A woman who wanted to wait until after she got married to lose her virginity found out she had a painful condition that made sex impossible.
Stephanie Muller, 23, grew up in a Christian household and wanted to save sex for her wedding night because she didn’t want to have sex with anyone that ‘wasn’t [her] husband’.
She met her husband Andrew, 31, in 2013 at their local church in New York, but the pair didn’t start dating until 2015. Two years into their relationship, in May 2017, they got married and planned to have sex on their honeymoon.
You can watch Stephanie talk about her journey below:
However, when they tried, penetration was too difficult and Stephanie got a yeast infection that made her feel very uncomfortable. The prescribed medications didn’t work and the infection lasted three months.
Initially, she put her painful experience down to the yeast infection and it wasn’t until she had her first pelvic exam she started to get worried, as the pain was so severe that she shook, screamed and cried.
She wasn’t prepared to give up though, and when she recovered from the infection she thought she would be able to have sex with her husband. This wasn’t the case, and she eventually told a gynaecologist about her problems in January 2018.
Stephanie, a social worker, was diagnosed with vaginismus, an involuntary contraction of muscles around the opening of the vagina that makes sexual intercourse – or any sexual activity involving penetration – painful or impossible.
The 23-year-old said:
It wasn’t until January 2018 that I voiced my concerns to my gynaecologist that she told me about vaginismus.
She told me about Women’s Therapy Centre, which is a treatment clinic on Long Island that cures vaginismus and told me that if I wasn’t able to go there, I could try to take Vicodin in order to have sex with my husband.
It felt like a pretty insensitive suggestion to just throw it out there, and I just remember crying the entire rest of the day.
Refusing to believe Vicodin – a medicine used to relieve moderate to severe pain – was the solution, the social worker decided to do some research on vaginismus and the ways it can be treated. It was then she discovered the use of pelvic floor therapy and bought a dilator set.
However, the 23-year-old said she ‘personally didn’t find them helpful’, saying her condition was only cured when she visited Women’s Therapy Centre in Plainview, New York.
Stephanie and Andrew went to their first consultation appointment in January 2019 and began treatment in March, with Stephanie saying she was healed and finished with treatment in May.
Ever since her diagnosis, the social worker has felt ashamed she wasn’t able to have sex with her husband, saying their lack of intimacy made her feel like she was living with a roommate.
My husband and I have talked about how vaginismus really desexualised our relationship; it was almost like living with a roommate. We would even be careful about other physical things because neither of us wanted to suggest trying to have sex, be disappointed, and the night ending in tears.
Around September 2018 we had a very honest conversation about the physical part of our relationship and how it was affecting us. We then made a decision to not give vaginismus so much power over us that we would hold us back from being playful, affectionate and physical.
The social worker says this has helped the couple begin to ‘emotionally, mentally and relationally heal’, as speaking about her condition with Andrew helps lessen the weight on her shoulders.
Having vaginismus is a heavy weight, and what largely makes it so difficult is the isolation and shame that comes with it.
I felt really embarrassed, broken, and like I couldn’t talk about it with anyone. Andrew and I felt like we lost this really big thing and we had to grieve it all alone.
She says Andrew has been ‘incredibly supportive’ throughout, reassuring her he loves her and he isn’t going anywhere, even if the vaginismus never heals. ‘He also drove me and was there with me for every appointment, even though he didn’t have to,’ she said.
Stephanie has since made it her mission to speak out about the condition to help other women going through a similar ordeal, as there is currently a ‘massive lack of awareness about vaginismus’, and ‘where there is lack of knowledge, there is fear’.
She now hopes to undertake public speaking engagements about vaginismus to reduce the stigma surrounding the condition by talking about it freely.
We wish Stephanie all the best with her journey.
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