By Riva Preil
Many women who experience vulvar pain are understandably nervous about how this condition will affect their current relationships. Furthermore, if the individual is not in a relationship at present, they are concerned that it will interfere with their ability to initiate and sustain a happy and healthy relationship. “But what will happen when he discovers my secret? Will he run for the hills?” This fear is very real and valid, as well as the question about when it is appropriate to share information about the condition.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart, renowned vulvovaginal specialist and author of The V Book (or as I like to call it, the pelvic floor bible), recommends that one should “keep it simple and straightforward” when relevant. The information does not need to be shared before accepting a date- every person has personal aspects of their lives that they choose to share as they become more comfortable with their partner. In regards to vulvar pain, the appropriate time to share this information is when the couple decides to become physically intimate with one another, at which time this information is important to discuss. This first conversation should probably only include the basics, for example general information about what the individual can and cannot tolerate. Information such as which positions are most comfortable can assist one’s partner in pleasing them. Further details (ex. personal history, previous attempts at treatment) and elaboration can wait for future conversation. No one is required to tell all or to be coerced into sharing more information than they are ready to give. For couples who decide to wait until they are married to become sexually active, this information should probably be shared prior to engagement.
The way one’s partner responds to the privilege of earning their trust and the sharing of personal information can be very telling. Are they understanding and supportive, or are they dismissive and/or selfishly concerned about how the pain will affect their own desires? One’s symptoms do not make them any less worthy of a wonderful, supportive partner, and it should not preclude them from the happiness they deserve.