Reframing Intimate Relationships after a Break-Up

One of the defining symptoms of endometriosis is painful intercourse. This side of the disease can be very challenging, both physically and emotionally.

The first time I experienced pain during sex was in 2009. The pain was so sudden it stopped me from breathing. It was sharp and excruciating. It felt like I was being stabbed. I had to lie down, take strong painkillers, and do nothing more but wait for relief.

From then on, and until my excision surgery in 2017, every time I was intimate, I experienced some sort of discomfort. Sometimes it was bearable, others extremely debilitating. Often I was reduced to tears.

Heartbreakingly, it affected my relationship

I began to fear having sex, and slowly, this wore me down. If I said no to sex, I felt I was letting down my partner. Agreeing to it whilst in pain, made me feel worthless.

Until I got diagnosed with endometriosis, in 2016, I was convinced my pain was imaginary, or that I was somehow losing my mind. Seeing myself as a poor example of a girlfriend, I blamed myself. If my partner was quiet, I’d become convinced it was because I was disappointing him.

If I confided in someone, I was advised to consider my partner’s feelings, and to try harder. One therapist told me to reframe my way of thinking. I also got plenty of looks of disbelief when I explained how my skin hurt. The fact that nobody knew what I was talking about was isolating.

It didn’t matter how many articles I read, how many therapy sessions, nothing worked. I kept letting down my partner. Eventually, my relationship broke down, and I know that my physical and emotional limitations played a role.

I now know I wasn’t a useless girlfriend. I was someone in constant pain

My insides hurt and my skin felt like it was burning. There was no amount of self-help books that would fix that. Excision surgery did wonders to reduce my physical pain, but it’s taken so much more for me to feel worthy of love. My former beliefs have caused a lot of damage. My pain is not only real, quite often it’s unbearable. This is why I now look at intimate relationships through a different lens, one of self-love.

I vow to never power-through painful sex

Putting up with painful sex will hurt only me, physically and emotionally. I needn’t do that anymore for anyone, ever again. Being intimate with someone should be a joyful experience. If a partner becomes upset because I say no after I’ve explained how much it hurts, they need to work through their own emotions in a healthy way.

I don’t have to explain my disease to everyone I meet

While openness is the key to any healthy relationship, it doesn’t mean losing my right to privacy. If something hurts or makes me feel uncomfortable, I don’t have to show my medical records to be believed. Sometimes, not talking about my chronic illness is a relief, and I’m not going to give that up for someone else.

While my body may cause others to reject me, it fills me with joy

My body allows me to go on fun walks or dance around my flat. It's not perfect but is part of who I am. I am a whole, complex person and definitely, not a burden.

I don’t know if I will ever meet someone who will see me that way. But if someone has an issue with my intimate needs, they have no place in my life.

Endometriosis patients should never feel shame or guilt

If someone can’t see past our symptoms, that’s their loss. Nobody chooses to live with endometriosis. All we want is a happy existence, with its ups and downs and possibly, plenty of loving sessions with our person of choice.

Endometriosis does not make us broken, complicated, or unworthy of love, and that is something we have to remind ourselves, daily.

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