Married at First Sight

New MAFS NZ expert Jo: ‘let’s talk about sex!’

The Kiwi relationships therapist reveals how she was convinced to join MAFS and shares her top tips for the bedroom
Pictures: Michelle Hyslop

It’s safe to say intimacy is not a taboo subject for Married At First Sight NZ’s new sex and relationship expert. In fact, Jo Robertson is so intrigued by what goes on between the sheets, she’s built a career on it.

“Talking to people about their sex lives is so intimate – once you talk about sex, you can talk about everything,” the 36-year-old shares, chatting to Woman’s Day from her West Auckland home. “Sex is often, but not always, a symptom of stuff going wrong in a relationship. What I find so interesting is that it’s the most private, secretive, dark space.

“I’ve discovered that there can be so much hidden pain, wounds and hurt within someone, and while you may work on everything else in their lives, all the trauma comes from this really sacred part of them. It’s really powerful to tap into that.

MAFS NZ experts Jo Robertson and John Aiken
Jo had never watched a MAFS episode before. “It feels like work!”

Married to husband Dave – with whom she has three boys, Jack, 10, Beau, nine, and Danny, six – Jo has her own successful therapy practice that specialises in relationship issues, betrayal and, obviously, sex.

“Even as a kid, I was really curious about sex,” remembers Jo. “I was front row in every school sex-ed class, asking a million questions. Then at uni, I was asking friends about their sex lives and everything that went with it – pregnancies, STIs, what partners wanted them to do… It was fascinating. I learnt how to listen and ask the right questions.”

However, Jo’s earliest career ambition was to be prime minister. Laughing, she confesses, “I did social policy and sociology at uni, graduated at 20 and then realised no one wants a 20-year-old PM, so in the meantime, I decided I’d go into the community and get to know what happens in people’s lives. I trained to be a counsellor so I could hear what people were struggling with.

With sons (from left) Jack, Beau and Danny.

“I realised that by helping people, I could change behaviours and mindsets. If I can help create a healthier, happy couple who do conflict well, they’ll model that to everyone in their lives and that’s social change.

“Also, I saw on TV what it looked like to be a PM and it didn’t look as appealing any more!”

It’s her desire to help others and change the world that led Jo to accept the invitation to join John Aiken on the couch for MAFS NZ, although she admits she was on the fence about the role until a chat with a mate.

“She said, ‘The old model of therapy only being for the rich is problematic. Doing shows like this means you and your advice become accessible for everyone.’ It made me think how we need public forums where people think about relationships and ponder how to do them better.”

MAFS NZ experts Jo Robertson and John Aiken
“Jo will be the star of the show,” says John.

Although Jo didn’t wholly realise what she was signing up for, having never seen a single episode of MAFS before. She explains, “Relationship therapists can’t watch shows like that because we feel like we’re at work! So, no, I didn’t know much about the show before diving in, but I just treated the couples like I would in my practice.

“However, it did mean I had no idea how things were meant to go, like the whole dinner-party thing! As for the commitment ceremonies, I was almost clueless! I didn’t know I was supposed to ask them for their decision and to show their ‘stay’ or ‘leave’ cards. There was a lot of guessing.”

She credits fellow expert John, 53, for being a calm, welcoming influence throughout the experience.

“John’s the most phenomenal colleague. He’s so kind and encouraging. He had a really caring way of showing me the ropes and never made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. Away from the cameras, John’s very chatty and loves taking photos – he likes to document life. He’s very fun.”

New MAFS NZ expert Jo Robertson with Husband Dave
Husband Dave’s her biggest fan!

Speaking about his new co-star, John says, “Jo will be the star of the show. She’s a breath of fresh air – young, funky, articulate and warm. She has a cheeky sense of humour and she’s brave enough to throw herself in the deep end.”

Jo has been impressed with the couples on MAFS NZ and believes they’re all there authentically looking for love. She adds, “There was a lot of reflection on how to be a better partner. Some of the men took feedback very well. I saw some really good role modelling.”

As for her own relationship, Jo met Dave at an Auckland working bee. She was volunteering and he was running a community organisation. Jo had a boyfriend at the time, but the minute she saw Dave on stage, she knew he could be The One.

“We were so aligned in our values and I saw he was the kind of guy I really wanted to be with,” she explains, adding that they met again at an aspiring leaders forum, where they spent five days together.

Dave popping the question.

“And that was that. By then, I was single but he was still in a relationship. So I respectfully waited for that to end before making a solid move. I could see we’d be a great fit. We married young – I was just shy of 22. It’s our 14-year wedding anniversary this week.”

The couple juggle a busy family life with Jo’s therapy work and Dave’s job on a marine education programme for kids.

Jo says, “It’s very intense in our house with three boys. We have six days of sport per week through winter. There’s not an afternoon where they’re not trying to throw balls inside the house to destroy my things. They’re all very athletic, so it’s very physical.”

In between therapy, driving kids to sport and filming a TV show, Jo somehow manages to find time for her passion – working with kids and teens on healthy messages around porn. Yes, she’s still talking about sex and trying to make positive social change while she’s at it.

New MAFS NZ expert Jo Robertson with Jusband Dave

Jo’s top 3 sex tips

  1. Hormones are everything. If you have a female, oestrogen-fuelled body, your desire will change every single day, so we can’t have the same expectations on partners.
  2. I would prescribe everyone a three-month break from penetration – do everything else! People get very formulaic and penetration works well for men, but it’s not as pleasurable for women and you can lose creativity.
  3. Talk more often. I call it a post-game debrief. In a positive way, ask afterwards, “What was your favourite part? What would you like more of next time?” Then every few months or even every year, look back and ask each other, “Which time did you really love? Why?” It’s learning to reflect and giving feedback for a better experience for everyone.

Married At First Sight NZ is coming late May to Three and ThreeNow.

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