Three things to help you navigate intimacy with Vaginismus
When it comes to sexy-time with your boo, vaginismus can put a cramp in your style for sure! Vaginismus-related intense tightness and pain make women not only avoid sex but forego any and all forms of physical intimacy. Women sometimes fear that other forms of physical closeness might put their partner in “the mood” only to say NO when it comes to penetration. They hold back their kisses and caresses because it is emotionally just too hard to experience the guilt that comes with denying pleasure to your lover. Avoiding any touching becomes the safe buffer they need even when they desire physical connection in their relationship. Partners have a struggle of their own in this journey. Sometimes partners feel rejected or start experiencing sadness and decreased desire. While it is certainly not easy, figuring out sexual intimacy for every couple with vaginismus comes down to the three C’s.
Intimacy & Vaginismus: #1 Communicate
Even with all the language skills we possess, we are often incapable of clearly communicating our likes, dislikes, boundaries, and fantasies! When it comes to sexual intimacy, pain communication is more critical than ever but also more challenging than ever. Needless to say, using your words with your partner can go a long way! Let them know what you like, where you like it, and how you like it!! While communication outside the bedroom is the building block for your relationship, communication inside the bedroom is indispensable. It helps build trust, comfort, and safety with the partner.
“Hold on for a minute… let me breathe into my belly to relax my pelvic floor”
Yeah…okay…I get it… this kind of sexy talk is not exactly “sexy” and is probably why most women who feel pain bear through it, out of guilt for their partner’s need and sometimes for a desired pregnancy. But what feels bearable can quickly become intense pain. Pain is a communication signal by your body, don’t ignore it. Compassion towards your sensations is an act of kindness and self-care. It’s not all on you, either. Your partner can certainly help with this during intimacy. Words are not the only way to check in with your partner. Body language, expressions, and breath-holding are other cues that show discomfort without words. A partner that is understanding and observant is a huge factor in successfully addressing sexual pain. It is an acquired skill to communicate your “yucks” and “yums”, your rules and requests! Learning your body gives you the immense power to own your pleasure.
Intimacy & Vaginismus: #2 – Get Curious
Not all couples consider penetrative sex to be the quintessential element of their relationship. However, we certainly live in a world that creates a strong negative reaction of deprivation for not being able to do that one thing! Defining sexual success with penile intercourse metrics can be incredibly frustrating for couples dealing with pain. We are all stressed; we don’t need the additional stress of “failing” at sex! What we need is to become curious about the fluidity of sexual pleasure. Some couples become experts of each other’s bodies, enjoy incredible sexual intimacy and explore mind-blowing ways of getting their happy ending. And that is OK! Every couple is different and needs different things in their relationship. Exploring and expanding the definition of “sex” is a gift that will keep giving!
Intimacy & Vaginismus: #3 – Compassion for your body
Involuntary vaginal tightening and pain with sex can be debilitating and frustrating. It can sometimes make a woman feel like a stranger in their own body. The feelings of anger and sadness towards pain tend to worsen the bodily response to pain, and can becomes a vicious cycle.
Vaginismus is not your entire identity!
Pelvic muscle tightening is a protective response; more importantly, your body’s reaction is involuntary. Taking your time, going slow, showing compassion for your own pain will help you get reacquainted with your body and sexuality. Sexual pleasure can be like a simmering pot…you can keep on building through flirting, kissing, holding hands, outercourse ..endless possibilities of uncoupling pain from pleasure. We often limit ourselves to sexual intimacy, but it can be extremely fulfilling to work on emotional intimacy, experimental, and spiritual intimacy. You are on a journey to find your sensual self and it can be a fun one!
To summarize, society has done us a huge disservice by defining sexual intimacy in a restrictive, penis-in-vagina “pow-pow” way! Sexual experiences don’t have to be penetrative for them to be fulfilling.