A friend recently told me about a bumper sticker that declares, “Remember, you are unique—just like everyone else!” It humorously reminds me that though we may share many similarities, ultimately we are all different—and understanding that about ourselves and our spouses is crucial. Knowing your different personality types can definitely help enrich your marriage.
Some differences are fairly obvious. You may be outgoing while they may be more of an introvert. You may be a night owl, and they might be a morning lark. But other differences can be a bit more subtle, so when they surface they tend to catch you by surprise and can be a source of conflict.
So you need to know more clearly who you are and who they are. When you better understand what makes you tick and your spouse tick—and what ticks each of you off—the better your marriage will be. Nature and nurture work in concert to shape us. Even birth order can be an important factor in forming who we are and how we behave. There are many different kinds of personality tests available these days, from Myers-Briggs and DISC to the Gallup Strengthsfinder. You may have been given a personality test even when you applied for your last job.
Taking one or even two of these tests and comparing notes with your spouse can be a fun and helpful relational exercise; it certainly was for Susan and me. For instance, the DISC evaluation highlighted my tendencies toward dominance and compliance—being determined and results-oriented on the one hand, while valuing diplomacy and systems on the other. Susan came out as influencing—optimistic, convincing, and out-going. In their well-known initials, the Myers-Briggs results revealed me to be an ISTJ—“Inspector: Doers of what should be done. Masters at completing details and adding finishing touches.” Susan came out as an ENFJ–“Teacher: Inspiring and motivational. Very relationship-oriented.” If you decide to learn more about yourselves with these kinds of tools, keep these five things in mind as you do.
Often, when we are contemplating a change in a relationship we want to look for it in the other person first. It’s easier for us to see what needs fixing in someone else. But remember Jesus’ parable about taking the log out of our own eye before trying to get the speck out of another’s? We need to start at home. When we understand ourselves and realize some of the things that drive us, we can start to take some responsibility for what happens when situations cause tension, rather than just blaming them.
The old advice about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes still holds true. Putting yourself in their place helps you understand why they might walk with a limp in some area or be prone to stamping their feet. And you may realize that they are not just being awkward; they actually see and experience things differently than you—and their perspective is as valid as yours. And men and women sometimes speak and hear the same words differently, of course. These guides to the hidden husband and wife ‘codes’ might help you.
Understand the chemistry.
Sparks are great when they are romantic, but not so welcome when they are the result of clashing. Once you have a clearer picture of your makeup and theirs, you also need to understand how the two combine, and that could be different depending on the situation and circumstances.
Types are not concrete.
While personality type profiles can be really helpful, they are not a precise science—nor are they absolutely set in stone. People can change as they grow and mature. Not that it’s easy: we tend to prefer what’s familiar, even if it’s uncomfortable, to the unknown. If you are feeling nudged to be different, but feel some inner resistance at the same time, you may want to listen to this podcast on 5 Reasons Why We Don’t Want to Change.
Types are not an excuse.
“Well, that’s just the way I am” is not an acceptable response when your spouse expresses hurt or frustration. After all, you probably wouldn’t be satisfied if they said that to you. Just because you have developed to be a certain way does not mean that you cannot change or may not need to change.
Remember that there is a difference between personality and behavior. The first is who we are, the second is what we do. As I have written before, when discussing Questions to Ask When Your Spouse Wants You to Change, I am rather hard-charging by nature. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need to work on being a more patient driver, as my wife, Susan has suggested on a number of occasions!
Do you know your personality type? Your spouse’s? How has understanding yourself and them helped you love them better? Share your experiences here.