What I want you to know about not being able to have sex with your husband

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by an anonymous reader.

I was raised in a fairly religious household. I was taught that sex before marriage was wrong. I was also taught that using a tampon would rob me of my virginity. So, when I fainted after trying to use a tampon at age 12, I didn't tell my parents about it. My parents never talked to me about sex. Ever.
At 16, I got my first boyfriend and we tried to have sex. It didn't work. Every time we tried, it seemed as if he got stuck and couldn’t go any further. It was also very painful. The more we tried the harder it became. We tried a lot. We tried multiple times for years and years. I was so frustrated. We thought we were very much in love. I was just so thankful to have a boyfriend that would “put up with this” that I never questioned whether or not he was the one. I just knew he had to be. After all, where else would I find a teenage guy willing to not have sex with his girlfriend?

Because we were in love and because it wasn’t unusual in the rural part of the south where we grew up, we got engaged and married when I was 19. Somehow I had convinced myself that maybe us not being able to have sex had something to do with my ultra-religious upbringing and once we were married, it would all work itself out. I want you to know that I felt like a freak, I felt like I had no answers. We didn't have sex education at my school. My parents always told me sex was bad and anyone who did it before marriage was a whore. I felt like I had no one to turn to. After about two years of marriage and many many hours of googling, I finally stumbled upon an answer to my problem. Vaginismus. I felt like my prayers had been answered. There was finally a name for what I going through. It felt great just to know that other people were going through the same thing.

Vaginismus.com describes vaginismus as, “a condition where there is involuntary tightness of the vagina during attempted intercourse. The tightness is actually caused by involuntary contractions of the pelvic floor muscles surrounding the vagina.” According to vaginismus.com, “vaginismus is the leading cause of unconsummated relationships because vaginismus tightness causes burning, pain, or stinging during attempted intercourse.”
After much research and self-diagnosis on my part, I contacted a sex therapist 5 hours away in the closest metropolitan area. My then-husband and I travelled to meet her. She agreed that I had vaginismus and recommended I meet with a nurse practitioner who specializes in these issues. I did and the NP agreed with the therapist. We all decided a surgery called a hymenotomy would be the best plan of action. The surgery was scheduled.

Wikipedia defines a hymenotomy as, “a surgical procedure to remove or open the hymen which is normally performed on women with a septate or imperforate hymen or another condition which makes the hymen unusually thick or rigid.” I was diagnosed as a having a septate hymen which means my hymen had openings in it large enough for menstrual blood to pass through but not large enough for penetration. My hymen was also discovered to be unusually thick and rigid which explains why it would not break on its own.

The surgery itself was minor and our insurance covered it. Everything went well. We came home armed with books and dilators that were supposed to help gradually stretch my vagina.
Although it felt great to finally have answers to my problems, it is very frustrating that there is so little information out there about this condition.

I worked with these dilators religiously. I saw some minor progress. But a year after the surgery, we still hadn’t had sex. It started to take a toll on our marriage. We were unhappy. I graduated college and started a career. He went back to college. We drifted further and further apart. The frequency in which we had any sexual contact decreased drastically. Then, the bottom fell out from under me. After three and a half years of marriage, he met someone at the part-time job he had taken while going back to school. She was going through a divorce. Just like that, the loving supportive husband I knew was gone. He told me she understood him. He told me I ruined his life. He told me he hated me and I was a freak of nature. I can’t even begin to tell you had badly my heart was broken. I thought I’d surely die without him. After all, who would ever love a freak like me? 

But I didn’t die. I owe so much of this to my two best friends from college. There were there for me every day. Every night. About six months after the marriage ended, I packed everything I owned and moved 5 hours away to that metropolitan area we had went to have the surgery. I was 24.
I also decided to get the dilators back out. I wanted to have sex. But, this time I wanted it for myself. I wanted to experience it. I wanted to eventually have a family. I wanted to be normal. The work with the dilators went slowly. I unsuccessfully tried to have sex with two guys I dated casually in the city. They both eventually stopped calling. I kept at it with the dilators, more determined than ever. I did kegels. I did meditation. I did everything. About a year after the divorce was final, I had sex for the first time. I had been dating a wonderful guy. I didn’t tell him I was a virgin but I did tell him sex was difficult for me sometimes. One night after several bottles of red wine and a lot of lube, it happened. 

In the two years since that first time, I’ve had sex on a regular basis. I fell in love with that guy and married him three and a half months ago. He loves me for me. It still hurts at the beginning of sex almost every time. We still have to use lube almost every time. But, I guess we are doing it right because I’m five months pregnant.

Most people are nervous about the labor and delivery of their baby. I am nervous about the exams. I still can’t get through a regular pap smear without freaking out. I am lucky in that I found a supportive OBGYN. I’m not sure how having vaginismus will affect my labor. I guess we will see. I guess you could say my story has a happy ending, but I don’t feel it’s over. Sex is still a struggle sometimes. All I know now is that I feel happy with where my life is now. I’m getting a master’s degree, I’m expecting a baby, I’m married to my best friend and I’m working on myself.

I want you to know that although I may have officially "overcame" vaginismus, it's still a struggle. It will probably always be a struggle. I want you to know if you're dealing with pain during sex that you're not alone. There are so many of us out there. I want you to know that even now as I submit this anonymously, I feel badly that I don't have the courage to attach my name.

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