The strength in your differences
Posted Saturday, July 21 2012 at 21:00
- Successful couples use personality traits to succeed as a team
When you’re dating, chances are you’ll get along best with someone who’s background is similar to yours. But you’re also likely to be drawn towards people with a different personality.
Like the quiet individual who takes a shine to a noisy extrovert. Or the doer focused on the here and now who finds themselves attracted to an imaginative dreamer. Or the planner who always has to have everything organised in advance choosing a partner who likes to keep their options open ....
A good example is the way we’re drawn towards people who are successful at work. Which means they’re likely to be driven, well-organised, meticulous and maybe even a bit stubborn or obsessive. While they in turn will be looking for someone who’s more spontaneous, relaxed, warm and affectionate.
Both are perfectly reasonable ways to live your life, of course. But side by side in a relationship, they can be a total disaster! And so the seeds of conflict are sown.
You’re forever frustrated by your partner’s apparent disorganisation and lack of responsibility, while they bemoan your inability to relax and let go. Just as an introvert can get frustrated by a chattering extrovert, or the planner’s annoyed by their partner’s need for spontaneity.
Personality clashes like these can be a tough problem to solve. Especially as we always think our partner’s behaviour is intended to annoy us! That’s because we automatically assume someone else’s behaviour is due to their intentions rather than their circumstances. And do exactly the reverse with ourselves! So if my friend fails an exam, it’s because he’s lazy. But if I fail, it’s because my teacher didn’t prepare me for the right questions!
So even the most committed couple can spend all their time in endless, miserable arguments. All ultimately caused by their different personality traits.
And yet that difference is also a strength. It means that as a couple you’ll make better decisions. Because you each see the world in a different way. Just as workplace teams function better with a mix of personality types. The aggressive risk-taker tempered by a cautious colleague. The detail freak matched by the “big picture” thinker.
Exactly the same thing can happen in a marriage. So think about the positive aspects to your personality. And your partner’s. Rather than the downsides. And stop trying to change one another! Personality’s pretty much fixed anyway, so you won’t succeed.
Instead, when your partner says something that seems weird, assume that it’s because they’re seeing the situation in a different way from you, not because they’re being difficult.
Successful couples learn to accept these differences and make the most of them, rather than getting trapped in endless battles.
And think like a team! Understand each other’s values and points of view. And put your strengths together, rather than squabbling over your differences. Succeed and nothing will ever come between you again.