Painful Sex - Managing & How to Improve Your Sex Life

Painful SEX

how to improve your sex life

Many women and their partners who are experiencing sexual pain feel isolated and alone. Sexual frequency decreases and intercourse is often avoided. Avoidance leads to emotional distance which in turn leads to further loss of sensuality and a further decline in sexuality. This cycle can be broken with some simple techniques to help empower a woman and her partner to maintain a healthy sex life, even with a chronic vulvar, or vaginal condition.

Get Diagnosed

Often, women feel isolated when it comes to painful sex. They may have sought care from multiple health care professionals who were ill trained or ill equipped to address their sexual health concerns. Sometimes health care professionals may be dismissive about sexuality because they are uncomfortable addressing these personal concerns. Financial concerns may affect the couple as health care bills often pile up.  In addition, work obligations may be compromised as women need time off of work for medical appointments. Partners are often frustrated at the time consuming nature of the disorder, not fully understanding the issues surrounding the disorders. Obtaining a correct diagnosis from a specialist is often the first and important step for overall care. Once you have a diagnosis you can work together with your partner and health care professional to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. Putting this treatment plan into action is very empowering for a woman and her partner. They feel relieved that they are on the path to recovery and not floundering in a void where they are feeling isolated and alone. It is important to do your homework and seek out well trained health care professionals who have experience dealing with your condition. Do not be afraid to ask detailed questions and remember that a second opinion may be warranted. Do not allow your concerns to be dismissed. Ask questions and get answers!

Connect before you undress: Communication

Communication between couples can often break down when sexual pain invades the relationship. Some basic communication skills are often forgotten - it’s not uncommon to see couples who have had excellent communication experience distance and emotional disconnect. It is important to voice your concerns in a non judgmental, non hostile fashion. Men may feel rejected when their sexual advances are ignored or dismissed. Be open and honest with your partner about the sexual pain you are experiencing. Set-up a regular time to discuss your concerns when uninterrupted time is available. Avoid the distractions of television, radio, cell phone or other technology and talk face-to-face. Express yourself with love and compassion while addressing your concerns.Try not to raise your voice and remember that you both are committed to solving the problem of sexual pain. Do not place blame, but be accepting and be an active listener.  Help your partner understand that it is not a personal rejection but rather a medical condition that is preventing sexual intercourse. Sometimes even breaking the silence and beginning the discussion about sexual pain is treatment itself.

Get Fit

There is emerging data to support the notion that men and women who are physically active improve fatigue and stress issues which may improve sexual intimacy. Seek physical exercise that both you and your partner enjoy and can do together. Try a new sport. What about salsa or ballroom dancing? Go back to the gym and work out together. Try tennis or even go on a nature hike together. It will improve cardiovascular health, address weight issues and help you reconnect with your partner. We tend to be a fatigued society with most of us not sleeping enough hours in the night. Sleep is critical to help recharge your battery and those who fail to sleep will often feel excessive fatigue throughout the day. If you’re exhausted, sex is often the last thing on your mind. Fatigue is also another issue that can affect and cause sexual tension. Make certain you are sleeping well, avoid excessive alcohol use, and maintain excellent hydration by drinking a lot of water!  We all face stress on a daily basis: the yelling boss, the washing machine overflowing, the teens misbehaving in school, and financial pressures all can impact our mood. Learning effective stress management techniques can be helpful to keep your mood uplifted when faced with life’s challenges. Some techniques include mindfulness training, exercise, meditation and visualization. Addressing fatigue, diet and stress while maintaining an active exercise plan can help you reconnect with your partner and may help you reunite on an emotional and sensual level.

Simple Solutions

There are often simple solutions to help minimize sexual pain and painful intercourse. If arousal is a concern, you may consider using a non-hormonal over-the-counter sexual arousal product like Zestra® or Escalate®. If dryness is a concern,consider using vaginal moisturizers that can help hydrate and revive the vaginal tissues. Be certain to read labels. It may be wise to avoid products with additives like warming, flavors or colors as they may irritate a dry and sensitive vagina.  If the vaginal opening is feeling excessively tight, you may consider using progressive dilators to help stretch this tissue. Many sexual medicine specialists have formalized dilator programs where you can work with your health care professional to overcome this vaginal tightness problem. Sometimes sex is very painful in a particular position so an easy solution could be to avoid some positions and use other ones which are less painful. Some women find missionary position (man on top) particularly painful as this position facilitates deep penetration. Alternative sexual positioning such as side to side or female superior may be enough of a change that sex is no longer painful. Try to experiment with different sexual positions. There are many books available on-line or at your local books store which can help with sexual positions. Many couples prefer The Joy of Sex, by Alex Comfort.

Redefine Sex

Most couples think of sex as vaginal penile intercourse. However, vaginal penetration may not be feasible sometimes. A return to foreplay or incorporating “outer course” activities may be helpful in maintaining sexual intimacy and excitement. Oral sex, manual and digital stimulation can be very erotic and sexually satisfying. Explore other areas besides the vagina and vulvar and try to discover some erogenous zones you have been previously neglected. The nipples, underarms, face, eyes and lips can be sensuous.  Discuss your sexual script (what you actually do with your partner during sexual activities) with your partner. Try to shift the focus from sexual goals of intra-vaginal penetration with ejaculation to one of sexual pleasure and satisfaction.

Sexual Exploration

When faced with pain during sex, redefining sex is important. Since many couples face sexual boredom when they have been intimate with the same partner for many years, experimenting with a variety of new positions and sexual activities will help with that too. Not only does it change sexual hormones, but it increases the bond between couples. Even if sex is too painful try a sensual bath together or a sensual massage surrounded by aromatic scented candles in mood lighting. New sexual adventures can also be exciting; try costumes or sexual accessories like self stimulators, enhancers or even role playing.

Most enjoy sexual activity during a vacation where the scenery is different, so consider trying a “staycation.” Bring vacation sexual encounters home, by trying intimacy in another room other than the master bedroom or intimacy with your clothes on. Change your routine from morning to night or meet at home mid-day for a short and quick sensual rendezvous! Using your imagination is all you really need to help spice up a ho-hum boring sex life!

Get Professional Help

Sometimes sexual communication does break down and many couples feel despair because they see themselves drifting further and further apart. It is important to know that there are sexual healthcare professionals who are specifically trained and certified to address relationship concerns when it pertains to sexual problems.  Do not be afraid, embarrassed or feel isolated that you are alone.  Seeking professional help is not a failure but may be the first step to success and sexual recovery.  Some important resources to find qualified sexual counselors and therapists include:  The International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (, The American Association of Sexual Educators, Counselors and Therapist ( and The International Society for Sexual Medicine (   

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