Do opposites really attract?
Sometimes the things that we initially loved most about our spouse end up being the things that drive us the most crazy!
This year I’ve challenged all of you to read one book a month on marriage–that’s twelve books a year. In 30 days you can get through a book–if you leave that book in your bathroom, carry it around in your purse, leave it by your bedside table.
And I believe that this month’s book has the most capacity to completely change the way you see your spouse–and it’s a ton of fun, too!
This month we’re looking at supporting him as a guy, since Father’s Day has just passed. And I suggested a number of books that you can read on gender differences. But the book I want to review today goes much further than gender differences. It looks at the 16 personality types that are part of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (or MBTI), and sees how those differences impact marriage.
Just Your Type helps you understand yourself, your spouse, and the conflicts you’re likely to have–and how to overcome them.
But first, let’s do a run-down on what those potential differences are.
The MBTI classifies people based on four scales:
Extrovert/Introvert: Do you get your energy from being with people, or from being alone? When you need to think something through, do you call a friend, or go for a walk yourself? Contrary to popular belief, extrovert doesn’t mean “life of the party”. Many introverts are great at parties. But it’s where you get your energy from.
Sensing/Intuiting: Do you like detail, or are you a big picture person? Do you like taking things apart and figuring them out, or dreaming up new ways of doing things? Do you like following a pattern or creating your own?
Thinking/Feeling: Do you make decisions based on logic, or based on emotion? Are you most likely to concentrate on what’s “right”, or to focus on relationships?
Judging/Perceiving: Do you like being organized, with lists and plans, or would you rather be spontaneous and go with the flow?
None of these is “right” and none is “wrong”.
They’re just different preferences. But interesting things happen when differences get together–and often quite detrimental things to a marriage.
When couples have differences, here’s what happens:
Most couples engage in this undermining campaign in very subtle and indirect ways; they rarely address the problem honestly and openly. They just stop talking — really talking. So the overwhelming reason relationships fail is poor communication
In fact, these differences tend to be the root of communication problems that drive us apart. And sometimes those couples divorce. But as the authors ask, “What if they had not only understood their differences but also viewed them positively and as a source of richness?” And in Just Your Type, that’s what the authors try to do.
The book is done in three parts: First, Just Your Type looks at the four scales and sees how people who are different on each of those scales will fare. Then it divides the 16 types up into four basic approaches to the world–which is really quite interesting. It’s based on a combination of things, so even though my husband and I are actually quite close on the MBTI scale (I’m an ENTJ, or extrovert, intuitive, thinking, judging, and he’s an ESTJ, or extrovert, sensing, thinking, judging), we actually have very different approaches to the world. I’m an Innovator and he’s a Traditionalist.
Then, in the third part, the book shows how each possible combination will fare in marriage, and where your strengths and weaknesses will be. It is isn’t mean to say “these two types should never marry” or “these two types are doomed”, but rather “here’s how these two types can maximize their strengths and work together the best”.
I’m only going to talk about the first part of the book today, looking at the four scales, and using quotes from the book. I found it just fascinating, and I know that you will, too!
So let’s jump in.
MBTI and Marriage: When extraverts marry introverts
An equal number of men and women are extraverted/introverted. So this isn’t a gender issue, though we often think women are extraverts and men are introverts. But this difference can definitely cause problems!
Here’s one example: how we solve problems.
Renee and James found themselves at a familiar impasse — once again. A simple misunderstanding during dinner had somehow mushroomed into a full-blown fight. Renee, the Extravert, wanted to deal with it now, hoping they could resolve the conflict before it escalated any further. But James, the Introvert, was nowhere near ready to discuss it. Although he really didn’t understand what had happened to cause the rift, he knew he needed time by himself to think about it.
Extraverts will want to talk it out right then; introverts need time to process. So extravert spouses: give your spouse time to think!
When you ask an Extravert a question, he or she will usually start talking. This is because Extraverts think out loud. But with Introverts, the opposite is more often true. When you ask an Introvert a question, he or she will usually pause before answering…Not only do Extraverts speak first and think second, but they also tend to act before they think. As a result, they are usually quick to become engaged in new and interesting situations, they like being out in front, and they are comfortable in the spotlight.
Not surprisingly, then, this leads to differences in how we choose to spend free time. Extraverts want to be involved in things with lots of people; introverts will want to be alone more or with small groups of people. Parties will exhaust them, and may require days to recover from. Extraverts will thrive at parties.
Understandably, Introverts choose to have fewer people in their lives, and they are more often close friends or confidants. Most Extraverts, however , “collect” people and often have a stable of friends and acquaintances with whom they enjoy spending time.
If you’re an extravert married to an introvert, become involved in some same sex groups where you can get together with friends without requiring your spouse to come along!
MBTI and Marriage: When Sensors Marry Intuitives
Sensors like to deal with the here and now. Intuitives like to see the possibilities. Sensors are highly practical. Intuitives are highly creative. Can you see the potential for problems? A sensor may want to do all the finances on Quicken and have a 10 year plan. An intuitive may always be dreaming up the next entrpeneurial idea!
Sensors take in information through their five senses, paying close attention to what something looks, sounds, feels, tastes, or smells like. That’s why they’re usually such realistic and practical people . In contrast, Intuitives look at the world quite differently. Rather than focus on what is, they see what could be, questioning the reasons why it is as it is and how it’s related to other things. Rather than trust and rely on their five senses, it’s as if they use their sixth sense to understand and make sense of things.
Intuitives are often attracted to sensors because they ground them. To sensors, an intuitive seems exciting! But as you try to live out life, this can grate on people.
This is the one difference that Keith and I have–we’re alike on all the others. And it is a BIG difference. I don’t mind ambiguities; Keith likes everything set in stone before we make a decision. I’m always trying to change things; Keith says, “if it’s working, why break it?” That may make me seem irresponsible and him seem boring (if you’re taking it to an extreme).
What we’ve found that works is just talking it out, and making lists about what are our values and where we want to move towards. That helps clarify things. And if I want to go off on a tangent, that’s fine–as long as I don’t expect him to come with me! If I want to cause a battle over something in church, for instance, I can’t expect him to charge in with me.
MBTI and Marriage: When Thinkers Marry Feelers
Here’s a dimension which is usually thought of in terms of gender differences–but is actually a personality difference. The authors explain:
Although the American population is about evenly divided between Thinkers and Feelers, it appears that about 65 percent of Thinkers are men and about 65 percent of Feelers are women, so natural differences between Thinkers and Feelers are exacerbated by the fact that they are often different genders.
Many gender differences books are written with men seen as Thinkers and Women are Feelers. If that’s your marriage, you likely love most of those books! But if it’s not, you may find those books don’t seem to apply to you, and wonder what’s wrong with you. The authors say, “Male Feelers and female Thinkers often feel that they are out of sync with the world — that they are somehow different from the way they should be.” It’s likely because it’s not a gender difference thing–it’s a personality thing.
As a woman who is a thinker, I found this insight interesting:
But interestingly, Thinking women may receive an unintended benefit. Many Thinking girls grow up to have much more access to their Feeling sides, which means greater balance and greater competence.
On the other hand, Feeling men often feel like they really don’t fit, because they go against the stereotype. And if you’re a thinking woman married to a feeling man, you may start to see your husband as weak. Don’t. See him as someone who can live out the love of Jesus and who cares about people’s hearts. That can be a great strength, especially in a man!
Here’s where problems come in resolving conflict:
Because Feelers are so sensitive to others, they will often go out of their way to avoid hurting people’s feelings. This means they are usually very tactful and diplomatic, but it also means they can be less than 100 percent honest. They know what other people want to hear, so they may tell little white lies or be insincere in their compliments. Thinkers, however, place a high value on honesty and directness. As a result, they are more likely to offend someone unintentionally. What they see as being frank and forthright, others may perceive as being blunt and insensitive.
The main thing to remember about this difference is this:
When Feelers are confused or upset, they want their partners to listen supportively and compassionately. Thinkers tend to want constructive advice about how to fix the problem.
So in a conflict, step outside your comfort zone and give your spouse what they most need!
MBTI and Marriage: When Judgers Marry Perceivers
We talk a lot about extraverts vs. introverts and thinkers vs. feelers, but what most people don’t realize is that the difference that is the most prone to derail marriage is actually this one–judgers vs. perceivers.
I’m going to let the authors explain this:
As you are about to see, Judging and Perceiving have much to do with the way we like to run our everyday lives. As a result, many couples experience their greatest frustrations when they’re different in this type dimension.
One of the key aspects of Judging and Perceiving has to do with the issue of closure. Judgers like things to be settled and often feel a certain tension before a decision has been made. Since making decisions relieves the tension, they typically take in only as much information as is necessary to make a decision and then move on. By contrast, Perceivers feel tension when they are forced to make a decision. To alleviate that tension, they avoid making decisions and try to leave their options open as long as possible . As a result, they are often (but not always) prone to procrastinating. As you are about to see, Judging and Perceiving have much to do with the way we like to run our everyday lives. As a result, many couples experience their greatest frustrations when they’re different in this type dimension.
I think one of the great challenge, too, is that we often assign morality to one or the other. Judgers tend to think perceivers are irresponsible or lazy. Perceivers think judgers are “anal”, to put it bluntly. And so we start to think of ourselves as superior, when it’s really just a different approach to life.
Judgers are planners, and they like to be prepared. Because they expect a set plan to be followed, they often have a hard time shifting gears when the plan unexpectedly changes. By contrast, Perceivers often are hesitant to commit themselves for fear that if they do, they may miss some great opportunity that will come along later. Besides, Perceivers like to act spontaneously and usually adjust well to surprises.
How does this work in everyday life?
It’s very hard for most Judgers to enjoy themselves when there are still chores to be done or projects to be finished. By contrast, most Perceivers feel that there’s always more time, so why not relax or take advantage of some unexpected opportunity.
Can any of you see yourselves in that? One of you wants to get the chores done before you relax on a Saturday. The other wants to have fun!
How Should You Handle These Differences?
Understanding your differences helps so much in marriage! You know why you often have conflict in certain areas. You can better understand how your spouse approaches life. You know what your individual potential pitfalls are.
I found this book really fun to read because I saw so much of myself and my husband in it! And if you’ve been having the same conflicts over and over, and you feel like your husband doesn’t “get” you or doesn’t show you love, maybe it’s just that you approach life differently. Just Your Type is an easy book to read together, because you only have to read the parts that apply to your particular types. And most people find themselves laughing a lot at it!
So pick it up–and start to understand yourselves, and your conflicts, better!
Let me know in the comments–what difference most affects your marriage? Do you see yourself in any of this?
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