Sexual pain is not your fault.

Submitted by Talli on Sat, 01/12/2013 - 22:08


As a sex therapist and  former physical therapist specializing in the area of sexual pain disorders  ( such as vuvlodynia and vaginismus) and as a couples therapist specializing in unconsummated marriages, I commonly come across women who feel guilt and responsibility for being unable to "provide" sex to their partners. 

Leah is a 32 year old mother of 2. She and her husband, Josh, came to see me after the birth of their second child. Leah reported loss of desire and painful intercourse. Leah had never really enjoyed intercourse but since this birth it had become painful. Leah had been to different therapists on her own, figuring this was "her issue".  She had tried creams and lubricants and dilators and pelvic floor exercises. Leah was feeling really guilty about not wanting to have sex and Josh was frustrated and angry. "She never lets me touch her anymore."

Since Leah did not ever really enjoy intercourse, I asked Leah what she did enjoy, sexually. Turns out that in the past, Leah had considered herself to be very sexual. Leah enjoyed cuddling, massages that could turn into something more, and long passionate kisses. When I asked Leah why they don't do that, Leah said "because it leads to intercourse."  When I turned to Josh, he seemed surprized. As it turned out, Josh was more than willing to be intimate with Leah in other ways without having to end in intercourse. Leah had been feeling so guilty about "denying" Josh, that she ignored how much she was denying herself. Once intercourse was off the table, Josh and Leah become a lot more intimate and passionate. They attempted intercourse again only after Leah really felt aroused and ready for it, and by then, she really began to enjoy herself.

Society perpetuates perceptions that sexual touch has to end in intercourse. Women deny their own needs for affection, a hug, or any touch, because they don't want to "tease" their partners or "start what they can't finish". Many women who have pain with intercourse can continue to enjoy physical intimacy in other ways, but often feel guilty about it. I often ask "Did you ask to have this? " or "Does having pain define who you are sexually?" Couples are able to see that sexual pain affects them both, and is not the fault or responsibility of the women who experiences pain. They can appreciate what they can experience as they take the therapeutic journey together.