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Does Your Partner Have Vaginismus? Here’s How You Can Help

Vaginismus can be both confusing and distressing. It results in pain and challenges during penetration. This guide provides a clear overview of the condition, from its symptoms and causes to its effects on relationships and ways to support those affected. Whether seeking information for yourself, a loved one, or out of curiosity, this we offer insights and guidance.

What Is Vaginismus?

Vaginismus is a condition that causes pain and difficulty with vaginal penetration. It can be triggered by various physical or psychological factors and affect women of all ages. The most common symptom is a muscle spasm in the vagina, which can make intercourse, insertion of tampons, or even a gynecological exam very painful or impossible.

There are two types of vaginismus: primary vaginismus, in which a woman has never been able to have vaginal penetration, and secondary vaginismus, in which a woman develops the condition later on, after having had pain free vaginal penetrations, such as after surgery or in menopause.

Vaginismus can significantly impact a woman’s quality of life and her relationship with her partner. Typically, women experience inadequacy, shame, and frustration, and may avoid intimacy altogether. It’s important to understand that vaginismus is a medical condition, not a choice or a lack of desire for sexual activity.  It can be treated and overcome with the right intervention and support.  

Symptoms of Vaginismus: How to Identify if Your Partner is Affected

Symptoms of vaginismus include pain or burning during vaginal penetration, difficulty or inability to have intercourse, difficulty or inability to insert tampons or use a menstrual cup/disc, and inability or difficulty undergoing a pelvic exam and vaginal ultrasound.  A most common description about failed penetration is ‘it is like hitting a wall.’

If your partner is struggling with any of these symptoms, she will have vaginismus.  Sadly, she may be hesitant or embarrassed to talk about the vaginismus, or may not even be aware has it, although most do know that ‘something is not right’ because they cannot use their vagina as other women do. 

It is important to approach the topic with sensitivity and understanding, and to encourage your partner to seek medical help if they are experiencing vaginismus symptoms.

Causes of Vaginismus: Understanding the Underlying Factors

Understanding the underlying causes of vaginismus can help both, the affected woman and their partner to better cope with the condition.

There are a number of potential causes of vaginismus, including physical, psychological, and emotional factors. Psychological and emotional causes may include fear of pain with penetration, fear of the unknown (about the mysterious vagina), cultural/religious inhibition, and past negative experiences.  Regardless of the cause, vaginismus is always an anxiety-based condition.

Contrary to common belief, past history of abuse is not a leading cause of vaginismus.

The Impact of Vaginismus on Your Relationship

Vaginismus has a significant impact on a person’s relationship, emotionally, physically, and sexually. The condition can cause feelings of frustration, embarrassment, and anxiety for the woman, and can also lead to feelings of disappointment, confusion, rejection, and inadequacy for their partner.

One of the most significant impacts of vaginismus on a relationship is the inability to engage in sexual intercourse. This compromised sexuality can create a barrier between partners, often leading to emotional distance and dissatisfaction. In some cases, it may even lead to the breakdown of the relationship.  

Vaginismus can also cause personal distress for both partners. The woman may feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed about her condition, and may withdraw emotionally as a result. Her partner may feel rejected or inadequate, which can lead to feelings of resentment, anger, or frustration.

Additionally, vaginismus can also cause a strain on the relationship as the partners may have to postpone their plans of starting a family due to the condition.

It is important to note that while vaginismus can have a significant impact on a relationship, it is not a reflection of a person’s worth or attractiveness. With the right treatment and support, it is possible to manage the condition and maintain a healthy, fulfilling relationship.

How to Support Your Wife or Girlfriend With Vaginismus: Practical Steps for Helping Them Cope with Vaginismus

When your partner is dealing with vaginismus, it can be difficult to know how to best support her. However, there are a number of practical steps you can take to help them manage this condition and improve your relationship.

  • Educate yourself: Learn as much as you can about vaginismus and the various vaginismus treatment options available. This will help you to better understand your partner’s condition and be more supportive of their treatment journey.
  • Sexually speaking, explore the Sexual Menu for options that do not require vaginal penetration.
  • Be patient: Remember that overcoming vaginismus is a process that may take time. Be patient with your partner and understand that they may have setbacks or moments of frustration.
  • Be a good listener: Encourage your partner to talk about her feelings and experiences with vaginismus. Listen to them without judgment and offer support and reassurance.
  • Help them find the right treatment: Research treatment options and work with your partner to find the right therapist, counselor or medical professional. Help them make appointments, provide transportation and support them throughout the process.
  • Be understanding and supportive of their boundaries: Vaginismus can be a sensitive and emotional issue, and your partner may have specific boundaries related to their condition. Be understanding and supportive of their boundaries, and work together to find a comfortable level of intimacy that works for both of you.
  • Communicate openly and honestly: Remember that open and honest communication is key to any healthy relationship. Keep the lines of communication open and work together to find solutions that work for both of you.
  • Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that your partner’s condition is not your responsibility, and that it’s not something that can be “fixed” or “cured” by you. You can support them but ultimately it’s on them to take steps towards recovery.

Seeking Help: Finding a Clinician Specialized in Treating Vaginismus

Seeking help for vaginismus can be an overwhelming and difficult process. It’s important to find a clinician who is specialized in treating this condition, as they will have the knowledge and experience needed to provide you with the most effective vaginismus treatment plan.

When looking for a clinician, it’s important to consider their qualifications and level of experience. Look for professionals who have the specific skills and knowledge needed to address the physical and psychological aspects of vaginismus.

It’s also important to find a clinician who is comfortable and familiar with different cultures, as some people may have specific cultural or religious beliefs that may influence their vaginismus treatment.

When you find the right clinician, they will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that should include physical, medical, and emotional intervention.

It’s important to have an open and honest conversation with your clinician about your goals, concerns, and expectations for treatment.

Managing the Condition: Coping Strategies for Managing Vaginismus

Managing vaginismus can be a challenging and ongoing process. However, there are a number of coping strategies that can help you to better manage the condition and improve your quality of life.

See our blog post on coping with vaginismus

Supporting Your Partner in Vaginismus

Supporting your partner in overcoming vaginismus requires patience, understanding, and open communication. It is important to approach the issue with empathy and to avoid placing blame or pressure on your partner. 

Working with a licensed clinician can be beneficial in addressing any underlying psychological or physical causes of the condition. 

Remember to be supportive and understanding throughout the process, and to prioritize your partner’s feelings and needs above all else.

About The Author

vaginismus specialist Dr. Ditza Katz team member Women's Therapy Center

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