Painful Intercourse in Marriage

Painful Intercourse - AdobeStock_59968115QUESTION: My husband and I have been married six years. We have a good sex life. But I always experience pain at the moment of penetration. We take things slowly. And after the initial pain things go well. But what can I do about that painful intercourse?

Answer Concerning Painful Intercourse:

God intended sex in marriage to bring pleasure. When that pleasure is interrupted because of pain, the entire process of “becoming one” is affected.

Unfortunately, pain is often difficult to relieve. That is because the reason for it can’t be identified. To help you and your doctor determine why you are having discomfort, for the next four of five times you have intercourse, write down a description of the pain. Describe exactly when you feel the pain begin. Then describe when it lessens. Describe the exact location of the pain. Also describe the type of pain (stinging, burning, jabbing, or a feeling of pressure).

Additionally, it’s helpful to write down information from a vaginal self-examination. In a comfortable position, use a vaginal lubricant and hold a mirror. Examine the opening of your vagina for redness, irritation, rash or sores. Is there tightness or pain when you insert a finger? Note any sensations you feel when tightening or relaxing your vaginal muscle around your finger. Take note when pressing your finger against your vaginal wall. Write down what you discover.

Locate a Doctor

Once you have recorded the data, schedule an appointment with your physician. If he or she still can’t help, try to locate a medical doctor who is both a gynecologist and urologist. Find one who specializes in treating painful intercourse (dyspareunia).

Inflammation or irritation of any of the structures of the genital area will cause pain. This will require medical attention. Chronic infections such as genital warts or herpes also can cause pain upon entry.

As sexual therapists, we treat a common cause of painful intercourse called vaginismus. This is the involuntary spastic tightening of the muscle controlling the entrance to the vagina. To relieve vaginismus, the woman uses a series of graduated dilators. They stretch and relax the muscles that control the opening of the vagina.


She begins by inserting the smallest dilator that she can comfortably insert. This is to be done several times a week. Use the same process as recommended for vaginal self-examination. She leaves the dilator in place for 15 to 30 minutes while tightening and relaxing the vaginal muscle.

When she feels ready, she tries the next largest dilator. She continues to graduate to large dilators until she is able to comfortably insert a dilator of the same or larger circumference as the head of her husband’s erect penis. You are fortunate to have a good sex life in spite of your initial discomfort. But you need to pursue a solution that will enable you to have entry without any pain.

Dr Clifford and Joyce Penner wrote this article. It originally appeared in a back issue of Marriage Partnership Magazine. It is included—along with other articles, in the book, The Healthy Marriage Handbook. In this insightful book you’ll find more than 200 confidential, personal questions that real people asked the editors of Marriage Partnership.

Dr Clifford Penner, and Joyce Penner are the authors of The Gift of Sex published by Thomas Nelson, and Restoring the Pleasure: Complete Step-by-Step Programs to Help Couples Overcome the Most Common Sexual Barriers published by W Publishing Group. Clifford is a clinical psychologist and Joyce is a clinical nurse specialist. The Penners are sex therapists in private practice in Pasadena, California.

— ALSO —

If you are experiencing painful intercourse, please don’t think you don’t have options—other than experiencing pain. Many, many women go through this experience. Look, seek, knock, and find the door that can open to you to get beyond this. It IS possible! Many, many women have found help. They are now experiencing great sex with their husbands. This can be possible for you too!

There is another condition that sometimes causes painful intercourse. It’s called vaginismus. What is vaginismus? The definition, according to the web site found at is:

“Vaginismus is vaginal tightness causing discomfort, burning, pain, penetration problems, or complete inability to have intercourse.”

You may want to go to the above mentioned web site. See if you get the info you need to help combat painful intercourse.

Here are a few other articles to read. We believe you will find very insightful and helpful:

OVERCOMING VAGINISMUS: 8 Healing Steps to Take

— ALSO —

Here are a few other articles to read and glean through to see what will best help you:



In Addition:



I pray this helps in some way.

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International compiled this article.

Print Post

Filed under: Sexual Issues

Join the Discussion

Please observe the following guidelines:

  • Try to be as positive as possible when you make a comment.
  • If there is name-calling, or profane language, it will be deleted.
  • The same goes with hurtful comments targeted at belittling others; we won't post them.
  • Recommendations for people to divorce will be edited out–that's a decision between them and God, not us.
  • If you have a criticism, please make it constructive.
  • Be mindful that this is an international ministry where cultural differences need to be considered.
  • Please honor the fact this is a Christ-centered web site.

We review all comments before posting them to reduce spam and offensive content.


3 responses to “Painful Intercourse in Marriage

  1. I think I may have this problem. I’ve just begun to learn about it since I’m newly married. I’m dealing with a lot of initial disappointment over it. My husband is an immigrant and we have a lot of paperwork and processing so he can start to work. We are living off my income which is tight but okay… I’m feeling a lot of stress and I’m not sure where I fit taking care of this in to my schedule but I need to. Sex is always painful upon entry, and I don’t want it interrupting our time of love and union. I expect good outcomes though, my husband is thoughtful and supportive and I am willing to be honest and receive help. I am just really having a tough time dealing with initially on top of everything else. I’m so worn out.

  2. I’m surprised there haven’t been more comments here. Are there no men who have helped their wives overcome this? I think they are all on the other posts complaining about not getting any.

  3. If you are experiencing pain during penetration, you shouldn’t be doing it at all. The advice to “write down the sort of pain you are experiencing” is so wrong, but so typical of Christian sex advice. What sort of husband wants to penetrate his wife when it’s causing her pain? My husband says such men are brutes.