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Woman With Condition That Prevents Her From Having Sex Determined To Consummate Her Marriage

Kendra and Sean after getting engaged (PA Real Life/Collect)

A woman living with an agonizing condition that meant she could not consummate her 12-year marriage is determined not to let history repeat itself after getting engaged again.

Raised in a strict Christian household, Kendra Blair, 39, decided to wait until she got married aged 19 to lose her virginity – only to discover she was physically incapable of being intimate.

A dozen sexless years followed, during which time she was diagnosed with vaginismus – where the muscles involuntarily tighten as penetration is attempted – before the relationship ended.

Now, insurance worker Kendra, of Independence, Missouri, is engaged to partner Sean Rice, 38, who she met online in May 2019 – and is determined she will be able to sleep with him when they tie the knot in 2022.

Keen to raise awareness of vaginismus and help other women, she said:

“I have only been able to have penetrative sex with Sean a couple of times in our entire time together."
“Of course, there are other things we can do, but there are times when I feel very depressed and wonder how long he'll stay with me, or what he's getting out of the relationship. But he does everything he can to reassure me and by proposing, I know he's in it for the long haul. I feel very lucky to have met him."

When Kendra was unable to have sex on her wedding night 20 years ago, she simply put it down to nerves.

But in the months that followed, she experienced an extreme burning sensation and became so distressed that she would hyperventilate every time she attempted to make love.

She explained:

“It felt like there was a bone there that my husband couldn't get through. My then-husband and I endured months of frustration. I knew there was something else wrong, but everyone just kept telling me to relax."

Kendra Blair (Billie Borron/PA Real Life)

Eventually, Kendra consulted a gynecologist, only for the same extreme reaction to be triggered when the doctor attempted to conduct an internal examination.

She recalled:

“My automatic reaction was to hyperventilate, close my legs, squirm to get away and push the doctor away saying, 'Don't touch me.'"

Reeling from the unpleasant experience, it took five long years before Kendra plucked up the courage to see a second doctor.

Kendra Blair (Billie Borron/PA Real Life)

Diagnosed with vaginismus which, according to the NHS has no one set cause, but can be triggered by a bad sexual experience, an unpleasant medical examination or a belief that intercourse is shameful and wrong, she was relieved that her condition had a name.

“I felt some relief when the doctor told me what I had, as it proved I wasn't crazy," she said. “She also told me I was not the only one that had this."

Kendra was given dilators, designed to stretch and retrain the vaginal muscles, but they did not work.

What is vaginismus?

  • Vaginismus is the body's automatic reaction to the fear of some or all types of vaginal penetration.
  • Whenever penetration is attempted, the vaginal muscles uncontrollably tighten.
  • Occasionally, people can get vaginismus even if they have previously enjoyed painless penetrative sex.
  • Treatment usually focuses on managing feelings around penetration and exercises to get sufferers gradually used to it.

She said:

“I couldn't get any of them in – not even the smallest one, which was the size of a small tampon. I just couldn't do it. It was too painful."

Starting to lose hope of ever finding a solution to her problem, Kendra's marriage began to suffer. And in 2012, after 12 years without intimacy, her relationship ended.

She said:

“Before we split, I'd tell my husband to go and have sex with someone else. I didn't want that, but I felt so frustrated."

Kendra on her wedding day (PA Real Life/Collect)

“It didn't help that I was getting older and people were always asking why we didn't have kids yet," she continued.

“I've always wanted to be a mother, but the vaginismus was preventing me from getting pregnant."

“We had other issues going on – not just the sex – so we didn't get divorced just because of my condition, but it was a factor. After a while, I'd stopped wanting to work on it because I knew it was going to hurt."

Kendra Blair (Billie Borron/PA Real Life)

Finding herself single again, Kendra's confidence was in shreds.

Speaking candidly, she admitted that there were days when she did not feel like a “real woman."

But, in time, she felt ready to date again – although she worried what men would think when they learned she could not have sex.

Kendra with fiancé Sean (PA Real Life/Collect)

Luckily, she met Sean, who works for a plasma donation company, on Plenty of Fish in May 2019, and his support has been unwavering.

She said:

“I told him early on by text, 'I have a condition that makes sex painful and so far, I haven't been able to have it.'"
“I explained it could be really frustrating and exhausting and that it wasn't that I didn't want to have sex – I just couldn't. He was amazing and told me he wasn't in it for the sex. He really put my mind at ease."

Striking a close bond, Sean and Kendra soon became an official couple.

Meanwhile, she started seeing a physical therapist and performing pelvic floor exercises to stretch her muscles – also joining a Facebook support group full of women from around the world who live with vaginismus.

Buoyed by their support, she felt less alone. Before too long, with her self-esteem restored and the help of physical therapy, which she had been doing since June 2018, she was able to have sex with Sean on a couple of occasions.

Kendra with fiancé Sean (PA Real Life/Collect)

“I didn't feel as broken," she said.

Sadly, since the beginning of 2020, she has found herself regressing and her symptoms have been getting worse – which she puts down to the stress of the pandemic.

She continued:

“I've backtracked a lot, meaning Sean and I haven't been able to sleep together for a long time. When lockdown hit, a lot of doctors' offices closed and treatments were put on pause, so I couldn't have my physical therapy as usual. Plus, stress can be a real trigger, so the state of the world took its toll on me hugely."

Kendra on her wedding day (PA Real Life/Collect)

Although Sean was incredibly reassuring, Kendra could not help worrying about the implications for their relationship, if she was unable to be intimate with him anymore.

So, at the beginning of September, he surprised and delighted her by proposing.

She recalled:

“We'd spoken about marriage, so I knew it was something we both wanted, but I had no idea he'd gone and got a ring. He knows I don't like being the center of attention and wouldn't have wanted a really public proposal, so he ended up asking me at home."

“He did a little speech about how much I mean to him and then got down on one knee and presented me with this beautiful diamond ring," she added.

They are still in the early stages of planning their big day, but Kendra and Sean hope to tie the knot in an outdoor ceremony in 2022.

She has also recently resumed doing her stretches and exercises and hopes this means she will be able to consummate her marriage.

She said:

“Two years gives me plenty of time. I've also started to see a therapist to deal with the emotional fallout of all of this. I don't want a repeat of my first wedding, so I am determined to be able to consummate the marriage this time."
“Sean and I would also like a child together one day, though we don't know whether that will be possible. Only time will tell. I'd want to make sure I was healthy, given my age, before we started trying."
“Still, he proposed to me after everything we've been through, so I know he is a keeper."

Kendra with fiancé Sean (PA Real Life/Collect)

Now, Kendra continues to run a Facebook support group, connecting with women from around the world and helping them to feel less alone.

“It's been such a relief to find women who understand vaginismus," she said. “Lots don't speak out as they feel so ashamed, but I'm determined to change that. Although I have been struggling recently, I don't want my story to scare anyone. I want it to be a story of hope."

“Like any long-term condition, dealing with vaginismus is a process – but the important thing is to keep going and not give up."