Q:

 

Dear Doctor George...

My husband and I were strongly attracted to each other when we first met, and that’s still true after 8 years of marriage. However, as much as we love each other, we often find ourselves arguing and not feeling understood. We are very different. He’s quiet and I’m more social. He’s practical and factual, while I’m a dreamer. We aren’t getting divorced, so how can we get along better?

... Mismatched Couple

 

A:

 

Dear Mismatched Couple...

Disagreements and arguments are a normal part of marriage but, when they constantly occur, it's exhausting.

You and your husband seem to be different personality types. Just as people are born left or right-handed, they are also born with differences in how they function in the world and with other people. In Jungian psychology, people are classified as being extraverted versus introverted, thinking versus feeling, intuitive versus sensing, and planned versus spontaneous. You can determine your own classification by going to www.capt.org/take-mbti-assessment/mbti.htm or www.humanmetrics.com.

It sounds like you might be extraverted, intuitive, feeling and spontaneous, whereas your husband could be the introverted, sensing, thinking, and planned. Yours and your husband’s types are opposites, and opposites need to understand that the other person is not being obstinate by disagreeing, but is simply acting from a genuinely different perspective on life.

A potentially good aspect of such a relationship is that each of you can provide what the other lacks. Together you could make a well-balanced team. For instance, your husband’s thinking and planning provides practicality and attention to detail (such as remembering to check the brakes on the car). Conversely, if you are intuitive and spontaneous, your husband could get the benefit of your interpersonal warmth and your liking to try new things. And, if you influence him to have a good social life, this can improve his health and actually help him live longer.

From your description, it sounds as though the two of you are not realizing the potential you have as a team. There could be many reasons for this, so let’s look at some things you might want to consider.

First, it is important that couples with differing personalities have an attitude of acceptance about the other person, even if they don’t understand why the person is that way.

Second, sometimes people change things after they get married. Secure that the other person is committed to them, they decide to express aspects of themselves that they had previously suppressed. So, did someone change here? If so, the other person might be feeling betrayed. If that's the case, it's important these feelings are expressed.

Third, your marriage has lasted several years now. Doctor George is wondering whether it's getting worse or whether it has always been this way. If things have worsened, it's important to explore why.

Fourth, are there other factors that you did not mention that make the problems harder? For example, does your husband get jealous when you want to go out with friends? If so, then the two of you could talk about how you can get your social needs met without hurting your husband's feelings. Likewise, does he feel pressured or nagged about not wanting to go out? If so, it's important that you learn to accommodate his tendencies. Typically, a more social person accuses the other of “doing nothing”. Wanting to be alone, thinking, reading, relaxing are not “nothing” to your husband — to him, they are legitimate, enjoyable, and fully satisfying activities. Likewise, an introverted person might call your social pursuits “running around”, which has connotations of being irresponsible and/or flighty. Doctor George is not saying that either of you is accusing the other of these things, but is illustrating how someone can make unfair, negative assessments of another's behavior without appreciation for the corresponding virtues and diversity of that behavior.

Doctor George definitely understands how hard it can be when there are such different orientations in a marriage, and he hopes that your love for each other will motivate you to learn how to accept and make the most of the differences between you.

Sincerely,
   Doctor George