What Should You Do If Your Partner Suffers from Vaginismus?
Nandini Bhatia

Nandini Bhatia

Mar 11Vaginismus

What Should You Do If Your Partner Suffers from Vaginismus?

What is Vaginismus?

Vaginismus involves recurrent or persistent involuntary spasms of the vagina’s outer muscles, preventing the penetration of any object (penis, finger, tampon, menstrual cup, gynaecologist’s speculum etc.), despite the person's definite desire to do so. It is understood as the body’s protective response that causes an involuntary contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, causing the entrance of the vagina to close. It is an uncontrollable response generally rooted in fear. It does not necessarily affect one’s ability to get aroused or enjoy other types of sexual contact. 

If you have a partner with vaginismus, it is important to note that these contractions are completely out of her control and they could be experiencing high levels of disturbance as it can have a profound impact on how one feels about themself and their relationship. The adverse impact on the partner often goes unacknowledged but needs to be discussed.  

There are two types of vaginismus - primary and secondary.

It is primary vaginismus if it’s a lifelong condition i.e. if the individual has never been able to have penetration of any kind, despite desiring so. This is often discovered during one’s first attempt at penetrative sex, inserting a tampon, or the first time a pelvic examination is attempted by a doctor.


It is secondary vaginismus if painless intercourse has been experienced in the past but the individual is no longer able to have it. This can be triggered by particularly stressful life events, emotional distance created by marital conflicts, childbirth trauma and injuries, or health conditions such as pelvic inflammatory diseases, infections, endometriosis etc. 


What are the factors that contribute to your partner’s vaginismus?

The factors that contribute to vaginismus are understood to lie on a spectrum and are understood as a combination of physical to psychological, influenced by relationships and one’s cultural context. Different blends of these factors will contribute to it in unique ways to each set of partners experiencing vaginismus. Some of these factors include: 

  • Beliefs around penetrative sex being painful or underlying fears about tissue damage or the hymen being torn, due to misinformation about the body and acts of sex
  • Beliefs around sex and masturbation being shameful or wrong including overly restrictive upbringing (in which sexuality was considered a taboo subject), repressive religious teaching resulting in unhealthy or sex negative messages, and inadequate sex education,
  • Negative beliefs around sexual organs including the vagina being too small or having a penis aversion
  • Excessive fears around negative consequences of sex including painful childbirth, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases etc. 
  • Experiences of pain around genitals including painful periods, vaginal injuries or surgeries 
  • Painful first sexual experiences 
  • Traumatic events including past emotional, physical and sexual abuse or being a witness of violence or abuse, or exposure to unsafe touch experiences, or excessive exposure to stories of sexual assault 
  • Having a general anxiety disorder that is characterised by hyper-vigilance, catastrophic thinking and an excessive need for control as well as development of perfectionism
  • Relationship dynamics, particularly a lack of emotional safety with one’s partner (due to mistrust, lack of commitment or emotional detachment) which could create anxiety about being vulnerable.

For those with vaginismus, it is often a combination of multiple aforementioned factors that contributes to their condition and in maintaining vaginismus. Oftentimes, these excessive fears or negative beliefs originate from a lack of information or misinformation about the body, genitals and acts of sex. Beliefs around sex, sexuality, sexual organs, relationships etc. are often shaped by the socio-cultural contexts one is raised in, and are often at loggerheads with one’s natural, biological sexual needs. With a trained professional and through targeted interventions and education, one can learn to identify which of these causes are contributing to their experience of vaginismus and gain insight into changing them and/or healing from traumatic past experiences. 


How does vaginismus impact your partner physically and emotionally?

Physically, for both partners, vaginismus is experienced in the following ways: 

  • Feeling like there is a “wall” or a “block” down there, blocking anything from penetrating. This is due to the involuntary contraction of the vaginal muscles at the time of penetration.
  • For the partner with vaginismus, pain or impossibility in vaginal penetration during sexual intercourse or insertion of fingers.
  • For the partner with vaginismus, an experience of fear and anxiety about penetration, which can make them clench their thighs, recoil back, push their partner away or block their partner from trying penetration or any other sexual activity. 

Vaginismus is not anything to be ashamed of and is no one’s fault. However, it can still often interfere with the quality of life and relationships of your partner with vaginismus. The mental, emotional, and relational impact of vaginismus is given below:

  • Your partner may be experiencing self-doubt, shame, guilt and low self-esteem. 
  • There may be feelings of inadequacy or deficiency experienced by the women and those whose partners have vaginismus.
  • There can an experienced loss of womanhood or inability to meet gender roles 
  • Your partner with vaginismus and you could be experiencing a loss of connection
  • Additionally, you could also be experiencing a loss of control over an important aspect of your relationship. 
  • Both partners could be questioning their level of sexual attraction.
  • The partner with vaginismus could also be feeling a crippling fear of abandonment.

It may often be that couples avoid talking about these problems as the situation becomes a sensitive area to navigate. This can snowball into a vicious cycle of not taking action or resolving the issue at all or neglecting sexual and physical intimacy entirely. Hence, it is often common to find that women and their partners seek treatment only when the situation becomes dire or if they the partners wish to conceive. 

Importance of Communicating and Supporting your Partner

Your partner is having an involuntary reaction of fear and anxiety to sex. They could have a definite desire to be intimate with you and fulfil that aspect of your relationship as well. 

Your partner with vaginismus needs a high amount of support (and not pressure) from you to help her embark on the challenging journey that it can be to heal from vaginismus. For them, this journey can be extremely isolating and for her to know of your unconditional support through this can be an invaluable source of motivation. 

It is important to have an open, non-judgemental channel of communication open between you and your partner with vaginismus for both of you to be able to share your ups and downs through this experience. This open communication is based in and also fosters a virtuous cycle of trust and understanding between you and your partner. 


How Can You Contribute to the Vaginismus Healing Journey? 

It can often take a long time for one to even discover that what they are experiencing is a legitimate condition and even then, it comes with its own high dose of guilt and shame attached. Vaginismus needs a well-rounded approach to healing that focuses on multiple aspects - psychosexual therapy, physical work, pelvic floor relaxation and physiotherapy, vaginal training, solidarity with and support of other individuals with vaginismus, and support group for partners of those with vaginismus.

Proactive For Her’s award-winning programme is designed with evidence-based interventions that cover all these essential aspects. You can support your partner with vaginismus in the following ways:

  • Educate yourself about vaginismus. Proactive For Her’s support groups for partners ensure that a non-blaming stance is taken and partners are educated about the condition in a way that makes sense to them within their contexts. 
  • Be patient with your partner. The roots of vaginismus can be extremely complex and subjective and a condition that has manifested due to years of conditioning and experience can take some time to heal. 
  • Provide proactive encouragement for all aspects of healing. The outcomes from the healing journey are bound to be better when partners focus cultivating a positive attitude grounded in hope, optimism, and support. 
  • Keep exploring and experimenting with non-penetrative sexual acts. Use sexual intimacy to show your partner with vaginismus that you love and desire her and enjoy her company. 


Individuals and couples have entered the programme at every stage of relationship health and status and have committed to healing vaginismus successfully. If you or your partner suspect that they could have vaginismus, be assured that there is a holistic, evidence-rooted program available for both of you to be a part of together. Reach out to us at Proactive For Her to book an initial consultation and gain more information about our award-winning program and pelvic health physiotherapists.