How does vaginismus affect husbands/partners of women with vaginismus?
Sexual problems due to vaginismus can negatively affect a relationship.
Overcoming vaginismus together can deepen and strengthen couple bonds and bring needed restoration. Although women experience the consequences of having vaginismus most acutely and directly, it is important to acknowledge that their partners will also experience a wide range of impacts.
As the ordeal of untreated vaginismus drags on into weeks, months, or years before solutions are found, frustrations mount and the relationship can undergo severe strain. The impacts of vaginismus on men create unique burdens as they often feel helpless and at the mercy of a situation they can’t control.
Typical Emotions Male Partners Experience
- Rejection – “I’m so tired of being rejected all the time. What’s wrong with me that keeps her from wanting to have any kind of sexual relationship with me? First, it was just being unable to have intercourse, but now she hardly wants me at all. This whole thing makes me feel unappreciated.”
- Empathy – “My wife would be crushed if anyone found out about this. I feel so badly for her and I know she is going through so much pain. I believe that she means well and doesn’t intend to hurt me, but her problem is hurting both of us. I really feel sorry for her, and yet I have no idea what to do.”
- Guilt – “I feel so guilty for wanting to have sex at all because I know how painful it is for her. I can’t even look at her when we attempt sex because it hurts her and she is just trying to endure the pain. I have normal guy ‘needs’ and I’m not sure what to do about all this frustration. Is it selfish to want to be with the woman I love? Did I do something that could have caused this?”
- Anger – “I’ll admit I haven’t always been the most supportive of husbands. I’ve been so angry at the situation, angry at people who can actually have sex and just angry in general. It makes me mad when she pushes me away or ignores my advances. When I realize that it is not her fault, I’m not as directly angry with her, but I’m still angry inside.”
- Frustration – “I am trying with all my heart and soul to try and see her side of the situation. But, what about me? I have feelings too! All I want is to feel the emotional connection that sex is supposed to provide. Is that too much to ask?”
- Confusion – “I don’t get it! I always thought my wedding night would be the most wonderful night of my life and then … nothing. Now it is a year later and still no sex. The doctors say there is nothing wrong with my wife. What can we do?”
- Fear – “I don’t know how long I can do this. I mean, I really love her but come on! I don’t want to live forever in a sexless relationship. We wanted kids and now I’m afraid that won’t happen either. What is my future going to be like if this continues?”
- Distancing – “My home life is a mess and I don’t even want to see my wife right now. I might as well put my time into work or spend more time with the guys. At least my friends appreciate me and if I’m busy I won’t have to think about it.”
It is important for male partners to understand that vaginismus is not something the woman intentionally caused to avoid having sex. The tightening of the PC muscle that causes the vagina to “clamp shut” is an unconscious reaction which is involuntary and happens without control or intention.
Understanding Her Fears
Even though a woman may very much want to engage in intercourse, there is a “disconnect” between her mind and body which triggers the PC muscle to spasm. There are many emotional and physical factors which may contribute to the development of vaginismus.
Emotional factors such as fear of penetration (not common to all types of vaginismus) will impact some women with vaginismus. In these cases it is important for a woman to understand and overcome her fear and negative thoughts about sex. The self-led emotional inventory included in the self-help program helps a woman to get to the root of these factors and override them with positive sexual feelings.
Effects on The Relationship & Intimacy
It is not uncommon for men to “bottle up” their emotions and deny the anger, frustration and stress associated with living in an unconsummated relationship. Often men feel like they can’t tell anyone about their situation. They may also be worried about hurting their wife if they tell someone else about their “little secret” so they live with pent-up feelings of resentment and sadness—both for them and their partner.
Sadly, many couples discontinue times of intimacy because of the pain and the frustration of failure at attempted intercourse. Conflict is common and relationship issues may continue to escalate as the vaginismus remains untreated. Communication breakdown may occur as spouses retreat to their own side of the bed or even sleep in separate beds.
In addition to the vaginismus, a couple may also have to deal with the medical condition, surgery, or assault that possibly triggered the problem, potentially causing further relational strain.
There is a Solution
Typically, once a diagnosis has been made and a treatment process initiated, there is a reduction in the overall level of stress the couple has been experiencing. Many couples, after working through vaginismus treatment do find that they are emotionally closer to one another, have improved communication skills, and do not take their sexual relationship or partner for granted.