How much pain would you endure to have sex with your husband? What if you could not consummate your wedding vows on your wedding night? If you are having painful intercourse should you tell your husband?
In some previous posts on stories of sexual denial where I have shared reader’s stories – the subject of painful intercourse has arisen several times whether in public comments or private emails. This is a topic that many Christian engaged couples who are trying remain pure for marriage never consider might happen to them. This issue affects wives across the spectrum from newlyweds to elderly wives.
I recently received this email from a woman named Anna, and she asked me to make her story public. Just a heads up – this conversation will get a little more “graphic” than I usually get when talking about sex but I think as you read Anna’s story you will understand the need to speak frankly and openly about these issues.
“I’ve been reading your blog for a couple months now and have taken special interest in your posts about a husband/wife’s sexual duties to each other. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything else you post, I think you are right on the money here. I wanted to send you my story because I think it might be an encouragement to women, but of course whatever you choose to put on your blog is up to you.
My husband and I were married a little over a month ago, and I had assured him multiple times prior to marriage that he didn’t need to worry about my freezing him out in the bedroom later on in our marriage. He appreciated that, but i had no idea at the time what wall would be required to keep that promise. When we arrived at our apartment on our wedding night, I was ready to start, and he definitely was. However, it didn’t exactly go according to plan as my body was way too tight for him to enter. I was in tears from the massive pain but kept telling him to try again. My sweet husband prioritized my needs over his and nixed that idea.
However, there are other things a woman can do and I was able to give him one orgasm right then, and another later that evening. We left for our honeymoon later with me fighting (more like losing to) guilt and depression. On our honeymoon, we tried pain medications, alcohol (neither of us were remotely drunk but I still do acknowledge that this idea is not for everyone), and about 5 different kinds of lube, and nothing worked. He knows that I normally hate going to doctors, so I assured him that as soon as we got back home, I’d book an appointment with a gynecologist to see what was wrong. He wasn’t particularly interested in trying intercourse until then as each session resulted in me breaking down in tears at the slightest attempt.
I got back to work (i’m a nurse with a particularly open group of co-workers!) and shared my plight with a few of my closer nurses and my manager as well. I told them that i was going to see a gynecologist and was hoping to have a ‘snip surgery’ done that would help open me up. Every single one of them (most of whom are also professing Christians) recoiled in horror and told me how much that would hurt and asked why in the world I would ever do that. My answer was simple: he was my husband, I had made marital vows to him (to have and to hold???), and I had no intention of backing down.
Thankfully the gynecologist said nothing was physically wrong and encouraged me to try a vaginal dilator set. We also booked an appointment with a sex therapist who encouraged the same thing. The dilator set was the worst pain I have ever experienced. I tried them each night after work and would send my husband out of the room because I didn’t want him to see me crying and feel guilty (the therapist encouraged me to let him stay so I did after that).
It took over a month of trying, but yesterday we were able to have sex for the first time. Our marriage is definitely stronger for the initial struggles,and I have so much respect for my husband who was always so sweet, supportive, and patient through the whole thing. It never occurred to me that i had an option other than trying all these things because as a married person, I had responsibilities…simple as that. My husband and I have a lot of work left to do on our sexual relationship (although i’m not sure if a couple ever stops learning in that area!), but we are both very happy to be past that initial hurdle. God is good!”
What a powerful story of faith and commitment to marriage! It is often said that our faith is revealed not in the good times, but in the bad times and this story is no exception to that rule.
This story starts off with a young newlywed couple unable to consummate their marriage on their wedding night. How frustrating that must have been for both of them!
This young bride was an example for all Christian wives
First she recognized that even though they could not have intercourse, she needed to take care of her husband’s sexual needs in other ways. Bravo! So many Christian women would have quit there and told their new husband he would just have to wait – or he could go take care of himself. Her compassion for husband’s needs – despite her own frustrations is to be commended.
Secondly is the fact that she recognized that this was HER problem, not his. So many women jump to blaming their husbands when they have any type of difficulty in the bedroom. While sometimes it may be an issue of foreplay on the husband’s part, often times it may be physical or mental conditions on the part of the wife and she has a duty as wife to seek out medical or psychological help for herself. This young bride did just that. She saw a doctor and a therapist and fought through the pain to get herself to the point where she could have vaginal intercourse with her husband.
This young husband was an example for all Christian husbands
The young husband in this case is also a model for us as believing husbands. Contrary to all the slanderous statements that have been thrown my way – I do not believe a husband should ever force himself upon his wife. A loving husband who sees his wife is in pain will not want to cause her more pain.
This husband demonstrated love and compassion for his wife and waited until she was ready – a very admirable thing to do in this scenario. Yes I am sure his wife continued to help him out using manual or oral methods (as she should have). But as any man or woman can attest to, there is no sex like sexual intercourse. It is the most intimate and physical joining of a man and woman in marriage. When the Bible speaks of a husband and wife becoming “one flesh” in marriage, while it has spiritual and emotional implications – it’s most literal meaning is their bodies merging as one during the act of sexual intercourse.
Vaginismus – the cause of Anna’s pain
The condition that caused Anna not to be able to have sexual intercourse with her husband is called “Vaginismus” and this is what healthyplace.com says about it:
“Vaginismus is an involuntary spasm of the muscles surrounding the vaginal opening which occurs whenever an attempt is made to penetrate the vagina…
What causes this to occur? In most cases, this is not due to a physical deformity or disorder. Instead, it is an emotional condition that occurs because of psychological reasons but manifests itself in a physical response. The majority of women with vaginismus believe that intercourse will be very painful; often thinking that their vagina is too small to accommodate the penis and therefore, their vagina will be ripped or stretched too far. Consequently, they develop a phobic response to the penis; associating it with pain. Other women have indeed experienced some type of trauma to the vagina or genital region, such as rape, sexual abuse, or surgery, which then leads to a fear of intercourse. And, unfortunately, for some women, it is their first pelvic examination that causes them to be fearful. Lack of sensitivity on the physician’s part, or neglecting to adequately inform the patient what she can expect, has sometimes contributed to the pelvic exam being a negative experience for women; causing them to fear sexual intercourse….
However, in a small number of cases, physical factors (such as the presence of a rigid hymen, or deformities of the vagina) can make penetration of the vagina impossible. Additionally, although physical conditions, such as endometriosis, vaginal infections, or an episiotomy are not directly responsible for a woman experiencing vaginismus, they may, through association, contribute to vaginismus indirectly through conditioning. What this means is if a woman experiences pain upon intercourse, or with a pelvic exam, this may lead to a self-protecting tightening of the vaginal muscles the next time she attempts to have intercourse…
Treatment for vaginismus consists of a combination of relaxation training and various behavioral exercises in helping the woman overcome her fear of intercourse. The husband or partner’s participation in treatment and his emotional support are considered very important to the success of treatment. Sometimes, in addition to the above treatments, individual and/or couples therapy is recommended as well.”
Another site dealing with Vaginal Dilators (which helped Anna) states this:
“Together with appropriate exercises, as women consciously and consistently squeeze and relax the PC muscles with dilator insertions, they learn how to override the involuntary muscle contractions that had previously caused tightness or closed the entrance to the vagina to sex. The process helps create new ‘muscle memories’. Through the proper use of dilators, women can more easily develop control over involuntary tightness and simultaneously desensitize their vaginal muscles, body and mind to the sensation of having something in their vagina. This is all done as transition preparation for inserting the “real thing” (i.e. the man’s penis) without pain or tightness. Together with appropriate exercises, they help women retrain their bodies to respond correctly to penetration and to transition to fully pain-free intercourse.”
A National Institutes of Health study revealed there is no clinical difference between dyspareunia and vaginismus.
“Vaginismus and dyspareunia: is there a difference in clinical presentation?
The purpose of this exploratory study was to identify clinical similarities and differences in patients with vaginismus and dyspareunia. Thirty patients who were referred to an outpatient clinic for psychosomatic gynecology and sexology, with either of these two diagnoses, were investigated by means of a standardized interview, physical examination and self-rating questionnaires. Based on the interview, no significant differences were demonstrated between patients with vaginismus and dyspareunia, in the ability to insert a finger into the vagina or to have a gynecological examination. No differences were found in the reported level of pain during coitus (or attempted coitus), inserting one finger into the vagina, or during gynecological examination. Patients with vaginismus, however, more often reported that coitus was impossible. The physical examination and self-rating questionnaires showed no differences at all between patients with vaginismus and dyspareunia in palpated vaginal muscular tension and reported anxiety or tension during the examination. Moreover, in both groups redness and painful areas on the vulva were equally common. Redness and pain on the same location were more frequently present in the dyspareunia group. Patients with dyspareunia reported higher levels of pain during the examination. In conclusion, neither the interview nor the physical examination produced useful criteria to distinguish vaginismus from dyspareunia. A multi-axial description of these syndromes is suggested, rather than viewing them as two separate disorders.”
Beyond the above basic classifications, physicians and specialists may use other medical terms referring to vaginismus such as:
Apareunia is a general term that refers to a condition where one is unable to have sexual intercourse. Vaginismus is one type of apareunia (if it is completely preventing penetrative intercourse).
Dyspareunia is a general term that refers to a condition where there is pain during sexual intercourse. Vaginismus is considered to be one type of dyspareunia, but is closely associated with all types of sexual pain.
How Anna cured her Vaginismus(Apareunia)
Anna rightly gave all the praise to God for curing her Vaginismus. But in truth she does deserve some credit for taking aggressive action and enduring the mental and physical pain and discomfort to get herself to the place where she could finally have vaginal sex with her husband. God can miraculously heal people – he does it all the time without a doctor touching a person. But God directed Anna to see a doctor and a sex therapist and I think that as we can see that was his will for her and he worked through these people to help Anna. We need to realize as believers that God has gifted medical professionals and counselors to be able to help us if we will seek the help.
There are many other posts online and in medical journals about Vaginismus. But from these and many others we can see that more often than not Vaginismus is not usually caused by a physical deformity of the vagina.
What is most often the case is a woman’s fear based upon bad memories of doctor’s exams, her upbringing about sex, sexual abuse or just a phobia of anything being inserted into her vagina. So her body reacts in what seems to be an involuntary way with muscle contractions that close off the vagina and protect it from penetration.
This is why often it takes a combination of counseling and perhaps a vaginal dilator as Anna used to help train her mind and muscles to allow things – including the most important thing of all – her husband’s penis – to be inserted into her vagina.
Vaginismus reveals major differences between men and women in regard to sex
But what I think this reveals about women that is so different from men is – for a woman her mind, even her unconscious mind and her unconscious fears have a huge impact not only her ability to enjoy sex, but even on her ability to have sexual intercourse at all!
I am sure that on a conscious level Anna wanted nothing more than have sex with her husband on her wedding night. She may have had NO conscious fears about doing this. But on some unconscious level her mind and her body were fearful of penetration. She had to train her mind and body to think differently about sex.
How many women today who do not face Vaginismus still need to have their mind and body conditioned to think differently about sex? How many women would enjoy sex better with their husbands if they could only let go of what is holding them back? How many women would benefit from the counseling Anna sought?
Men can learn from this story too
Just because this story is from the perspective of wife having a sexual dysfunction does not mean we as men cannot learn from this as well. For men ED (erectile dysfunction) would be closest equivalent to a woman having Vaginismus except for the pain. Men certainly experience emotional pain from ED, but not the physical pain women experience from Vaginismus.
But for us as men – ED is usually more physically based than emotionally based. While it is true that some men cannot achieve erections due to issues in the marriage, or issues from their childhood most of the time it is a physical issue and matter of blood flow. Thankfully today there are kinds of treatments for ED and we as Christian husbands have the same obligation to our wives as Anna felt to her husband to seek treatment to help our ED. We can’t just give up and throw in the towel.
What if the pain could not be stopped?
But let’s face it – not every story of Vaginismus has a happy ending like this one did. What if the cause was a physical issue that could not be repaired or changed? What if we were living a century ago without the help of modern medicine and counseling?
So these are the questions I leave for Christian wives reading this:
What if you had this kind of painful intercourse and there was nothing there was not medical or psychological help for you – Would you still have intercourse with you husband?
If sex is not mutually pleasurable for both the man and the woman should it sex cease in a marriage?
Maybe you don’t have Vaginismus – but would you stop having sex with your husband over other kinds of pain?
Should a wife always tell her husband when she has painful intercourse or are there times a wife should not reveal this to her husband?
And finally the question that is title of the article – How much pain would you endure to have sex with your husband?
I look forward to your answers and comments.
Photo Source: Rachel Titiriga https://www.flickr.com/photos/pocait/3589329865/in/photolist-qwXWfH-7P8Fkm-de5gm-cq89q3-8xbjPZ-H6k7k-cUqief-tbeUF-hgPux-gJ4e-gHZV-i2mh-66njL4-7PwRd2-8DkJho-gHYr-gNo1-gJ3N-pZDMzS-4LLfEM-6tbfHF-gJ4D-gKBM-gJ1j-gHYu-gJ4o-oxurem-52mEJW-4NcLTb-eqQG7N-mpALdt-gNjE-gHYL-6MRpy2-gNmH-gNkZ-epUmSR-epUhFa-rq2jDu-brKSri-gNnK-gHZw-gHZr-865s9A-5oRUGd-atspmj-hwymEm-4QYU4k-4VrBru-tvHqxb
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