A double edged sword. That’s what it is. Being a virgin prior to entering into a monogamous marriage as a woman with vulvodynia is a double edged sword.
On one hand, I hold fast to my religious tenants about sexuality and how intimacy is between me and my husband and us only. It brings me a huge sense of comfort, knowing that we are experiencing the effects of vaginal pain together. We laugh together, cry together, get frustrated with each other, seek counseling together, etc. But whatever we do, we do it together. It is a bonding experience, and I know our covenant of marriage is holding us together.
On the other edge of this sword, however, is massive emotional turmoil as I consider what it means for us to be going through this… stuck in a covenant of marriage.
For one thing I DIDN’T KNOW. Sure, I hated riding bikes and tampons kind of sucked… but I never knew that I had vulvodynia. My husband and I were both virgins prior to marriage and we never considered that we would have an atypical experience with intimacy. Sometimes I feel like a dead weight, drowning my husband in this mess of physical pain. I didn’t know what was wrong with me for years even after we got married, and in that time we struggled a lot. My husband needing intimacy, me flinching away from any physical touch out of PTSD from the pain I knew it would lead to, neither of us knowing what else to try. Even now (despite counseling and learning ways to be intimate without vaginal penetration) I feel like a failure of a wife. And I project that feeling of failure onto him. What husband wants to be shackled into a relationship like ours? I mean, maybe if I had known about vulvodynia before we got married, he could have decided to choose me. He could have chosen a life of conflicting emotions for himself. Instead, it was news to us both. And as hard and traumatic as it is for me… it is just as hard for him. And I caused that. MY BODY CAUSES THIS EMOTIONAL PAIN and I hate that. No matter how many times he reassures me, I eventually circle back to this point. And until I am cured… or figure this whole thing out it is a moot point.
- As I was writing this, I had the strong feeling that, though he didn’t knowingly choose a wife with vulvodynia before we got married– he does choose me. He chooses me every day. And for that I am grateful.
- Also- these feelings are rooted in my anxiety. It is important for me to recognize that. Since writing this post (yeah, yeah, it has taken a couple months for me to get the courage to actually post it) I have been able to develop a healthier identity as a wife with vulvodynia. I will write about it sometime. I promise.
And I AM NOT THE SAME. Trauma changes you. It changes how you react to things. So when I experienced the trauma that intercourse is for me, it changed me. It changed AJ. We have both had a mourning experience over what we always envisioned that oneness in marriage to look like. Though we didn’t give the… details… much thought, I am 100% sure that neither of us pictured me curled into the fetal position sobbing with pain. I am pretty sure neither of us pictured 5 ½ years of doctors and false hope and trying again only to end up in the same place. I am not the same cuddly girl begging “just one more kiss” from my fiance. We are not the same.
And we have both had to mourn her. The wife I thought I would be. The wife AJ thought he was marrying. I have developed anxiety and have had bouts of depression when things get really hard… and that is our reality. About 8 months after we were married, I came to a realization that I was depressed. I was sad all the time. I was stressed out. I never wanted to leave the house (and anyone who knows me can tell you I am an extrovert). Looking back on everything I realize now that a lot of it stemmed from thinking I was broken, not knowing I had vulvodynia. I wish I had gone to therapy. But I didn’t. We were younger and it didn’t even cross my mind to get professional help. One day I asked AJ if I was the woman he thought he was marrying. It was a very vulnerable and honest conversation. He expressed that I wasn’t. That I was sadder. He told me that he kept making excuses for me, “Oh- she is just stressed because she is in the busiest semester of her degree” or “Grace is just extra sad because her mom is sick.” Etc. That was one of the hardest conversations we have ever had. But I am so grateful that AJ was honest with me. I attributed it to the birth control. The pill had some pretty nasty depressive side effects with my mom and my sister in law, so I just assumed that if I stopped taking it then I would just jump right back to my happy-go-lucky self.
I was wrong.
Like I said, birth control was the scapegoat. The real problem was that I had vaginal pain. The real problem was the PTSD. The real problem was feeling hopeless… without realizing how hopeless I felt.
And in these bouts of depression I would mourn our reality. In a particularly low point last year, I was driving with my best friend and I just broke down crying. If I had married someone different, I would have been divorced a long time ago. And here is the double edged sword again. I am so grateful for AJ. He is so incredibly patient and understanding. He listens to me and loves me. I am so grateful for our marriage. But then I mourn for him. It’s not so much a “why me?” scenario… instead I think “why him?” Why does he have to be married to someone with anxiety and depression? He should be married to someone who doesn’t have all of this baggage… he should be married to the woman he thought he was marrying. Carefree, cuddly, flirtatious, vibrant… not me. Why should he have to be the one to cause me pain? That is so hard on him. It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair.
And that’s the truth… it isn’t fair. But it is our reality.
Gratefully, over time, we worked through it together. We are open and honest in our conversations. We went to therapy together and separately. I still go to therapy. Now I am taking medication for my anxiety. We are in a good place… and we have been for a while now. So as much as being virgins prior to entering a monogamous, covenant marriage with vulvodynia thrown in the mix is a double-edged sword… I am so grateful that we are together. It has made us stronger.