Have you ever known a couple where one spouse was ALWAYS on time, and the other was often running late?
Have you ever known a couple where one spouse wanted things neat and orderly, and the other had a high tolerance for clutter?
Most of us, when discussing matters of personality, fall into one of three categories:
- We find it somewhat interesting
- We find it mostly boring
- We find it not even sensible
And bothersome though it may be, it’s actually predictable which category one will fall into… based on… you guessed it… your personality. 🙂
But whether this topic seems intriguing, sleep inducing, or not even legitimate, will you, for the sake of your bride and your relationship, consider the following:
If the couple I painted in the picture above is you (or a couple you know well), I need not persuade that these very different approaches to life can trigger massive frustration. And as a man inside of one of these “opposites attract” relationships, I would like to share 3 different approaches I have taken, as my wife and I have navigated these challenging waters:
The prosecutor — Frequently, the spouse that is always on time and prefers for things to be neat and orderly (me) will push aggressively for their partner (my wife) to adopt the “right” way of doing things. When doing so, they are often critical of their spouses’ more laid back approach to time, to their surroundings, and to life. I am guilty of being a prosecutor.
The skeptic — When told that personality differences can be the reason you are experiencing relational consternation, it’s easy to dismiss the validity of, or just completely ignore the presented information. We all, very much, like our own way of doing things. Our way seems logical to us. It seems practical. It seems easiest. It seems right. And we don’t want someone telling us that there is another way (usually the opposite of ours) that is also logical, also practical, also easiest, and also right (for a person with a different personality). Therefore, our mind (either consciously or subconsciously) deems the highly disruptive information not valuable. I am guilty of being a skeptic.
The student — When a husband is in quest of becoming his wife’s hero, he takes neither the prosecutor’s nor the skeptic’s approach to personality differences, but rather chooses to posture himself as a student. He looks for the broader perspective. He digs for deeper understanding. He searches for a window into the inner wiring of the woman that he loves (and knows God masterfully created).
I know the path of the student is against your natural wiring, and often against what we want to do. But if you’re willing to join me in the quest to become more than what we are, and to lead our relationship to more than what it is, let me share an excerpt from Dr. David Keirsey’s book, Please Understand Me II. He is speaking in reference to a portion of the Myers-Briggs temperament analysis (an assessment that receives the highest of accolades from counseling, academic, and spiritual leaders alike).
The Judgment/Perception (J-P) scale measures how people process information and arrange their lives. Those who score high on Judgment tend to make up their mind quickly and commit to schedules, while those scoring high on Perception prefer to keep their options open and their timetables flexible.
People strong in Judgment (J) waste no time forming opinions or drawing conclusions. They often report feeling a sense of urgency until a decision is made and can rest only after everything is settled. Closure and finality are important to these individuals, as is orderly procedure. As a result, they can be quick to make schedules, agendas, or timetables for themselves and others to follow. People strong in Judgment will establish deadlines and take them seriously, expecting others will do the same. They’re usually comfortable with routines and can be willing to do all sorts of maintenance and cleaning up after a task, feeling that these are necessary steps for a job’s completion. For this type, neatness counts. They usually feel unhappy or unset- tled when their personal space is a mess. Straightening things up is often near the top of their to-do list.
For their part, people given to Perception (P) keep their eyes open to what’s around them, gathering information and looking for opportunities and alternatives that might be available. They usually feel no hurry to nail things down or settle on a finished product. Instead, they tend to prefer exploring possibilities. These individuals are often playful and spontaneous in action. Schedules can make them feel hurried and over-controlled; they tend to look upon deadlines as mere reminders to get on with the job. Also, people high in Perception prefer their work to be enjoyable and meaningful. If a task of routine maintenance or clean up falls to them, they may balk at doing it or leave it to someone else. Easy-going, even somewhat impulsive, these people are usually quite tolerant of mess. Their personal spaces are often cluttered with an assortment of things they’ve picked up, used, then dropped and forgotten about.
Friend, as a former prosecutor and skeptic, I want to share transparently that the student approach to personality differences is by far the most difficult. But I also have discovered that it is the path with, by far, the greatest reward… for her, for you, and for your relationship. Will you join me?
All my best,
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