“What?” I asked Anthony, turning to see him staring in alarm at the dashboard as he drove us to church last weekend.
“Oh, the gas gauge? Don’t worry, it just does that sometimes – it randomly looks like you’re on empty, but then it’ll pop back up to the right place later. You really have half a tank of gas.”
“Seriously?” he responded, surprised. “How long has your car been doing this? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Well, I didn’t know it was going to do it today,” I answered defensively.
“That’s not the point. If you told me, I could have fixed it for you!” he explained.
It sounds silly, but that literally hadn’t even occurred to me. To me, the whims of mechanical things are something to be calmly and resignedly accepted. Their workings are mysterious: sometimes they feel like doing what you want them to, and sometimes they don’t. You kind of just deal with it until the thing stops working entirely.
Needless to say, that’s not my husband’s approach. He’s been taking things apart to figure out how they work since before he could talk. His mom recently told me that when she gave two-year-old Anthony pots and pans to play with, he wasn’t content to just take the tops on and off. Instead, he unscrewed all the handles while she wasn’t looking!
Nowadays, there’s almost nothing he can’t fix, from computers to cars. Part of that is due to experience and education. But I think there’s something more at play in the difference between Anthony and my approaches to the physical world. I think a big part of it has to do with our innate personality differences.
In the language of Myers-Briggs personality types, I’m an “intuitive,” and Anthony’s a “sensor.” This category has to do with how you take in, process, and understand information.
Sensors like Anthony are very focused on the concrete physical reality of the world around them. They tend to be down-to-earth and practical. Intuitives, like me, are a little more up in the clouds. We’re not as interested in how things are as how they could be. We’re interested in interpreting the deeper meaning behind things, the poetry and the philosophy of life – not so much the physics.
Understanding the differences and the similarities in our personality types has been a huge help in understanding how to deal with conflict and how to make each other feel loved. The other day in the car, Anthony didn’t get mad at me for not telling him about the gas gauge. Instead, he just laughed at my befuddlement, realizing that I hadn’t consciously avoided telling him out of any kind of malice. And I’ve learned that if I want him to feel loved, it’s more effective for me to do something for him than to say something to him. Things that don’t seem very romantic to me, like washing the dishes and doing his laundry for him, make him feel loved. Very gradually, the longer we’re married, the better I become at seeing the world the way that Anthony does – though I obviously have a long way to go!
Don’t wait until you are married to learn about one another’s personality types. If you’re dating someone, I highly recommend taking a personality test together, and then reading the results out loud. Talk through them: do you think they really describe you? Or do some parts not fit? In what ways are you different or the same? This site also has a great description of each type’s strengths and weaknesses in relationships.
If you’re anything like Anthony and me, your differences might simultaneously be the things that you find most attractive and most frustrating about your partner. Knowing what aspects of your personalities might cause conflict will help you learn how to deal with those differences in a healthy way. If you identify these areas in advance, it can help from being blindsided by silly fights later on.
People – and relationships! – are complicated, and no personality type or category can totally explain a human being. We all have unique histories, gifts, and struggles. Still, they’re a great tool and a useful starting point that can help you deepen your understanding of the person you love.