Next week, Dr. Lara Burrows and I will be hosting a web-based health chat about female sexual pain. As usual, she will address the medical concerns, and I will address the psychological. I will try to validate the women who have been told the pain is “all in their head.” I will try to explain the relationship dynamics and traps that are common once sexual pain disorders are properly diagnosed. I will share stories from my pelvic pain support group of women who thought their sexual lives were behind them.
After an extended period of abstinence due to pain, it is not uncommon to be fearful or anxious once you are “cleared” for sex. I often hear women say that they knew they were “off the hook,” but now will be expected to reintegrate sex into the relationship. Not all women are ready to do this.
Furthermore, some partners feel awkward about reintegrating sex into a relationship as well. “I’ve been trained to be gentle, to treat her like china. How can I ‘let go’ now after being so afraid of hurting her?” one man told me. “Over time, I just stopped thinking about her in that way.”
I am also happy to share the success stories — the couples who had the emotional intelligence to maintain the right balance of humor, flexibility, and creativity to weather the storm. Now, they are celebrating their sexuality together again. If you have questions or want to know more about treatment options for sexual pain, please join myself and Dr. Burrows on Sept. 20 at noon for “Love Sometimes Hurts. Sex Shouldn’t.”
Kimberly Resnick Anderson, LISW, MSSA
Director, Summa Center for Sexual Health