When Two Worlds Collide
Relationship and sex advice columnists always stress that not only are basic mutual interests essential but sexual compatibility is also a crucial factor for having a healthy, loving and satisfying relationship as a whole. That if one or both partners are not on the same page that there will be dissatisfaction which will lead to resentment and eventually a break down of the relationship.
While I am not an expert and I am not disputing their advice per say but I do gotta say that from my own experience it is possible to have a steady, stable, healthy and satisfying relationship even if you and your partner are far from compatible when it comes to sex. Yes it takes work. Yes it is not always a simple process. And no this might not work for every one who is reading this.
My own experience is that for about the past decade I have been in a relationship with someone yet he and I are worlds apart when it comes to not only every day interests but also desired activities between the sheets. If one were to list all our likes and interests side by side they would see that we actually have very little in common outside of sense of humor and a love of reading( and even the types of books we enjoy are different). To give a brief example of this he enjoys mainstream rock music, reading fantasy books and watching art house films while I am heavily into extreme metal (death and black), Science Fiction and horror novel and would rather watch a gore flick over anything else. Add to this wonderful mix of differences the fact that I have a serious mental illness that can effect not only how my mind functions but also pretty much every aspect of my life.
When it comes to sex we are even further apart. He is rather romantic, gentle and vanilla in his tastes to put it bluntly, while I on the other hand enjoy hard BDSM, healthy doses of fetish and a good hard fucking. His lack of experience and his honest non desire to engage in the activities that turn me on are reason enough not even attempt them. I would never ask that he do something that would make him feel uncomfortable as I honestly would receive no enjoyment knowing that he was not enjoying it.
This begs to question, how have we made it work all these years. One would assume that the answer is by having an open relationship, a mutual understanding and consent to step out on each other, but that is not the case. His definition of a relationship involves exclusivity and faithfulness. Something that I was well aware of before heading into this relationship, and something that in spite of my own beliefs and prior positive experiences with open relationships will and fully do respect.
It is that very same respect that I have for him that also leads me to not pressure him to explore areas that are not to his taste or sigh with displeasure at the fact that some of my more erotic fantasies can not be played out. Just as he is patient and respectful with the fact that I may not be as open to having a night a love making or that our sex drives are out of sync due to our differences in wants in the bedroom.
The major key here to our success is respect as you can see. Other components are patience, understanding, open communication, and not belittling the other for their likes and/or dislikes. The open communication allows us to tackle head on any issues that may come up instead allowing them to fester and grow until they become an unsolvable problem. Another advantage of that is that combined with our mutual respect if it easier for us to actually talk about things that we may like to try or not try without a fear of being judged.
We were very much aware of our differences heading into the relationship, and didn't just jump into it without first debating the possible impact it was going to have on our sex lives. That open line of communication was there from the very beginning, and while some of the more graphic details and kinks were left unsaid the very basics were touched up and talked about. This I think is what keeps any type of resentment from forming. We knew full well from early on that we were not sexually compatible yet still choose to pursue a relationship with each other.
Another thing that is important is the lost art of compromise. People tend to ignore this is relationships, even if two people are drastically different it may be possible to find a middle ground that both are satisfied with. If he is desiring X and I am wanting Z is it possible to incorporate a little of both or maybe find something completely different that we might both equally enjoy. Again an open and non judgmental line of communication helps us to find that middle area.
Patience is something that both will need to nurture as there will be times when a middle ground can not be found and each person is left stranded. The patience will make it possible to deal with frustration that results from perhaps a failed sexual encounter or the other not being able to be in the mood.
Understanding and accepting that the other has different wants and desires. Different tastes and kinks will help you both navigate through murky waters when things get a little tense.
I would think that being non judgmental is something that he works on a little more. Our past experiences are very different and even our views and opinions of sex differ greatly. He the more romantic of us having less experience and a far lower number, while I the adventure seeker have engaged in activities such as three ways and full blown exhibitionism on more than a few occasions. Another thing that is important for people who may find themselves in a similar situation is that is a good idea to always be mindful with what you share with your partner.
When mental illness is a factor education is also very important. With all the various misconceptions that are out there and misrepresentations in the media it is important that one is familiar with the realities of mental illness. Far too often people either have an incomplete image or one that is entirely wrong. Even if one has a basic understanding it never hurts to educate yourself more as often times these illnesses can present with a wide range of symptoms. Also the medications that are often used as treatment can have side effects that may cause strife in a relationship. Don't be afraid to discuss side effects with your Dr and how these side effects are impacting your relationship.
I will not pretend that any of this is easy, and yes on a few occasions our discussions have turned to why is that we have remained together over the years. My own mental illness has served as a road block on a few occasions over the years. The roller coaster of mood swings that impact ones sex drive can be difficult in relationships that aren't fraught with compatibility issues.
We work hard to keep and maintain what we have, each mindful of the fact that when it comes down to even the basic mundane things we are not only a different pages but perhaps even on different books in life. I can't really say for sure which one of us has the most struggles in our relationship but in the end that really doesn't matter. All that matters is like any relationship should be we tackle each issue and obstacle that arises as a team. That no matter our differences we are able to overcome them by working through them together. That our mutual trust, respect for the other, and emotional connection gives us the strength and insight to keep working together. Which is really how any healthy relationship should be
*I chose to do this piece on a relationship with two people involved. Relationships that involve more individuals often times have different sets of challenges that I feel need their own space. Currently I have this piece written about open relationships. I do plan on revisiting that topic and also exploring multiple partner relationships.