My Story So Far

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    I’m a new member, I don’t know how active this forum is but I’ve read a few topics over the past month or so and it’s helped me. There’s nobody in my life besides my husband I can talk about this with, and he being my partner it’s hard for me to express everything I’m feeling to him. This will be long but I really need to get it out, even if no one responds.

    My husband and I got married one month ago. We waited until marriage for sex. My entire life I was uncomfortable with the idea of penetration. However, I have never used tampons or attempted to insert a finger or object, so I had not necessarily experienced any pain or trauma with penetration. The first time I properly experienced vaginal penetration was during my first Pap smear and pelvic exam. The fear that hit me when she told me she’d be performing it that day had me frozen in my tracks. I cried and yelled “please stop” for the duration of the short procedure, and following it I felt very lightheaded and was afraid I would faint or vomit. My doctor had me lay down in the dark for about 15 minutes before she checked on me and let me go home. The next time I saw her to consult about birth control in anticipation of my marriage, she told me that she was “just like” me, but with physical therapy she was able to have sex and two children later, she is fine. I know she meant well, but rather than reassure me, this made me even more terrified to have sex because I now felt that there must be something genuinely wrong with me.

    Leading up to my marriage I was afraid, naturally, but my to-be husband and my close friends who I shared my concerns with reassured me that it would be fine. On our honeymoon, we tried at least a half dozen times to have sex. Though I am comfortable engaging in foreplay and other forms of intimacy, we were not able to successfully have intercourse. After a few attempts, I would cry hysterically afterwards because the feeling of failure was so overwhelming. Eventually he also started to feel hurt and pushed away, though he tried his best to understand my situation.

    After almost a week of trying we decided to attack this issue head on. We researched online and ordered a set of 5 silicone dilators. We began using these and to this date I have worked up to the 4th dilator. I have discomfort but not much pain. I still experience anxiety leading up to the insertion, but my husband helps me through it and encourages me, inserting it for me. I spoke to my doctor and she assured me that starting dilation was the right course of action. She referred me to a pelvic floor therapist in my area. My husband has been SO patient.

    Everything has been going ok with the dilators, progress is slow but steady of course. Compared to others experience I’ve read about online, I think my progress with the dilators is going quickly enough. I’ve been nervous about the largest dilator but I know I’ll get there.

    Last night things went a bit bad. I had dilated for about 10 minutes that night with the 4th dilator. My husband woke me in the middle of the night and expressed his desire to try intercourse. I was hesitant, but we are both getting anxious to officially have sex so I agreed. At this point I should mention that my husband suffers from severe anxiety. It is managed with daily medication, and an as needed anxiety medication. He recently ran out of refills on his as-needed, but he has not had an attack in quite a while so he was going to visit the doctor when he got around to it.

    We engaged in foreplay, then when he attempted to insert himself I reverted to pushing him away with my thighs and hips. He tried to reassure me but I gave in to some avoidance behaviors like saying I “need more time”. We both know that because of my “problem” no amount of foreplay will likely make a difference. I continued to push him away. He became visibly hurt once again, saying “I can’t do this” and ran into our bathroom. I walked into him sitting there sobbing. He spiraled into a full panick attack. He loses feeling and use of his hands, and the ability to speak. We ended up calling 911 and some EMTs came and talked him down. After about one hour and a half, he regained his speech and use of his hands. He has had these attacks before but not for some time.

    The feeling of guilt is horrible. I know I didn’t “cause” his anxiety attack. But I’ve never felt so horrible about something in my life. We talked about it today and I admitted that my problem and dealing with it in our marriage is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. He said “I know. Last night wasn’t your fault. You would have seen me like that eventually. We will get through this.”

    I now have an appointment for pelvic floor therapy next week. We love each other so much and I couldn’t ask for a better husband. But, as I told him, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.


    Pompon – I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through. This is so much to be dealing with for both you and your husband, and you’ve both shown a lot of strength in dealing with this so far, so I hope you’ll give yourself some grace for the speed bumps that are coming up along the way.

    You’ve already made some pretty amazing progress by working up to the fourth dilator – that’s huge!!! The fact that you can dilate at all means you’re a lot further on the road to recovery than a lot of the people who come here looking for help. To me where things went wrong is that your husband tried to rush into intercourse before you were both ready. I understand his perspective – his anxiety, his insecurity that your marriage hasn’t been consummated – but the nature of vaginismus is that it’s a problem both physical and psychological. While you’re making progress with stretching your muscles, you (and your husband, likely) also need to rediscover your relationship with intimacy and pleasure.

    A lot of people with vaginismus come to anticipate the physical pain (and the feelings of guilt, shame, self-loathing, and inadequacy) to an extent that they lose all feelings of sexual desire or any desire to engage intimately. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is NOT TO RUSH. I know you’re impatient, but you have the rest of your life to have intercourse. Your recovery will take as long as it takes. But you’ll never get there if you don’t have the time to become comfortable again with pleasure, with intimacy with your husband, with feeling comfortable enough at dilating that you feel ready to try intercourse again. I would advise that in future encounters that YOU be the one to dictate when a new step is taken – a larger dilator, attempting intercourse, etc. Your husband will likely introduce pressure if he tries to be the initiator, and only you will know when you’re really ready (and trust me, you’ll know).

    It’s clear you and your husband love and support each other. It’s hard, but you’ll get through this. Just trust yourselves to figure it out, don’t put pressure on yourself by trying something before you’re ready, and also don’t be afraid to ask for support outside your marriage. It’s scary to confide in friends, but if you find someone else to talk to, that can really take some of the pressure off of you and your husband. Even finding a therapist to talk to could be a big help.

    Good luck, and please tell us how it all goes – you’ve been so brave, and I know you’ll get there in the end!


    Hi recessivegenequeen. I agree with what you said.

    I think something my husband finds difficult to understand is the psychological aspect of things. He seems to struggle to truly comprehend that even tho my body is normal, and physically I am able to accomplish penetration, it isn’t just a matter of putting my anxieties out of my mind. It kills me to think of how it makes him feel that I push him away when he tries to have intercourse with me. I think a man in his position cannot truly understand what a woman in my position is going through. On the other hand His experience with anxiety I think helps him to be a bit more empathetic with me, and tho he does technically pressure me I think he’s doing it with good intentions. He said verbatim “I’ll wait five years if we have to.”

    We’ve both waited 20-something years to have sex with our future partner, and like you said, we have the rest of our lives to have intercourse. I think I have to take a step back and put all of this into perspective. The feelings of inadequacy are difficult and I have an intense fear of him resenting me or me scarring him for the future of our sexual relationship. I worry deeply that this will drag on for some time and he will lose interest or give up on me. Hopefully last nights episode has given us both some perspective and we can take this lightheartedly moving forward.


    Hi PomPon,

    I think the pelvic floor physical therapy will be so helpful to work on training your body to have penetration.

    You might also want to start having your husband insert some of the dilators for you. It can be scary to give up control, so if you let him insert some of the small dilators, that you know are not painful, and you can insert on your own, then you will be more comfortable with someone else penetrating your body.

    Talk therapy and sometimes even anxiety medications can also be incorporated into your treatment plan.



    Hi Melissa. Thank you for your response.

    My husband does insert the dilators for me. I experience a lot of anxiety leading up to it but he’s been very good at helping me through that. I actually have been unable to insert them all the way myself. I just can’t do it. He’s been a huge help.

    I am interested in anxiety medication and I spoke to my doctor briefly about it, but I think she didn’t want to go that route at this time. Perhaps I can circle back to that soon.


    Pompon, I hope it’s going better with your husband since his panic attack. You’re right in that it’s often harder for people to understand the mental/psychological challenges of a problem like this (kind of like how medicine in general is better at treating a broken leg than depression). It’s challenging, but you have to keep the lines of communication open and approach each other with as much understanding as possible.

    Since your husband is the one who inserts the dilators, maybe the next phase of your process could be working toward inserting them yourself. But whatever you do, proceed with this work at your own pace. It’s about building your comfort at the end of the day, and rushing isn’t going to help that.


    I want to follow up on this thread and thank everyone for their kind responses. It’s really helping me to hear from others and helping me get more comfortable talking about this. My husband and I are struggling emotionally but we are doing ok. I’ve had one pelvic floor therapy appointment so far, and got another one in on a cancellation next week, then I’ll have them on roughly a weekly basis. My anxiety levels are high but I’m pushing through.

    I spoke with my older sister and she told me she believes, looking back on her younger years when she started having sex, she believes she had similar problems. But she basically bucked up and pushed through it unassisted, because she didn’t know it was a genuine condition that you could get help for. She said she also remembers our other sister having vestibulitis at some point. It’s likely I have vestibulitis as well, for my therapist pointed out the irritation in that area of my anatomy. Talking to her has made me feel better, I feel like I’m not crazy because maybe this just runs in my family line. Also, both of my sisters are mothers of their own biological children so if they can conceive and give birth without any treatment for painful intercourse, I think I can do it having the resources I have and knowing what I know.

    I’m still struggling but this has been a small glimmer of hope.


    Pompon, congrats on your progress so far – it’s fantastic that you’ve got a pelvic floor therapy plan and are tackling this head on. I think you’ll be really glad you decided to confront your vaginismus; I certainly am.

    What impresses me most is that you have been opening up to people like your older sister about your situation. I know how hard vaginismus is to talk about because there’s so much shame associated with not being able to have sex, but receiving support and even commiseration from loved ones is a big part of what gives you the strength to keep pushing through this. I hope having a support system will help with your anxiety. Your husband might benefit as well by finding people to talk to about this if he doesn’t have them already. Good luck and keep at it!


    Hi recessivegenequeen. Thanks again for your encouraging comments on my posts.

    It definitely was a relief to be able to open up to my sister about my problem, a little bit. Before I got married and attempted to have intercourse, I knew from my past experiences and from what my doctor told me that I probably had a problem. I was terrified about having sex and I tried to talk to a couple close friends of mine. They didn’t really take me seriously, mainly just made fun of me and told me I’m psyching myself out. One of those friends, the extra insensitive one, made fun of me in front of my then-fiance saying that I was going to hate sex, and he was going to get frustrated with me and have to try and force me. I started to cry and he had to comfort me and tell my friend to back off.

    Those few experiences made me really afraid to talk about it with anyone ever again. However, my sister is currently a student midwife and has been working as a doula for some time, taking care of women pre and post birth. She’s familiar with and comfortable discussing women’s health issues, including painful sex. She’s educated on issues like vaginismus, and to her it’s no big deal to talk about it because it happens to many women! It was reassuring to talk to her and after months of feeling alone I finally got brave enough to bring it up.

    Helen Leff, LCSW

    Hi Pompon,
    You are brave and I’m so glad that talking with your sister was helpful. I was especially touched when you wrote how alone you had been feeling and after opening up to your sister the world was a less lonely place. That’s inspiring.
    Good for you!



    I’m so sorry you went through that situation with your husband, but I LOVE your determination, thoughtfulness, and willingness to open up to him and others. I know that with your progress with the dilators already, and beginning to see a pelvic floor therapist, you are DEFINITELY on track to get through this difficult & painful (both emotionally and physically) condition!

    I’m sorry you had friends who were VERY insensitive or not taking you seriously when you opened up, but I’m glad you can talk to others/your sisters about it. I also was able to talk to my older sister who said she had had some trouble her first few times attempting intercourse. Also, I eventually found out a friend also had very very similar issues with sex to me… turns out she also had vaginismus!

    With your support system, your progress with dilators already, and your pelvic floor therapy appointments, I hope you’re feeling as optimistic and determined as ever :-). I agree with recessivegenequeen that you should be the one to initiate sex when you’re ready. Also, I’ve heard that dilating right before sex helps a lot the first few times you attempt – and even if the attempt doesn’t go well, stay determined – sometimes it takes a few tries! In the meantime, I hope you and your husband are able to be sexual and close to each other in other ways, and I hope you’re supportive of each other through this difficult time! YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS! <3

    Keep us updated 🙂


    Pompon, your story about sharing with your sister is interesting and enlightening. I find that people who are educated on vaginismus (or even aware of sexual pain) are such a comfort to talk to. I also find that the older people get, the more understanding they often are of stuff like this because life just gets messier as it goes on. I hope you continue opening up and that your treatment goes well. Keep us in the loop!

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