Dating With Vaginismus Can Be Tricky, Here's How To Navigate It

If sex is on the cards, read these tips for discussing vaginismus first.
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Speaking about sex with a potential new partner can be a little intimidating, but it’s even trickier if you have a condition like vaginismus, which causes the vagina to tighten involuntarily.

This week, our reader, Lisa, asks how to discuss the topic when dating.

“I have started to experience vaginismus, which makes sex extremely painful and dating extremely awkward,” she says. “Why does this happen to some women and besides therapy to identify the root cause, what else can I do to make dating less awkward? How do I talk about this with a potential new partner?”

If you’re unfamiliar with vaginismus, it’s when the muscles around the vagina tighten when penetration is attempted. You don’t have control over it and it can lead to painful sex.

While it’s not fully understood why the condition happens, factors that can play a part in its development include: negative sexual experiences, relationship problems, damage to the vagina, painful first intercourse, and fear of pregnancy.

According to the NHS three common signs of vaginismus are:

  • Finding it hard to insert a tampon into your vagina

  • Struggling with vaginal penetration during sex

  • Feeling a burning or stinging during sex.

Registered counsellor and Counselling Directory member Jenny Warwick has this advice for Lisa: “Remember that you can still enjoy other forms of sexual contact or intimacy. Penetrative sex is just one way to be physically intimate with a partner. Physical intimacy is about touch, comfort, support and connection.”

Remembering this will help make dating a more positive experience.

How can we have difficult conversations around sex?

The hardest part is deciding to have the chat and actually starting it, says Warwick.

“As with any difficult conversation, it’s about timing. You decide when the time is right for you,” she says. “Think beforehand about what you want to say and to get across to the other person. You could note down the main gist of what you’d like to say in bullet points.”

Warwick recommends writing things down when they feel a bit tricky, because it helps get the thoughts out of your head.

“Remember that difficult conversations are hard to have but the benefits will outweigh the discomfort,” she says. “Think about how you’ll feel afterwards. Know that you are taking a positive step and that you’ll feel better just by speaking up.”

When should you speak to a new partner about this?

There isn’t a perfect time to speak to a new partner – or potential partner – about something as sensitive like this, but Warwick recommends taking the plunge before you’re ripping each other’s clothes off.

“It’s important to say things in your own time,” she adds. “When you feel ready, prepared and comfortable (and before it looks like you’re going to get intimate), having this chat with them might even help you feel closer which will, in turn, help with intimacy.”

Remember, the person you’re dating may not have heard of vaginismus, so be prepared to explain a little to help them understand.

“You’ll both have an opportunity to find out how each other feels and you’ll get to know each other a little better, which is always positive,” adds Warwick.

“Also, this won’t be one conversation but something for you both to continue communicating about. When you know you feel okay to have that initial conversation, you’re prepared for it and the timing and place feel safe and right for you.”

Love Stuck is for those who’ve hit a romantic wall, whether you’re single or have been coupled up for decades. With the help of trained sex and relationship therapists, HuffPost UK will help answer your dilemmas. Submit a question here.

Rebecca Zisser/HuffPost UK