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It happens often. I’m having a conversation with a friend (or a group) and jokes about sex and intimacy start popping up. I laugh at the comments, maybe insert a few of my own, and avoid eye contact. I know what’s coming.

“Making babies is fun, isn’t it. I mean, look how many kids you have.”

I laugh and joke back “What? How does it work? No one ever told us. I thought I just had to walk by my husband and wink at him, then wham-o, we’re pregnant.”

However, in my mind I’m not laughing. I’m thinking about the pain I endured. No, not the pain of labor. The physical pain of sex. The emotional pain that comes with avoiding sex. The stress it put on our marriage.

We didn’t consummate our marriage on our wedding night. At that point, I was frightened of the unknown. Yes, I was one who waited until marriage before having sex. I’d heard it could be a little painful the first time, but I wasn’t expecting it to be painful after that.

It’s not like I wasn’t exposed to sex. I had sneaked a few of my mom’s romance novels and had watched it on TV. Sex was awesome. Sex was amazing. Sex always worked out for those people.

I was afraid I couldn’t live up to all the hype. 

I’ve been married over a decade, and while a little better, sex continues to be a literal pain in my back. It feels as though someone is stabbing me through the lower back.

Doctors have done examinations. They suspected endometriosis but couldn’t diagnose it. We do Natural Family Planning but charting hasn’t shown anything unusual. Mental health therapists have offered advice in case it’s all in my head. Nothing seems to help.

The worst part is that the pain doesn’t affect me alone. My husband tries to make me comfortable. He’s very aware of posture, facial expressions, etc. It’s distracting for him when I cry because the pain is intense. He can’t tell if I moan in pleasure or pain. He worries that he is hurting me. We’ve learned to build up his sexual drive through more teasing and foreplay so there is less time where he and I are physically one.

And I HATE that our sexual relationship is boiled down to how fast we can get through the deed. I HATE that he feels a sense of shame because he thinks he isn’t doing something correctly. I HATE thinking I’m not enough to please him and that I try to avoid sex.

I watch movies and get angry with sex scenes. It all looks so blissful and amazing, and I feel like I’m being lied to. I get annoyed when sex comes up in the books I read. I get uncomfortable and lie to hide how I really feel when speaking with others. I hide my pain and hurt behind jokes in conversations.

I wonder how many others do the same. 

Most of my friends seem to enjoy sex. Many are amazed that I waited until I was married before having sex, and that my husband is the only person with whom I’ve made love. One friend asked “How do you know if it’s good sex? I mean, you should have tested it first. It’s like buying a car. You need to take the man for a test drive to see if he’s any good.” I couldn’t answer her because I know my sex life isn’t even close to perfect. How do I know if our sex is good? It isn’t, at least, not for me. But would it be any better with someone else? However, the love I feel for my husband overrides the need for “perfect” sex, and the idea of ditching that love if I’d known it was going to be so painful is baffling.

It wasn’t until I went for a walk with another friend and we started talking sex that I realized there were others like me. “It’s not that great,” she said. “I just hate it. It hurts,” I replied. She looked at me in surprise and said “You have pain? I thought I was the only person who has pain during sex.”

How many others out there have similar experiences? They yearn to be intimate but the pain steals that moment away. How many others hide behind laughter and jokes about how great their sex life is? After all, sex is a sensual, pleasurable activity for all involved, and if it isn’t, there’s something wrong.

How many others watch sex on TV or in movies and feel ashamed they cannot provide “that” for their partner, even though they desperately long to connect? How many get angry at the unrealistic expectations placed on love?

How many wonder if they are “good enough” to keep their partners happy? How many cry and apologize for their pain because they come up with millions of excuses to avoid it?

My husband is amazing. He knows sex is very much a “chore” for me. He tries to be understanding when I don’t want to make love. He tries to be gentle and careful when we do make love. He holds me when I cry because the guilt, anger, and shame boil over, and I lash out at him in an attempt to guilt him or anger him so he gives up on the idea of sex for a night.

But he’s still a man with physical needs. I’m still his wife, and I still crave that physical closeness despite the pain. I yearn to please his sexual desires, and I do my best because I love him. It’s because of that love that we work through our difficulties with sex. Had I known sex wasn’t going to be great before I got married, I still would have chosen him because true love is both passion and choice.

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