I've been dealing with vulvodynia for roughly 3 years now. It began while I was in a long-term relationship, which ended this November. I'm currently going to physical therapy for it which I believe is going to help immensely, and it really does seem likely that in a few months if I keep up with all my exercises and treatments that I will probably be able to have pain-free sex again (before this all started I was very happy with my sex life).
I have been dating since becoming single because I don't think this disorder is a reason not to, but I have to say it's causing me a LOT of stress. Most recently I went on a number of dates with a guy I was starting to like quite a bit, and the last time we hung out there was a lot of making out and it seemed like it could progress to something sexual and I just got very anxious and I think he could definitely sense that something was wrong (and I actually have been hearing from him a lot less since that last date, which is upsetting).
The main issues I'm having right now are a) when and how do I tell someone I am dating that I cannot have sex right now because of this (and really that there is no guarantee that I will be able to in any set time frame)? b) I haven't had sex in a VERY long time due to this and things with my last bf were practically platonic for over a year, so I feel like I have no sexual confidence anymore.
Going back into the dating scene after a long-term relationship is stressful enough and with this on top of it I just feel very anxious once I get past the first several dates and it hits a point where things typically get more physical (I think even without the vulvodynia too, I prefer to move a little slower than most people).
How do you feel about getting back into the dating scene in general? Do you feel that you are ready for that yet? After a break-up it's usually a good idea to take some time to yourself to process what happened, and to focus on your self and on self-care. It's been a few months since your break-up, so it sounds like that's what you've been doing so far and that's great! But some people want more time for this than others, so I just want to check in that you feel okay with the pace you are moving it.
I also ask this because it sounds like you're creating a lot of pressure for yourself around the topic of sex. And fretting about when and how to talk to your dates about your vulvodynia, and worrying about what it's like to be sexual again, isn't likely to feel very nice, or to help with your recovery.
I am not suggesting that you stop dating until you have a handle on your vulvodynia, but I do think it would help to try and put a little less pressure on yourself.
The first suggestion for that would be that you try and worry less about the future and what if's. Once you get around to sex again, you'll hopefully be sharing it with someone who respects you and cares about you, and you'll explore sex together.
Another thing that may help is if you reframe your reasons for not wanting to move so fast. You say yourself that you like to move at a slower pace regardless of your vulvodynia. So why not give your dates a heads up about that? That way, you don't need to talk about any medical conditions, but can instead focus on your own preferences, something that is more authentic to you and about you. And someone who reacts well to that conversation is probably also pretty likely to receive a conversation about vylvodnyia well further down the road.
-------------------- -joey Scarleteen Volunteer
"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand Posts: 8744 | From: Cologne, Germany | Registered: Sep 2005
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Thanks for your quick response! I definitely feel good about dating in general - this breakup was a VERY long time coming and I felt mostly relief with it and have been much happier and self-assured feeling ever since. I definitely AM, however, creating a lot of pressure around sex now, which I agree is not super helpful while trying to treat the vulvodynia. I think that because of the vulvodynia, sex is actually at the forefront of my mind much more so than it would be otherwise!
One thing that does make me anxious about dating in general IS having conversations about moving at a slower pace, because it isn't really something I've had to do before. My past relationships just kind of progressed pretty naturally and I was comfortable with everything, and then I was just in a relationship for 4 years - and to be honest, while I do like to move a little more slowly than most people I know, the vulvodynia will make me move WAY more slowly than the pace I would otherwise be comfortable with.
I did read the page on this site about having conversations about pacing/setting boundaries/etc. and if I were talking to a friend I already would give them all of that same advice, but with myself I still feel very anxious about it. Most of my close girlfriends have sex very quickly with new guys, or engage in casual sex outside of the context of a relationship, and while I understand that I do not have to be keeping up with anyone else and should only ever do what I am comfortable with, for some reason I still feel extremely awkward and even a little silly taking everything so seriously. And again, I would be the first person to tell a friend that they should NOT feel silly about it and that they should take their feelings about it seriously, but like I said I'm having trouble applying that to myself.
I'm just heading off for the day, so only tossing something out there as an idea to potentially think about, rather than addressing this more fully at the moment.
But I think something to bear in mind is that when we and others feel sexual tension or chemistry anticipation can be a GLORIOUS thing. Drawing things out, even if we were to ONLY do so because it's fun and really amps up the excitement, can seriously rock, and make some kinds of touch that might otherwise be less thrilling pretty massively exciting. Heck, this is probably one of the best parts of long-distance relationships, for instance.
Obviously, that could also serve another purpose for you, here.
So, in thinking about a situation this, I think it can be helpful to think about approaches to it not just as awkward or sucky or meaning less pleasure or excitement, but to think creatively and recognize there can be ways of going about this that are not only just as exciting, but might have you try going about things in a way you wouldn't have otherwise where you and others could wind up finding out about things that take care of you and your body well, but also are anything BUT a buzzkill. Know what I mean?
-------------------- Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen About Me • Get our book! Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead Posts: 65647 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000
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Thanks for your response - that is a really good way to think about things! I think it would definitely be helpful to kind of re-frame the situation in my mind like you are suggesting. I started dating again to have fun and meet new people and I kind of lost sight of that by getting myself stressed out about the vulvodynia. I think it will be really good to look at things in a different light..
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