Title

Dyspareunia due to endometriosis: A qualitative study of its effect on the couple relationship

Date of Award

2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Marriage and Family Therapy

Advisor(s)

Jonathan Sandberg

Keywords

Dyspareunia, Endometriosis, Couple relationship

Subject Categories

Gender and Sexuality | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Psychology

Abstract

This qualitative study was the first of its kind to investigate the effect that dyspareunia due to endometriosis has on the couple relationship. In many ways, the findings paralleled the literature regarding the impact of other chronic illnesses on a couple relationship. However, this study provided unique information as it relates to endometriosis and dyspareunia due to endometriosis and the impact on both the well partner and the couple. Ten couples, ages 20-42, who have had or are currently struggling with dyspareunia due to endometriosis were interviewed in order to gain a greater understanding of the effect of this disease. For seven of the couples, endometriosis was a pre-existing condition to their relationship. The focus of the interview questions was on the effect of dyspareunia, but the results provided a wealth of information on all the effects of endometriosis that these couples have experienced. The couples discussed the support they have received, the effects the illness has had on the well partner, the impact of the endometriosis on their relationship, the impact of the dyspareunia on their relationship, and the couple coping skills they felt have been essential to their relationship. The anticipatory fear cycle was demonstrated in the sexual relationships of these couples. These ten couples self-reported their relationships to be happy and stable and as having improved due to the partnerships they had formed in struggling with the symptoms of endometriosis. Ongoing support, relationship talk, and flexibility in their sexual relationship were some of the skills the couples promote. In spite of this, the struggles in their relationship have included loss, both socially and sexually. Some suggestions for therapeutic intervention are included in the clinical implications. The limitations of the study and suggestions for future research were also discussed.

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