What to Do if Sex Hurts While in Isolation With a Partner
by Allison Danish, MPH
Intimacy can be a great way to get out of your head, especially when things feel uncertain and spooky (like they do right now). But when sex doesn't always feel great, being stuck inside with a partner & told that everyone is having more sex than ever can be... well, a challenge.Ohnut spoke to certified sex therapist Heather Davidson of Better Being Main Line for some advice about what to do in this unique situation if sex is challenging or painful:
1. Know your partner’s stress response
"Some people turn towards sex when they are stressed, while others turn away. It would be helpful to know how you and your partner respond to stress. Many couples respond differently (one partner turns towards sex under stress, and the other turns away) which can create a conflict. Be patient with each other as most people feel like they are under a constant state of stress and anxiety right now. This will not last forever."
2. Stress & anxiety can cause flare-ups
"Be gentle with yourself. Stress & anxiety cause inflammation and muscle tension, so those with a pelvic floor disorder are likely to notice a flare-up in symptoms. Increasing self-care (going on walks while social distancing, talking with friends, listening to comedy, taking a bath) and doing PT exercises at home will help manage symptoms."
3. Maintain some kind of physical intimacy
"Even if you cannot get yourself in the headspace to have sex (whether penetrative or outercourse), make sure to find time and space to connect in some way physically. Take a bath or shower together. Cuddle in bed or on the sofa. Exchange massages."
4. Don’t mind read
"Neither you or your partner have ever been, or will ever be a mind-reader. Tell your partner what you need, make sure to ask them what they need. Because none of us have been through a quarantine it is hard to know what we may need! Also, what you need a few days into quarantine is likely going to be different at week 6. Checking in with each other's needs will reduce conflict which will increase the likelihood of being able to sexually connect."
5. The news is the ultimate libido killer
"Stay away from the news if you want to get in the mood to sexually connect! The instant way to a panic attack, to kill your sexual desire, and tighten up your pelvic floor is to turn on the news. While we all need to stay informed, we do not need to stay informed 24/7."
6. Try an afternoon delight
"Since we are all stuck at home, take advantage of the morning or afternoon as more opportune times to sexually connect. Many women* with sexual pain notice their symptoms get worse as the day goes on (sometimes due to stress, long work days, sitting too much, exhaustion, etc.) so make an effort to connect earlier in the day."
But overall... just remember that there's no "normal" you should expect from yourself or your partner—government-mandated social isolation or not! Everybody (and every body) is different. So, take it one day at a time, be kind, and stay safe out there. :)
*Not everyone who is a woman has a uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, a vulva, or a vagina. Not everyone who has a uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, a vulva, or a vagina is a woman.