Aunt Vadge: is my wife cheating on me?

A man stares off pensively, hand on chin. Is his wife cheating on him? Find out!

Aunt Vadge,

I have a question about labial tears that I’m hoping you might be able to help me with.

My wife recently divulged that she had a labial tear one night when things were moving in a romantic direction. This puzzled me since my knowledge of the sources of labial tears points to sexual encounters as the most common cause outside of vaginal birth which is troublesome since we hadn’t had sex for at least a week prior to this night.

I pressed her for some more details and she claimed that she thinks it happened while taking off her panties. (She claims she has massive labia minor but they are pretty normal based on my experience. There may be a little body dysmorphia here but that’s a different convo).

Later she said it may have happened while she was scratching herself in the car or when she was vigorously rubbing herself on the bidet but wasn’t really sure when it happened. She was gracious enough to show me the tear and it was about a 1 cm split in the labia. It is my understanding this is a pretty sensitive area and one would almost certainly know when trauma like that would have occurred.

She claims there aren’t very many nerve endings down there so it would be easy to overlook the exact moment when something like this happened. She also tells me that this isn’t the first time it’s happened either but she couldn’t recall when it’s happened before. We’ve been together over 8 years and this is the first I’m hearing of unexplained vaginal tears.

My question is how likely is her story. The medical professionals I’ve spoken to suggest that her claims aren’t very likely but they aren’t gynos. I’ve had some recent suspicions about infidelity so naturally my mind went there. I’m reaching out to get a professional opinion to see how likely her story is true because right now it seems plausible but very far-fetched and extremely hard for me to believe.

Thank you for your time and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
Concerned

______________________

Dear Concerned,

I understand this situation is causing you distress, and it’s important to address both the physical and emotional aspects of what’s happened.

Let’s start with the physical aspect. Labial splits and tears can occur for a variety of reasons, not just sexual activity. In fact, the cut you describe seems rather large. This is also unusual, from any cause, and as a vulvovaginal specialist practitioner, my mind immediately goes to underlying tissue problems or anatomy – not sex.

It is likely to help our discussion by remembering that the inner labia are the same skin type as our mouth lips. When things happen, they do split, cut, get sores and become dry and fragile. The skin is actually quite delicate and soft, yet a lot is demanded of this area of our bodies.

The labia minora are indeed quite sensitive and delicate, and they can be prone to damage due to:

  • Friction from tight clothing, such as the act of removing underwear too quickly or with force
  • Sharp nails or a hangnail causing a scratch or tear
  • Vigorous scrubbing or rubbing, perhaps during cleaning or when using a bidet
  • Scratching, particularly if one has a skin condition like eczema or if there was a strong itch due to a yeast infection or other irritant
  • Nutrient deficiencies where tissue breaks easily and can’t repair itself quickly (protein, zinc, etc.)
  • Hormonal imbalances or deficiencies, sometimes with no other symptoms apparent
  • Medical conditions such as lichen sclerosus, scleroderma, dermatitis
  • A combination of the above

The labia are actually rich in nerve endings (while the vaginal canal is the opposite, very little innervation), and typically, a tear might be painful, but our bodies are very adaptable and if you imagine a cut on your lip, it isn’t causing terrible pain; just sometimes if you knock it.

Most women I know may be sore after vigorous or prolonged sex, but the redness, swelling and damage tends to be around the vaginal entrance, as that area gets the most action and friction, not on one lip, as you describe.

It’s entirely possible that damage might not be noticed right away, especially if there was no significant bleeding or ongoing pain. I know personally I’ve discovered damage on myself purely by accident or from just a small niggle. If your brain isn’t aware of an injury, pain can be insignificant.

Now, regarding the emotional aspect, trust and communication are key in a relationship. If your wife has never mentioned labial tears before, it’s understandable that you might be surprised or concerned by this new information, particularly if it intersects with concerns about fidelity. It’s worth noting that labial tears aren’t in any way evidence of sexual activity outside of your relationship, but your feelings and worries are valid and deserve to be heard.

The best course of action here is to foster an open and non-judgmental conversation with your wife about your concerns. A sensitive approach focused on care and understanding will likely be more productive than one driven by suspicions. Based on the care and attention I can see you’ve put into your letter, I am taking you to be a thoughtful and considered person, and by trying to get more information, you’re doing your homework, which is commendable.

I’m concerned, however, that your suspicion of infidelity is creating an incorrectly positioned feedback loop where the tear becomes the focal point, so instead of saying, “I’m scared of losing you,” your defence mechanism is saying, “You’re cheating on me”. Worth some consideration.

If she’s had these tears over the years, it makes sense to me that you wouldn’t necessarily know about them. There’s a lot that goes on in our bodies that we never tell anyone, not for any particular reason, just because it doesn’t seem a thing to tell or there’s simply no context for passing the information on.

There are plenty of times we hurt ourselves in our day to day life and never tell anyone. The number of times I’ve knocked my knee on the dashboard of my car, for example, is extraordinary, replete with bruises, and you are now the first person I’ve ever told. If the result was being accused of infidelity by my partner of eight years, I would have kept that to myself also. In that sense, perhaps some self-reflection and discussion on the dynamic between you might be worthwhile.

In the end, while the occurrence of labial tears as you describe may be uncommon (1cm is quite big from any cause), jumping to conclusions is not going to end with a positive outcome – just an awful fight. Try to enter into the conversation with an open heart. It would be my strong recommendation to avoid focusing on the tear – it may be exactly what she is saying it is, and you have no way to prove otherwise. Thus, it is a mistake – however tempting – to make the tear the main talking point. It’s not.

If you really don’t trust what your wife is saying, perhaps the issue is bigger than her labial tear can possibly bear the weight of alone.

A gentle and vulnerable conversation about how you feel is the first port of call. If you feel like the situation deserves a greater intervention, you both may benefit from couples therapy, where a professional can offer support in navigating these difficult conversations and help you both to rebuild trust if needed.

It might also be useful for your wife to consult with a practitioner as she sees fit, to have the tear checked out if she’s concerned.

One way or another, the tear doesn’t sound much fun for either of you. I wish you both a speedy recovery!

Warm regards,
Aunt Vadge



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