Yesterday I wrote a post dealing with a question I’d received from our anonymous Have A Question page. The post was on whether or not a marriage can survive without sex. But, there was another question within the one comment that I wanted to address, but felt needed a separate post. Here’s the part in question:
My wife and I had pain issues in every attempt to consummate our relationship. We stopped trying altogether about 12 years into the marriage. We have never fought about this, because we are Christians and understand the difficulties associated with painful intercourse. We have not once talked about sex in many years and frankly, would not know how to or why to bring it up since both of us have significant problems. We have been married for 28 years.
And I think there are a lot of marriages where sex is painful and they’re not getting help. So, I thought I’d write a brief post listing some of the reasons it might hurt and some of the help you can look into. Now, I’m not a doctor, therapist, pastor, or anything like that. This is just some research I did on my own. It’s only to point you in the direction of some possible solutions, don’t count it as medical advice. Now, vaginal pain during sex is the most common, so I’m going to be focusing on that. He mentions they both have significant problems, but I’m not sure what the problems on his side are. So I’m going to focus on vaginal pain in this post.
You might just need lubricant
There is a common myth out there that if a woman is aroused, then she’s “wet”, or in other words, her vagina (and entrance, or “vestibule”) is lubricated. But, this isn’t always the case. There are times when women are lubricated, but not aroused. Or when they are aroused, but not lubricated. Or there are times when there is a war going on in their body.
For example, the first time you have sex, you might be aroused and excited, but also nervous and a bit fearful. These two sets of emotions can interact in some odd ways, and sometimes it can mean you aren’t lubricating. So, not a small amount of Christians find they have trouble on their wedding night, and it could easily be solved with lubrication.
There are lots of different kinds, and I should really do a post on different lubricants, but our favorite is coconut oil (which may or may not be compatible with condoms, so be aware).
So, if you are experiencing pain during sex, first step would be to try lubricant.
You might just need to relax
I know, that sounds trite. But, the vagina opening is surrounded by muscles (the pubococcugeus, also known as your pelvic floor). When you are stressed, these muscles tense up. And when you’re having pain during sex, then it’s not surprising you might be stressed and might be clenching those muscles. In some women, these muscles are very strong and can make penetration impossible.
So, some women find that a massage first, going slow, not having pressure to perform, all aid in being able to relax and then sex becomes possible.
You might need to go slow
Sometimes new married couples just jump right into sex and go too fast, and then when things hurt, they just try again. You might need to slow down, and you might need to work up to penis in vagina sex. Start by exploring each other, as knowing more can help relax you. Then go really slow. Insert a lubricated little finger (pinky finger). Then try a larger one, then maybe your thumb. Then maybe two small fingers. Work you way up. If the husband’s fingers are too big, start with her fingers. There’s nothing wrong with exploring together. Also, there’s no such thing as too much lube in this scenario. This may take multiple sessions. Maybe you only get one finger in today. Count that as progress and then try again another time, or another day.
Go slow, and take your time. You’re looking for progress, not perfection yet.
You might need a hymenectomy
In some women, their hymen is very thick/strong. The hymen is a flap of skin that surrounds or partially covers the vagina opening. Some women stretch/tear/break it earlier in life, often from completely non-sexual activities (riding a bike or a horse, gymnastics, etc). Many break their during their first penetrative sexual act (be it masturbation or intercourse), which is why virgin often (but not always) bleed the first time they have sex. But for some, it’s too strong, or too thick, and it’s not easily broken. Sometimes it’s just the way they are. Sometimes it was partially torn earlier and grew back stronger or with scar tissue (which doesn’t stretch).
If this is the case, then you might need to see a doctor to have your hymen removed. It’s not a complicated procedure, they can be done in a doctors office or a hospital (depending on the doctor) under local anesthetic. They usually use absorb-able sutures just to manage bleeding, so you don’t have to go back to have them removed.
You might need to learn more about sex from a biblical perspective
Some women have learned some awful things about sex, things that are not true. They’ve grown up being told sex is dirty, that it’s sinful, that it’s wrong, that it’s not pure, that “good girls don’t” and things like that. The Bible has a very different message. Our course, Becoming More Sexually Engaged, helps break through many of these incorrect messages and teaches you what the Bible has to say about sex, and then follows up with practical advice on how to become more sexually engaged in your marriage.
You might need a therapist
Remember I said some women might just need to relax? Well, some can’t. Especially if there is significant trauma in their past, for example, from sexual abuse (or any kind of abuse really). Some people might need to work through some issues in order to be able to relax. A massage won’t cut it. If you are having pain during sex, and you have a history of abuse. Please see a qualified therapist.
You might need a physiotherapist
For some, the muscles are just too tight. It’s not a psychological issue, it’s merely physiological (nothing to do with the brain, just the body). There are physiotherapists who specialize in pelvic floor muscles in every major city, so far as I know. Just google pelvic floor physiotherapy and the name of the closest city, and you should be able to find one. They often treat those with incontinence issues (bladder control), which is the exact opposite problem (loose pelvic floor), but of course, they can treat the opposite side of the spectrum as well. These are the specialists for those muscles, they know the exercises you can do to loosen them up.
You might all of the above
For some, there’s not one issue. There are many. There is a clinic in New York that specializes in sexual pain called the Institute for Women in Pain. I have no direct experience or contact with them, but I’ve heard a lot of good things. Might be something to look into. Reportedly, they have all the resources you need to get to the bottom of your sexual pain. If you’re at the end of your rope, these are the guys to call. It’s not cheap…but it might be worth it for the ability to have sex and gain the benefits I wrote about yesterday.
In the mean time
Just because you can’t have intercourse, doesn’t mean you can’t have sex. Sex is merely sexual activity between a couple. There’s still manual sex (women don’t need insertion to have an orgasm, in fact, most can’t from penetration alone). Learn to touch each other. Try out some mutual masturbation (you won’t be the only ones). Or experiment with oral sex. Or you can use outercourse, which I don’t have a post on yet… Basically the husband places his penis along the vulva, over the clitoris, and then you slide it up and down in a thrusting motion. Basically, it’s sex without penetration. You can potentially both orgasm from this and get the majority of the benefits of sex while your work through the penetration issues.
Did I miss any? I know there must be some medical professionals reading. Feel free to comment below and add your thoughts. You can even comment anonymously if liability is a concern.
If you’ve been through this, please share your experiences and what worked for you below, it might be exactly what someone needs to read.
I think more are dealing with this than we think, and like the above person, I think a lot of them just give up. Don’t give up. You can make this work, even if you never manage to have intercourse, it doesn’t mean you can’t have sex and a healthy sexual relationship. So, please consider sharing this post, because you never know whose marriage you’ll give hope to. Ever week now I’m seeing people start reading because a friend of theirs shared something and they’re so happy to have finally found some answers to their struggles. And they probably never tell the person who shared it how much of an impact it made in their lives. So, consider sharing. You never know who you might help.
37 Questions for spouses to ask each other about sex
Subscribe to get the 2 page PDF full of questions to help you and your spouse start to talk about your sex life.