Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Should You Marry Your Opposite?

Viva la difference?

In her new blog, The Perks of Marrying Your Opposite, writer Kara Storey advocates marrying someone with the opposite personality. She described her own first person experience with her husband as being on an adventure with someone so different, that she never stops learning new things from her partner, that she discovers new things she would never have tried on her own, that she learned early and often how to compromise with her driven, live for the moment mate, how it is an opportunity to love in her conscious decision to sometimes defer to his tastes and how it has fostered her personal growth in adjusting to someone so different.

We agree with Kara Storey  that marrying your opposite personality type can lead to a successful marriage. The important thing is to determine if your personality, although different, is complementary and compatible with your potential mate's personality. That is possible by practicing a  form of courtship dating back to the days after the Revolutionary War.

According to historian Ellen Rothman: "For both men and women, the best defense against deception was openness. After the turn of the [nineteenth] century, openness became almost an obsession for courting couples. In the nineteenth century, it was no longer enough to be sincere in one’s affections; lovers were urged to be frank and open about everything" (43).

Imagine if couples used this revolutionary concept of candor today. Our society would be strengthened with healthy relationships. Instead of desperately searching for some body to accept his romantic overtures, the healthy person would defer their need for instant gratification and use the dating process to select likely partners among those of compatible temperament and like interests.

As one can tell from a quick glance at the television, this is in direct opposition to the current trend in American society. American men  have been encouraged to look to any woman above their minimum standard of beauty who will accept them as a potential mate. To practice healthy dating, men must resist this siren song of sensuality that “all that matters is getting it.” Women must ignore relationship experts that advise them to not let their lover know the real you until after the engagement party.

Dating should be used like a scalpel, to slice through the extraneous and superficial to reach the significant other. To be able to date in the healthy revolutionary manner, a 21st century person must first establish his own identity apart from any other person. Until they understand their own feelings, needs and goals, they will be incapable of establishing a healthy relationship with another human being. The natural desire to seek approval from another human being to gain acceptance, coupled with the potent nectar of sexual attraction, will lead many to go for the first person that reciprocates their flirtatious overtures.  One must enter the dating game with a definite goal in mind: to opt for a relationship with compatible temperaments.

Compatibility is a very elusive goal for the person who chooses to date in a healthy manner. They must take into account that many desirable people are extremely difficult to get along with once the thrill of artificial intimacy dissipates. To date in a healthy manner, each person must assume their own compatibility problems will inevitably surface once the newness of the relationship fades into the harsh reality of day-to-day existence. Consider the sad testimony of Academy Award winning actress Halle Berry, fresh from a messy divorce from former Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees outfielder David Justice:  "I’ve learned so much through marriage—and I’ve learned that, the next time around, I’m going to take the time to find out, ‘Do I really like you?’ Not 'Do I love you and am in love and do I lust after you,’ but 'Do I like who you are, and can I laugh with you and play with you?’  I think I might take the time to figure that out” (Strauss 6). 157).

To avoid romantic involvement with someone of clashing temperaments like Halle endured with Dave Justice, one needs to see past the physical attraction and charm. Think of the work or school acquaintances that you initially liked but proved to be incompatible as time wore on.  Likewise, in romance one must exert the discipline to see beyond attractive features to the potential partner’s compatibility with your personality style.

How does one objectively evaluate a potential partner’s personality to see if there is hope for long-term compatibility? Psychological experts have compiled indexes of personality style. We suggest using one that denotes four general personality types:  analytical, driven, expressive and amiable.

            -Analytical:  thoughtful, organized, quiet and high-achieving, but also overly critical, humorless, and boring at times.

            -Driven:  self-assured, innovative, self-motivated, stimulating, and good leaders, but also manipulative, unsympathetic, impatient and domineering.

            -Expressive:  exciting, funny, and charming people who are also talkative, low-achieving, needy and sometimes “flaky.”

            -Amiable:  even-tempered, friendly, moderately organized and agreeable, but also indecisive, resistant to change, and uncommunicative when troubled.

Each personality type has its positive aspects and its negative aspects. For example, the analytical and the amiable are less assertive while the driven and the expressive are more assertive. Do you like someone who stands up for his rights, or does it make you embarrassed when they cause a scene when their steak is undercooked or the airline lost their reservation?

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 they are really feeling, or are you repelled by someone who wears their emotions on the sleeve? These are important factors in deciding who you would wish to date, much less spend the rest of your life with. Given your own range of emotion and assertiveness in your personality, you will connect with certain personality types and clash with others.

 Look at the expressive personality type. You may be attracted to these exciting, funny and charming people. However, expressives tend to be talkative, low achieving, needy and, worst of all, flaky. If needing someone you can depend on overshadows the fun qualities of the expressive personality, you may react by choosing to date the reliable but introverted analytical personality.

Analytical people tend to be thoughtful, organized, quiet and high achieving. That can be just the antidote to a bad experience with a flaky, expressive personality type. However, the analytical personality also has the negative tendencies of being overly critical, skeptical, humorless and boring. You may react to the critical nature of the analytical person by dating a person who is amiable.

The amiable personalty type is even-tempered, friendly, moderately organized and agreeable.  What a relief after the last analytical person, right? Unfortunately, the amiable also tend to be indecisive, resent change and will not tell you when they are troubled. The amiable person’s poor communication skills and lack of goals may then send you for relief to a driven person.

The driven personality type is self-assured, innovative, self-motivated, stimulating and a good leader like Bill Clinton. The bad side of the driven person is cold-blooded manipulation, a lack of empathy, impatience and has a dominating personality. That’s enough to send some back to the drawing board (Merrill 60).

We have seen that every personality type has some attractive and repulsive elements that become very important once the romance cools. The healthy dater takes this phenomenon into account as they decide to commit himself to one person. The healthy  person will date from all four general personality types and combinations (like an expressive-driven). The idea is to discover which personality style meshes best with your own personality style. 

There is no one-sizes-fits-all approach to healthy dating. The healthy person will not delude themselves into thinking they have found the perfect person. The healthy dater, grounded in reality, accepts 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” (Weldon 9). Then, when the healthy person commits to a person of a different personality type, it is an unconditional love of the whole person, not just their good side.

           

 

 

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

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