The Other Side of the Couch – Hurricanes and Turtles

Snapping Turtle

My husband and I share our home with two cats – two animals that are as different as chalk and cheese. Oscar is a grey, black and brown tabby with a white nose and cheeks, a white bib, and four white paws. He has green eyes with black liner around each.  Oscar can only be described as portly – he is the older of the two by eight years.  He commands the high ground in the house in some ways.  His preferred hangout is the loft above the den/office where he naps during the day, but his preferred nighttime stance is curled up right against my hip, wedged just tightly enough that turning over will place him in some danger if he doesn’t move quickly enough.

Jasmine, on the other hand, at age three, is the social committee.  A Maine Coon mix with the typical ruff, long fur and feather tufts between her toes, she is also remarkably gentle, loves to be brushed, talks all the time, and has a purr that can be heard across the room.  Although much lighter in weight, with all her fur she looks to be almost the same size as Oscar.

Jasmine joined our family about a year ago, and the introduction between these two took a while.  However, Oscar was tolerant, and Jasmine was persistent.  Now they often squabble, but also can be found lying on the bed together at times.  Jasmine does not climb up into Oscar’s lair, and Oscar does not climb on Jasmine’s cat condo.  They will eat each other’s food if either can get away with it.  Water bowls and boxes seem to be shared territory.

If Oscar and Jasmine were a human couple, I would say that Oscar is the minimizer – the one who just wants to shut things down and avoid conflict – while Jasmine is the maximizer – what do you MEAN you don’t want to talk about it, we have to get to the bottom of this right NOW!

Maximizers and minimizers are roles that turn up in most coupleships.  The problem is that both individuals who play these roles tend to think that their way of doing things is the way things should be done.

If you are the person in your relationship who tends to be more verbal, to want to initiate talking or getting to the bottom of a problem, or who has a hard time when your partner wants to take time out from dealing with a situation, you could be a maximizer.  Another metaphor for this role is that of being the hurricane or the tiger – you have outward moving energy that wants to be expressed.

If you are the person in your relationship who just wants to get things back under control and to shut down any problems, on the theory that most things will take care of themselves if they are not made too much of, you are probably a minimizer – you have inward moving energy that wants to close off.  A metaphor for this energy is that of the turtle – pulling into its shell for safety (but remember that turtles can be snapping turtles, too, if necessary).

If you recognize yourself in these descriptions, you might also want to know that the more you minimize or maximize, the more likely it is that your partner will do the opposite – and that will get you both stuck in an ongoing power struggle.

If you are stuck:

  1. Step back and take a time out.  Don’t return until you have calmed down.
  2. Recognize your own energy type and try to incorporate some of the opposite energy.
  3. Accept your partner’s energy with grace. You are not likely to change this essential quality – best to learn how to appreciate and manage it.
  4. Squabble if you must, but always end up peacefully – like Oscar and Jasmine.

After all, lying on the bed together isn’t a bad outcome!

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at

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1 Comment

Filed under Self Savvy

One response to “The Other Side of the Couch – Hurricanes and Turtles

  1. Norma Shirk

    What a wonderful analogy!


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