What happens when you develop vaginismus LATER–after you’ve already started having sex?
How is this even possible? And can you get over it?
That’s what we’re going to talk about today!
We’re in the middle of our pelvic floor series, and we’ve been touching on vaginismus this month, talking about the causes of vaginismus and steps to overcome it (including seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist!).
Today I want to change gears and share a personal story from a reader about secondary vaginismus–vaginismus that develops later. At one point you could have pain-free sex, but then something changes.
I love Jordan’s insight into her own story, which is still ongoing.
So here’s Jordan Mullins, from Happily Ever Mullins, telling us her story!
My husband, Nathan, and I were virgins when we got married last May.
Everything was different because of COVID, of course, but some things were the same as I expected, even dreaded—like the butterflies in your stomach, I can’t eat or I’ll puke nervousness I felt the night before and day of our wedding.
Our first time having sex, indeed on our wedding night, was mostly focused on intercourse, despite all my mental rehearsals of the loads of foreplay we’d be doing. It didn’t hurt, not in the least, but I was nervous, so we rushed it. I didn’t orgasm that night, nor any other night for three months. (To say I was sexually frustrated would be putting it lightly.)
Then, one blessed day late July of 2020, I did it. With the help of the vibrator my husband bought me, I was able to orgasm for the very first time! I cheered, I cried, and I couldn’t wait for this to become a normal in our marriage.
About a week later was when disaster struck.
Morning sex has never really been my thing, my body couldn’t ever get aroused properly enough for intercourse to be comfortable that early, but that day we were both randomly in the mood for it. I remember feeling like something was off when I first woke up, but I couldn’t put a finger on it.
Not until a sharp, burning pain hit me when Nathan tried to insert his penis. He pulled it back out, covered in what I can only assume now was evidence of a yeast infection. Thus started my now ten-month long journey through secondary vaginismus.
The gynecologist I went to see, about a month after the pain started, was of no help. She didn’t communicate clearly and assumed I knew things when I didn’t. She treated me like the average college-aged young adult woman she saw daily, young women who were having sex regularly before marriage and got the occasional UTI or yeast infection. All my tests came back negative for any sort of infection, yeast or bacterial, so I was left with a suggestion to “watch what I eat”.
I can’t tell you how many times I came back home crying from frustration after a visit with her.
Six months go by before I can get in to see a pelvic floor physical therapist. By this time, I had stubbornly insisted on trying intercourse too many times, so much so that we no longer could even try because the burning pain I felt was so bad. I’d prayed, I’d asked friends to pray, but it hurt so much (physically and emotionally) to attempt intercourse after getting my hopes up, just for it to still burn terribly. A few women in my ministry tried to speak some encouragement into my situation, but they all said something to the effect of, “You can be intimate in other ways!”
As a high-drive, newlywed wife, I felt like none of them understood the pain I was going through.
Yes, our actual sex life looked so much better as the months went by, despite not having intercourse (I’m able to orgasm, we cuddle all the time, Nathan’s heart for my sexual pleasure has only increased over time). But that didn’t make the lack of intercourse, something I thought God wanted for us in our marriage, any easier.
Starting February 3rd, I was able to start seeing my PT once a week for about a month, then once every other week for however long necessary after that.
I ADORE my PT (physiotherapist).
She listens to me, communicates very openly, always lets me know what we’ll be doing, and (most importantly) makes sure I am okay with everything we’re doing. Most of our focus was on getting me to relax my pelvic floor muscles.
You see, that’s why I refer to my condition as “secondary vaginismus”: I didn’t always struggle with pain in sex, but once my body had experienced several traumatic, painful attempts at intercourse, the muscles were refusing to let down their guard. It was incredibly disheartening, every time I looked on the internet for an explanation, and the only times the word vaginismus was used were referring to lifelong pain with entry or post-childbirth. I felt like I was alone with my pain, that no one understood what was wrong with me and that we were never going to get an answer.
Over time, my PT and I made some physical progress (one step forward, two steps back kind of progress), but I felt like God was doing a lot of digging beneath the surface in the meantime.
What’s one of the main reasons our pelvic floor muscles can prevent entry? Fear, not feeling safe, or not being aroused.
I have a major fear of rape and of being forced into sex. I have never been raped, nor would Nathan ever force me to have sex with him, but before all my pain started I felt like intercourse was a mandatory part of sex. Are you following me?
Now that I had the freedom to say no to intercourse, I realized I was scared of no longer having pain and intercourse being mandatory again.
Did Nathan ever say it had to happen? No. Did my brain tell me I had to let Nathan inside if we were having sex? Yep!
And as soon as I realized I was afraid of intercourse being normal again, I had a whole dose of guilt to heap on top. I wanted sex to include intercourse as much as my husband, probably more, so why was I so scared?
God didn’t curse me with painful sex.
I think illnesses, pain, and disease all come from the reality of the fact that we live in a broken world, made broken by sin. Could He have taken it away by now? Yes, but He hasn’t, not fully anyway.
Ever since mine and Nathan’s one year anniversary on May 16th, I’ve heard this line in my head trying to comfort me, that God does not support forced sex. Through the times I can relax and actually enjoy intercourse right now versus the times I grow fearful of obligation and the burning pain returns, He is showing me that He doesn’t make forced sex easy in a marriage. It melts my heart, to know the love and intentionality God has put into marital sex. He has such a heart for it, such a yearning passion for it to be a gift to us—a gift that would unite marriages, bring laughter, and even encourage pleasure.
It’ll take me time to fully realize that for my own marriage.
I’ve had trauma from men in my life using porn that’s caused me to question the mutuality of God’s design for sex. Somehow, I got it in my head that, once my pain goes away, intercourse is the main part of His design. Like everything we’ve been doing through the past ten months, everything that has made sex BEYOND pleasurable, is “less than” just because it isn’t penis in vagina.
That’s completely not true. God made all the sexual pleasure spots on our bodies to be included in what we summarize by saying “sex”, not just the penis and vagina. In my case, it’s taken pain in the vagina to recognize unhealthy mindsets of fear and obligation. I know everybody’s stories are different, especially with such a tender subject, but I hope that hearing mine will make even one woman feel less alone.
Sheila here again: I love the conclusions that Jordan is making from her own journey–that God is showing her that He didn’t make forced sex easy. Our bodies literally rebel against even the notion of it. And as she’s working through that (and I’ve sent her a copy of The Great Sex Rescue to help with that!), she’s starting to see some victory.
That’s how it should be!
If you’re struggling with the obligation sex message, you may also enjoy:
After four years of college and a degree in Psychology, Jordan Mullins has discovered that her passions are people and words. She is an avid believer in the power of vulnerability and sharing, even when it’s super uncomfortable. She adores pretty much anything to do with Disney, wears her hair in a messy bun 99% of the time, and likes to think she’s a pretty relatable human. Jordan is also a newlywed!
Through all her in-person work with ministry and on her blog, Happily Ever Mullins, Jordan seeks to speak life into women, in the hopes that they’ll begin to see life as the bountiful, beautiful gift it has every possibility of becoming
Can you relate to what Jordan is saying? How her body is reacting to the fear that sex will become an obligation? Let’s talk in the comments!
Pelvic Floor Series
- Why the Pelvic Floor Matters
- What Can You Expect from a Visit with a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist?
- PODCAST: What should you expect after childbirth?
- 3 Keys to Childbirth Recovery
- The 4 Main Causes of Vaginismus?
- Why Exploring Your Pelvic Floor is Crucial to Your Health (and Sex Life!)
- The Pelvic Floor Podcast
- How to Address and Treat Vaginismus -- 9 Healing Steps
- Secondary Vaginismus Recovery: A Newlywed's Story
- 6 Conditions that Can Cause Painful Sex that AREN'T Vaginismus
- Top 10 Tips to Make a Pap Smear More Comfortable (June 28)
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