Leandie Buys Realtionship Therapist & Clinical Sexologist

A woman’s real-life struggle with pain during intercourse

This is the story of how one of my clients struggled with vaginismus, how she worked through the pain and reconnected with her husband:

My husband and I are high school sweethearts and have been together for 17 years, but only married for five of those years.

I come from a very strict Christian family where sex before marriage is frowned upon and a definite sin. My husband is a wonderful man who always respected my beliefs and decided that he would respect my wishes and wait until we were married to have sex for the first time. I loved him even more for that. How many men in today’s day and age are still willing to wait for marriage to have sex? Neither of us had been sexually active and were both virgins when we met.

Sex really frightened me

The thought of sex really frightened me, as my mother had told me such horror stories about the pain of the first time. I was, however, of the opinion that when the time came, it would be a wonderful experience for the both of us, especially since we had waited to be married first.

The day of the wedding arrived and we were both very nervous, but excited. The wedding was wonderful and the day was perfect up until the time came for us to actually have sex. Our wedding night was horrible and I don’t think I have ever felt like such a failure. What was supposed to be something so special had turned into a real disaster and I cried myself to sleep that night. I had failed my husband. It was so painful and uncomfortable.

I knew it would hurt but no one had ever prepared me for this

The next day I shared what had happened with my sister and brother and they assured me it was only because it was my first time and that things would get better.

We ended up going to a sex shop to buy things which would hopefully improve the experience. We tried for a second time and it was no better. How could something that people all over the world do every day and should come so naturally, be so difficult? I was disappointed in myself and the situation and don’t think I have ever felt so alone. I chalked it up to inexperience and put my trust in the fact that with time and more practise things would get better.

But they didn’t. My husband and I had no problem with oral sex and both of us enjoyed this tremendously, but as soon as penetration was involved, I would tense up and try to avoid it at all costs.

My husband was very patient and never pressured me

There is however only so much rejection you can take, and I could see how I was hurting him, but didn’t know how to fix it. The situation was tearing us apart and I felt so alone and didn’t want to discuss this with other people, as everyone else seemed to be having fantastic sex without any problems.

It is hard when the love and trust is there, but the sex is non-existent. Sex is after all what cements a marriage together and slowly but surely the cracks started to set in our marriage.

Many times our relationship got to a really bad place and we would talk and I would try to fix the situation by having more oral sex and trying penetrative sex for a while. Oral sex is wonderful, but I really wanted to experience the wonder of sex with my husband in the way that God had intended.

We went for marriage counselling for a short while, but our real problem wasn’t being sorted out

As a woman I felt like such a failure. I so badly wanted to satisfy my husband and show him how attracted I was to him, but just couldn’t overcome my fear of the pain.

My husband got more and more distant and started to work really long hours. We didn’t talk anymore and suddenly he was not interested in anything sexual anymore. I started to become very insecure and jealous, questioning him tirelessly, fearing that he had found someone else.

The isolation was terrible and my heart was broken

How could I have hurt the one person in my life that meant everything to me so badly and deeply. He has always been my best friend and loved me regardless of all my faults. He had left our marriage, mind, body and soul and it killed me.

I cried every day and the loneliness and distance between us grew. I was alone and had no one to talk to and was too embarrassed and afraid that people would realise what a failure I was. I had to do something to save my marriage -that is, if there was still anything left to save. I was determined, and was not prepared to let the best thing that had ever happened in my life, just to walk away without a fight. This was going to be the fight of my life and something had to be done quickly.

Seeking help

I had seen Leandie’s practise in driving down Cape Road many times and had wanted to go in, but just didn’t have the courage, but I was fighting for my marriage here.

I contacted her via email and arranged my first appointment. The first meeting was scary as I didn’t know what to expect, especially as I had tried this before and it hadn’t worked at the last place I had gone to. The first meeting was very informative and finally I had a name for the condition I had – Vaginismus. I was not the only one. I don’t think I have ever felt such relief.

There were others like me and I suddenly felt the tiniest glimmer of hope

The next step was to get my husband to a session with me and I knew that was going to be difficult.

He actually agreed and we had our first session with Leandie. Leandie is the type of person who makes you feel comfortable from the moment you meet her and she is very straight and to the point. She never throws medical jargon at you, but rather explains things in terms that we could understand.

The appointments at her office were crucial and often we felt safe there and could bring up topics that we were too afraid to discuss at home. Leandie is very insightful and definitely gave us a fresh perspective to every situation and she always gave very helpful advice on how to deal with difficult situations.

It was painful and there were a lot of tears, as we had both hidden so much pain and frustration and facing the truth is never easy.

I was so fearful after hearing how my husband felt that our marriage was over

We got a lot of homework and DVDs to watch and I was introduced to dilators. What a daunting task. Here I couldn’t even manage sex with my husband and now I had to insert dilators. It really frightened me, but the first try was actually not as bad as I thought it would be.

It felt really strange doing the exercises every night, but I was determined to overcome my fear and was more determined than ever to save my marriage.

My husband did all the homework which was a positive sign, but his heart was still very guarded and cold towards me. There were many days during the next few weeks that I felt so hopeless and alone, but my determination and the love I have for him got me through.

One day at a time

The next step was to see Deidre Steyn, the physio and this was nerve wracking as I really didn’t know what to expect. The first session consisted of a question and answer session, which included some homework that I had to do for our next session.

I was also told that the next session would include a bit of internal work which really scared me. I wouldn’t even allow my husband to use fingers to penetrate me and now I had to bear all to a total stranger! It was a difficult week that followed and I was a nervous wreck by the time I had my next session.

I just had to keep telling myself over and over again that this was going to help me and my marriage and that is what pulled me through.

Deidre just has a way of putting you at ease straight away and never does anything to make you feel uncomfortable. After our first internal examination, I actually was relieved as I now knew what to expect next time. It was a bit embarrassing, but Deidre’s constant reassurance and concern put me at ease. She is always so mindful and considerate of your feelings and the situation.

Improvements week by week

Every week when I went to Deidre she could see a remarkable improvement from the previous visit and this definitely built my confidence.

Leandie and Deidre praised me with my progress and I felt like I could suddenly take on the world. My confidence levels were better and things were slowly improving on the home front. Myself and hubby watched informative DVDs together about reconnecting and getting to know our bodies.

We felt silly on many occasions with the sensual touching etc, but it does get easier and definitely helps. The exercises and dilators definitely help, but you have to do it as often as possible. The physio and dilators were starting to work, as my husband could now insert a finger without me even realising or tensing up.

Lots of homework and diligence

The counselling with Leandie consists of a lot of homework, but it works! However, you have to diligently complete the questionnaires and put everything in to truly see results. Leandie also helps to give an objective point of view and helps you to understand things that you might not have because you are so close to the situation.

Only you can make the difference and you need to dedicate yourself to give 100% to the homework, exercises and dilator treatment.

The next step was using a vibrator which was purchased with my husband’s dimensions in mind, so that at the end of the day we could have intercourse without the discomfort and pain. I practised with the vibrator as often as possible.

The final step was to go away for a weekend and have the honeymoon we never had

I was very nervous about this and so afraid that it would be the same as the first time and I think my husband was filled with the same fear. It put quite a bit of pressure on us as we knew why we were planning the weekend and what the end goal was.

I must admit that it was definitely worth all the counselling and physio sessions, as the end result was such a pleasurable experience. I could actually concentrate on the enjoyment of sex with my husband, as there was no discomfort or pain at all. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how well all the physio, dilator and vibrator exercises had worked.

There is still a long way to go, but what lies ahead is the pleasure and joy of sex with my husband and being able to fulfil him completely the way I have always wanted to. I look forward to many years of enjoyable and exciting sex sessions and trying out new positions and exploring each others bodies the way it was intended.

Not an easy road to travel

The road I travelled was not an easy one and there are many times that I felt so alone and helpless, but I am glad I worked through the low times and never gave up.

I always kept in mind that there are many other woman like me and that there is help that can rectify the situation. Nothing in life is ever easy and takes a lot of hard work, but finally I am standing at the threshold of a brand new marriage that will only get stronger as we grow closer together again.