Sexual Health

Sophie Bergeron  Ph.D


Did you know that self-compassion could help couples coping with painful intercourse?

A recent study conducted in our laboratory examined the associations between self-compassion and the well-being of couples coping with pain during sexual intercourse. Self-compassion means having compassion toward oneself, as we would have toward a good friend, and entails qualities such as kindness toward oneself in instances of pain or failure. Because many women with pain during intercourse have a negative image of themselves in the context of sexuality, self-compassion may be especially relevant for this population. In this study, we wanted to answer the following question: Is self-compassion associated with pain intensity as well as psychological, sexual, and relationship well-being of both partners?

To answer this question, data were gathered from 48 women diagnosed with provoked vestibulodynia—the most common subtype of pain during intercourse, characterized by pain at the entrance of the vagina—and their partners, using self-report questionnaires pertaining to anxiety, depression, sexual distress, relationship satisfaction, and pain intensity during sexual intercourse.

What did we find?

Results showed that for both women and their partners, higher levels of self-compassion were associated with their own lower anxiety and depression. Also, when partners reported higher levels of self-compassion, they were more satisfied with their relationship, and both partners and women reported lower sexual distress. No significant association was found for pain during intercourse.
Findings suggest that self-compassion may help couples coping with painful intercourse by decreasing its impact on their psychological, sexual and relational well-being. Interventions aimed at increasing self-compassion could enhance the efficacy of psychological treatments for these women and their partners. Further studies are needed to better understand the role of self-compassion among this population.

For more details, we invite you to read the full paper:

Santerre-Baillargeon, M., Rosen, N.O., Steben, M., Pâquet, M., Macabena Perez, R., Bergeron, S. (2018). Does self-compassion benefit couples coping with vulvodynia? Associations with psychological, sexual and relationship adjustment. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 34(7), 629-637. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000579

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