Painful Sex And What To Do

Experience pain during sex regularly can be a major obstacle to the happy development of a relationship. The anxiety of chronic pain can trigger avoidance behaviour, leading us to dodge activity that might lead to sex, like kissing, touching, or intimacy in general. Even going to bed at the same time can fall away due to the threat of the pain of sex. 

But, with some honesty and some open, if difficult, conversation, it’s possible to overcome this problem and get back to a happy relationship.

Painful sex

Planning & Negotiation

The best thing a couple can do in this situation is to have a plan for it. If sex is painful, a medical diagnosis, and then a second opinion, and even a third, is really important. There are a few things it could be: dyspareunia, vulvodynia, vestibulitis, vaginismus, or another, more general pain condition. Understanding your condition and its effects is essential, and the more you learn about the pros and cons of the available solutions will be helpful.

Step one is to seek professional medical help. That should be a given. But it’s not the end of the story. Once you have a diagnosis, you need to plan with your partner the best way to handle intimacy. Avoiding the issue, which is the easiest way to deal with it, will only contribute to the problem in the long run. 

Make an agreement to be intimate with each other at set times in the week. In these times, agree to kiss, touch, massage, and shower together, and engage in mutual masturbation and oral sex. Take the effort to communicate what feels good and what doesn’t so you can both learn what’s pleasurable.

Dialogue & Feelings

You need to make time as a couple to discuss the feelings that arise from the acknowledgment that sex is painful. Ignoring the issue, or hoping that it will simply sort itself out, will lead to further disappointment, which might contribute to the breakdown of the relationship. Counseling is invaluable for this, either as a couple, or alone if that’s more comfortable.

Talking about intimacy and keeping it important in the relationship is central, even if intercourse is off the table. But it’s important to stress: intimacy is not defined by sexual intercourse.

When The Iron’s Hot

Often, after sex has been associated with pain for long enough, the concept of pleasurable sexual activity can feel like a foreign concept. But there are exceptions, and there are times when your body will be unusually receptive to sex. There are times that defy expectations, and sex feels good. If sex is generally painful most of the time, instead of all the time, make a note of when it feels good and see if you can spot any patterns, any common behaviour that seems to encourage pleasurable sex over pain. Use this list to refine exactly what it is you enjoy about intimacy, and focus on those things. 

Sex Toys & Lube

This might be the right time to introduce some new and alternative ideas into your sexual activity. Lubricants and personal moisturizers are extremely helpful for easing the transition into sex, and can assist in the symptoms of painful sex, like dryness and irritation. They can also help to desensitise you, enhancing the pleasure of sex. Of course, it’s important to find pH balanced, natural lubricants.

Don’t be afraid to incorporate sex toys into the mix too. The use of a vibrator can help you still be sexual with a partner, and perhaps achieve orgasm, and many LELO pleasure products are not designed for penetration at all. (The LELO Smart Wand is a particularly versatile item.) consider shopping for sex toys as a port of solution-finding, and with the right atmosphere and attitude, it can be become a fun and intimate foreplay ritual.

Stay Strong

Never give up on the idea of having pleasurable sex. Listen to your diagnosis and follow its advice, and seek out the experiences online of those who have experienced similar pain and overcome it. Sex is not the be all and end all, and should not be the sole foundation of any healthy relationship. But stick with it, and keep the discussion open and honest, both about your desires and pain. Taking charge of the problem can help a couple suffer significantly less distress and understanding the cause and treatments for painful sex can put you back on the road to success.

Written by: Stuart Nugent

With 16 years in the adult industry, including many years at LELO, it's fair to say Stu has been around the sex toy block a few times. As LELO's resident sex geek, he's been featured in the Independent, the Guardian, HuffPost, Vice, Cosmopolitan, and anywhere people talk about sex. Here on Volonte, he turns his spotlight onto the important events affecting sex right now in a regular op-ed. Views are his own.

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