By Liana Jacob
THIS WOMAN waited for her WEDDING DAY before having SEX for the FIRST TIME only to find out she had VAGINISMUS – which she says de-sexualised her relationship and made her feel like she was living with a ‘ROOMMATE’.
Social worker, Stephanie Muller (23) from New York, USA, grew up in a Christian household and made the decision to save herself until marriage.
In 2013, she met her now husband, Andrew (31), at their local church but didn’t begin dating until 2015. Two years into their relationship, the pair got married in May 2017 and planned to have sex on their honeymoon – which would have been Stephanie’s first time.
However, they had difficulty with penetration during sex and Stephanie got a yeast infection that made her feel very uncomfortable. Due to the prescribed medications not working, the infection lasted three months and it wasn’t until she had her first pelvic exam that she started to get very worried as she began to shake, scream and cry over the pain.
When she recovered from the infection, she thought that was it and she would be able to have sex but this wasn’t the case, so she finally decided to tell her gynaecologist in January 2018, who diagnosed her with vaginismus; when the vagina suddenly tightens up.
She referred her to the Vaginismus and Women’s Therapy Centre but warned her that this would not be covered by insurance, so she prescribed her with Vicodin, a medicine used to relieve moderate to severe pain, to have sex with her husband.
Refusing to believe that this was the solution, Stephanie decided to do some research on vaginismus and the ways it can be treated. She discovered the use of pelvic floor therapy and bought a dilator set.
For years she felt ashamed that she wasn’t able to have sex with her husband and that their lack of intimacy made her feel like she was living with a roommate. In 2018, she was finally comfortable enough to confide in her friends about vaginismus and how it had affected her marriage. In January 2019, she called the Women’s Therapy Centre to begin her treatment and with the correct guidance, she was able to overcome vaginismus after the completion of treatment in May 2019.
She has since made it her mission to speak out about the condition and her journey to help other women going through a similar ordeal.
“Saving sex for my wedding night was my personal choice. I wanted to save sex for my wedding night because I didn’t want to have sex with anyone that wasn’t my husband,” Stephanie said.
“I personally believe that sex is a very intimate and special thing, and I didn’t want to share that with someone else that I would not end up marrying.
“I think oftentimes this is seen as a burden or shame-filled tradition, but I genuinely felt that it would be the best thing for me.
“I am thankful that my church and my pastors have always talked about sex in a positive light and emphasise that sex is a gift from God.
“I met my husband at our church, Living Word Church, in 2013 but didn’t really become close friends until 2015. We began dating in June 2015, got engaged in December 2016 and married in May 2017.
“Early on during our honeymoon, we were having difficulty with penetration but figured it would just take time to get more comfortable.
“But during our honeymoon, I got a yeast infection and was very uncomfortable. I had never had one before and it ended up lasting almost three months because the different medications I was put on weren’t working.
“The first major red flag was that when I first had a pelvic exam (it was my first time with the infection and first time ever) I began to shake, scream and cry uncontrollably.
“The other two times that I had a pelvic exam during those months, I was extremely anxious, uncomfortable and shaky.
“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.”
Stephanie says that her condition had a negative impact on the relationship with her husband and they had often talked about vaginismus.
She felt there had to be a way to overcome it, so after doing her research, she decided to go for the treatment her gynaecologist recommended to her in 2019 which meant that she was able to have sex pain-free for the first time.
“My husband and I have talked about how vaginismus really de-sexualised our relationship; it was almost like living with a roommate,” she said.
“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.
“I think this really helped us begin to emotionally, mentally and relationally heal, even prior to going into treatment.
“I bought a dilator set online that came with a couple of books, but I personally didn’t find them helpful. Women’s Therapy Centre in Plainview, NY was the treatment centre that cured my vaginismus.
“My husband and I went to our consultation appointment in January 2019, began treatment in late March 2019 and were healed and finished with treatment in May 2019.
“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.
“My husband has been incredibly supportive throughout my journey with vaginismus. Anytime that I would say negative things about myself, he would always reassure me that none of those things were true and that he loved me.
“He would constantly remind me that he wasn’t going anywhere, even if the vaginismus was never healed. He also drove me and was there with me for every appointment, even though he didn’t have to.
“A big dream of mine is to do public speaking engagements. I have a variety of topics that I am interested in, but one of those topics is definitely vaginismus.
“There is a massive lack of awareness about vaginismus and I believe that where there is lack of knowledge, there is fear.
“There are so many things that I would want to bundle up and say to someone that is in the same situation.
“The three statements that I would want to make sure I told them would be: ‘There is hope’, ‘You are not your vaginismus’, and ‘You are not alone’.
“For me, it is so important to talk about it freely because I strongly believe that there is no shame in vaginismus. I always say that because the fear and shame of it kept my mouth shut for so long, to speak about it boldly feels like a beautiful act of rebellion.”