The Costs and Benefits of Sexual Communal Motivation for Couples Coping With Vulvodynia

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Abstract

Objective: Most women with vulvodynia—a prevalent, chronic, vulvovaginal pain condition—engage in intercourse with their partners despite experiencing pain. Their motivation for doing so appears to be interpersonally oriented (e.g., to meet their partners’ sexual needs), but the costs and benefits of such motivations are unknown. We tested whether sexual communal strength (being responsive to a partner’s sexual needs) and unmitigated sexual communion (focusing on a partner’s sexual needs to the exclusion of one’s own needs) were associated with sexual function, and sexual and relationship satisfaction in couples with coping with vulvodynia. Method: In an 8-week daily experience study, 95 women diagnosed with vulvodynia and their partners reported on sexual communal strength, unmitigated sexual communion, sexual function, and sexual and relationship satisfaction on days when sexual activity occurred. Results: On days when women reported higher sexual communal strength, both they and their partners reported greater sexual function and satisfaction, and their partners reported greater relationship satisfaction. When women’s partners reported higher sexual communal strength, both they and the women reported better sexual function, partners reported greater sexual satisfaction, and women reported greater relationship satisfaction. On days when women reported higher unmitigated sexual communion, they reported poorer sexual function and lower sexual satisfaction, and both the women and partners reported lower relationship satisfaction. When women’s partners reported higher unmitigated sexual communion, they reported poorer sexual function. Conclusions: These novel aspects of sexual motivation should be targeted in psychological interventions aimed to improve the sexual and relationship well-being of affected couples.

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