Personalities are pretty much fixed, so instead of bickering and trying to change, see your personality differences as strengths
Couples are usually attracted to each other because they’re alike, sharing interests, values or backgrounds for example. But the reverse is true for our personalities. So much so that it’s quite unusual for a married couple to have the same personality type.
You’ll know plenty of examples. The quiet introvert married to a party animal. A meticulous planner who’s married to someone spontaneous and last minute.
There’s a good reason why people unconsciously seek out partners whose personality is different from their own. It’s because a mix of personalities makes couples stronger. Each of them seeing the world from a different viewpoint, so that combining their different perspectives leads to better decisions. Just as workplace teams function better with a mix of different personality types. Aggressive risk-takers balanced by their more cautious colleagues. Detailed guys kept on track by ‘big picture’ thinkers. While teams or couples with exactly the same personality types often misjudge situations.
So a spread of personality traits strengthens a marriage. But personality differences can also cause endless conflicts in an intimate relationship. So if you’re fastidiously tidy, you feel frustrated by your laid back partner’s messiness, while they complain about your inability to relax and let go.
Personality clashes are not easy to resolve, especially as it feels like your partner’s deliberately trying to annoy you. That’s because we automatically assume that someone else’s behaviour is intentional and ignore their circumstances, while doing exactly the reverse with ourselves. So if a friend fails an exam, for example, it’s because he was lazy and didn’t study. While if I fail, it’s because my teacher hadn’t covered the right material!
So how can couples stop bickering about personality issues?
The key is knowing that our personalities are pretty much fixed, so there’s no point trying to change them anyway. Instead, see your personality differences as strengths. And assume that when you disagree it’s because you’re each seeing the situation in a different way. Not because one of you is being deliberately annoying.
It’s also worth trying other ways to get what you want, rather than always starting a fight.
So if you want to get your wife to do something you enjoy at the weekend, nudge her away from the things you don’t like by offering several options. Chances are she’ll happily choose one of your suggestions, even if you’ve omitted all her favourites.
Or just as asking people at an election if they intend to vote increases the chance that they will, lightly asking your husband if he’s going to do a chore this weekend increases the chance that he will.
So think like a team. Focus on understanding each other’s point of view, rather than squabbling over your differences. Welcome every argument as an opportunity to see the world through someone else’s eyes. And resist the impulse to blame. Instead, respect each other’s ideas, listen hard and keep an open mind.
And you’ll be a happy and successful couple.