When my husband and I were just dating, we decided to wait until we were married to have intercourse. My husband was also a virgin. We spoke often about how wonderful it would be to consummate our marriage on our wedding night: to begin this sexual journey together. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. We began our marriage with a different journey – one that began with frustrations and anxiety that eventually evolved into education, communication, and understanding.
About four months before we were married, I decided to go to the gynecologist for birth control pills. At 25 years old, I had been able to avoid going to the gynecologist despite pressure from my mother as well as from my primary care doctor. I had heard various things about going to a gynecologist – all of them very negative. I did not want to go. After reading on the Internet what to expect at a gynecological visit, I was very nervous about having something inserted into my vagina. I was making myself sick thinking about the appointment. Despite what I read, I didn’t know what to expect. I had never had anything inserted… I never used tampons; whenever my husband tried to insert his finger, I wouldn’t let him; and I never explored my own body. As long as everything worked properly, I didn’t think about it.
As you can imagine, the gynecologist’s visit was not very successful. When she tried to insert the speculum, I kept moving back. My whole body was tense. The doctor brought in a nurse who tried to help me relax. Nothing helped. Even when she tried to examine the outer lips, I was incredibly tense. The doctor said that she would not try the speculum again but she would have to try and insert her finger in order to make sure that nothing was physically wrong. She was barely able to insert her finger and at this point, I was in pain and crying. I wanted to leave as quickly as possible. After the exam, she told me not to worry about it; it would be better after I’ve had intercourse. She also encouraged me to use tampons. She gave me the prescription for the Pill and I left.
I remember speaking to my husband after the appointment. Despite what the doctor had told me, I felt abnormal – this doesn’t happen to anyone else! My friends had all been to the gynecologist without a problem. What was wrong with me? After my husband and I discussed it, we felt a little better knowing that everything would be better once we had intercourse.
Needless to say, our wedding night was not the magical night that we had envisioned. When my husband tried to penetrate, it was extremely painful. It just didn’t feel right. Something was wrong. He tried to comfort me but we both didn’t understand why I was feeling so much pain. Again, I thought: “This is such a natural process for other people, why are we having so much trouble?” We comforted ourselves by saying it was our first try and it was bound to be painful. Next time would be better.
During our honeymoon, we tried many times – hoping that with practice, it would not be so painful. We came up with many theories during this time about why this was happening. We thought that my hymen was fully intact or maybe the vaginal opening was being stretched and that was why it was so painful. But we were convinced that we should keep trying…we even thought that it was getting better. But we still weren’t sure if we were actually having intercourse. Since we were both virgins, we didn’t know what it was supposed to feel like. Now when I look back on this situation, it always makes me laugh. I know now that we were not having intercourse but our lack of knowledge and our desire to feel normal made us want to believe that we were.
Our first months of marriage were very happy; except for our sexual lives. I smiled through all the jokes about the “honeymoon stage.” No one but my husband knew about this struggle. I did not feel comfortable speaking to anyone about this – even my closest friends. I didn’t want anyone to know. Who could understand a newly married couple not having intercourse? So I kept up the persona that we were everything that newlyweds should be. I couldn’t speak to anyone about it. It was too embarrassing.
Eventually, it was time again to visit the gynecologist for my annual visit. I knew that I had to tell the doctor about the trouble that I was having but I was still afraid to go to the appointment. A couple of weeks before the appointment, I thought it would be best to try and use tampons before the appointment. I thought that if I was able to use tampons, I would be able to deal with the speculum. Once I got my period, I tried every night to insert a tampon. I was able to insert the tampon halfway. Trying to push the tampon further was like trying to push it through a brick wall. It wasn’t budging. Usually, these attempts would leave me in tears. WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME??? Everyone uses tampons. Why can’t I do this? The feelings of inadequacy were sharpened. I thought that there must be something physically wrong with me. I told my husband over and over that I felt like a “freak.” Thankfully, I have been blessed with an amazingly patient husband who struggled through this time with me and repeatedly told me that I was okay.
I knew that I had to go back to the gynecologist since the entire situation seemed to be getting worse! I started the visit by asking to speak to the doctor in her office first. I told her about all of the difficulties that I was experiencing with the tampons and with intercourse. She asked me if I would be okay to try the Pap smear test and I agreed. Again, it was unsuccessful. Now when I look back on the situation, she could have tried a hundred times. It wouldn’t have worked. She assured me that we would work through the situation and she would find someone to help me.
She called me back later that day to give me the number of the Women’s Therapy Center that a physical therapist had told her about. She told me that they would be able to treat my problem and help me to understand what was going on.
I was a little skeptical about this Center; but after reading the testimonials on the Web site, I was comforted and hopeful. There were other people out in the world who were having the same problem. I couldn’t believe it! I was very nervous about the treatment process but I felt that this was my last resort.
After my first meeting with Ross and Ditza, I practically skipped out of the office. This “thing” that I had been suffering with was “vaginismus.” They told me three things that I needed to hear: 1) This is very common, 2) There are other people like you in the same situation, and 3) Vaginismus can be cured. These statements were very important to me. They made me hopeful that one day I would be able to overcome this condition and be a normal, sexually active adult!
Through the vaginismus treatment process, I began to understand that my lack of knowledge about my own body and sexuality contributed to my fear and anxiety. Through the bodywork and education, I began to gain an understanding of my own body. I began to see that there was nothing to be feared about intercourse or a gynecological exam. I also began to feel like I had ownership over my body; that it was okay to explore my own body and sexuality.
Eventually, just as Ross and Ditza had said on my first meeting with them, my husband and I were able to have intercourse. At first, it is very mechanical but with practice, it has become a wonderful part of our marriage. It is wonderful to be able to connect with him in this way and to finally feel like a newlywed.
My final victory, of course, was going back to the gynecologist for an exam. She was shocked and amazed at how relaxed I was compared to my other visits. She was able to perform the exam without any problems.
I’m thankful to the Women’s Therapy Center for helping me to “own my body” through education and knowledge; but most of all, for helping me to feel normal again. Ten months after getting married, my husband and I have happily settled into the honeymoon stage; and this time, it’s exactly as we had imagined!*
* Results may vary from person to person