Having Sex Is Too Painful. How Can I Have a Relationship?

Dating has always been a struggle due to some physical limitations. Namely sex has always been acutely painful (vaginismus). This concern has been the root cause of many relationship and self-worth ills. I have been sexually active since my late teens and simply thought it would get better as I got older. These issues make intimate personal and physical relations not only unpleasant but disheartening. Especially since no one in their right mind would sign off on a lifetime of their partner not enjoying their intimate company and since sex is important to most people and relationships. My physicians, though supportive, have not been that helpful. 

This whole thing puts a damper on many relationships (understandingly) and because of it I have not dated much and feel sexually left behind experience wise for many years. Everything I have read about dating with this condition treats dating unrealistically. 

I am at a cross roads on how to move forward with this. Is there a tactful way to bring something like this up while dating? If so how can a person pursue a relationship with these issues? Or should I just make myself comfortable with the idea that perhaps a romantic long- term relationship is not in the cards for me?


Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?


Thanks for calling attention to an issue that affects between 5-17 percent of women.

Thanks for calling attention to an issue that affects between 5-17 percent of women.

And because I’m not qualified to answer your question myself, I turned to friend of the blog, Dr. Patti Britton, a sexologist here in Los Angeles. She replied at length:

“Vaginismus is treatable with the right combination of information, dedicated intention on the part of the client/helping professionals, positive support from a well-trained sex therapist/sexologist/sex coach, and tools for opening up the spasmodic vaginal opening, if it is truly vaginismus.

 Often MDs are not familiar with this condition and toss it off to “it’s all in your head.”

 It’s not! In fact, it can be the result of a psychological condition related to a past trauma or fear of penetration for a variety of reasons. If so, a form of talk therapy or coaching can alleviate any misplaced thinking or help to diminish troubling emotional states. Some therapies that engage the body, such as Somatic Experiencing for reducing bodily held trauma, or use of EDMR or Brain Spotting, may also address the initial trauma and alleviate its effect in the brain itself.

 However, usually a series of behavioral steps works best, in conjunction with good sexological counseling/coaching, such as dilators that are graduated in size being inserted into the vagina along with conscious breathing.


 Another spectacularly successful approach is to work with a Surrogate Partner Therapist, someone trained and certified to work in tandem with a competent clinician and the client him/herself to train the client experientially to allow touch, sexual expression and ultimately full capacity as a sexual person without distress or pain. 

 For more information, contact: DrPatti@DrPattiBritton.com or peruse aasect.org for a certified sexuality educator/counselor/therapist near you or check out the Worldassociationofsexcoaches.org international online directory.”

I would listen to everything Dr. Britton said – and also try to reframe things from a less catastrophic and fatalistic perspective. I have a cousin with MS who is in a wheelchair. She has a husband – who met her after she was diagnosed. I have a deaf friend who was recently married. I have clients who have fallen for men with erectile dysfunction and others who stayed with impotent men suffering from prostate cancer.

Is your vaginismus problematic, both for you and the men you date? Sure. But it is not a death sentence.

Take the necessary steps above and try not to let your condition beat you, okay?