Can Your Vagina Predict a Breakup?
Even in the best of times, it can be difficult to decipher how you really feel about your partner, and in bad times, it isn't necessarily clear when you've fallen out of love. But sometimes your vagina is operating way ahead of your emotions, saying what the brain is unwilling, or unable, to accept: The relationship is over.
The success of any one of my relationships—whether it's serious or casual—has often been predicted by my vagina long before my heart, or brain, had time to catch up. As my feelings waver or sputter out completely, so do the pleasure responses in my genitals. As a vagina-haver, I become dry and tense up during any type of sexual encounter with a soon-to-be ex. And I'm not the only one.
"When we become disinterested in our partners, the thoughts about them manifest into our body," explained Yasmin Ibrahim from EKHO Wellbeing, a London-based platform that helps women explore their sexuality. "The mind sends signals to the body that this partnership no longer fulfills its sexual needs. Without connection, the mind and body become sexually shut down since connection begins in the mind, driven by feelings for their partner."
The vagina gets messages from the subconscious
When we're falling in love or attracted to someone, the science is pretty straightforward: The brain releases a cocktail of hormones, including oxytocin, dopamine and cortisol, signaling the development of our feelings or sexual attraction. But when we're falling out of love, or if we're not sure we even liked our partner in the first place, it's harder to stay attuned to our real feelings because the science is not exact.
During my first serious relationship, in 2012, my vagina went out of commission during the last few months. I dissociated from orgasms triggered by my partner and, even though my feelings never wavered, penetrative sex became increasingly uncomfortable. I felt immense guilt for doubting the relationship, but my vagina acknowledged the need to end it long before it became a coherent thought. By shutting down, it was telling me to get out.
England-based writer, Helen, 27, faced a similar reaction with a partner she wasn't fully invested in. "I started going out with this guy who was really lovely, but I'd confused somebody who was lovely, made me laugh and I got on really well with for someone I had romantic feelings for," she said. "We were going out for a while and tried to have sex and it just didn't work—it was too painful. I thought I was attracted to him, now I know I wasn't."
The stress we accumulate when wrestling with undecided feelings is registered by our subconscious and sent out as a silent alarm response to our nerves, collecting tension like a wind-up toy. As a result, stress can cause physical symptoms and weaken the immune system making the vagina vulnerable to infections, like urinary tract infections or yeast infections, so it's not surprising to consider the notion that vaginas might be good indicators for doomed relationships.
"Our bodies have a sixth sense without the mind being involved," Ibrahim explained. "The heart leads in this as it has around 30,000 brain-like cells which feel intuitively, sending signals to the brain that something is wrong."
Ending a relationship can be hard, even if your vagina says to
In casual relationships, it may be easier to identify colder feelings and disinterest. However, when complicated feelings are intertwined with sexual escapades, it's harder to cut the cord.
Struggling to acknowledge true feelings can lead to even more confusion, and we might put up with terrible sex to appease a misguided belief that a relationship is salvageable.
Helen began going to her general practitioner (GP) because she thought she might have vaginismus, a condition in which involuntary muscle spasms interfere with vaginal intercourse, causing excruciating pain. The GP told her to relax and that slightly worked, but "it wasn't good sex," Helen said. "I firmly believe the body knows when something's not right."
Making sense of love and sex is chaos. I still occasionally struggle to listen to my vagina when it calls for an end to a romantic entanglement, particularly because I have other gynecological issues like vaginismus and polycystic ovarian syndrome. But my vagina's warning flares are always accurate, even if my brain is reluctant to accept them.
Ibrahim explained that it's imperative to listen to the heart and body, and follow through with those feelings. "These might feel like discomfort, anxiety, a contraction in the gut or just a lack of stimulation," she said. "The more you listen, feel and touch your body, the more connection you have, and therefore it takes no time at all to catch up with the mind."
Ultimately, our vaginas are not screaming out that the relationship is doomed—it's our entire body. It just takes longer for the conscious mind to realize what the subconscious figured out long ago: It's just not working.