[Two Pronged] Headaches from sex with a married man?
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
I am a woman, 36 years old, single, no children. I am with a married man who is 48 years old, with 3 children whom I have not met.
He is not my first lover, so why do I have headaches when I have sex with him and not with the others? He is the first married man I've been with, even if many have courted me before.
I do not have these headaches every time we have sex. I notice that I get them more often when I do something that pleases him and he gets very excited.
I am religious, going to Mass every Sunday and have a devotion to the Sacred Heart. I have also not had a relationship with someone married until now.
Is this God’s way of telling me I should stop it?
Thank you for your email.
There seem to be 3 principal issues in your account: your headaches, your affair with a married man, and your religion.
Starting with your headaches, there are headaches that occur just before or during orgasm that are purely physical. It seems that there are two main kinds: a dull headache that intensifies as orgasm approaches or a sudden and severe headache during orgasm. In some cases these can indicate a problem with the blood vessels feeding the brain.
However, since sex headaches do not occur in your case except with your married lover and are especially severe when he gets the most pleasure, it appears reasonable to suggest that there is a connection between your headaches and a sense of guilt over your affair, particularly when their frequency is linked to his heightened enjoyment.
There is after all plenty of scope for guilt — an extramarital affair is not usually on the menu for a believer in a mainstream religion in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Dr. Holmes may wish to comment further on the psychology of guilt.
Turning to your statement that you are religious, go to Mass weekly and have a devotion to the Sacred Heart, I have to say that I am baffled by this information. Carrying on an affair is not considered a virtue by your church and compounding that by possibly contributing to breaking up a family only worsens the situation.
However, what is truly concerning is how you apparently manage to reconcile your affair with your religious convictions. It seems the height of hypocrisy at first sight and unfortunately, you give us no further information with which to understand your situation any more clearly.
As for whether it is the hand of God that is striking you down with headaches as you pursue your “licentious path,” I am afraid that as an agnostic I find it hard to believe (and I am being generous). However, if you are sufficiently consumed by guilt, then a physical reaction is a possible consequence.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. Your letter comes across as basically a religious one: Are your headaches punishment for your being with a married man?
While it is not within our remit to answer religious questions, maybe the information and perspective we share will help you draw your own conclusions.
Example: Does your interpretation of God make Him/Her seem like someone who has a tit for tat mentality? As in: “You do bad (like go with a married man) and I shall smite you with headaches. You do good (leave him) and I shall reward you with a new house? A new car? Success at the sweepstakes maybe?”
Because that is the way it sounds to me from reading your letter. I will be the first to admit that you would, of course, be the expert on your relationship with your God. I can only respond to what you tell me in your letters.
If, however, you decide that your current interpretation of God doesn’t make Him/Her very nice and thus not worthy of being obeyed, then might you consider maybe examining whether this God of the Old Testament, emphasizing justice instead of mercy, is the god you wish to continue worshipping.
You must definitely also explore the science behind the phenomenon of sex headaches since that can contribute to the religious perspective you have and might have in the future.
For example, if your God, indeed, is giving you sex headaches whenever (and only IF) you make love with your married guy, wouldn’t he have to be consistent and give headaches to every woman who had sex with a married person not her spouse?
One would hope He would not be a sexist god, and therefore, if your interpretation were true, God would also give headaches to every man who made love to a married woman who was not his wife.
And that is just not the case. Research on headaches during sex suggests only two factors that may make the probability of its happening more likely:
Being male (about one percent of people experience headaches during sex, and around three quarters of them are men)
Having experienced migraines in the past
First, a few tried and tested facts, again based on research:
A sexual benign headache happens because the increase in sexual excitement causes the muscles to contract in your head and neck, resulting in head pain. A orgasm headache, on the other hand, occurs because of a spike in blood pressure that causes your blood vessels to dilate. Movement makes orgasm headaches worse. Sex headaches are brought on by sexual activity — especially an orgasm. Or, more commonly, you may experience a sudden, severe headache just before or during orgasm
Sex headaches aren't usually a cause for concern. But consult your doctor right away if you experience a headache during sexual activity — especially if it begins abruptly or it's your first headache of this type.
And finally, prevention: sex headaches can be prevented by
- Stopping sexual activity before orgasm (but who really wants that, eh?);
- Taking a more passive role during sex also may help;
- And, finally, medication; whether daily like a beta blocker, or preventive, like an anti-inflammatory, to be taken an hour before sex to prevent headaches. Please consult a medical doctor regarding the medications!
There are just 2 points I wish to make before ending this:
Ordinarily, I would have suggested you go to a doctor not just if you wanted medication, but the minute you experienced a sexual headache. Generally, sex headaches are not overwhelmingly dangerous, but, of course exceptions to the rule exist.
It would therefore be best to make sure you do not have the kind of highly-unlikely-but-still-possible-sex headache that is life threatening. However, you have survived despite having experienced not one but many sex headaches, so it is probably safe to say you have nothing to worry about (at least in terms of this being physically dangerous).
I would like to offer an alternative explanation to your particular headaches. Mr Baer suggests that it is primarily a sense of guilt over your affair that contributes to your sexual headache. I don’t think you get sexual headaches simply because of guilt. Brain activity during an orgasm itself involves the parts of the brain (lateral orbito-frontal cortex for one) which control self evaluation, reason and control, shuts down in all genders.
This makes perfect sense since in real (as opposed to fake) orgasms, you often lose control. Guilt primarily has to do with self evaluation, based on reason (or, more likely, non-reason).
Dearest Ruth, I so hope this has been helpful, despite a blending of religious insight (or so, we hope) and scientific fact.
If we failed to assuage you regarding God’s message to you, please feel free to contact someone who specializes in spirituality. However, should you want more information on relationships and sexual problems, please feel free to contact Two Pronged once more.
All the very best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.