Re-Opening

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  • #30140

    As many regions of our country grapple with the concept of re-opening, I can’t help but be struck by how this phrase relates to so much more than just a return to shopping malls and doctors offices.

    People are deciding whether or not they can return to one another. We are mammals, and mammals live and travel in groups – it’s just nature. As such, we’ve experienced a great deal of sadness and confusion during this time of separation.

    For those who have been apart from sexual partners – and especially for women who struggle with pelvic pain – a return to intimacy may inspire both excitement and anxiety. That makes sense, and we’ve got your back! Be on the lookout for a blog on this very topic coming your way soon. We’ll offer several tips and tricks to help you go through the transition as smoothly as possible.

    #30374
    recessivegenequeen
    Participant

    Jennifer, thanks for bringing up this topic! I was socially distanced from my partner for close to 3 months because he lives with an at-risk family member and even though my days of vaginismus are behind me, we definitely have had some issues reconnecting physically after the separation. I’m feeling more anxiety with being touched and there is some relearning that’s been necessary since we stopped distancing from each other a couple weeks ago. I understand logically why it’s happening and that it’s natural that we’d need to work back up to the level of intimacy we had before, but it’s hard not to feel worry about that and what it can mean for the relationship all the same. Looking forward to hearing what you’ve got to say, Jennifer!

    #32541
    mmHelen Leff, LCSW
    Moderator

    Hi recessivegenequeen,
    Thanks once again for your “real” post. How have things been going for you now that some time has passed? I feel like society romanticizes the idea of being reunited with someone after some time apart and that’s not necessarily how it works in real life!
    Keep us posted!
    Helen

    #32715
    recessivegenequeen
    Participant

    Hi Helen – thanks for checking in! As it happens I ended up breaking up with that partner recently. Not just because of this separation, but being quarantined apart definitely revealed some issues emotionally in the relationship and really brought them to the forefront of the relationship whereas prior they had been something I could push into the background.

    Something that keeps being revealed to me again and again is that this pandemic and quarantine are having more of an effect on me than I’m letting myself believe and it’s happening in ways I wouldn’t have expected. I hope that everyone currently in a partnership is making a lot of space for patience and grace for themselves and just how hard this has been. I’d be stunned if anyone’s relationship is proceeding as normal right now.

    Ester Perel, a relationship expert and researcher, gave an enlightening interview that addresses the different ways couples respond to quarantine and I suggest anyone read it who’s trying to muddle through these times.
    https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-new-yorker-interview/this-is-what-happens-to-couples-under-stress-an-interview-with-esther-perel

    I’ve had to let go of the idea that day-to-day existence will be normal anytime soon or that I can put my life on hold to wait for that to happen. That’s hard and I’m still struggling to grasp knowing that intellectually versus believing it emotionally, but I know we have no choice right now but to find ways to keep going.

    #32920
    Anonymous
    Inactive

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    #37373

    @recessivegenequeen – you’re preaching to the choir when it comes to Esther Perel! Her insights on the topic of couples is so sound in regular times; now they are more important than ever!

    While the magnifying glass that is the pandemic may have been revelatory in regard to your former relationship, these things are far from easy. And they are often painful, frustrating and just downright crappy.

    I’m hoping that the last few months have been healing ones, even while our sense of “re-opening” back in August has ebbed and flowed and then some.

    Wishing you and everyone here peace and good health in the year to come.

    #38304
    recessivegenequeen
    Participant

    Thank you Jennifer! It’s always great to have a community like this, especially when the world at large goes crazy and contributes to our struggles and anxieties even outside of our own lives. It is good to know we’re never alone!

    #38630
    Silverfoil
    Participant

    Hi all, I really wasn’t sure where to post this but I’m at my wits end.
    I’ve been married for 16 years and my partner and I are going through a separation.

    During our time together, my relationship with sexuality has grown to be more and more complicated and problematic. For the past five years or so, there has been some… abuse… that has made my relationship with sex and sexuality fraught, to say the least.

    Now that the relationship is ending, at the suggestion of my therapist, I’ve been trying to re-capture a sense of control when it comes to my own body and its relationship to intimate relations but I’m having a really hard time.

    For years I was in a position where sex was a means to please my partner and I separated my body from the experience. I worked on being able to disassociate from the act and let it happen without me really being involved, intellectually. Now that the marriage is at its end, and again, at the suggestion of my therapist, I’m trying to get in touch with my body again and recapture a sense of ownership and pleasure when it comes to intimacy.

    I’ve tried watching porn, I’ve done research and bought toys that are supposed to be especially for women who can’t orgasm. But nothing seems to do the trick. Before the abuse, I had a healthy sex drive. I didn’t masturbate often but I could achieve orgasm. Now, nothing can bring me to climax.

    I still have desire. I can watch a movie or read erotic fiction and get aroused, but when I try to physically engage in sexual activities, either nothing happens or it’s painful and awful.

    The toys don’t seem to help. I even bought this thing called The Womanizer which is supposed to be designed specifically for people who can’t achieve climax but even that doesn’t help.

    Please help me. I didn’t used to feel so alienated from my body. Even just touching myself either feels annoying or painful and I don’t know what to do.

    #38662
    recessivegenequeen
    Participant

    Hi Silverfoil – I am so sorry to hear about all the pain and abuse you’ve been through. It’s totally natural that you’d be feeling this disconnect with your body. I’ve had periods of feeling this way just because of vaginismus and feeling a lot of shame around my feelings of failure as a woman in the past so I know how hard it can be.

    It’s great that you’re in therapy and working on the relationship you have to your body. I think part of the keystone in what you’ve said is “Even just touching myself either feels annoying or painful” – it sounds like you have a lot of trauma to unlearn and it’s possible you’re putting too much pressure on yourself to move quickly back to a healthy place. You spent years learning to completely disconnect from your body and returning to it again likely won’t happen overnight. Orgasms are partly dependent, I think, on being comfortable and present (and are also hard for even women without trauma to achieve!) so maybe focusing on trying to have an orgasm is putting a lot of pressure on yourself that’s counterproductive to your healing.

    I recommend stepping back and trying to rediscover how your body works from the ground up. Try touching yourself without a goal of orgasm but just to see what feels gentle, what feels exciting, what makes you comfortable and what makes you tense. Those of us here who have gone through vaginismus treatment will know that it takes longer than you wish it would but you can still see progress when you look for it.

    Another thing you might find valuable is http://www.omgyes.com – it’s a series of videos and courses that explore female pleasure that are supported by science and research, and they taught me a lot about how to touch and experience my own pleasure, so something like that might be useful to you too.

    Be gentle with your heart and acknowledge the hard work you’ve already done – you are on the path!

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