Just stuff I want to talk about...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

You’ve Got... Personality!

Ok, so, last night I was hanging out with a group of very close friends, and the topic turned to personality types, specifically referencing the Myers-Briggs personality types (you should definitely go here if you aren’t familiar with these- it’s fascinating!). 
Personal Note: I am *obsessed* with personality types!
There were three couples and two unattached friends involved in this discussion.  Each of the three couples has been married for at least/nearly four years.  All three couples I personally consider to be good examples of healthy, strong relationships.  During the conversation, I made notes on my iPhone of everyone’s Myers-Briggs personality types, because I’m obsessed (see earlier note).  Today, because my mind is still dwelling on it (again, obsessed), I was back on the MB website rereading the descriptions to try and get a better understanding of the types.  Additionally, I reviewed the list I’d made during the discussion, and noticed something about the married couples’ personality types.  Here is the list, without names in order to protect the (not so) innocent-
Couple 1 :  INFP & ISTJ
Couple 2 : ISFJ & INTP
Couple 3 : ENFP & ESTJ

Within all three couples, the spouses share the first letter, but the last three are completely different.  I found this really odd, although perhaps you’ll want to quote me the “opposites attract” nonsense, haha.  Anyway, the more I am thinking about it, the more I am feeling like this is not coincidental. 

The MB website describes your first personality letter, either E/I (extravert/introvert), as where you put/draw your energy and focus/attention.  Specifically, they say:

“Where do you put your attention and get your energy? Do you like to spend time in the outer world of people and things (Extraversion), or in your inner world of ideas and images (Introversion)? ...These words have a meaning in psychology that is different from the way they are used in everyday language. Everyone spends some time extraverting and some time introverting. Don’t confuse Introversion with shyness or reclusiveness. They are not related.”

Additionally there is a list of things you can think about to decide whether you are E/I.  I am definitely an extravert.  While I like my alone time, I truly enjoy the presence of others, and almost always will have a better time in a group than solo.  I feel more energized and comfortable around people, especially those I am close with.  My husband, on the other hand, is what I am calling a “closet extravert”.  Actually, it’s my belief that at least 3 of the 4 members of his family, if not all 4, are extraverts.  Most people who know my husband and his family, including his own mother, with whom I’ve had this conversation, are surprised to hear me call my husband and his family extraverts, because they generally come across as quiet/shy/reclusive.  But this is exactly what MB warns us against assuming.  My husband’s family, at least the three I am thinking of, really love being around people.  Unfortunately, most of them suffer, to varying degrees, of social anxiety, which causes these apparently introverted behaviors.  Anyway, this paragraph is pretty much irrelevant to what I ‘m trying to get at in this post...

What I’m, trying (unsuccessfully) to focus on, is the fact that with each of these couples, the spouses both expend their energy on, and draw energy from the same “energy source”, whether it is the outer world or inner world. (I know that sentence sounds a little nutty, but I’m trying to stay within the MB terminology.)  Upon reflection, it seems pretty logical that spouse ought to share this personality trait.  It doesn’t take much effort to imagine how frustrating and difficult a relationship may be if one spouse is constantly trying to draw from/put into a different “energy source” than the other.  In fact, at least so far, I haven’t been able to think of many benefits of being in a martial relationship with someone with this opposite trait, but then again I haven’t really given it a lot of thought- so please please please don’t take this as me saying it’s not possible/good/whatever.  Anyway- getting off topic again- with the other personality traits- N/S, F/P, T/J- I don’t find this to be as much of a problem.  In fact, it seems more sensical* logical to me that you would strongly benefit from being with someone of the opposite traits, but perhaps this is just me trying to make the “data” fit a narrow theory?

*Is “sensical” a word?  My spell check says no.  “Nonsensical” is a word, so can’t I remove the prefix and just use “sensical”?

Here is what the MB website says about the other traits:

In regards to N/S and T/F- how we process information and make decisions-, it just seems obvious that having someone who does the opposite of us (opposite, not WRONG) would overall be helpful in order to avoid our own oversights which can be caused by our limited way of thinking.  The MB website points out that each of the ways we tend to naturally lean regarding these two sets of traits has its shortcomings, which the opposite trait seems to make up for:

“S: Sometimes I pay so much attention to facts, either present or past, that I miss new possibilities.  N: Sometimes I think so much about new possibilities that I never look at how to make them a reality.”

“Everyone uses Thinking for some decisions and Feeling for others. In fact, a person can make a decision using his or her preference, then test the decision by using the other preference to see what might not have been taken into account.”

With the last trait, I’m initially more open to seeing how having opposite styles could be really more problematic than helpful.  (Don’t get me wrong, in marriage, ANY variation in thinking can be problematic if you’re in a bad mood, haha.  I’m trying to speak more generally.)  In fact, this is probably the area that my husband and I have most of our disagreements over.  Here is what the MB website says about this trait:

“What are the behaviors others tend to see? Do you prefer a more structured and decided lifestyle (Judging) or a more flexible and adaptable lifestyle (Perceiving)? This preference may also be thought of as your orientation to the outer world.... Everyone takes in information some of the time. Everyone makes decisions some of the time. However, when it comes to dealing with the outer world, people who tend to focus on making decisions have a preference for Judging because they tend to like things decided. People who tend to focus on taking in information prefer Perceiving because they stay open to a final decision in order to get more information.  Sometimes people feel they have both. That is true. The J or P preference only tells which preference the person extraverts. One person may feel very orderly/structured (J) on the inside, yet their outer life looks spontaneous and adaptable (P). Another person may feel very curious and open-ended (P) in their inner world, yet their outer life looks more structured or decided (J).”

Taking that description into account, I end up leaning toward thinking that having opposites present in a marital relationship is more helpful than not.  Think about it, it’s very similar to what I said about N/S and T/F- the opposite tendencies seems to supplement each other.  For example, if both spouses always prefer to stay open, making decisions will become a huge task, one that will probably often be avoided, likely resulting in chaos in the relationship and life.  However if both spouses prefer to make decisions, besides the frustration that may occur when they make different decisions and tend to not be open to other possibilities, there is the problem of continually jumping to conclusions (in order to make decisions) and missing out on later possibilities and information.  This isn’t the end of the world or anything.  I’m sure there are plenty of great marriages where the spouses share this trait.  I’m just thinking that generally it would seem to be better to have one person on each side of this for balance/etc. 

I think the reason that the last three traits seem different to me than the first one is because in the context of a marital relationship, the opposite of the last three seem to supplement each other- be “the other side of the coin” so to speak- bring a perspective that the other spouse would tend to overlook.  However with the first trait, the opposites seem to divide the couple’s focus and energy, pulling spouses, their attention, time and efforts, apart in completely opposite directions, as opposed to supplementing or complementing.  It’s not so much about the actual differences in the types, i.e. liking being around people or not, as it is about the direction of the relationship and how the couple can come together and invest their time/energy/efforts/attentions- things that help spouses grow closer.  If spouses are constantly struggling with where the other exerts his/her energy, and they aren’t investing together, it just seems much more difficult to make the relationship work.  I’m not even coming close to saying it’s impossible or that it doesn’t happen.  I’m just saying that from my current perspective it seems more difficult.

Everything in this post is based on my own, personal opinion, and very little to no actual research.  It’s just my observations and reflections thereon.  I haven’t even been thinking through this for very long, this is just where I’m at now and wanted to share and get feedback.  Feel free to 100% disagree.  I won’t be offended, and you shouldn’t be either if you find what I’m currently mulling over to be completely inapplicable or just wrong.

Additionally, these opinions are restricted to MARRIED couples.  The things that make marriage work are, in my personal opinion, different that those which make friends or other relationship work.  This is due mainly to how my personal, religious beliefs dictate how one ought to act in marriage, which we can discuss later if you want to.  ;)