Understanding, appreciation and respect make a lifelong marriage possible and good. Similarity of type is not important, except as it leads to these three. Without them, people fall in love and out of love again, with them, a man and a woman will become increasingly valuable to each other and know that they are contributing to each other’s lives. They consciously value each other more and know they are valued in return. Each walks taller in the world than would be thinkable alone. — Isabel Briggs Myers
When my marriage was ending and divorce loomed, I told myself the next person I love will be more like me. I wanted that deep intimate connection my marriage lacked. I wanted someone as dreamy, empathetic, intuitive, passionate, curious and introverted as me. I had a long list of soul mate requirements, most of them character traits quite similar to mine.
In Introvert Relationships: Are Our Expectations for Love Unobtainable? I mentioned, I’m partial to non-judgmental idealists. The ease of being with someone like me, who was not critical and wanted to make the world a better place, was so appealing. I really wanted that.
But… Once you stop looking for what you want, you’ll find what you need. In order to grow into my full, most joyful potential, I needed to find someone who challenges and supports me; someone who subconsciously and consciously teaches me, while I do the same for him.
I did not know this until I found him.
Wow, that’s different
He’s a doer. I’m more into being. He is task focused. I am people focused. He cares about how things function. I care about how they look. He’s efficient. I’m particular. He likes adrenaline rushes. I like calm moments. He is not grossed out by anything. I am. He doesn’t use a recipe. I do. He doesn’t care what other people think/feel. I care a great deal.
And yet, we enjoy each other tremendously.
Not easy, but enriching
Even with only a single preference in common, a marriage can be wonderfully good (as I can testify) if the man and woman take the necessary pains to understand, appreciate, and respect each other. They will not regard differences between them as signs of inferiority, but as interesting variations in human nature, which enrich their lives. — Isabel Briggs Myers, Gifts Differing
Isabel Briggs married Clarence “Chief” Myers in 1918. Her Myers Briggs type preferences were INFP, his ISTJ. They only had one function preference (I for introversion) in common. They were happily married for 61 years.
The introvert/extrovert difference
My man is somewhere close to the middle on the introvert/extrovert continuum, with a slight leaning toward extroversion, if you ask me. He talks to strangers wherever we go. He gets a lot of alone time but I believe he prefers being with others. He’s more comfortable in small groups versus large crowds. He doesn’t seem to mind interruptions.
At times, he runs toward stimulation. He never naps. He loves political jousting on Facebook. He loves coffee, being cold, foul language and rap metal music like Rage Against the Machine. He was in the military for 22 years flying helicopters for special forces.
I, of course, am an introvert. I also talk to strangers but only if I need information or I sense it could lead to a meaningful conversation. I love time alone but also love small group or one-on-one interactions. I deplore interruptions. I run away from most stimulation. I love cat naps. I can’t do caffeine. I love warmth. I use foul language selectively and like music by artists like Jason Mraz and Keith Urban. I read, write and counsel for a living.
Truthful and Tactful make a nice couple
I wrote about our logical/feeling decision-making dichotomy in Ms. Deeply Feeling Love Mr. Intensely Logical: How to Make a Thinker/Feeler Relationship Work. No non-judgmental idealist for me. My guy is more truthful and I am more tactful. Both valuable traits, but my feelings got hurt a lot in the beginning. His direct delivery of what I perceived as judgmental or critical messages, triggered emotions and reminded me of negative experiences from my childhood and marriage. He never meant to hurt me. I had to learn that. He wanted to be helpful and honest. Because of his nature, I am learning how to separate past hurts from current situations. I have learned to be more direct when I speak. He is learning to temper his words and throw in more positive statements.
Details and big picture
He likes to keep a small inventory of goods in his cupboards. I overstock mine. I have at least six jars of strawberry jelly, just as many jars of peanut butter and countless bottles of expired vitamins lurking in mine. He digs creating by-laws and instruction manuals for organizations. I almost fell asleep typing that sentence.
We both love to explore, look to the future and nurture the potential in others. We love food, travel and family. We talk for hours about anything from politics to child rearing to Jello-cake. We go to bed early to enjoy each other physically and mentally.
You’re going to disconnect in stage 3
In The 5 Stages of Love: Why Too Many Stop at Stage 3, Dr. Jed Diamond calls stage 3 of love, Disillusionment (the first two are Falling in Love and Becoming a Couple). It’s when dissatisfaction displaces love. It may be a time of child rearing or career building. Your mate may get on your nerves. The love you once had is gone and you are irritated more than intimate. You may get angry or hurt and withdraw. Jed’s advice for dealing with this stage? Don’t give up, keep going. Sort of the, Only way out, is through, adage.
My man and I tap into stage 3 when we get too busy or stressed. We also feel that lack of connection when our differences butt heads. We handle this disconnection two ways. One: We speak up and express our frustration, disappointment or hurt in a feedback versus blaming way. I vowed to never remain silent with a partner again. He vowed to never walk on eggshells. Tension and resentment get too great if we don’t stay current with our feelings. Two: We keep on going. We work through it like there is no other option. We knew to do this even before reading Dr. Diamond’s post. I will give my guy credit. He has been the steadfast one from the beginning. I have learned tenacity from him.
Stage 4: Being seen and loved for who you are
Because we have worked through some of the hurt our contrasting personalities create, we have become allies in our efforts to heal past wounds, which Dr. Diamond states is a sign of Stage 4 love.
We are different but that’s OK, good even. I think our contrasts help us become more whole individuals. We learn from each other and figure out how to handle conflict. Conflict that perhaps in our past we couldn’t heal because we felt inferior or superior to our opposite.
Once my man and I stopped seeing our differences as problems, personal threats or just plain wrong, we began to thrive. Once I knew he was in it for the long haul, I relaxed and started to appreciate and understand rather than burn with frustration and hurt.
The stuff that’s easy to love
I admire and appreciate his sense of humor, energy and intelligence. He has integrity and strength of character. He gets me out of my head and into my body. He’s playful. He’s thoughtful. He’s supportive in all of my endeavors. He makes me laugh and lightens my heart. He’s seen me at my most emotional and stressed, yet he stays and continues to believe in me.
I believe he appreciates my calm and caring nature. He values my realness and honesty. He enjoys my intellect. He enjoys our sex, which again is another area of contrast that has grown into something awesome because of our willingness to stay open-minded and work at it. I believe I make him feel known and loved.
We unite in our curiosity for life. We have the desire to learn and grow, which leads to understanding, appreciation and respect. I definitely walk taller in the world with him by my side.
Are you in a relationship with someone quite different from you? If so, how do you handle your differences? Is love easier with a similar type but more rich with a contrasting type?
If you would like help reconciling differences within your relationship, contact me here for personal coaching.