Experiences of Intimate Relational Disruptions Associated with Female Chronic Pelvic Pain

  • Rebecca Webber

Student thesis: Doctor of Clinical Psychology


The aim of this thesis was to understand more about the intimate relational impacts of female Chronic Pelvic Pain (CPP), to contribute to intervention approaches for this prevalent and difficult to treat condition. Paper one reports a narrative synthesis of twenty-seven qualitative investigations in this area, to clarify the nature of relational distress associated with female CPP. Themes identified pertain to dominant societal discourses that influence couples' experiences, disruptions across domains of sex and intimacy, planning for and having children, work, social and domestic life and attempts to manage such disruptions. Implications for future research across different contexts and addressing relational difficulties within healthcare settings are highlighted. Paper two presents a qualitative inquiry using grounded theory to produce a novel conceptual framework for understanding how women with CPP perceive, experience and manage difficulties within their intimate relationships. The resulting theory, derived from thirteen in-depth interviews, identifies two core concepts: 'Dreading sex and physical intimacy' and 'being bound by lifestyle constraints'. These themes permeated women's experiences in which dominant societal narratives negatively influenced self-concept and emotional experience, compelling women to find another way to manage CPP within their relationships. This resulted in two interactive cycles, influenced by women's internal psychological conflict and partners' responses; one leading to distancing and the other to bonding for couples. Findings provide deeper insight into the intimate relational impacts of female CPP and the role of open communication in relational adjustment. Implications for early relational intervention and education for clinicians are discussed. Paper three provides an overview and critical appraisal of the processes involved in conducting the research. The researcher's reflections on decision making and research processes, methodological rigour, reflexivity, strengths, limitations and the overall research contribution are presented. This paper concludes with personal reflections on the project.
Date of Award31 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRichard Brown (Supervisor) & Adam Danquah (Supervisor)


  • Relational distress
  • Couples
  • Self-concept
  • Sexual pain
  • Chronic Pelvic Pain
  • Intimate relationships

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