Experimenting to stay together

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For some couples, it can be difficult to keep the intial fire of a relationship alive as they move from casual dating into the world of long-term commitment. Arts and Life Editor Sean Wetselaar takes a look at what it takes to go the extra mile

So you’re having sex. You’re physical, emotional, passionate. The first time, it can feel like the world revolves around you and your partner.

And the second time can be much the same. But after a while, that night that changed everything starts to feel routine. And a thought starts to float around your head. It’s time for a change.

That’s not very far from the truth,in the case of second-year graphics communication management student Melanie Green and her boyfriend Brendon Caley, who have been together around a year.

“The first time bringing something different up, I wanted to try having things a little rougher,” Green says. “That was the first time we tried anything different. I asked him and I was little bit nervous about [it] at first.”

Caley didn’t initially like the idea but he wanted to please her, so he agreed.

“We tried it, and then he ended up liking it,” Green says. “After we broke that first step of just talking about that kind of stuff, we just started talking about everything and just trying anything.”

The couple went on to experiment with roleplaying, along with a number of other less conventional sexy pastimes.

“It got to the point where we didn’t even need to talk about it, if I wanted to try something I would just go and do it. If he wasn’t into at the time it was just, like, ‘no’ and then we’d move on.”

When it comes to a long-term relationship, openness with your partner is crucial. Honesty about kinks and fetishes can bring a new depth in your relationship.

Red Tent Sisters, a Toronto adult retail store on Danforth Ave., East of Pape Ave., promotes sexual and reproductive health, with an emphasis on women’s health. Kimberly Sedgwick, co-owner of Red Tent Sisters, says that being open with your partner about sexual preferences can yield great rewards.

“If you’re willing to have that kind of openness and have that communication, then I think you’re going to be more able to get what you need and what you want from your partner,” Sedgwick says.

“The more you can communicate and the more you can express your desires, the more likely you are to get them all.”

Sedgwick adds that there’s always more to learn when it comes to sexuality, and it’s important to be willing to experiment. “When it comes to sexuality, the worst thing that can happen is you don’t like it and you just don’t do it again,” she says.

One of the key aspects of experimenting, Sedgwick says, is the ability to laugh.“Certain things are maybe not going to turn out the way they do in the movies or the way you imagine they would,” she says.

“The best thing you can have for any relationship is open communication, a willingness to try new things and a willingness to laugh sometimes.”

Laughter certainly plays into the relationship of Reggie George, a second-year hospitality and tourism management student, and Geneveive Latour, a second-year film student, who have been together almost two years.

George says that, to him, a friendly relationship is important. “The trick is, I guess, to make it more of a friendly relationship environment,” George says.

“If you make it a relationship environment, you don’t want to be open with the other person because you don’t really know how they’re going to react.”

Latour agrees. “When you just have a light and fun relationship where you do new stuff and try new things, you end up getting closer over time than people who obsess right away,” shes says.

The couple, who originally met in residence, agree that experimenting can be the key to a successful long-term relationship.

“I’m a very adventurous person,” George says. “If I’m comfortable with someone I’ll just do whatever. I don’t really like to beat around the bush when it comes to these issues.”

“Sometimes you run out of ideas of new stuff you want to try,” Latour says. “But the intimate actually seems to be really good for that. There’s an endless supply of ideas out there if you can’t think of any yourself.”

For some couples, achieving this sort of openness and comfort is easier said than done. Anything outside of what a couple perceives to be normal and safe can feel awkward and risky.

“I find oftentimes with couples that have been together a long time, that if they’re interested in trying new things, sometimes they’re a little hesitant to bring it up,” Sedgwick says. “It can be sort of hard, out of nowhere, to bring [it] up.”

Sedgwick advises couples to get used to conversations along those lines. She adds that visiting a sex shop, whether or not to make actual purchases, can be a good place to start getting comfortable.

“I think putting yourself into a situation where that conversation can come up more naturally is really great,” she says. “When you’re in that context it can be easier to have conversations.”

It may feel awkward, at first, but ultimately that honesty and openness is well worth the struggle.

“It allows you to open up that part of you to someone,” Green says. “You get to learn things about yourself that you didn’t know. You’re learning what you like and what you like with that person, what they like — I think that definitely furthers your relationship, and helps you.”

When it comes to making a longterm relationship go the distance, George says it’s the little things that count.

“I wouldn’t say it’s always trying new things,” George says. “I would say it’s always trying. We still do some of the romantic stuff we did when we were originally dating. It’s things like that that help you remember why you’re with that person.”

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