The Way Vaginismus Affects Your Relationship

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  • #23968
    pompon
    Participant

    I’ve posted here before, I explained my vaginismus story in detail under forum in Vaginismus General titled “My Story So Far”.

    Currently, I have gone to one pelvic floor therapy appointment. Unfortunately, as a new patient at a busy physical therapy and rehab practice, I had to settle for an appointment over a month out. I’ll be going back in 2-3 weeks for my next appointment. My therapist gave me some light exercises to do involving my outer anatomy, but she has asked me to step back from using dilators for the time being. Previously, my husband and I have been using the dilators with some progress, but I think she asked me to stop for now in an effort to really thoroughly diminish the pain and anxiety response that I am struggling with so severely.

    My real reason for this post is to open a conversation about the way that vaginismus affects our relationships. My husband has been highly supportive and quite patient as well. Though we have both been frustrated as times, I do not feel pressured by him in any way. Understandably, when we engage in other forms of intimacy that don’t include penetration, though this is enjoyable, he finds it difficult to suppress his desire to attempt intercourse. I am sure this is only natural for a human male and I completely can sympathize with his feelings. The problem I’m encountering is that I still want to feel that closeness and intimacy with him, but generally he is rejecting my advances. I feel that it is important for us to maintain some semblance of physical intimacy in our marriage while I am in treatment for my vaginismus. I think he has been greatly affected by the feelings from the first couple week of our marriage…when we would attempt intercourse and I was pushing him away because of the fear and pain. He knows I want to have penetrating sex with him, but he hates that feeling like he’s “forcing” me to do something I don’t want to do.

    Now, engaging in any kind of sexual activity makes him nervous, I think, and he doesn’t want to risk something very upsetting happening again. You see, if you read my first forum I posted “My Story So Far” you’ll find out that my husband struggles with an anxiety disorder and the last time we attempted intercourse, I pushed him away and I became very afraid. He got upset, feeling hurt and like he was forcing me. It spiraled into an anxiety attack. I had to call 911 so that EMTs could come and talk him down. That experience affected both of us quite a bit.

    It’s been upsetting me and making me feel rejected that he doesn’t really want to be intimate with me right now. I know he is still attracted to me and obviously wants to have sex with me. But every time he rejects my advances, I’m reminded of why he’s not inclined to do anything with me right now, and it makes me feel so inadequate. I’ve talked to him about it but he doesn’t seem to fully understand my viewpoint. I suppose I may not fully understand his either. Otherwise we have a good relationship, but this is affecting me personally quite a bit.

    Has anybody had a similar experience to mine, or does anyone have any suggestions? Either for what I can say or do to help this aspect of our relationship, or even practical ways that we can still engage in intimacy without feeling like we are “missing out”? Also, please feel free to share the ways that vaginismus has effected your relationship and how you were able to overcome it.

    #23971
    recessivegenequeen
    Participant

    Ponpon, I’m so sorry for the struggles you’re facing – this stuff is HARD!I can totally relate to the emotional and relationship effects that vaginismus brings. It affected every relationship I had until I finally got treatment and affected how close I was able to get with partners. I know how much of an emotional wall it can put up between you and your partners, but it’s also a wall you can tear down.

    I recommend starting by stepping back from the physical parts of your relationship and focus on the emotions present. It’s great that you’ve been talking to each other, but it sounds like you haven’t fully reached mutual understanding. Your partner is probably acting out of a place of fear that your sex life will always be like this and feels pressure to speed things along. I recommend reminding him (and yourself!) that vaginismus is fully curable and that this likely won’t be a permanent part of your life – it’s just a difficult stage of what will hopefully be a long and happy marriage. One of the biggest parts of healing from vaginismus is acknowledging that it takes as long as it takes – your readiness can’t be rushed, and getting your husband on board with that is key.

    Your husband’s anxiety about hurting you is understandable (and commmon) – my past partners were also worried about causing me pain given my sexual issues. The thing that often gets lost in the vaginismus healing conversations is that the male partner often needs to do some relearning himself, getting comfortable with intimacy again. You should have conversations about what you like and what brings you pleasure. Start as though you know nothing about each other and build a new relationship to pleasure. This helps you break the cycle of pain and anxiety that vaginismus cultivates.

    I hope this helps – I know how hard it is, but you’re taking the steps to get treatment and that is an amazing thing. Good luck and let us know how it’s going!

    #23976
    pompon
    Participant

    Thanks for your kind response, recessivegenequeen.

    I agree that he is worried about rushing things. He often says “It won’t always be like this, we have forever to have sex. It’s ok”. But it’s like he forgets sometimes. We have BOTH done a lot of research about vaginismus and painful sex in general, but I think he’s really struggling to understand the woman’s point of view. Us both being virgins before marriage, we obviously knew that sex is often painful the first couple of times for most people. And he seems to think that if I just “let it happen” ONCE, I’ll be ok. In helping me insert the dilators he says he doesn’t feel the “brick wall” thing that a lot of people relate when speaking on vaginismus. It WILL go in. (My primary care doctor said she feels that my pelvic floor muscles do tense up.) It’s mainly the rest of my body that’s the issue. My legs tense or close up, I lift my hips and try to escape. But just because it’s not only my vagina panicking in response, it doesn’t mean I can just will my body to cooperate.

    I think he struggles to understand that the purpose of pelvic floor therapy is to break the cycle. If my body and mind grow to understand that penetration can be painless, my body can allow me to have intercourse. I explained to him last night, after we got into yet another argument, that unfortunately because it’s MY body, we have to go at my pace. Or, it will NEVER work. He yielded to me and said “well what do you want to do?” in reference to how we can be intimate in the mean time. I said “Well, you wanted to hold off so I guess we just won’t do anything.” He said “No, that’s not gonna work.” Slowly I think he’s starting to understand.

    This is such an emotional issue and even though I suspected I would have a problem, I honestly didn’t expect this. Hardest thing I’ve ever experienced.

    #23983

    Hi Pompon – thanks so much for sharing. The issues you are encountering are so tricky and affect your relationship with your husband in several ways. You are both working hard to address your vaginismus and your feelings surrounding it. Might I also suggest that you seek couples counseling? Of course, you need to find the right therapist, someone with whom you both feel comfortable and who has expertise in this area. Being able to discuss everything in a safe space may open up the conversation to new possibilities, especially in regard to communication and managing expectations. If you need help finding a provider, please let me know here or feel free to reach out to me at Maze – I can point you in the right direction.

    In the meantime, I wish you all the best! This is curable – and you will find your way!

    #23985
    pompon
    Participant

    Hi Jennifer, thank you for your response. My physical therapist also mentioned couples counseling, or just that I seek counseling for myself at least. I have been to counseling before, my husband has not. Right now, I only have time for the physical therapy weekly appointments. I discontinued counseling earlier this year because I just don’t have the time in my schedule. I know a lot of people say they’re too busy for stuff like that, and it sounds like a lame excuse, but honestly I mean it when I say I’m busier than the average person. I work four days of 9-5 then have a 10-15 hour volunteering day each Friday. Moving things around to accommodate physical therapy is difficult enough! I completely own up to the fact that my life being relatively high stress definitely doesn’t help my pelvic problems or my anxiety. I do try to give myself the time allowance for self care, but getting into the counselors’ office for formal appointments during business hours has proved impossible right now.

    If circumstances change moving forward, I would consider couples’ counseling to curb major relationship issues related to my vaginismus. However, I don’t think that’s something my husband would readily consent to. He’s a “typical guy” who only goes to the doctor if he HAS to and hasn’t been to the dentist in 7 years. (Perfect teeth, however. It’s not fair.) He supported me going to counseling when I did so for myself, but he’s not exactly gung-ho about the concept. I am hoping that since we have started treatment early (only a week or two into our marriage was when we got proactive) we can spend more time healing physically and emotionally than we are spending feeling a bit raw, to say the least.

    I’d like to soon have the time to seek counseling for myself. Perhaps my results will motivate the husband to join me.

    #23988
    recessivegenequeen
    Participant

    Pompon, you’re SO right that vaginismus is an emotional issue. It tests your communication with your partner, your own willpower, your self-image, and so many other aspects of your life that you’d never imagine if you didn’t experience it yourself. One thing I find really encouraging is that YOU understand how this healing process is gonna work – that you need to unlearn your associations with pain and sex, that your recovery will happen on the timeline that works for you. I believe that your husband will come to understand this too, but it takes awhile to get this stuff to stick with me when it isn’t THEIR bodies betraying them.

    It’s understandable that you don’t feel like you have time for counseling right now – life has so many demands. I see a lot of men who have skepticism about therapy and counseling, but I think it helps them to see when someone in their lives really benefits. Hopefully you’ll have time to go soon and in the meantime can keep talking with loved ones and with your husband about how you’re feeling. You’re making progress and you’ll get there in the end!

    #24036
    Sks823
    Participant

    Pompon – you’re amazing and I relate to your story so much! I had sooo much difficulty in relationships, and attempting sex often put such a strain on my relationships – and confidence, and hope, even making me not feel like a (worthy) woman. Something that came soooo easily to other girls, teenagers even – I couldn’t even do :'(. I definitely relate to (during sex attempts) my body’s reactions even besides the vaginal muscles – having my thighs close or lifting my hips to escape. In relationships, I often resorted to oral sex and other non-penetrative forms of sexual contact for a while which helped in a lot of cases, but the looming fear of sex was always there (before I knew what vaginismus is and finally seeked help and treatment!).

    It seems like you and your husband both – but you especially – have a very good idea of what vaginismus is and what treatment entails. Explained best by you telling him: “I explained to him last night, after we got into yet another argument, that unfortunately because it’s MY body, we have to go at my pace. Or, it will NEVER work.” This is SO true, and hopefully he will start to understand that & in the meantime you can work on your relationship and non-penetrative sexual contact!

    I agree with couples counseling or you seeing someone, but I definitely understand with the time constraints you being unable to do that right now with your work/volunteer schedule. Keep in mind some good therapists do have appointments on Saturdays, so that is an option to explore!

    Think about how far you’ve come already. You’re awesome and have made so much progress since seeking help after getting married!

    Your determination shows and like the others mentioned, VAGINISMUS DOES NOT LAST FOREVER! You will get through this (at your own pace). I hope the physical therapy appts continue to go well. Keep us updated!

    #24045
    pompon
    Participant

    Hi Sks823, thank you for your response. Your kind words are extremely encouraging to me.

    The feeling of unworthiness and failure is something I’ve never quite experienced before! I don’t have the BEST self confidence in the world, I consider my confidence levels average. But this obstacle just hit me in a way that nothing has ever hit me in the past. I totally resonated with your statement about sex being something even TEENAGERS can do. I feel that way about tampons even! Why is it that since middle school my peers could be using tampons and eventually be having sex but I can barely even handle the slightest touch around my vagina?

    Thankfully my husband IS starting to understand. I think me explaining to him the importance at moving at my pace did make a lot of sense to him. The thing is – I want us to have a great, healthy sex life. I want us to really enjoy intimacy, like any other couple. Until you fall in love and find the person you want to spend your life with, I think the true meaning of sex doesn’t hit you in that way! So I don’t want to rush things for the sake of just “doing it”. Whether it takes me 3 weeks or 6 months to actually achieve intercourse, I’d rather it take a bit longer and be able to really enjoy sex.

    #24058

    Pompon – I just had a patient at Maze share similar feelings; she said she would rather take this slowly so that she can look forward to sex, rather than rush it just because she can (she’s at the end of her dilation process). I applaud you setting your own timing – it’s really the only way you will see long-lasting results and your husband will ultimately appreciate that as well.

    Sometimes it’s helpful for partners (and women themselves!) to see treatment as a marathon, not a sprint. It has certain milestones, spacse for breaks and deep breaths, and sometimes even a setback or two. It’s all to be expected, and it’s all for the greater good of achieving your own personal treatment goals.

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