Is the old saying right—that opposites attract? Is this good or bad?
Anne and Fred
Anne has always been emotional. Strong, silent men make her feel safe and protected. So that’s the kind of man she ended up with. She married Fred, a successful contractor. The problem is, after they’d been together for a while, Fred’s macho qualities lost some of their appeal. Anne didn’t know how he felt about things. The emotional climate of the relationship grew chilly. Whereas Fred once listened to Anne’s problems attentively, he now criticizes her for being too “clingy.” Who’s got the problem, Anne or Fred?
Anne’s attraction to strong, silent men is partly due to her insecurities. She never learned how to stand up for herself—to view herself as a strong, independent adult. Fred, on the other hand, was discouraged from showing his feelings as a child, or even from having them. He was brought up to be a take-charge male. Anne looked for someone who supplied the parts that were missing in her. Fred did the same.
Matt and Laura
Matt is an easy-going guy, liked by many people. However, he’s usually late to social engagements. When decisions are needed, he’s apt to put them off. Then he meets Laura. She’s smart, productive and on top of things. He admires this. The two begin dating. Laura has gotten into the habit of picking Matt up because her car runs like a top and his doesn’t. If their date is for 7 pm, she’s there by 6:59. When she arrives, Matt hasn’t shaved and can’t find a clean shirt. Soon Laura gets critical of his chronic tardiness. She feels taken for granted. One day she says, “Why don’t you get your car fixed? Why do I have to pick you up all the time?” Who’s got the problem?
Matt grew up a happy-go-lucky kid. His parents were lax in their discipline and cleaned up his messes. He seldom got his homework turned in on time. As an adult he expected others to continue taking up the slack for him. Laura was the middle child in a dysfunctional home. Often, she was the one in the family who prepared lunches for her sisters and her to take to school. She made sure they met the school bus on time. She learned to take care of not only herself but other people, too.
Heredity and Environment
These four people adopted ways to get along in the world that were consistent with their upbringing as well as their genetic tendencies. Anne—never an assertive child—needed a man who would replace her parents. Fred needed to feel strong and manly. Matt depended on others to make up for his irresponsibility. Laura had the habit of bailing Matt and other people out as a reaction to her over-responsible childhood
The problems of many couples are due to their personality traits, not whether one is right and the other wrong. The partners simply look at the world and respond to events differently.
Myers-Briggs Personality Traits
When couples take the Myers-Briggs inventory, they’re often amazed at their differences. In the case of Anne and Fred, Anne’s scores are heavily weighted on the feeling side, while Fred’s are weighted on the thinking side. Thinking types are rational and have cool heads. They base their decisions on logic, not feelings. Feeling types are soft-hearted and easily moved. Fred thinks that Anne is a cry-baby. Anne wonders whether Fred has any feelings.
On the Perceiving/Judging scale, Matt has mostly perceiving points. Laura scores high on the judging scale. Perceiving types tend to do things at the last minute. They like to keep their options open. Judging types prefer closure. They’re conscientious about their commitments. Matt thinks that Laura is too controlling. Laura thinks that Matt is irresponsible.
Instead of trying to understand their basic personality differences, couples tend to get into the blame game. This only escalates their conflicts. Rarely does either party change. Myers-Briggs personality typing gives partners a fresh look at themselves and each other. It helps them appreciate their unique strengths and their differences. When they have a better understanding of how each functions in the world, they can put their relationship on a higher plane—with no name-calling or blaming.