Pain with sex? Here's how to talk to your partner.
Sex is a team sport. It takes two players. If you were playing doubles tennis and your teammate hurt their shoulder or pulled their quad, you wouldn’t insist they keep playing injured, right?
No, because that’s absurd.
Your pelvic floor is a set of muscles that work just like your bicep or quad muscles. They contract, relax, and get injured in the same way. When they’re injured, they need time to heal! Playing on hurt muscles makes for a terrible experience and increases the risk of worsening the injury.
If you’re having pain with sex but are afraid your partner won’t understand, here are some tips on communicating the problem with them.
Remove the blame.
There are many causes for pain with sex. Your physical pain is not your fault OR your partner’s fault (unless their is abuse happening, then skip to the bottom of the this blog.) It may be a little “on the nose,” but use the square peg, round hole analogy. It’s not the square peg’s fault for not fitting in the round hole or vice versa. It’s about both partners adapting and finding ways that “fit” and feel good.
Explain that your body needs healing.
If you’re recovering from childbirth, sexual trauma, vaginismus, or other causes for pain with penetration, there needs to be time for healing. Explain this to your partner using the tennis illustration above. If you’re comfortable, focus on other forms of intimacy while you give your vulva and vagina the rest they’re begging for.
Communicate your emotions.
Sex can be extremely emotional. When we can’t have it, it’s easy to fall into emotional traps of feeling ugly, useless, or unworthy to our partner. Let your partner know exactly how you’re feeling so that they can support you. Talk about the importance of consent for EVERYTHING. I often see women feel pressured into kissing that leads to more touching that leads to sex because they feel bad for “holding out” on their husband. Communicating your boundaries can help your partner protect you from things that will be painful.
When you're comfortable, explore your options.
Sometimes, recovering from pain with sex means physical intimacy is just off the table for a period of time. But, if you’re in a healthy place to explore physical touch, there are ways you can ease back into it! Talk to your partner about non-penetrative sex options. Look into toys that focus on clitoris stimulation. Try different positions to see if they feel more comfortable.
See a pelvic floor physical therapist!
Just because penetration is painful right now does not mean it always has to be. There are ways we can lengthen and stabilize your pelvic floor so that sex is comfortable! In fact, healing might be easier than you think it is. Every body is a little bit different. I highly recommend finding a Pelvic Floor physical therapist you trust who will work on an individualized solution just for you! Some of my most productive pelvic floor appointments happen when a woman brings her partner with her!
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT ABUSE: If your partner does not respect your boundaries, that is abuse. Even if you’re married, it’s abuse. If you are in danger, please contact local law enforcement or the National Sexual Assault hotline. If you are in a relationship where addressing the abusive behaviors is safe, please seek out a therapist who can guide you through this conversation with your partner.
If you’re in Kansas or Missouri, I’d love to be your physical therapist. Schedule an appointment here! If you’re in another state or have questions about whether or not you could benefit from pelvic floor physical therapy, I’d love to hold a virtual appointment with you to discuss your options.