Managing Your Relationship
Whether you are newly diagnosed with a vulvar issue or have been suffering from discomfort or a condition for quite some time, it is important to realize that your medical condition has a direct impact on your relationship and its overall quality and health.
Relationships need constant attention and work so they flourish even during times of adversity. Couples often forget that their relationship is growing and changing as they grow older. As we age and gain experiences, our relationships also change with time. Sometimes we can take our life partner for granted and not give them the attention they need or deserve. At other times we fail to communicate effectively or are harsh with criticism when praise and support are needed. When facing the challenging medical issue of painful intercourse, it is important to address relationship considerations. Both partners need to communicate in an honest and accepting fashion, speak and listen with respect and understanding, and remain emotionally and spiritually connected.
Vulvar discomfort is a common problem that many women with vulvar conditions experience. Sexual health is a complex matter that involves both the medical and psychological aspects of the sexual response cycle. Medically, veins, arteries, and nerves coupled with hormones, neurotransmitters and even vitamins may all be important in the overall sexual response cycle. Women are not only ruled by anatomy and the pelvic organs, but other psychological aspects can directly and indirectly affect the sexual response too. Fatigue, stress and time management are also issues that must be addressed in order to achieve a satisfying sexual relationship. If you are suffering from a chronic medical condition, like vulvodynia or lichen sclerosus, maintaining a healthy sex life may be problematic and a constant challenge. There are some simple tips that can be tried to help improve your sex life. Important actions to consider include: redefining sexual activities and addressing activities of daily living such as diet, exercise, and stress and time management.
If you are experiencing physical vaginal pain and painful intercourse, it is important to share your experience with your partner. They may be feeling helpless or hopeless since they do not want you to suffer; some even tell of feelings of guilt. Try to continue the dialogue and discuss your feelings in an open and honest forum. Choose a quiet time when distractions are at a minimum. Sit close to each other and remember to make eye contact. It is difficult to have a serious conversation when the television or internet is playing in the background. Watch your tone of voice. Try not to get angry and don’t shout or raise your voice. Also, avoid getting into any type of debates. Try to see the issue from your partner’s point of view and speak from a place of concern for each other. If you get into an argument, be sure to leave other issues out of the conversation and never bring children into a disagreement. Be an active listener. Listen to not only what is said, but also how you are talking. Choose words carefully and consider your partner’s feelings.
Forgive and Forget
Sometimes when dealing with conflict, you and your partner may find that your argument cannot be resolved and it may be best to start over. Agree to disagree on the conflict and consider beginning fresh. Painful sex can cause conflict within the relationship. Partners are angry or feel unloved because of the refusal of sexual intimacy and may not fully understand the medical condition. Sometimes starting over may be the best solution.
Some couples start over by beginning to complete a memory box. This is a box that the couple fills with mementos, keepsakes, words, or phrases which remind themselves of special times in their relationship. Spending a quiet evening going through these memories is often helpful in enabling couples to refocus on the positive aspects of their lives together. This difficult time will most likely only be a fleeting memory once effective treatment is accomplished.
Share Realistic Expectations
Couples often have different thoughts and expectations concerning sexual frequency and may have dissimilar levels of sexual desire. It is important to have patience, compromise and set realistic expectations with respect to sexuality. If sexual penetration is not a viable option, consider alternate forms of sexual expression. Be yourself and focus on the positive aspects of your sensual relationship.