sex is the only language.

I write this partly out of guilt and partly confession. My sex life is filled with late nights at the bath houses, meeting up with men I’ve met on-line and sometimes just wandering around Broadway until I get picked up or I pick up some guy. My biggest turn-on is to have anal sex with lots of poppers and it rarely means using a condom.

I say this not to startle or make a statement but just to acknowledge the painful truth. There are lots of us out here who never use condoms. If we wanted to we’d be laughed out of the bathhouse or at least go home without a sexual connection. I know how this sounds but I assume that most of us at the baths are HIV positive. Those who aren’t should know that’s where we go. I can easily go on sex binges that last two or three days but that’s not what I’m concerned about.

Lately there’s this guy that’s interested in me. He’s HIV negative and he knows my status. We’ve had sex a few times. I hate using condoms with him so I’m thinking of calling it off between us. The problem is I really like the guy and feel stuck between dropping my secret life to be with him or dropping him to keep my secret life. He’s shown me that he’s interested in being with me.

I know this must sound stupid but I don’t know if I’m prepared to give up what’s been so much of my life. So far I’ve managed to have both but I know he wants a monogamous relationship. I don’t know if I can do that, at least not cold turkey. He knows nothing of my secret life and I’m not sure how he’d take it if I told him the truth about me.

This is a long letter but what I want to know is, why am I struggling with giving up a secret sex life to have what I’ve always wanted? Does this mean I’m sexually addicted? Do you think I’ve gone down hill so much that cruising is more important then love? Am I crazy or what?

Name withheld

Dear Name withheld,

I don’t think your crazy but I can see that you are probably struggling with several different issues. You are understandably cautious to get involved emotionally. There are no guarantees that the two of you would make a successful relationship. You are also holding back some pretty important information about yourself and your behavior that is the key to you figuring this out.

It’s understandable that you’re concerned about sex between the two of you. Your preference is unprotected sex and with your current partner you must have protected sex. Of course there is going to be some frustration with this. Coupled with this is the possible fear of infecting your partner no matter how cautious you both are. With your unprotected sex at the baths the strong possibility of infecting someone was real but from what you’ve said you’ve been able to rationalize this behavior to make it OK. You have told yourself that all men are HIV positive at the baths or everyone assumes this. This is a wrong assumption that I have to guess is creating some guilt for you. By getting involved now and using condoms I bet you are more confronted with this rationalization than before. You have to come to terms with this behavior or you risk resenting your partner.

The other big issue is one of a secret life that your current partner knows nothing of. I don’t know how much detail you need to go into but you really need to begin talking about it or it will gain an even stronger hold over your life. The power is in the secret keeping. Keeping it secret implies shame or embarrassment over it. Your secret life has been your friend, your comfort. It has probably been there to help you through some pretty lonely times. It’s always hard to give up a reliable friend. Struggling with this does not make you a sex addict. Keeping up the behavior while telling your partner you want monogamy or choosing it over intimacy in the long run promotes an addiction.

Monogamy is something that needs to be negotiated between two guys not handed down from one to the other. If you don’t want monogamy, say so. What do you want? Giving up any behavior implies some loss. You need to acknowledge this if you are willing or are interested in curtailing your secret life. Is there a way to include your partner in your secret life? Would you be interested in creating honesty and intimacy by telling your partner about your behavior when you go out? I know that sounds risky but it’s honesty that creates trust.

This is a roundabout way of saying that for you to decide how to proceed with your new partner you need to be honest with him about your secret life. A secret life will kill a good relationship as fast as anything. Honesty has the power to bond two men together.

You seem to be at a place where you are ready to challenge yourself about your current unsafe sexual practices and you are thinking of transitioning from seeing yourself as single to one as coupled and with that comes fear of intimacy, rejection, and guilt over past sexual behavior. The more you talk this through the greater the likelihood you will feel better and be able to make some choices in your life.


Dear Glenn,

I just need a bit of a reality check. I have a friend, let’s call him Adam, who I’ve known for over eight years. I’ve helped him move several times, I help him with his gardening in his yard and I think I’ve been a good friend to him over the years. I will drop most anything if he needs help dealing with a lost love or recently when he lost his job.

The trouble is I find this friendship to be one-sided. I’m not in love with him nor am I sexually interested in him. I think he feels the same way about me but we’ve never discussed it. He treats me like a friend and I know how he treats people he doesn’t like.

Recently, I asked Adam to help me with a small project but he said he was too tired. Later that night I found him at the Cuff. Now he has every right to go to the Cuff but I was still upset. I wouldn’t be upset if this was a one-time deal but this is the history of our friendship. I’m there for him but if I want anything he can’t be bothered. I haven’t said anything because it feels so petty but I wish he could be more considerate of my feelings.

As much as I like Adam I wonder if I should drop him as a friend. Another friend who knows Adam says that’s just the way he is and he probably would just get defensive if I brought it up. He says he just doesn’t see Adam much anymore.

Is this the way to go? Should I just make room for his selfishness knowing he’s really a good friend?


Dear Alex,

Most of us have had a friend like Adam at some point in our lives. They can be lots of fun as long as you don’t ask for anything. The biggest problem is the resentment and anger that builds if you ask for their support. If you don’t get the help you need, it can start to feel hurtful over time. You may even begin to doubt yourself at some point. This is not about you. This is about Adam. This is about his behavior.

Your other friend may be right that Adam might be defensive and not be willing to change his way of being a friend. You risk losing a friend if you bring it up. You have a greater risk of losing a friend if you don’t. I would suggest you bring it up to him at a time when the two of you are alone. If he’s defensive, let him express it then bring it back to your point again. Ask him to hear you and to think about what you’re telling him. Let him know you want to remain his friend but you want the friendship returned in support.

At that point it’s up to Adam. He may have a hard time hearing it but thank you later or he may get angry and rejecting. Either way it’s not about you it’s about Adam and the issues he’s dealing with in his life. Since the two of you have been friends for so long I hope you take the risk of giving Adam the opportunity to work through this with you instead of just cutting him off. You risk losing a friend but you also risk gaining a better friend.


Glenn Pressel LMFT, LMHC is a therapist in private practice in Seattle, his number is (206) 324-9378. Please send questions to or 3136 E. Madison, Ste. #100, Seattle, WA. Please screen letters for identifying information.

Leslie Robinson

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