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Painful sex is one of the most common problems partners talk about. Here is a question we received at justsex@theroot.com and our response to set the writer on the path of sexual pleasure.

The guy I’m seeing has a really big penis. Like the biggest I’ve ever seen, and it’s really uncomfortable to have sex with him. I haven’t said anything, but it always hurts me and I’ve cried a few times. I don’t want to lose him because he’s a great guy. What can I do? —Lisa S.

All women occasionally experience discomfort during sex. There are several reasons this occurs. One is a large penis and/or small vagina. However, your suffering in silence only leaves your partner unaware of how painful sex is affecting you. Let’s begin with some facts:

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1. The vagina’s opening is surrounded by muscles that stretch, and the vaginal canal can elongate. If your partner takes his time and penetrates the opening gently, the vagina can accommodate any penis size.

2. The average size of a soft or flaccid penis is about 4 inches. The average size of a hard or erect penis is about 5 to 6 inches. If you think your partner’s penis is “too big,” you are setting yourself up to expect pain or discomfort.

3. The best sex is when partners communicate about what is pleasurable and what needs improvement. It is important to offer your feedback about what is good and how the two of you can make it better in a way that does not ridicule or offend your partner. Agree to slow down and try different ways to have the type of sex that both of you want.

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Try these tips:

Recalibrate. Start over. Ask yourself, “Has anyone forced themselves or an object into my vagina?” About 1 in 3 women answer “Yes.” Many want to forget these memories, but when a woman is forced into intercourse, the vagina can become traumatized and have spasms or vaginismus with any attempt at penetration. This can result in lasting problems that only professional help can remedy.

Maintain your vaginal and reproductive health. Do you have untreated sexually transmitted infections? Do you have fibroids or other medical problems that may cause painful sex? You and your partner should ask your doctors for an exam to rule out any STIs or medical reasons that you may be experiencing painful sexual intercourse. If possible, both of you should visit the doctor with each other. Transparency about the results of these visits is essential to developing mutual trust.

Learn to relax with hot baths, exercises like yoga or Pilates, and massages before sex.

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Increase your sexual excitement or arousal. Extend foreplay, including kissing, touching and talking to each other, in romantic and sexy ways. Only you know when you are ready for intercourse. If your nipples are hard or erect, your vagina is wet and you are breathing deeply, you are getting excited.

Agree on a water-based lubricant that doesn’t take away sensitivity to feeling or touching each other. Rub it all over the penis, especially the tip, as well as on the lips, or labia, of your vagina.

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Help guide your partner’s penis with your hand when he enters your vagina. Relax and talk to each other. Bear down as if you are going to the bathroom to open your vagina and prevent vaginal spasms. Get comfortable with a penis inside you before you try mild thrusting. Allow deep thrusting when you are highly excited or aroused.

If you and your partner really care about each other, you will practice these steps. Try different positions (such as side-to-side or you on top) that may give you more control over where the penis goes.

Finally, it takes time to learn different sexual patterns. Be patient. If painful sex continues, find a doctor or therapist who is trained to work with you and your partner to help you resolve this problem.

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Some people believe that it is not what you have, it’s what you do with it. Intercourse that is pleasurable requires that you talk, listen and experiment until you find what works for both of you.

We agree!

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For answers to your questions about sexual health, write to us at justsex@theroot.com. Be sure to include your age, gender, any medications you’re taking and the nature of your sexual problem.

Gail Wyatt, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and sex therapist. She is also a professor at UCLA and director of the university’s Sexual Health Program. Lewis Wyatt Jr., M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif. He specializes in sexual health and bioidentical hormone treatment.