Let’s talk about something that is fun, exciting and very important in relationships…SEX.

Sex has forever been a vital aspect of relationships…otherwise we would not be here.

During my 30 years of psychotherapy with couples and individuals, sex has been one of the main problematic issues. So, let’s talk about sex this week.

Firstly, in case you have not noticed, partners in relationships are different. Different psychological theories talk about these differences in several ways; however, most agree on partners being usually opposites. Imago Relationship theory defines these different poles as Maximisers and Minimisers, or Tigers and Turtles. John Kappas, PhD, has developed his theory of people being different in terms of ‘Emotional’ or ‘Physical,’ Carl Jung talked about ‘Introverts’ and ‘Extroverts.’ The names don’t matter, the important thing is partners are different, especially when it comes to sex.

For this paper I am going to use the Imago theory of Minimise and Maximiser. Feel free to have a look at the other theories.

The short definitions for these are;

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Minimizers or Turtles
Hold feelings inward
Diminish or deny feelings
Deny dependency
Deny most of their needs
Share little of inner world
Withhold feelings, thinking, behaviours
Take direction from self
Think mainly about themselves
Act and think compulsively
Passive aggressive personality type
Maximizers or Tigers
Express feelings outward
Exaggerate feelings
Depend on others
Mostly exaggerate needs
 Compulsively open
Can be excessively generous
Ask direction from others
Usually think of others first
Act impulsively
Assertive
Maximisers are the tigers who pursue others in a relationship, the one who wants to discuss and talk things through. The Minimiser turtle withdraws and hides, retreats into his/her shell until it feels safe to come out.

For more information see… imagorelationships.org

This chart is not black and white, people can be some of both, but usually lean more one way or the other.

In terms of sex, generally speaking one partner is often thinking about and ready to have sex most anytime, if not always. During the first wonderful honeymoon stage both are often on the same plain, but then later… often not the same. If I were to ask a Maximiser (using Imago’s terms), “When do you FEEL LIKE having sex with your partner?” The answer would most likely be, “always.” If I ask the Minimiser partner the same question, his/her answer is often, “hardly ever!” The key word is FEEL LIKE. Herein lies the difference.

As I mentioned, during the first passionate and exciting stage of a relationship, both partners are usually into sex equally. After a few months/years of children, busy lives, being tired, work, other interests, maybe not so slim and fit, the Minimisers are generally not thinking about or feeling like wanting sex as often as the Maximiser. This leaves the Maximiser often feeling unloved, hurt, rejected and angry. Minimisers are often feeling pressured and thus may withdraw more.

Partners tend to have different libido cycles.

If the Maximiser asks his/her partner in the morning, “Do you FEEL like sex tonight?” The Minimiser’s feeling is usually, “No not really.” Or even, “OMG do we have to? Is that all you think about?” The Minimiser may say something different, like “we will see how the day goes.” Or “Not tonight because….” (Fill in the blank with any number of reasons.)

Minimisers usually don’t feel sexually aroused until they get into it, until they engage in foreplay to become aroused. That situation especially happens to women, as we get older dare I say. The big mistake in my opinion is when the Minimiser continues to say no to sex because they don’t feel like it. The truth is they are usually not going to feel like sex until they get into it by allowing themselves to enjoy foreplay and get aroused.
To repeatedly say no, puts the relationship at risk. The Maximiser may well find another partner. It is not fair for one partner to repeatedly say no, and then insist their partner remain faithful.

I am not saying partners need to always say yes when they don’t feel like sex. Of course everyone has the right to say no. I am talking about making a long pattern of refusing.

When these situations continue relationship problems develop. Understanding and working with the differences can help enormously.

What to do?

Understand that partners have differences, and they operate on different cycles. Minimisers will not FEEL like engaging in sex as often as Maximisers. Therefore, if you are a Maximiser, you need to know you are not being rejected, or not loved. Wait a day or two until your Minimiser cycles into their libido.

Tip for Maximisers…if you would like to have sex in the evening, you need to start at breakfast. By that I mean you need to be loving, caring, romantic, helpful all day long to help put him/her in the mood.
Being grumpy, critical, aggressive, controlling etc. Is a turn off.

Another difference to understand is that when couples have a fight or disagreement, the Maximiser will feel that the rift can be solved by having sex. The Minimiser on the other hand will need to have the rift repaired before they feel like being close.

To repair the rift, use the Couples Dialogue to talk it through.

Comments and discussion welcome on this topic.