Friday, April 15, 2011

Personality and Your Partner

Making a vow to understand your spouse is an important part of the commitment. I believe that the Myer's Brigg's personality assessment may be one of the most cost-effective counseling tools that is out there for marriage.

Conflict inevitably arises from differences. With sixteen different personality types and unique variations between these types, it is easy to see a huge potential for misunderstanding. There are four integral areas in which each person organizes their lives. Personality Desk breaks it down for us to examine in light of compatibility and relationships:

Extraversion/Introversion- This scale refers to where you focus your attention and get your energy. Extraverts are in tune with the external world and other people, and are energized by external stimulation. Introverts are more focused on the internal world, thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Introverts are renewed through solitary activity and quiet reflection.

Sensing/Intuition- This scale pertains to how you prefer to take in information. Sensors gather information in a very concrete, detailed oriented, and factual way. They tend to be factual, and are oriented to the present moment. Intuitives tend to be more abstract in their perceptions and are inclined to think more about meaning, connections, and possiblities. Intuitives are more imaginative than realistic.

Thinking/Feeling- This scale refers to how you prefer to make decisions. Thinkers prefer to make decisions that are based on fact or data, and like to reason things out logically. Feelers prefer decisions that are consistent with their values, and help to build harmonious relationships.

Judging/Perceiving- This scale refers to how you prefer to organize your life. Judgers tend to prefer structure, schedules, and plans. They like clear expectations and feel accomplished from completing tasks. Perceivers prefer an open-ended, spontaneous, and flexible existence. They enjoy that their options are open, and that there are many possibilities available.

Understanding your partner's unique blend of these personality characteristics will open the door to better communication. For example, knowing that your spouse is an introvert and has been knee-deep in the corporate world all day is incredibly helpful. He/she is probably drained at the end of the day because their energy source has been so depleted, that a "recharge" in front of the TV or computer may be necessary before an engaging conversation. On the flip side, if your spouse is a bubbly or charming extravert, being at home all day away from people will drive him/her stir-crazy.

Communication conflicts can also flare up when one spouse is predominantly a "thinker" and the other is a "feeler." A "feeler" spouse may want to hear "I love you" a seemingly exorbitant amount. Whereas a "thinker" may logically process that he/she said "I love you" at the beginning of the day or week and it is therefore not necessary to repeat it. A thinker could process this as unnecessary redundancy. This does not negate his/her capacity for love. However, it is important to adjust behavior until the love is properly received by the spouse. According to personality cafe, "thinkers see a correspondence between words and deeds, because correspondence to reality is the test of truth." However, they observe that a feeler likes to hear and say I love you "because that is affirming." If you believe your spouse is "overly sensitive," it is incredibly likely that you are a thinker and your spouse is a feeler, or at least relatively speaking in intensity.

Of course, a "sensor" married to an "intuitive" will also have a unique set of challenges. Sensors are seen as practical and in the moment. A sensing spouse could at times view their intuitive spouse as being unrealistic and having his/her "head in the clouds." In contrast, an intuitive could view a sensing spouse as overly practical and unromantic. Intuitives can often "read between the lines" in conversations and might interpret something that was never intended by their sensing spouse. It is crucial to employ communication basics such as, "Did you mean this?" before jumping to conclusions and sulking the rest of the day. A sensing spouse needs to make an effort to patiently clarify anything that could be potentially taken the wrong way.

Perhaps one of the most obvious differences between spouses because of its comical manifestation is the judging/perceiving characteristic. "Judging" spouses typically hate to be late because of their need to adhere to a schedule. A "perceiving" spouse could just as easily live without clocks because their need to be "free." I picture a glamorous wife nonchalantly trying on several outfits with different shoes and accessories, while the dutiful husband is pacing back and forth feeling his blood pressure rising with every passing minute.

Part of loving your spouse is adjusting your behavior because you know it is important to them. This certainly does NOT mean losing your identity or changing who you are. However, it means making necessary sacrifices from the heart with the underlying goal of increased intimacy.


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