[ Part 2—This is a multi-part series on Personality in Marriage—If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, read that first. Stay with us over the next several weeks to gain some great insight to help your marriage grow, have less stress, and more productivity. ]
Jessica and Michael forever! Married three years ago…
Michael is a fun-loving, good looking, smart and talented guy. He loves the outdoors. He is the manager of an online winter sports store with headquarters—and the only brick and mortar location—in Denver. He loves to hang out with his friends and both hear and tell stories of past sports events. He frequently interrupts others in the middle of their stories because he is so excited about a story he just remembered—which is okay because all his other friends do the same thing and it’s just a good time. He often spends too much on sports toys and evenings out with friends and struggles with keeping his schedule and his budget. He is constantly forgetting where he left his keys and his wallet but will usually find them somewhere in short order. He didn’t finish college because he fell in love and wanted to get a job and get married. He’s the life of the party and his friends love spending time with him because he picks up the tab more times than everyone else. Plus, he always makes sure everyone has a good time. He has no very little savings and constantly charges things on the credit card raising their debt slowly. He’s not a bad guy, just likes hanging with friends and having fun. He struggles with staying on target and looking at the longview of the future.
Jessica is quiet, likes to think things through, spends wisely, and is smart—as a matter of fact, she graduated Magna cum laude. She dresses nicely, and always looks well groomed. She’s working on her graduate degree in International Business online while she works full-time with Deloitte as a high level recruiter. She works about 10 plus hours per day and brings in the majority of the finances. She is frugal and saves as much as she can, always choosing to make what she already has last instead of buying something new. She has a couple favorite TV series that she likes to wind down with at the end of a long day. She is thoughtful, processes internally, and is usually right about the topics she discusses. She is frequently overtired and headaches can plague her from time to time.
Jessica and Michael are in the same situation that most couples are—they are opposites. Opposites do attract. Not always, but usually. There is something about the other person who has qualities that we do not have. A better word than opposites, is complementary—our personalities complement each other. Where you are weak, I am strong and vice versa. This is what creates the chemistry that draws us to one another in intimate relationships. On the contrary, friendship-only relationships (non-intimate) are usually formed with people that share some of your personality—you build rapport instead of intimacy.
Why? We instinctively know what things we are not good at and meeting a person of the opposite sex who is good at those things causes the chemistry to flow in us. My personal thought is that it’s something God built into us. If we marry someone just like us, we will be less effective as a team because many things that need the opposite personality will not be accomplished well—there is a lack of some important parts within the marriage. Plus, when we are the same, it literally can get boring. As well, our children won’t get the benefit of all basic personality proclivities and will not be as well rounded. A business, church, family, group, needs all parts of the body to function at its best.
Jessica is a classic introvert and Michael is a classic extrovert. You may not be this totally opposite (although my wife and I are almost 180° different according to our assessment!). Using the DISC Model of Human Behavior—which we will use exclusively because it is the easiest assessment to use, easiest to remember, and best for working with couples—Jessica is a Cautious (or ‘C’) personality and Michael is an Inspiring (or ‘I’) personality—opposites on the DISC chart (the I and C of DISC). People also have varying degrees of their primary personality. For instance, my bride has a primary personality of C (as mentioned above) and a secondary of S (Supportive). In fact, she scores 100% in both those categories so she is very high in Cautiousness/Conscientiousness (reserved and task oriented) and very high in Supportive (reserved and people oriented). That means that she is incredibly smart/wise/careful/accomplishing as well as incredibly loving/kind/caring/giving—enormous amounts of empathy. It also means she is doubly reserved. So very quiet. Always the last to speak—if at all. While I, on the hand, am doubly outgoing (I/D). Being this opposite causes a lot of problems… or at least it used to.
Don’t get too bogged down with all the jargon, I will explain more next week.
In the beginning, opposites attract… then opposites attack!!
So it is our opposite nature that draws us together. Then, after the infatuation wears off in about 12-24 months—sometimes longer if we’re lucky—that thing that was so attractive to us, that chemistry and intuition that drew us together, starts to fade. And then that opposite nature looks scary—and the opposite personality starts to attack! We don’t understand what happened. That’s frustrating enough in itself.
To Michael above, Jessica has become cold and calculating—a perfectionist. Always has to be right. She’s miserly and stingy. Never wants to go out and have fun. Doesn’t do the things he wants to do. Doesn’t want sex as often or as or be as intoxicating as before. Jessica sees Michael as a spendthrift and always wasting money—no thought of the future. She feels he likes his friends more than her and spends much more time with them. He’s forgetful, careless, selfish, unkind. Their lovemaking is just a physical feat to be conquered and there is no love or gentleness.
How did they change so much in just three years? How do we change so much?
They didn’t—and we don’t. We’re pretty much the same. What changed? Our own outlook. Our own desire. Why?
We think in terms of self-absolutes—it’s a blind spot. We can only see out of our own eyes, hear with our own ears, think with our own minds. And sometimes those things aren’t processed correctly either. Have you ever looked at someone and wondered what they were thinking? Only to ask and find out it has absolutely nothing to do with what we think they are thinking? Not always, but much of the time it happens this way. Especially when we are angry or our own thoughts are telling us a different story. We only have our own vantage point. And depending on personality, we can have very little empathy or understanding of others. We see our own perspective as the perspective. At least, that’s our starting point—I am right, and you, therefore by deduction, are wrong or mistaken. We may not think this intentionally, but our subconscious believes it so and it works much faster than our thinking mind (prefrontal cortex) so it usually tells the story first. The neuropsychological things going on here are amazing and can (actually does) fill its own book.
So how do we deal with this if everyone is thinking they are right? Somebody has to be wrong!
Well, from a personality perspective, everyone is actually right [sic]. What? Personality isn’t the thing that is right or wrong, good or bad. It is just referencing who we are. We may be right or wrong in the subject we are discussing or thing we are doing, but no personality is right or wrong, good or bad. Our behavior may be right or wrong, but our personality is not. As a result, whether you are Dominant (the D in DISC), Inspiring (I), Supportive (S), or Cautious (C), your personality is wonderful—you are needed. What matters is what you do with your personality.
You may not like one or more personality types (Dominants can have a tendency to not like anyone and Supportives typically like everyone), but it’s not because their personality is good or bad, right or wrong. Nobody is wrong for being outgoing or task oriented. Nobody is wrong for being reserved or people oriented. It is how they are wired. So don’t get mad at people for being different than you are. Maybe it’s you who are different than they are (!). In actuality, we are all different than each other—some to a greater or lesser extent.
The bad news is that the issue has become, I now don’t like your personality because it’s so different than mine and my personality is right… so yours must be wrong. Again, individual personality is NOT the issue—the difference in personality is now the issue—how we each see things. The good news is, you can fix this! You don’t even know this is going on inside you! Just like you didn’t know what was behind the chemistry you had when you first made a decision to like this person. Learning this one aspect of personality has helped my wife and I and numerous other couples, understand that you don’t do that because you hate me, that’s just the way you are wired! Do you you realize what that one thing does for your stress level?? It’s huge.
Further, we have a tendency to judge ourselves by our intentions—which gives us the benefit of the doubt, and judge others by their behavior—which gives them less benefit. We hold ourselves in a higher regard because even if we do or don’t do something, what matters is that we intended to do it—so, we’re better! That’s wrong. Since we cannot know another’s intentions, we should base everything on behavior alone—yours AND mine, his and hers. Make sense? We get extra points for our intentions but you don’t—because we don’t know what your intentions are.
Let’s say it’s your anniversary and neither of you get the other a card or gift. You meant to, planned to, but something came up—so because you intended to, you get high marks from yourself (thank me very much). On the other hand, your spouse didn’t get you a card, gift, or anything. So we stop there and judge them on their behavior alone—when in fact their intentions may be just as, or even more valid, than your own. It’s a natural inclination to do this.
So how do we fix this? How do we get this part of the problem equation behind us so we can work on the issues?
It starts with understanding yourself, your own personality, and then understanding and working to speak your spouse’s personality. And finally, to share what you both are really saying—and finally communicate. The key will be to understand, adapt, adjust, repeat. Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
The problem now is we are concentrating on the other person’s personality instead of their character. It’s like judging that book by it’s cover. Personality doesn’t make you anything, it merely describes how you are driven—how you are fueled. Your tendencies. Are you outgoing, reserved, people, or task oriented? And to what degree? People won’t change their personality unless they are under some huge stress—and then they may change temporarily while the stress is active. But we will always be inside who our personality is. We may mature and grow up a lot and therefore look less one way than another, but we will always be how we were wired to be. That’s what will drive us.
Learning who we are.
One of the greatest weaknesses of my personality type is I have trouble focusing. It’s not because I am stupid, I’m not. I have overcome not being able to focus to a great degree by becoming far more detailed and organized (another weakness of my specific personality type) by scheduling and budgeting everything. And in the midst of fixing that weakness, it made my bride very happy—because it is her strength and she strongly identifies with organization and detail. I should have asked her for help decades ago…
One of the greatest weaknesses of my bride’s is appearing to treat everything the same so I get the same treatment as watering the flowers—and sometimes I get less attention! But that’s not what’s going on in her head. Reserved people are much more even in their personality and therefore, they don’t show excitement or frustration greatly. It all looks the same to the untrained eye. On the other hand, my personality will take the littlest thing and blow it way out of proportion and make the biggest noise about it. Or the opposite—I treat important things with no import or immediacy. So I can be really up one moment and really down the next. That’s got to be frustrating to her.
But what if she understood her personality? And what if she understood mine? First, she would know that she may not be communicating her thoughts as well because she is not showing happiness or sadness much differently, so that I might be confused by her response. So she needs to make sure I am getting what she is saying. As well, I may be looking visually more than verbally. For me, I need to make sure I am paying attention (focus). Don’t base things on what I am seeing in her face but her actual words. I also stop telling myself the story that she doesn’t like me (more on stories in a couple weeks)—I tell myself the true story that her personality doesn’t jump up and down the way mine does on the same issue. She might be jumping up and down on the inside—she just doesn’t show it on the outside. That doesn’t mean I’m right and she’s wrong, or that I’m wrong and she’s right, it means we are different personalities and I need to learn to speak her language and she needs to learn to speak mine.
Knowing that organization is part of her personality, I should be working harder to make sure I am not frustrating her by leaving a mess everywhere I go (which I do from time to time…). Did you know that C personalities can actually feel physically sick if their space is unorganized or there is a lot of mess around? If I really love her, I should make sure I keep my areas clean.
Does that make sense? Are you starting to get the picture? Neither personality is right or wrong, good or bad, they are just different. I am not wrong because I am not as organized. She is not wrong because she is processing internally. And these are only two of a hundred different ways our personalities are different. Each personality is fueled differently and if you are not getting your fuel daily, you will be drained and exhausted and stressed out to the max. Imagine going for a week without having your specific fuel. This is a huge subject in itself which I am not going to cover right now. But it’s extremely important.
At the same token, this isn’t an excuse for you to act badly and blame it on your personality. “I’m sorry honey, Royce said my personality type can’t keep things neat so that’s why I’m not going to be picking up my clothes and putting them in the hamper.” That’s a cop-out and it’s wrong to think that way. Besides—I didn’t say our personalities can’t do this things—I said because of the proclivities of our personality, they can be harder for us. I and millions of others have built the necessary systems, made the necessary changes to do the better option—cleaning up for my spouse’s sake. And for my own sake.
Understanding yourself first will allow you to start to understand others next.
I hope you’re starting to get the picture here. This article has gone long, but if you don’t get the basic idea of personality, the rest may not make as much sense. We think we know ourselves pretty well. After all, nobody else has lived in our skin for this long! So yea, we may know ourselves… somewhat. But not nearly as well as we might think. We cannot see ourselves from another’s perspective and we may not notice all the things we do and don’t do.
Next week we’re going to dive into the different traits of the four primary personalities—you are one of these. Stay tuned. If you haven’t, make sure to sign up here to keep getting these articles.
Please—ask any questions you have below (or make a comment) and we will do or best to answer right away. You should always have questions. Whenever you read something, think of questions to ask. Never pass on an opportunity to ask a question!
Slow down this week and start noticing the personality differences between you and your spouse—it will help you start to get a handle on the personality problem.
Much love and blessings…
Royce & The Caris Team
Personality & Marriage Series—
Part 1— Your Personality Affects 99% of Your Marriage (7/19/19)
Part 2—What is Personality and How Does it Affect Your Marriage? (7/25/19)
Part 3—Intro to Primary Personality Traits (8/1/19)
Part 4—Dominant Personalities (8/8/19)
Part 5—Inspiring Personalities (8/15/19)
Part 6—Supportive Personalities (8/22/19)
Part 7—Cautious Personalities (8/29/19)
Part 8—How to Pull It All Together (9/5/19)
About the Author…