Kurt Braunohler and Lauren Cook on Parenthood, ‘Wedlock,’ and Sex Dungeons

braunohler-cookThe couple that visits a BDSM dungeon together stays together. At least that’s what Kurt Braunohler and Lauren Cook are trying to prove in their podcast Wedlock with Kurt and Lauren. What started as occasional chats between soon-to-be-weds on Kurt’s multi-format K Ohle podcast became a fully produced audio series from Audible. Today Wedlock has expanded to wide release and is available wherever you listen to podcasts. To celebrate the release, I talked to Kurt and Lauren about their marriage, what it’s like to be new parents, and how tantric lovemaking, nudist camps, and sex dungeons might be the tickets to a happy relationship.

How’s the new baby?

Lauren: She’s great. We finally reached a point where it’s really fun now. It’s kind of hard in the beginning, but we are in a happy phase right now.

What was the most difficult part of the beginning?

Both: Oh, wow.

Kurt: The first month is really dark.

Lauren: It’s so dark in the beginning!

Kurt: You want to be really happy, but you’re tired and depressed and you don’t understand why.

Lauren: It’s mostly because you just can’t sleep. It’s really a form of torture. That is by far what makes you feel so unhinged.

Kurt: You’re kind of panicked because you really don’t know how to keep this thing alive. Every little thing is like, “Oh no, it’s an emergency!”

Lauren: You know, when they first come out they don’t give a lot back. They’re such jerks. They don’t even really make eye contact and stuff like that. We have a lot of friends who are having kids now and we keep telling them to set the bar really low for the first six weeks and then it will get exponentially better.

Yeah, I’ve always found the entitlement of newborn babies to be absolutely disgusting.

Lauren: [laughing] Exactly.

Your podcast Wedlock actually started as a variation of Kurt’s K Ohle podcast, right?

Kurt: Yeah, I was doing a podcast where the idea was that it was multi-format, so it would just change all the time. We were getting married at that time, and was Lauren’s idea to do it about relationships, getting married, and why we’re excited to get married because it seems genuinely stupid that people choose to get married considering divorce rates and that sort of stuff.

Lauren: That first iteration of the podcast is very different from what it is now. It was mostly chat. But we both come from a very different dating background. That was another reason I thought it would be fun to chat: How did two people with a very different history come together and learn to speak the same language? Kurt is a longtime serial monogamist. He’s had three really long relationships – one of which was 13 years – and one year of going crazy. But for the most part in his life he was in a serious relationship. I was the opposite.  Just lots and lots of short-term dates.

Kurt: “Short-term dates.” That’s what Lauren calls them.

Lauren: Yeah, sometimes it was a real depressing one-night stand and other times it was like, “Oh wow! Four months. This is getting serious.” That was sort of the springboard for “let’s talk about relationships.”

You started a podcast together when you were about to get married. Did you have any fear that having a very public, open, honest discussion where other people could weigh in might affect the relationship negatively at all?

Kurt: I understand where that fear comes from, but if anything, I think it has had a positive impact because we constantly have to look at our relationship and talk about it. It puts us in a place where we have to go through our issues together. I think it’s actually been good for us.

Lauren: Yeah, I agree.

Wedlock has became a more structured, highly produced series.

Kurt: Yeah, Jim Colgan at Audible reached out to us and said he liked the show and had some ideas to structure it. We were like, “That’s great! It would be nice to have something that is highly edited and nicely put together.” With Audible’s help we put this together and now it just moves.

Lauren: It’s a much shorter podcast with four distinct segments. Every episode we have an interview with an unlikely expert to talk about these sort of serious topics. Then we also have a field piece where we go out and do something while recording ourselves in this sort of fish-out-of-water situation. Then we also take questions and…what’s the fourth one?

Kurt: It’s just our intro up top. What the original podcast was was an hour-and-a-half of chats. Now that makes up about ten minutes of the podcast. The rest is all these other very structured elements. Like when we say “unlikely experts,” when we wanted to talk about cheating we interviewed a cam girl to see if she considers what she does with the men who are married to be cheating.

What made you want to expand the podcast to explore other people’s relationships and to put yourselves through experiences, like visiting a nudist camp together?

Lauren: When we talk about ourselves it’s just to sort of relate to people. I think we all have much more in common than we think we do. It’s good to investigate and learn about stuff we don’t know about and connect with people that we might not have assumed we had a lot in common with.

Kurt: To put ourselves in weird uncomfortable positions I think is inherently funny. In the episode that’s going to be released to celebrate this wide release we actually go to a BDSM dungeon. We get naked and it gets crazy.

Lauren: It’s so dumb and crazy. But to answer your question, I think it would be a pretty boring podcast if it was just about our relationship.

Through the field pieces and learning more about other relationships, have you expanded your ideas about what your relationship can be?

Lauren: Yeah, I think so.

Kurt: Like when we went to the nudist colony, I think that was particularly eye-opening for you.

Lauren: Yeah. And we did something with a tantric sex guru.

Kurt: We learned how to have tantric sex and then started having very mildly tantric sex. No Sting or anything like that.

Lauren: Tantric-lite.

Kurt: But I think that was fascinating and interesting and totally affected our lives. And I think Lauren is going to be nudist later in life.

You also give advice on the show. What would you say is the best advice you would give couples?

Kurt: I would say go to couple’s therapy even if you don’t have a problem. We started going as investigative research to do a piece for Wedlock. It was so eye-opening. I’m not a therapy person. I wasn’t raised with therapy the way I think a lot of comedians are. But the couple’s therapy has made our relationship better. I would recommend it for everyone, even if you don’t have an issue.

Lauren: I love couple’s therapy. It’s also really expensive.

Kurt: We had stop, like, “We can’t fucking afford this.”

Lauren: But if you even go for four sessions, I think that’s all people need sometimes just to be able to say the things that are lurking in the back of your brain. I second the therapy advice. I also think it’s important to just set aside time to check in with each other.

Kurt: Especially once you have a kid.

Lauren: We’re in that place where it’s really easy to go three weeks without having a real heart-to-heart: “How are you doing? How do you feel about all of this?” You have to be open to hearing what’s not working for your partner and openly and honestly say what’s not working — and what is working. Give each other praise. It’s work. It’s a lot of work being in a committed relationship. It’s something you have to put a lot of effort in to make sure each other is happy.

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