'I thought sex was always going to be painful. Then I left my husband.'

I swore with the pain, pushed him away, and rushed to the bathroom to tend to myself. It was the third bad tear this month during sex. 

Clearly I had an issue. “I think I’ll book a doctor’s appointment,” I called out to my husband. “Maybe it’s hormonal.” 

He didn’t say anything. I knew he’d be annoyed about not finishing. I was annoyed too. 

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The rips always hurt for days afterwards. Lately, I’d been satisfying myself when he was out, at least then I’d get to enjoy an orgasm without risking another injury. 

I never seemed to be able to orgasm properly with intercourse, anyway. Trying to get there involved gymnastic precision and enthusiasm I just didn’t have the energy for since turning 30. 

My husband had no interest in trying to please me. The occasional time he did try, shoving his fingers around haphazardly, it was too rough to be pleasurable. “I like it when you do that more gently,” I softly encouraged for the early years of our marriage, thinking I could teach him what I wanted.

I believed the magazines at the time: it’s best to speak up and show them what turns you on. But some people don’t want to be taught. Sex was for my husband’s benefit rather than mine and had been that way for years.  

I booked the doctor’s appointment the next day. 

The doctor, a small grandfatherly man in his late 60s, listened with kind eyes while I described my situation. 

I don’t remember the rest of the appointment. If he did an examination of the tear I’ve blocked it out. I felt embarrassed and defective to be struggling with sex at this age. 

Wasn’t vaginal dryness the kind of thing women got in menopause? I was years away from that. Maybe I just wasn’t a sexual person? But my active private sex life (the one on my own without my husband) said something else. 

He handed me a form for a blood test and another for a prescription. As I suspected, the cream was for menopausal women. So, it was me after all. 


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A few days later, the blood tests for my hormone levels came back. 

They were normal. No peri-menopause signs. No post-baby hormonal dips. I was disappointed but relieved too. The cream seemed like an easier solution than hormone therapy. I put all my faith in the cream, applying it religiously every day, but after a few weeks it was clear it wasn’t working. It did nothing to stop the tearing during sex. 

I gave up and resigned myself to the idea that sex was just going to hurt sometimes and there was nothing I could do about it.

After my divorce, I realised how wrong that was. 

I’d been single a year when I decided I was ready to date again and when a good-looking acquaintance asked to go back to my house, I agreed. 

I felt comfortable and safe around this guy. 

I’d known him for a while and every time we bumped into each other we got along. Our paths crossed again one weekend at an event in our town and I decided to flirt. It had been a long time since I’d flirted with anyone! We sat side by side, I smiled and laughed at his jokes. At one point I reached out and touched his leg. I wasn’t sure he even noticed, but later that afternoon he came up beside me at the bar where the event was held and offered to buy me a drink. 

He seemed like a good choice for easing myself back into the dating scene. 

Going on Tinder and meeting up with a stranger was a terrifying thought after a toxic marriage. And if the date led to sex, I was interested to see how that went for me. 

I was never a one-night stand person, even in my twenties. I’d only had one other sexual partner before my husband. But I felt open to trying something (or someone) new. 

The date was fun. We stayed late at the bar, talked about our favorite books, places we’d traveled, people we both knew. We talked for hours and laughed a lot. Then he slipped his hand into mine and leaned up against me sweetly. “Want to go back to yours?” 

First time sex in my limited experience is never great for me, but with him it was nice. It was fun, he tried to please me, and, most importantly, didn’t hurt. 

For the next two years, and when I eventually found my long-term partner, I discovered that’s normal for me. Sex is always fun and never hurts. I can achieve multiple orgasms during intercourse and try various positions without tearing. 


What was the difference? 

When I was married, there was never any lead up to sex. “Do you want to have sex?” was my husband’s idea of foreplay. And because we fought so much, I was never in the mood. 

For many women, including me, sex is a very mental activity. 

If I feel upset or hurt by my partner, or if we’ve been fighting, I can’t get turned on a few hours later. 

I need to be completely relaxed and feel safe to enjoy myself in the bedroom. Apparently, that didn’t happen often in the final years of my marriage. I was mentally tense and not in a positive headspace which meant I couldn’t relax in my body either. 

There wasn’t anything wrong with me physically, but there was something seriously wrong with my marriage. 

With my new partner, the whole day with him is like foreplay. 

He comes up behind me when I’m doing the dishes, holds my hips and whispers “I love you”. He doesn’t ask for sex but cuddles up with me, kissing my neck and stroking my back, until I’m ready for more. 

He’s patient, slow, and gentle with me and cares whether I’m enjoying myself. 

Sex shouldn’t be something we tolerate. It’s meant to be enjoyable and fun for both people. 

Sex with the right person, in the right conditions, makes all the difference.

Feature Image: Getty.

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