What it’s like to be 22, engaged and unable to have sex:
There is no question about it: Sex is a big part of relationships. There are far bigger and more important parts, and relationships can absolutely be successful without having a sex life together. However, it is undeniable that for many relationships, sex is important.
When I began dating my boyfriend as a 19-year-old freshman in college, we fooled around a bit but waited a couple of months to begin having sex. The normal first-time pain came and went, the never-ending “what if I get pregnant” thoughts were on my mind, and slowly but within a couple months we had a routine as to where sex fits into our relationship.
We went our separate ways for summer break, and when we got back to school, we were ready to ditch the summer-sexting and hop back into it. I noticed some pain but brushed it off as a culture shock to my body after months of no sex. But after weeks with no improvement, I realized there might be a bigger problem. Within a couple of months, the pain had become so intolerable that I would go to the bathroom and cry afterward, and remain in pain sometimes for days afterward. We finally decided to stop trying to have sex until everything was under control. That was in 2015.
Since then, I’ve been diagnosed with endometriosis through a laparoscopic surgery and vaginismus through a pelvic exam. Though after surgery the endometriosis is mostly under control, the struggle to find comfort from vaginismus is a long road. Through pelvic floor physical therapy and at-home use of a dilator kit, I am beginning to get a grapple on it and am hoping to achieve pain-free sex in the future.
Painful sex is not uncommon, and being told to “just relax” or “drink some wine” or “try different positions” are all common responses from doctors. Many don’t even know what vaginismus is. Understanding that sex is not supposed to be painful and realizing that your pain is valid is the first step in fighting for a diagnosis and subsequently, working through treatment.
If you’re experiencing painful sex
For those experiencing painful sex, it is incredibly important to realize that “sex” as we know it is not the only way to have a fun, active sex life with your partner (or various partners!). Engaging in oral sex is still a great option, and anal sex becomes much easier when vaginal sex hurts so badly. Experimenting with different toys, role-playing or even just a good old-fashioned make-out session are awesome ways to maintain your sex life while trying to find answers or going through treatment. Your sex life doesn’t have to end because you can’t have sex – mind didn’t.
Sex is a very important aspect of many relationships, but it is not the most important part. Not being able to have sex has brought my partner and me closer than ever, and navigating our sex lives together without having sex has been fun, romantic and sensual – just like having sex would be.