The pain of vaginismus is more than just physical. It’s emotional and psychological as well.
Today’s Wednesday, the day we always talk about marriage. And I’m in the middle of a 3-part series on vaginismus, a condition where women have extreme pain during intercourse (and sometimes can’t even have intercourse) because their muscles tense up involuntarily.
While most women never experience this, between 2-14% of women do suffer from it. And I’ve had so many of these women on this blog, sending me emails and leaving me comments.
I have a special place in my heart for these women, because I went through it, too, as I shared in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex. It’s awful. You feel like you’ve been cheated, but at the same time you feel like you’re also cheating your husband.
You feel angry at everyone–at your husband who wants sex even though it hurts you; at the church that gives the message “men need sex” without ever acknowledging that giving him sex causes you great pain; at God who would create men to need sex to feel loved, resulting in you needing to be hurt so he can feel loved.
And then, in order to try to cope and recover from it, you go through physical therapy or try things which seem so degrading.
But you have to, because this isn’t the kind of life you want.
This year I’ve read two books by blogging friends–books where they share about their struggle with vaginismus, too. Jennifer Smith’s The Unveiled Wife and Emily Weiringa’s Making It Home both are such poignant looks at dealing with this condition.
Yesterday I shared a beautiful post by a newlywed with vaginismus who is coming to terms with her diagnosis and is aggressively working to overcome it. Tomorrow I’m going to give a round-up of suggestions on how to deal with vaginismus.
Today I want to give women suffering with the pain of vaginismus a chance to cut through all of the noise about the obligation to have sex and how great sex is supposed to be, and speak their own pain.
And for those of you who have never suffered through with the pain of vaginismus, I hope that by learning about this condition you may be able to encourage someone in the future, too, because it can be so lonely feeling like you’re the only one who has ever gone through this.
I’ve taken these quotes from comments and from emails. Let’s listen to these women:
From Women Who Wonder if Their View of Sex from Childhood is the Cause
Between watching my parents, who always kept the door of their bedroom cracked open and were almost never physically affectionate with each other in front of my brother and I, and being a teenager during the height of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”‘s popularity, I understood well that sex before marriage was not God’s ideal. But I never really internalized the message that sex after marriage was a good thing. So I did wait for marriage, but in the 2 1/2 years since, I’ve never had pain-free sex. Between that, a pregnancy that I was sick for the whole time, and a tear during labor that took way longer than average to heal from, it’s been a particularly difficult year in the bedroom for my husband and I, and I’ve often wondered if things would be different if I’d gotten a more balanced view of God’s plan for sex and intimacy in marriage. I started physical therapy today to see if that helps the muscle spasms, and I pray that it works. I’m thankful that I have a patient husband, but he deserves better than this from me.
I grew up in the Bible Belt USA, the purity message followed me from home, to church, and at school. It was up to me to stay pure and to keep my brothers in Christ from stumbling by how I dressed. I would wear jeans, t-shirts, baggy jackets, no make up, anything to hide my curves. It seemed no matter what I did I’d still get that up down gawking stare from guys, it always made me feel sick and disgusted with myself. … A few months after I graduated we got married–the first guy I dated, the first guy I kissed, the first guy I liked. Then came sex. Sex is for men right? So I had it when he wanted it, how he wanted. Sex was painful and a duty for me. The only time I had heard the word foreplay was closely followed by a message that only sluts like sex. Our first try at foreplay made my skin crawl and I became nauseous. Three years of “quickies” later my Vaginismus became unbearable and I refused to have sex more than once a week. Even that felt like torture. After giving birth he could no longer penetrate and I reached out to my mother to see if it was normal. Long story short, my parents ordered a vaginal dilator set to help with the physical part of Vaginismus and I’ve been tearing down my mental blocks on sex. I absolutely hated the feeling of arousal, hated being caressed and touched. Now I’m letting myself like what I feel and get lost in the moment. I have a long road ahead but I’m starting to enjoy sex for the first time and we haven’t had to use half a bottle of lube each time we have sex.
I never read Harris’s book, but was very influenced by the purity culture. It was just sort of assumed that we wouldn’t kiss until our wedding day. That ended up being the worst kiss of my life, and it took half our honeymoon to actually enjoy kissing! I too had vaginismus, but was too embarrassed to ever talk to anybody about it, we felt like such failures when we got back from our honeymoon without being able to fully consummate our marriage. Because I didn’t know what was wrong with me, nor did I know that there was something I could do about it, the vaginismus didn’t become completely resolved until after my second child was born, 3 years into our marriage. These issues have caused tons of stress and problems for us, and now my husband has become the one completely turned off by sex because it’s taken me so very long to work though my issues. I don’t want to live the rest of my life with these regrets, and am definitely going to raise our daughter differently.
Relate to these comments? You might also enjoy:
How vaginismus makes us feel
Vaginismus will make you feel broken. Reading this I kept thinking “that’s me!”. Before we found out what was wrong my husband thought I just didn’t like sex so he got frustrated then didn’t ask for it for a while. After I gave birth it hurt so badly I thought he was tearing me apart. I confessed to my mother and I got help. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one, I’m not broken.
From Women Who Have Found the Cause–and Cure–of the Pain of Vaginismus
I did successfully cope with vaginismus, painful sex & the anxiety I developed around it. My physiotherapist believes mine might be onset by my IBS and bowel issues I’ve had in the past. The pelvic floor is a very sensitive part of your body and physical therapy changed my life!
Sheila says: That’s definitely one of the most frustrating things–advice from people who just don’t get it! So glad that dilators are helping.
I, too, had pain when I first started having sex with my husband (we’ve been married 5 1/2 yrs). I did some research to figure out why. In my head, I basically was preparing myself for pain instead of pleasure… Because ..well, It hurt! Also, I found out after I still was in pain after a couple of years- that my hymen was still intact. In fact, I just had a baby in May and my Dr. had to perform a Hymenotomy to make room for baby’s head. It had stretched (it’s an elastic like membrane) overtime from sex so it eventually became less painful but the pain didn’t go away completely. He had to enter me the same way every time or else it hurt. I also would clench or tighten up out of that anticipation of fear. I had to learn to breathe, relax, say: “this is going to feel good, my husband loves me and doesn’t want to or like to hurt me, I want this too.” We took things slooow (which, for a man that’s been waiting for sex- is sometimes hard). There were times it felt so good to him and so bad for me I cried and pushed him off because he would get out of control with the pleasure and sensation. It hurt my feelings the same way- why would he do that when he knows it hurts me? But men can’t think clearly during that time. You have to be patient and just teach them. He learned after a while that he couldn’t be selfish! After my Hymenotomy- sex is the best it’s ever been!! We can do anything and everything pain free.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t get discouraged. I had my own Obgyn (who I DO NOT GO ANYMORE) tell me if I was sexually active, the hymen shouldn’t be a problem or should have been broken already. She didn’t believe me that it was a problem. My OB I go to now said she thought she could help stretch it during delivery but realized it was much thicker than she first thought. Always rely on your instincts because you know your body better than anyone. Also the psychological aspect is HUGE. If you already hold a lot if resentment- you will have to work through that first.