A few months ago I attended the Vulval Pain Society’s National Workshop. I was struck but how many partners were in the audience. There was a noticable difference in the couples’ ages. I spoke to an older gentleman, who had been with his partner for over 30 years. He was impressed with the ‘young guys who are here’. I spoke to other couples who attended the session and it was incredible to hear both sides of the stories that were in the room. It was clear what a difference it made to the lady living with vulval pain felt to have this support – not just in the room, but whilst adjusting their intimate lives together.
I felt this echoed the work I do when working with couples. If a partner is ‘present’ for the other , in the therapy room, I find it is more effective work. In counselling speak – ‘being present’ can mean a bit more than just being physically there, but it is an incredibly important part of the work. Whilst negotiating your way through vulval pain and a sex life, if in a couple – I’d argue this is essential – at least for some of the sessions. It might be useful to have some individual sessions for both of you aswell – even if you feel there is ‘nothing wrong with you’.
A partner perspective is very different to that of the person living with vulval pain. Sometimes the thoughts you may be having – you do not feel you can share. Your patience may be running out. You may be grieving your loss of sex life (as was before). You may be considering having sex outside of the relationship – perhaps juggling non-monogomy? You may no longer find the other person sexually attractive as you’ve not been sexual for so long – or the reverse, you might have lost your mojo as you’re not feeling desired. You may or may not be considering acting on these thoughts. One of the most common things I hear partners say is that they know do not want to push or hurt their partner – but otherwise are stuck and have no idea what to do next. Whether all or one of the above is ringing a bell for you – none of the above seems conducive to encouraging good sex!
In Autumn I’m teaming up with Herts based fellow psychosexual therapist, Krystal Woodbridge to present a webinar for the VPS. This will focus around sex and intimacy and the negotiation around this. I’ll be focusing on the partner perspective, and would love to answer questions you may have, or address anything you’d like me to bring up during the presentation. I’m keen to hear from partners (ladies and gents). Please email the VPS webinar team with your questions – firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of July 2013. If you can publicise this that would be fantastic. I think partners can very often get left out of this situation – so am keen to help to re-address the balance.