After re-reading my previously posted article (Love Hurts-Sex and Endometriosis) about the emotional and physical pain women with endometriosis experience during sex, I found that I was a little disappointed in myself. Yes, love can hurt. Endometriosis-associated dyspareunia, or painful sex has the potential to be an physically agonizing and emotionally heartbreaking experience. But did I really have to make the article sound so negative? Did I have to end with the message that there is no way to improve sex for women like us?
My friends, if you are like the other endo-sisters I have out there: tough, resilient and irrepressible, you won’t let dyspareunia destroy your intimate relationships. Instead, you will work tirelessly in search of ways to fix this excruciating problem. You will not stop until you have spoken to every woman with endo, read every single article, or spoken to every professional out there in the hopes of figuring out ways to ease this struggle.
I am no different than you. I have read articles, spoken to fellow suffers, and attended classes by therapists who specialize in this very issue. I have even gone to my own sex-therapist who has worked diligently with me to bring the passion and peace back into my bedroom. I can’t tell you that all is perfect in that intimate place between my sheets. But I can tell you that the following ideas and advice that I am going to share with you have reintroduced intimacy and sexuality back into my life in a most wonderful way.
Ladies, this one word is the key to maintaining a healthy relationship, whether you have endometriosis or not. While communication seems like a simple, straightforward task, it is often not as easy as it seems. We fear offending our partners, or saying things we don’t mean.
Regardless of all of our anxiety, it is imperative to express to our partners what sex makes us feel like, both emotionally and physically, and what our concerns are regarding performing and/or abstaining from sex. On the flip side, we need to make sure we listen to how it all affects our partners as well.
Try this exercise: take a piece of paper, split it down the middle with a line, and write your name on one side and your partner’s name on the other. On your side of the paper, write down all of the ways you feel pain during sex is affecting just you:
- Do you miss feeling like a sexual being?
- Do you miss being able to convey your love in a sexual manner?
- Do you miss feeling sexual pleasure?
Then, on your partner’s side, list the concerns you have regarding your partner’s feelings on the matter:
- Are you afraid he or she will leave you and find someone who can have sex more easily?
- Are you worried he or she will feel rejected by you?
- Do you feel guilty that you might be making your partner feel like you don’t love him or her?
Have your partner do the same exercise and compare. When you finished comparing, try this follow-up exercise:
Write down three acts that you feel your partner can do to help you with your concerns. For example, if you miss being a sexual being, maybe your partner can be cognizant to mention how attractive you look more often. Or if your partner worries that you don’t love him or her as much as you used to, maybe you can make more of an effort to say “I love you” more often.
It’s Not All about Penetration
There are plenty of other sexual acts that can be used to bring us closer to our partners. Research shows that many couples in which one of the partners experiences dyspareunia tend to stop being sexually interactive at all. This causes an unhealthy and even harmful distance to grow. Sex and intimacy manifest in many different ways, and there is no reason to stop touching one another just because penetration hurts. Hand-holding, kisses, hugs, massages, and even just a light, sensual touch on the hand as you pass by your partner shows how much you care and prevents the physical relationship from becoming a thing of the past. In addition to all of those little gestures, mutual masturbation is a great and important way to pleasure your partner and connect sexually without intercourse.
Try New Ideas
There is more than one way to have intercourse. If sex hurts in the missionary position, try a new position. If it feels dry and chafing, try KY, or an alternative lubricant. There are plenty out there to choose from so find one that is right for you. You can even pick one out with your partner as a sexy bonding experience. While experimenting, don’t forget to stay calm and open-minded and try not to get frustrated. It can be a very fun and intimate experience if you let yourself enjoy the process and worry less about the result.
Timing is Key
There are some women who find that they are more sensitive to pain during specific times of the month. For example, some women feel that sex during ovulation causes more pain than sex during the time right after they end their periods. Keeping a log to identify when those times are is a great way to be proactive about minimizing sex pain.
Mind and Body Readiness
Vaginal dryness is one of the key reasons why women feel pain during sex. A woman whose mind and body are not ready for sex due to fear of pain or lack of foreplay will not produce natural lubrication and will thus feel more pain on penetration. Increasing foreplay and meditation are two ways to prepare both the mind and body for sex and increase lubrication.
Ask for Help
Don’t try to deal with painful sex on your own. A sex therapist can help you work through your emotional issues and give you more suggestions on how to improve your sex life. It might feel a little intimidating to share your personal issues with someone else, but a therapist who is trained to deal with sex issues has seen and heard it all and will be more than happy to help you.
While it might seem a little overwhelming to try to tackle such a large and emotionally charged issue, you owe it to yourself to try to improve your sex life. Don’t forget that you don’t need to try all of the suggestions at once. If you can, discuss with your partner and pick one or two ideas that you feel you can try to implement. It’s not about perfection; it’s just about taking the time and putting in the effort. If anyone can do it, you, my endo-sister, can. You are stronger than you know.