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Take Our Relationship Compatibility Test

Wed, Sep 29, 2010

Advice, How To

photo by Spirit Mama

We’ve been penning a sex and love advice column for more than a decade now, which means that we’ve heard from our share of readers who are struggling in their relationships. Over the years, certain themes have emerged — sure, you’ll get the occasional couple who wants to involve their labrador in a threeway, but most of the couples we hear from have more familiar problems. Here are the five issues we hear about most often — none of them is necessarily a relationship deal-breaker (though any one of them might be), but the more compatible you are on each of them, the less likely you will find yourself needing to write into us for advice!

1. Porn

Unlike most issues we hear about, this one tends to break down pretty clearly along gender lines. In other words, we have yet to hear from a woman whose boyfriend doesn’t approve of her porn habit. We do hear from many many women who are uncomfortable with/offended by/disgusted by/insecure about their boyfriend or husband’s porn watching — and we hear from just as many men who want to know how to explain to their girlfriend or wife that watching porn isn’t the same thing as cheating.

Not all couples will be able to find a middle ground on this issue, but for many couples, we believe it’s possible — depending on what the specific issue is with the porn. For example, if she finds porn ethically problematic, the man might make an effort to consume only ethically sound porn (fair wages, good safer sex practices, etc.). If she feels left out, maybe they can find porn to watch together (probably not the Brazilian fart porn series). And if she just doesn’t like to see it, maybe he can learn to lock the door.

For more about finding a porn compromise, check out our column “Dear Em & Lo: I’m Put Out About His Porn” as well as our Wise Guys column “My Girlfriend Thinks Porn Viewing Is a Deal-Breaker.”

2. Kink

This issue, unlike porn, doesn’t break down along gender lines. Some women are kinkier than others, and some men are kinkier than others — and fate doesn’t always bring them together. And it’s not just a matter of leather masks and threeways and sex swings in the basement — sometimes it’s as simple as the woman wanting to bring a vibrator to bed (because she needs it to climax) and the man finding this unwelcome competition. Or sometimes he just wants to talk through a fantasy and she’d rather he kept it to himself.

So is a kink-vanilla relationship doomed? We asked our readers this question recently and while about half of you said yes, the other half said it depends. It depends on how willing each partner is to compromise and how integral the kink (or the vanilla) is to that person’s sexuality.

But the best advice is to avoid getting into this situation in the first place. No need to break out the bullwhip on the first date — but you shouldn’t wait until you’ve fallen head-over-heels in love before figuring out where each of you falls on the kink-vanilla, willing-to-experiment scale. And, unfortunately, we think that in this case, the ball lies in the kinkster’s court. If you can’t live without it, find a way to discuss this as soon as possible in the relationship.

3. Libido

Is one partner happy with sex once a month while the other would like it twice daily? Of course, this varies somewhat from relationship to relationship, and even over the course of a relationship. So it’s not exactly something that you can figure out on an early date. By the way, in case you assumed that this issue breaks down on gender lines — it doesn’t. Sure, we hear from more men who want sex more than their girlfriends, but we hear from plenty of women whose husbands won’t put out as often as they’d like, too.

As with porn, the key here is compromise. As in, is there any hope of it in your relationship? If neither party is willing to budge, then it’s probably a deal-breaker. But if the partner with the higher libido is willing to masturbate to make up the libido gap, and the partner with the lower libido is willing to (a) be supportive of all this self-love (you don’t have to be a cheerleader, just don’t turn up your nose at it) and (b) consider having sex sometimes just to be nice — then it doesn’t have to spell doom for the relationship.

And yes, we know it’s a controversial issue to suggest occasionally having sex when you’re not in the mood — but “not in the mood” comes in all different flavors, some of which are easier to conquer than others. For example, are you tired and have an early morning the next day? Then compromise on a quickie!

4. Jealousy

If the two of you are jealous types in equal amounts, whether small or large, you will find it relatively easy to find an equilibrium on certain potentially hot-button topics, like talking to exes, talking about sex in the past, flirting at parties, having friends of the opposite sex, etc. But if one partner is a lot more jealous than the other, then all hell may break loose.

In this situation, it tends to be easier for the less jealous person to compromise — but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should compromise. If you’re happy to sacrifice having that former booty call on your Facebook friends list, then go right ahead. But if compromises like this are going to build up over the years into a seething grenade of resentment, then get out now!

5. Communication

We’re going to go out on a limb here and say that this one is a deal-breaker. In fact, if you’ve mastered the art of open, honest communication with your partner, then issues one through four should all be surmountable. But if you can’t get the hang of this one, then even the way you each load the dishwasher may be a cause for a blow-out.

Communication is something that develops over time in a relationship, and it’s not something you can know going in — you may have been a terrible communicator in your last relationship, but then have an easy time talking to your new partner. But it is something you can have control over — unlike, say, your partner’s porn habits.

The key to good communication in a relationship is developing good habits from day one. If you’re able to openly and honestly discuss your respective sexual histories before having sex for the first time, then you’re a lot more likely to be able to discuss, further down the road, the fact that you haven’t yet climaxed during intercourse, or that you’d like to try something new in bed. And if you’re able to discuss something new you’d like to try in bed, then you’re a lot more likely to be able to discuss, further down the road, your disappointment in your sex life rut, or your fear that your partner might be cheating on you.

This article also appeared in EdenFantasys’ Sexis

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16 Responses to “Take Our Relationship Compatibility Test”

  1. Dave W Says:

    Again with the Brazilian fart porn! Well, you guys almost made it through 2010 without a mention. There’s always 2011.

  2. emandlo Says:

    Sigh, are we really that predictable?

  3. Kayla Says:

    I love Porn, I’m Kinky, I love to have sex, and I do get a little jealous occasionaly… My husband loves all of the above. I only have one issue, I want to have a threesome and my husand don’t wont to. I’m bi and I tried to get my husband to have sex with another woman and he refuses to. I had a friend of mine climb into our bed butt naked and he just turned his back on her!! I was a litte upset but I can’t force the man. I really don’t get him. He likes to go to strip clubs and even swinger clubs but he wont’t attempt anything. I wish I could understand him.

  4. Black Iris Says:

    @Kayla – you don’t understand him, just respect that this is what he wants. Do you need a threesome more than you need his love? Or is the issue that you’re mad that he won’t do something for you?

  5. Black Iris Says:

    @em and lo – All your solutions involve the woman accepting that her guy uses porn. Why can’t one of the possibilities be that a guy gives up porn? Men survived for thousands of years without being able to look at videos of sex. I’m sure there are men all over the world who somehow manage to go for years without a video or centerfold.

  6. Black Iris Says:

    I think all couples should expect to have issues about libido, kink, and communication. Even if you’re sex drives are about the same level, there will be times one of you wants it and the other doesn’t. If you’re together for any length of time, there will be times when one of you is busy or tired or pregnant for a few months and it gets difficult. If one person really needs a particular kink and the other dislikes it, you have a serious problem. Otherwise, I think you can still expect that there will be some things you want that your partner doesn’t. Communication is something you have to work on in all areas, but it often gets tricky about sex. You’ll probably have difference in terms of how you want to talk about it and you’ll have to work them out.
    Sex is like any other area of a relationship – you’re not both going to magically want the same things at the same time. You’ll have to talk and figure out what works and sometimes you may even have to give something up.

  7. emandlo Says:

    Black Iris — not necessarily! The implied other option is that she could just date someone who’s not that into porn. Sure, there may be some guys out there who’d willingly give up porn for the love of a good woman, but we’re talking about general relationship compatibility, i.e. the things that will help you get on best as a couple. And we think that an ability to compromise on porn will help you get on well as a couple. And like we said, the only issue that’s truly a deal breaker is #5. In other words, porn issues won’t necessarily END a relationship, they’re just going to be a sticking point.

  8. Black Iris Says:

    @em and lo – Giving up porn is also a way to compromise. I have a hard time seeing porn as an essential part of someone’s sexuality, partly because people have often just had to do without it. (For the record, I’m not super anti-porn.)

  9. Madamoiselle L Says:

    Iris, I kind of understand where you are coming from but, UNLESS the other person’s porn is at “addiction” levels (meaning it takes the place of eating, sleeping, socializing, actually having sex etc) asking someone to “give up” a form of media they enjoy is simply manipulative.

    I know a lot of women who “enjoy” romance novels and “Romantic Comedy” movies. (FTR, I’m a woman and I think they are both silly wastes of time.) Imagine if anyone thought it was OK for a man to tell his wife or gf she had to give these up, to “save” the relationship. It would be ridiculous to assume one has the right to limit any legal media one’s partner enjoys. One don’t have to enjoy it, but one does have to allow some ability for one’s partner to make their own choices in what they like to do on their own, as long as it’s legal.

  10. Madamoiselle L Says:

    “One doesn’t.” I meant “One doesn’t have to enjoy….” I changed the pronoun and didn’t change the word after it. Sorry.

    Damn, I wish we could edit our posts here.

  11. Black Iris Says:

    I’m not really the best person for this issue, but I’ll give it a shot. I don’t think it’s manipulative to want your partner to not use porn. It’s not quite the same thing as using other forms of media, unless you’re masturbating when you read the daily newspaper. It is definitely hypocritical to be against it if you are reading modern romance novels full of steamy sex scenes.

    I think part of what bothers me is that the advice comes across to me as men like porn, if women don’t want them to use it, women have to adjust their attitude. You can ask the guy to limit his porn use, but you can’t just be against it.

    It seems to me that our world has changed dramatically in the last 10 years when it comes to porn. Visual porn has been around for a very, very long time, but it wasn’t easily available. A guy would have to go out somewhere in public and purchase it or watch it. So a young man might have a stash of magazines or books somewhere, or he might not. A guy living with a woman might get rid of his porn to spare her feelings. Now many Americans have access to as much porn as they want/can afford right in their own home. I think more men are using more porn, which is one reason it ends up causing problems in relationships.

  12. Black Iris Says:

    I also wish there were a way to edit comments for typos.

  13. Mandy Says:

    I don’t think I’ll ever find a guy who has a libido as high as mine lol, but I can go without, I just don’t like too. I couldn’t imagine someone telling someone else they can’t masturbate. Blows. my. mind.
    But I guess whatever floats your boat eh?

  14. Black Iris Says:

    @mandy – So have you ever suggested to a guy that he have sex with you “just to be nice”? Do you know if a guy has ever gone ahead and had sex when he wasn’t in the mood for your sake?

  15. Linda Says:

    @Iris, I’ve never asked, but my boyfriend has had sex when he didn’t really want to for my sake. He’ll get into it enough to keep it up but he says he would have rather not.

  16. Jas Says:

    It all depends on what you’re into. If you’re not into something, then why be with someone who constantly does what you hate. You either choose to live with it or move on. Some have variety while others are close minded. Like Mandy said, “what floats your boat?” Maybe people need to take a look at the difference between spiritual and mechanical sex http://blog.californiapsychics.com/?p=3985000

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