Negotiating Difference

16 June 2020

A lot has been written about why people fall in love.  It’s the first question I ask couples that come to see me.  Sometimes it’s simple: “We’re good friends and it felt right to move to the next stage”.  For some it’s a physical attraction or finding someone they can talk to about anything. For others it’s that feeling that they are ‘safe’.

A partnership is two people coming together, both with their own personality. There are a few differences I’ve observed that can lead to misunderstandings and frustration. And right now, during lockdown, these can be even more obvious than they were before.

To help in understanding these differences I’ve used the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator, a well-known tool for assessing personality types (it’s important to focus on the descriptions rather than the definition of the words – they are different):

  • ‘Intraverts’: People who get their energy from being alone, sitting on the sofa, reading a book or going for a walk. They will leave a party early because they become emotionally tired & need to be alone; they aren’t anti-social!
  • ‘Extraverts’: People who get their energy from being with others. When extraverts are emotionally tired, they will suggest going to the pub or a club to relax and recharge. Much more comfortable in large groups it allows them to re-charge their batteries.
  • ‘Perceiving’: People who know what needs to be done and are happy to do it although will rarely have a plan as to when. They are much more likely to wait until the last minute as they will find more ‘interesting’ things to do.
  • ‘Judging’: People who love lists and hate surprises! There’s always at least a rough plan in their head for the rest of the week or the holiday.  They are methodical and get frustrated if their list isn’t completed in time or someone suggests at the last minute that they could do something completely different.

So, how does this play out in relationships?

Some time ago a couple came to see me …

He was an Extravert and Perceiving style with a senior job that involved a lot of daily administration.  If he didn’t do the administration every day, it would get out of hand and as a ‘P’ this was a daily challenge.  By the end of the week he would be emotionally exhausted and in dire need of meeting people to recharge his emotional batteries.

She was an Intravert with a senior job that wasn’t just emotionally exhausting but physically exhausting too.  At the end of the week when she wanted to recharge her batteries, she preferred to go home and be left to herself to read a book and let the world wash over her.

So, at the end of the working week, each wanted the other to join them in their ‘down time’ and it was causing conflict.  I explored their differences with them and they started to understand how their needs were the opposite of each other. They came up with their own solution: he went to the pub with his friends. She would go home and sit on the sofa chilling out.  He would come home after an hour or two and they were both to enjoy the weekend together.

If you’re experiencing conflict right now, consider whether it is to do with your personality types. How can you make space for one another’s needs during the current crisis?

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out – and that’s what we’re here for! Find out about couple counselling today and how it can help you overcome your conflicts – and emerge stronger as a result.

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