Posted: April 12, 2022
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
I cannot tell you how many clients come into my office complaining about how painful sex is. They share with me how sex has caused burning, stinging, or sharp pain. These pains can be caused by a few different things. The pain could be radiating from the vulva, the vagina, or the pelvis. No matter where the pain is coming from, it tends to cause emotional pain in the lives of those who struggle. I well up in tears thinking about the emotional challenges and hardship my clients have endured because of pain during sex. These challenges range from emotional distress in their marriage to grief, shame, deep-seated loneliness, and intense anxiety.
In the next series of articles, I am going to pick apart the different feelings associated with pain during sex in hopes to help those who struggle. Hopefully, this can help pull back the curtain on what is going on inside of you emotionally.
The first emotional challenge we are going to explore that is caused by pain during sex is shame. Shame is one of the deepest emotions in tandem with sexual pain I hear during my sessions for both husbands and wives.
From the wife I hear phrases like:
Shame tells us that there is something wrong with us. That we are defective. That we should feel ashamed of who we are. Sexual pain can cause these feelings for the women struggling because they feel as though they should be able to do something that seems so natural. After all, this area seems so easy for their friends, who don’t talk about any issues with pain. Women who struggle with shame in this area will tend to:
For the husband, I hear phrases like:
Often times the husband is grappling with the idea they waited to have sex until marriage and now they cannot enjoy it. The husband feels sad and angered by the idea they cannot enjoy sex with their spouse without being met with immense shame and guilt. They love their wives and do not want to cause them pain. Oftentimes, men in this scenario do not know where to turn for help, so they do a few things:
Shame is known to be the second most powerful emotional aside from love. Brene Brown, a well-known researcher of shame states: “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” It can drive us to do some things we never knew we would be willing to do. I want to offer an alternative to those struggling in this area of their marriage.
Brene Brown whom is an avid researcher of shame says, “Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.” In order to kill the cat we must allow our shame to come into the light. We must discuss it. We must be vulnerable about it.
FIRST: BE VULNERABLE WITH YOURSELF.
You cannot begin to be vulnerable with others until first acknowledging what you are feeling to yourself. Often times when we feel shame we avoid it like the plague. We feel it we run to shopping or alcohol. We feel it we bury ourselves in work. Instead, take some time to identify what it is you are feeling and why. Take out a feeling wheel and write down what you are feeling and why. Being unpacking what is going on.
SECOND: BE VULNERABLE WITH OTHERS.
Often times, once we have identified what we are feeling, we can more easily communicate it in a way that can be known by others. Find someone who you know cares about you and that you feel safe with and attempt to share what you shared with yourself. Brown says, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” It is important we choose someone who will be safe for us because if we do not we will likely repeat the shame story in our heads. Brown states this, “If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.”
THIRD: BE VULNERABLE WITH A THERAPIST TRAINED TO HELP WITH SEXUAL ISSUES.
Not every therapist can be helpful to you when you are struggling with sexual pain. Research says that our clients will see a total from anywhere between 8-12 therapists before arriving with someone who knows how to be helpful with their sexual pain. Make sure you are working with someone who has experience navigating both the sexual issues and the emotional struggles that pain during sex brings up.
These are just three of the few things I would suggest for those struggling with the shame that comes from pain during sex.Back to top