Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Is One Personality Type More Successful in Marriage?

Are amiable people better at matrimony?

Are you agreeable? Professor Tashiro of the Center for Addictions, Personality and Emotion Research at the University of Maryland writes in his new book "The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love", that the most desirable personality type for marriage is the agreeable, or what we also call the amiable. He quotes a study of 168 couples that found that the best variable for who would stay married was "the trait of agreeableness...Men higher in agreeableness were not only more likely to be kind, but also to keep the sexual desire alive in relationships."

Psychology experts have compiled indexes of personality style, using four different types: analytical, driven, expressive, and the amiable (or agreeable). All four have their positive and negative aspects. For instance, the amiable and analytical are less assertive, while the driven and expressive are more assertive. Do you like someone of conviction who doesn't sell out, or are you embarrassed when they cause a scene when their restaurant meal is undercooked or the airlines tell them they are getting bumped off an oversold flight?

The analytical and amiable are less emotional, while the driven and expressive are more emotional. Would you rather hang out with someone who lets you know how he is really feeling, or are you repelled by someone who wears their emotions on their sleeve? Would you rather be with someone who has no highs or lows like the amiable and analytical type who keep things hidden? Or would you rather know where you stand?

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Given each person's range of emotion and assertiveness in your personality, you will connect with certain personality types and clash with others. Professor Tashiro lauds the amiable personality type, which is even-tempered, friendly, moderately organized and most importantly, agreeable. Unfortunately the amiable also tend to be indecisive, resent change, and will not tell you when they are troubled. This deceptive aspect of the amiable personality can be a big problem in a marriage.

According to psychologist Harriet Lerner, deception in a relationship creates distance, "erodes connections and blocks authentic engagement and trust and strips the couple of spontaneity and vitality and keeps them operating on a higher level of anxiety." The amiable person's poor communication skills may result in marriages lasting longer only because their partner doesn't realize anything is wrong until one day when they leave a note on the kitchen table saying they have run off with the Pilates instructor. The thin veneer of serenity that hides a lack of emotional intimacy in relationships among the amiable personality type can actually be a long-term agent of destruction in a marriage.

Every personality type has some attractive and repulsive elements that become more important once the initial honeymoon period of romance cools down. In reality, amiable people are no better or worse than driven, analytical or expressive people at marriage. The healthy woman or man takes this phenomenon into account as they decide to commit to one person, dating from all four personality types and combinations. The idea is to discover which personality type meshes best with your own personality style. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to healthy dating and mating- one must accept the good personality traits with the bad. As communication specialist and author Lillian Glass observed, "You can't change people, but you can change your behavior and give them insight into the way they behave towards you." You must commit to the whole person, not just the good side.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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