“My husband doesn’t just understand me”, “I can’t understand how he reasons”, “Why doesn’t he ever see things my way”? These are some very familiar statements women make in the course of their marriages.
This article will help us understand why this happens and tips we can use to mitigate crisis arising from a difference in personality between us and our partners.
Personality refers to individual differences in patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. Using this simple definition, we can say that being married to a spouse with a personality that’s different from yours means that you and your husband have differences in the ways you think, feel and behave.
Since every human being on the face of the earth is unique, it will be safe to assume that each one of us has a unique personality.
Psychologists have conducted studies over the years and have identified some aspects of our patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that are similar for large groups of people. With these studies have come different ways of classifying people.
For example Tim La Haye in his book Spirit Controlled Temperaments identifies four personality types – Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic and Phlegmatic.
The famous Myers Briggs Personality Type Assessment identifies 16 Personality types.
There are other Personality Assessment resources that groups personalities in other specifications.
Whichever assessment you use to determine your personality type and that of your husband, it’s important to remember that the reports you get are just ways of describing your individual patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.
What are elements that contribute to the makeup of a person’s personality?
Physical Structure, Behavioral Traits, Intelligence, Knowledge or Education, Life Experiences (Family, Professional, Social), Upbringing too
A person’s visible personality is a complex combination of all the above.
It’s not surprising then that even when people are born to the same parents and grew up in the same environment they still exhibit very different personalities.
So perhaps the very first takeaway is that everyone is actually married to a person that has a different personality from them.
Here are some examples of personality differences that couples experience in marriage:
** Openness to Experience (has wide interests, imaginative, insightful) vs. Close-minded
** Conscientious (organized, thorough, plannning) vs. Disorganized
** Extroverted (talkative, energetic, assertive) vs. Introverted
** Agreeable (sympathetic, kind, affectionate) vs. Disagreeable
** Nervous (tense, moody, anxious) vs. Calm and Relaxed
Every relationship is built around the dynamics of personality. Remember that personality type is just a description of your individual patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.
Your personality and that of your husband determine to a significant extent, the quality of the relationship you have.
If you and your husband have calm temperaments, you are likely to have a calm relationship.
If you have had similar life experiences and exposure, you’re likely to have similar perspectives on life.
However, if one or both of you have volatile and excitable temperaments, your relationship will experience some upheavals.
If you also have had significantly different life experiences and exposure, you may have clashing perspectives about life. Depending on how far apart your experiences and exposures are.
According to Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage by Dr. John Gottman, Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman and Joan DeClaire, approximately 68 per cent of perpetual arguments in marriage are due to differences in personality. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean you’re sentenced to a lifetime of frustration.
Couples having different personalities isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are many successful relationships where couples are tolerant of their partner’s idiosyncrasies.
My dear husband is a planner. When I met him, he had been documenting his financial records for about ten years. He’s very detail oriented and would notice if you changed the position of a tiny pin in our home.
Yours truly on the other hand cannot tell you the price of the loaf of bread that she buys from the neighborhood supermarket once in a week.
This is just one way in which our personalities are different.
There are many others.
How do couples who have different personalities keep their relationships healthy?
A close look at such couples shows that they focus more on the aspects of their personalities that are similar. They understand that their partner’s patterns aren’t necessarily worse than theirs, just different.
Every man and woman that gets married encounter the challenge of marrying someone who has a different personality from them. With some couples, the differences are minimal. With others, the differences are significant.
When you come to marriage, you bring with you to that relationship, all the myths, suspicions, positive and negative beliefs and experiences that you have about different personality expressions
For many of us the myths, the suspicion, the beliefs are so ingrained in us that they are the lenses through which we see and interpret all that happens to us and around us including the behaviours of our husbands and wives.
So what should you do if you discover that your personality is very different from that of your spouse?
1. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.
Your marriage may experience more conflict because you and your spouse respond differently to issues based on your personalities.
Instead of assuming the worst of one another, follow these three steps.
a. Maintain emotional calm when you observe these personality differences.
b. Consider alternative explanations for your spouse’s behavior instead of assuming the worst.
c. Ask your spouse about his or her motives.
2. Risk being honest.
Communicate your needs to your spouse. Once you have a basic understanding of your own personality, you can then explain your needs and thought processes to your spouse.
Note that communicating is to educate him about you.
It will take him time to understand you.
Seek to understand his own needs too. Ask questions with the attitude that you want to understand and know him better.
We make the mistake of thinking that our husbands should already know all there is to know about us. “After all, we have been married for 10 years. Why would he not know me”, we say.
And this false idea is the cause of so much tension because when you husband acts in a completely weird way, different from our liking, we flare up and think he did it to spite us. He may just not know! But we don’t even know that
3. Accept your spouse’s feelings at face value.
Since your personalities are different, you have to make an effort to accept what you don’t intuitively understand. Resist the temptation to belittle your spouse’s perspective because it “doesn’t make any sense.” Appreciate your spouse’s honesty without becoming defensive, and repeat back what you heard him say in your own words.
Refrain from saying things like “you are not even making sense!” “what nonsense are you saying? Who even thinks like this”
4. Complain without criticizing.
Don’t excuse or justify your critical and judgmental treatment of your spouses as “just being honest.” True, direct honesty can be painful but the use of belittling language is never productive. Rather, such language causes the two of you to hold defensive positions from which neither is listening and and which prevents you from connecting emotionally with one another.
Perhaps the differences in personality aren’t the real problems. The way we handle them are more the problems
5. Embrace your differences.
Having different views and preferences arising from personality differences will cause discomfort and misunderstandings between you and your spouse. When you and your spouse embrace your differences, and accept that such differences enrich your relationship, then you are able to grow as a team.
After 32 years together, my dear husband will still not throw anything away. He has stuff he hasn’t used for years and which he probably won’t use but which he will get angry if I gave them away.
I have come to terms with that and accepted that part of him while appreciating other fantastic traits that he has.
So ladies, the reality is that everyone under the sun who is married is married to someone whose personality is different from their own.
Some differences may aggravate you.
But I like to think that one is never without a choice.
Stephen Covey says you should separate the things that are within your control from those that aren’t.
For those within your control do what you can.
For those outside your control, you still can choose how you respond to them and how you let them affect you.
When couples refuse to accept each other’s personality differences as a blessing rather than a course, they keep fighting battles that they can’t win
Article by Modupe Ehirim – Founder of “The Right Fit Marriage Academy” and author of “Milestones to intimacy in Marriage”
Article compiled by Amaka Obi (From a #Talkarena session in Wivesroundtable and Friends Closed Facebook Group)