I am obsessed with any and all personality assessments.
(I’m Rachel, since you’re wondering.)
(I think it’s because she started a hair revolution, and I’ve had the same hair cut since I was 12.)
The reason I am so obsessed with personality assessments is because I love to understand how and why people operate the way they do. My Strength Finders test revealed that keeping peace is my top priority in life, which is definitely true and also why it was a really great idea to have four kids. (Sarcasm.)
I obviously love my kids.
I love them most when they aren’t
interacting fighting with each other.
Keeping peace is elusive in my home, but it’s what I long for in relationships. Understanding the place from which people function is extremely helpful in dealing with people. Because in case you hadn’t noticed, people take work.
The person I am most obsessed with understanding is my husband, Brett. We like to say that if we are going to spend the next seventy years together, we might as well have fun while we’re at it.
Brett and I are what like experts like to call different from one another. He is a classic first born. I am a middle child with every issue that syndrome entails. We see the world very differently.
One of us sees laws as black and white, and one of us sees laws as suggestions. It’s whatever, you know.
Figuring Brett out has been my mission in life. I call him “The Phase Guy” because he likes to change phases about every three months. Sometimes he’s a vegan. Sometimes he eats meat. One time he ate only fruit for three months straight. With his ever changing habits, I can’t ever totally figure him out. But because personality is mostly the core of who we are (and doesn’t change much over a lifetime), it has been a little easier to nail down.
The Myers-Briggs personality test is one of my favorites. It is easy to take and the results are easy to remember. The part of the Myers-Briggs that Brett and I are most extreme on is E/I (extrovert/introvert).
I am an extreme extrovert.
Brett is an extreme introvert.
So we operate very differently in social contexts.
Fortunately for me, there are no less than one million articles about introverts floating around the world wide web.
Because I am about 0% introvert and have no understanding of why anyone would choose to stay home when there is so much to do and so many people to do it with, exploring introverts has been extremely helpful in making my marriage work.
The interesting thing about Brett is that his introvert personality is often mistaken for being extroverted because he is so dynamic and funny. For the first 8 years of our marriage, I thought he was an extrovert that didn’t like my friends.
It turns out that he’s an introvert that really only enjoys his closest friends.
Upon discovering Brett was actually introverted, it completely changed everything for us. For those of you who are married to introverts (here is a detailed description if you aren’t sure), I’ll share with you what I’ve learned the hard way.
As an extrovert, people are everything to me. I am energized by social situations. I am totally fine to go to a party where I know one person. I enjoy hanging out with my friends, and I love to meet new people. I am actually kind of shy, but I absolutely love social situations.
It is very hard for me to understand how my husband doesn’t, but I’ve read enough literature (and have lived with the man for ten years) to know he needs to be alone to recharge. Especially because he works a job interacting with people all day everyday.
Brett definitely makes compromises to accommodate my personality, but since I am the one writing…I will share what I do to bring out the best in his.
I love hosting people in my home. This can be tricky when married to an introvert, because after a long work week, the last thing Brett wants to is be around more people. I’ve discovered that he is totally fine with me inviting friends over as long as they’re also his friends. It is very difficult for him if I meet someone new at the park and invite her whole family over for dinner. Making small talk with a random guy is not enjoyable for him. However, if I invite a couple over that he knows well…or if I invite friends from our gym over that he wants to get to know better…he is happy to host.
The deeper the conversation gets, the happier he is. Talks of weather and sports are a slow death to him.
For the friend that I just met, instead of having her family over for dinner, Brett is great to stay home with our kids while I meet her out for dinner. I get out of the house. He avoids awkward small talk. We are both happy.
Kids birthday parties are another rare form of torture for Brett. Some of our kids are in the stage of life where the whole family attends a birthday party. I absolutely love these opportunities to chat with other moms. Brett, not so much. We’ve worked out a system that benefits us both. I take the children interested in participating, and he keeps our baby at home. My older three kids are mostly self-sufficient, so taking them to parties is super easy. My baby is still very two and needy, so having a break from him is nice. If he’s at the party, I have to be more vigilant. If he’s home with Brett, he loves the time alone with Brett, and Brett loves not having to talk about the humidity and football for two hours.
When the party is over, I am happy because my social tank is full. Brett is happy because he has been relaxing in a mostly quiet house. We all win.
As Levi gets old enough for birthday parties, I imagine Caleb and Chloe will be too cool for them, so it will be “necessary” for Brett to stay home with them.
As an extrovert, I used to feel the need to apologize for Brett not being at a party and make excuses, but I’ve come to realize that no one actually cares. There are so many awesome parts of his introversion that I do not apologize for the fact that he doesn’t want to mingle with a group of strangers at a loud bounce house facility.
I have had to learn not to take Brett’s introversion personally. For years, I truly thought he did not like my friends. I have always been genuinely interested in his friends, so I didn’t understand why he didn’t like mine. But that just wasn’t the reality of the situation.
Brett only wants friends that are lifelong, ride or die types of friends. He does not have the same social needs as I do. I actually have categories for friends:
– friends I wouldn’t call at 3 am but I enjoy talking with at the park
– friends I talk to once a year but I would call at 3 am
– friends I’ve grown closer with because of Facebook
– Facebook friends I’ve never actually met but feel deeply connected with
– I could go on and on
Brett’s category for friends is: three friends. Total.
One way is not better than the other; we just have different social requirements.
I’ve learned not to expect him to enjoy chatting with my new best friend that I met yesterday. He’s learned that I will walk out the door as he’s walking in from work because I need my people. Brett and my kids joke that I have a secret night life because about three days a week I leave the house when they all go to bed. Sometimes I go out with friends. Sometimes I go to Target. Sometimes I walk around the mall just to feel the energy of people.
When Brett comes home from working, all I want to do is talk to him. He has been around people all day, so the last thing he wants to do is talk…but because he is a quality man, he indulges me. I’ve learned the secret to keeping his attention is to talk to him about things that are relevant to him. Talking about my friend’s sister whose son did this thing is the quickest way to watch his eyes glaze over. Sharing stories about our kids that day or asking about work or talking about the book I am writing are topics that I love to talk about and he enjoys, too. I call my sister or BFF to talk about subjects Brett tunes out.
Personality differences are the best. I love that we all function differently and perceive the world in unique ways. While there are a million ways these differences are good, I think in marriages they can easily become wedges in the relationship if we let them.
I have the opinion that most mediocre and struggling marriages are just a few small tweaks away from success. This, of course, takes the work of both people. You can only control your choices, but oftentimes, as one spouse makes an effort, the other starts trying, as well.
Learning your spouse’s personality and the idiosyncrasies it entails is a huge step in understanding them. Realizing that Brett is an extreme introvert has changed how I approach relationships with friends, as I’ve noted above. We both benefit from this. He is happy to not have to participate in social situations he finds draining, and I am not offended because he is who he is. As a disclaimer (you know I have to have one…I like to keep peace, remember?!?): he is also a capable man, so there are times when attending awkward social engagements is necessary. Because I don’t nag him on the small things (birthday parties, etc), he is happy to participate when it matters.
It probably goes without saying that we don’t always do this well, but as we’ve come to better understand each other, our marriage has grown stronger.
What about you…are you an introvert or an extrovert? What is one way you and your spouse compromise on personality differences??