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My W was diagnosed with vulvodynia a few years ago. Like any chronic condition it needs to be managed. Four really bad things took this condition from mild to severe.
- She did not consistently avoid jeans/other snug pants
- We did not consistently do the “super slow” penetration at the start of intercourse
- We did not consistently use lubricants because she dislikes standard gel based lubricants because they feel “icky”. It was only recently that we found that olive oil is a great lubricant and is not "icky"
- I would ask at the start of intercourse whether it hurt, and typically it didn’t. But it would start to hurt as we went along and she would not tell me so the last few minutes of sex often really hurt her. This created a bad feedback loop causing her to be anxious about sex and tense when we had sex making the whole thing worse.

She had seen her ob/gyn a couple times but didn’t over the prior year but for some reason that doctor had no suggestions for her other than use a standard lubricant.

I own my share of this. She didn’t want to tell me mid-connection that it hurt, because she was afraid I would react badly. It doesn’t matter that she was wrong about that, it only matters that she believed it strongly enough not to tell me.

By January of this year when she visited a specialist her condition had gotten to the point where pain had caused us to stop having sex. And she sometimes had pain just walking around during the day. The specialist did a "q tip" test and told her that 75% of the "contact" area for intercourse was hyper-sensitive. And that some of the outer area was also sensitized mainly by the friction caused by tight clothing.

This specialist was great. He gave her:
1. topical gabapentin for twice daily use
2. lidocaine when needed
3. A MASSIVE CTJ conversation about wearing loose shorts, or skirts and dresses. Told her jeans and snug pants were a no no, and she should give away what she had to charity. I had told her this before, but every once in a while she would wear tight pants a few days in a row.
4. A set of 5 dilators

She did dilator 1, then 2 and then jumped straight to 5 in February. Patience has never been a strength for her. Jumping to 5 was a big set back, hurt a lot and so and she stopped with the dilators. In March, we had one conversation on this topic which she initiated while I was on a business trip. She broke down and told me I should leave her because she was “broken” and could no longer provide me with a “normal” sex life. Told me that she knew I couldn’t be happy without sex. I told her that:
- Bill Clinton is the only adult in the free world who’s definition of “sex” is limited to intercourse.
- I was perfectly fine with our alternative sex life.
- She wasn’t getting rid of me that easily
- From what I read about vulvodynia I felt we were both lucky that it was not causing her pain during “day to day” life.
The gabapentin is great stuff and it really made a difference. And she completely stopped wearing tight bottoms of any kind. And every time she apologized for our limited sex life I responded in the same way:
- We are both very lucky this condition is not disrupting basic “day to day” life and is no longer causing her pain outside the context of intercourse. I love that we can play hours of tennis and she has no pain.
- She makes an effort for us to maintain a frequent non-intercourse based sex life
- I miss having “sex” too but have no desire to have painful (for her) sex
- I accepted that part (intercourse) of life was over (because I really thought it was)

Without telling me she made a follow up appointment for early last week. He did the q-tip test and told her to forget the dilators, to go home and have sex with me. He was very specific:
- 10 minutes before showtime, put in the lidocaine
- Use lots of olive oil (extra virgin)
- She was to start out on top and stay on top, go very slow on entry
- Relax, it isn’t going to hurt and you will be glad you listened to me

Tuesday night I called in from my business trip and she told me I was going to get a surprise this weekend. She didn’t mention her doctors appointment. I had no idea what was coming.

Friday night I came home and she told me we were going to have sex - doctors orders. I told her that I would do my bit for God and Country provided she immediately told me if it hurt. And that if she did not do that, I was going to hide her Ipad somewhere that she couldn’t find it. She promised.

We started to play and after a while I could feel her beginning to radiate anxiety. Doctor or no doctor she has developed an association between sex and pain. I told her we could just play and skip the sex. I meant it and she could tell. She asked me “how does it help to put this off until tomorrow? It has been 9 months, we need to try”. I repeated that we could wait. She started kissing me, and I felt her relax, and start getting more and more turned on (yeah). She had an O, and after that we connected and she said it felt nice and didn’t hurt at all (lidocaine works). More important it didn’t hurt when the lidocaine wore off. Saturday night was a repeat performance. And again today.

Just as good, Friday night she WANTED me, and had an O. Saturday she wanted to keep the momentum. And today she Monday she wanted to again and had another O.

I learned a few things on Saturday. It took the doctor being super blunt about clothing to get her to give up slacks. I had always wondered why she was so resistant on that point when it so clearly contributed to the problem. She has always had this “tomboy lite” thing. Dresses and skirts were for church and other “non-casual” social events like dinner parties. Pants and shorts were for all other situations. She loves blue jeans and looks great in them. This is a hardwired preference. She is always groomed very nicely and has a neat/put together look, just in a tomboyish way. So she resisted making this change until January when the Doc told her she had to. Saturday she told me that she finally accepted it and hasn’t worn pants since.
 

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lidocaine?! Holy heavy-artillery batman!

I guess now we know who 'wears the pants' in the family. ;)

kidding aside - glad its starting to resolve for you. Congrats. This all shows you are both very dedicated to the relationship. Good for you.
 

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I think the doc wanted to remove any possibility of pain from the equation, hence the lidocaine.

I am hoping after a few weeks of success that she will be able to skip the lidocaine completely. It seems likely since there was no pain after it wore off these first three times.
 

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I learned a few things on Saturday. It took the doctor being super blunt about clothing to get her to give up slacks. I had always wondered why she was so resistant on that point when it so clearly contributed to the problem. She has always had this “tomboy lite” thing. Dresses and skirts were for church and other “non-casual” social events like dinner parties. Pants and shorts were for all other situations. She loves blue jeans and looks great in them. This is a hardwired preference. She is always groomed very nicely and has a neat/put together look, just in a tomboyish way. So she resisted making this change until January when the Doc told her she had to. Saturday she told me that she finally accepted it and hasn’t worn pants since.
Aw, poor girl probably feels most comfortable in pants. I can understand - I'd be upset if I had to give up my yoga pants. I live in those at home, in the car on long trips, hiking, everything, because I feel so comfortable in them.

I'd suggest she try a store like Athleta. It's mostly light athletic wear (yoga, running, biking, swimming, gym), but they have some pretty dresses and skirts that are extremely comfortable. I live in those when I'm not wearing yoga pants.

Sounds like you and your wife are doing great. Keep up the good OOO's! :)
 

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T,
She really is. I thanked her on Saturday for not pretending with me these last nine months. During that time she came to bed with a desire to please but didn't pretend to be turned on when she wasn't turned on. And most of the time she really wasn't very turned on.

She just looked at me like I had lost my mind and asked, 'why would I have done that?'
 

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T,
That is really kind of you. Mostly the last year has been very good. We had a couple "moments" that were painful. We worked through them.

There was one thing that I consciously chose to do which seemed like a good idea. I have no idea whether or not it worked because to know that I would need a time machine and go back in time and "not" do it, and compare results :). And this is one of those things that I would never ask, because the asking defeats the purpose.

I traveled 4 days a week almost every week during the last year plus. And when I returned home late Friday night, I almost never initiated. I wanted her to associate me coming home with us being "together", not with me walking in the door and wanting sex within an hour or two. Most of the time she made it clear she was "willing", but willing is not the same as wanting. So Friday night was a fun hang out/play tennis - yep lots of 10 PM to midnight tennis games at the nearby court. Winters aren't cold here so we play all year round.

Anyway that was a "choice" which I gladly made. To her credit, she always made an effort to make sure we connected Saturday and my "last night" home for the week, whether that was Sunday or Monday. So I guess I put her first "coming", and she put me first "going".



Commitment to one another, fallible yet always willing to work on it, in love even when having internal troubles and dealing with life's changes, vulnerable and making mistakes but having the intelligence and emotional capacity to bounce back, always longing to please your partner yet honest enough not to pretend it comes naturally...

Seriously? Nothing more beautiful to me than this and that's a huge compliment to both of you.

There should be more relationships like yours. I do wish your wife would come talk to the ladies of the board (and the men). She seems like someone the boards could use advice/commentary from. She seems sincere and loyal. Love that.
 

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Thanks Conrad. I think hers was heavier, but I have never claimed to be the "stronger" partner.

I will say this: the gabapentin works. I really made a difference. And I truly do not think this was a placebo effect.

Definitely a case of better living through pharmaceuticals...


Congrats brother.

Both of you carried your crosses with class.
 

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Me too Lyris. But honestly, when I went on this vulvodynia blog, it was eye opening and rather scary. When it gets out of control, and just basic walking/mobility causes pain, it really disrupts peoples lives. It can be a really crushing thing.

Add to that, when people have a limited/not good marriage and/or not good sex life, this condition often kills their sex life and has a terrible ripple effect on their marriage.

Friday night was great. And then Saturday night was great. Afterwards, on Saturday my W was a little anxious. She said how happy she was that we had two great sessions in a row. And that she hoped that would continue.

And then she added that she was worried, that her condition might flare up again and then we would be back to where we were. So I asked her if she thought I had ever seemed "upset with her" about us not having "intercourse". And she said no, that I had been incredibly patient. So I said, I wasn't being "patient", because I wasn't "waiting" for anything to happen. You have a chronic pain condition. The gabapentin seems to work well for about 60% of the folks using it. Not for the others. I wasn't patient, I was accepting. I really thought that part of our life was "finished". And then I said "But I wasn't mad about it, because in our first 22 years - in here - waved arm around bedroom - you had already loved me enough for a lifetime".

I am really really really glad to read this.
 

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Conrad,
I will say that without a doubt, the oddest thing about this entire situation was what didn't happen. At the point she told me that she had stopped using the dilators because she had jumped from 2 to 5 and that it had 'hurt', I just briefly asked why she did that. And then I dropped it. That was months ago. But what didn't happen is - my German logic circuitry didn't go into some intense analytical loop of: Why did you do that? That was really dumb. You are impacting BOTH of us when you do something like that.

I just thought: Well, she is making the effort to connect with me a couple three times a week. She is being very nice/loving about it despite a lack of desire. I don't know why she did that thing with the dilators and I likely won't ever know for sure. I imagined that me berating her and/or pressuring her to resume using the dilators, starting with number 1, was going to add to her anxiety. I kind of looked at it as a lite version of impotence. The female kind. Seemed like the more I focused on it, the more difficult for her to get past it. So I just ignored it.






It's good to know my belief is not (entirely) misplaced;)
 
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