Painful sex: Don’t be afraid to talk to your partner

Asian couple lying under the blanket holding hands on the bed.

For women struggling with conditions like vulvodynia, vaginismus, and other pelvic floor disorders, sex can be a sore subject. Women also face the sometimes daunting task of sharing these issues with their sexual partner. If you feel anxious or embarrassed bringing up painful sex to your partner, know that you are not alone. Research shows that about half of women don’t tell their partners when sex is painful. But not telling your partner can only make your condition worse.

Talking to Your Partner About Painful Sex

5 Tips for Talking to Your Partner About Painful Sex

Peer Shelby Hadden shares her tips in our Peer & Pro Tips series on talking to your partner about painful sex:

  1. Have conversations outside of the bedroom so you and your partner are in the right headspace to have the conversation.
  2. “I just want you to know that penetrative sex is out of my sexual practice right now” is Shelby’s favorite line for starting the conversation. Why? It indicates that pelvic floor dysfunction can be temporary and keeps the discussion open-ended.
  3. Many people define sex more broadly than just “penis in vagina penetration.”  Let your partner know about sexual practices you feel comfortable with or want to try.
  4. If someone rejects you for having this conversation, feeling, or makes you feel bad, this person doesn’t deserve to be with you.
  5. Never, ever “grin and bear it.”  Don’t just “get it over with.” Good sex is worth waiting for – and you are worth waiting for.

Understand Your Pelvic Pain Condition and Treatment Plan

Develop Confidence When Communicating With Your Partner

Pro Stephanie Prendergast recommends finding medical information about diagnoses and treatments to help women gain confidence in discussing their conditions with others. At Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center, Stephanie and her colleagues offer medical information about specific conditions experienced by their patients. This ensures the care and treatment is as personalized for their patients and partners. For example, individuals recovering from a yeast infection often experience tissue sensitivity, which can cause the pelvic muscles to stay tight well even after the infection has cleared. For these patients, she recommends pelvic floor physical therapy, including the use of dilators at home. By giving patients a clear understanding of their condition and treatment, these women feel more confident in communicating with their partners.

View the 3-minute video Peer & Pro Tips: How do I talk to my partner about penetration difficulties?

Bringing up painful sex or penetration difficulties can sometimes be a challenge. We hope these conversation tips will empower you to feel confident in communicating with your partner.

For more advice on ways to address painful sex with your partner, check out our guides and tutorials resource: Talking to your Partner. We also encourage you to connect to other helpful resources through our Instagram community.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions in these videos are of the individual speaking in each video and intended to give the viewer general educational content. These viewpoints should not be attributed to Materna Medical or its affiliates (Milli, Materna Prep, etc.).