You are a “people person,” always at the center of attention and engaged with those around you whether you are on a bus, at the bank, or at a social gathering. Your spouse, on the other hand, a more reserved personality, is not comfortable in the spotlight, and prefers quiet time with just the two of you.
Your mate sees the best in everyone and has a positive outlook on living, while you find fault with most people, constantly referring to Murphy’s Law and always expecting the worst to happen.
You believe that work and chores come first and that fun and playtime should come later. But your partner says, “Life is short! Let’s enjoy ourselves and have fun now!”
Are you two completely incompatible? Not necessarily. You may simply be different personality types. While many psychologists had considered the idea of specific personality types, it was the formal concept that human beings have distinct personality types that began with the work of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, and published in his 1921 book, “Psychological Types.”
Jung’s concepts were later expanded upon by two Americans, Katherine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. Together, they developed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) during World War II in order to help determine the best work environment for females when women began entering the work force to aid in the war effort. The basic idea was to administer the detailed Myers-Briggs personality test that measures psychological type in order to find the best work assignment for them. The questionnaire was first published in 1962, and was used in normal populations and looked at naturally occurring personality differences.
Briggs and Briggs Myers determined that there are 16 distinct personality types. In their view, we are born with our personality type which they describe as manifesting in certain behavioral tendencies — a distinct way that we look at the world and other human bei
ngs, and make decisions about them.
For example, on a day-to-day basis, how do we interact with the world around us? Some of us are extroverts, energized by being with others, some are introverts who are energized by spending their time alone, while others have a variety of levels of both. According to the MBTI, some of us are Sensors, relating to what we can actually experience with our senses — touch, see, hear, taste. Intuitives relate through intuition — what they experience internally. Some of us, Thinkers, base our decisions on pure logic, while others, Feelings, on emotions. Judgers prefer structure and Perceivers spontaneity. These are highly
simplified definitions of the much more complex personality type descriptions that are determined by the Myers-Briggs personalit
y inventory, and used to give you a general idea of the test’s basic concepts.
When two people in a rela
tionship, who are very different personality types, decide to marry, problems and conflicts can arise as they try to work through the events of everyday life without fully comprehending their different perspectives. While I can usually determine someone’s basic personality type, if I see that the difference in personality types is the source of a couple’s difficulties I may suggest that we use the Myers-Briggs test. The results can help couples better understand themselves and their behaviors, and those of their partners, often for the first time. They then discover that their spouses are not illogical or spiteful; they simply look at things, and make decisions about them in a different way.
When couples learn not only to value the preferences of their own personality type, but also learn to develop their non-preferences in order to improve their understanding of and communication with their mates, they are able to create a stronger bond and a more har
Based in Rockport, life coach and psychotherapist Susan Britt, M.Ed., a former university director of career and counseling services, teaches individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship conflicts, clarify and achieve life and career goals, and accelerate personal growth. Questions and comments may be addressed to her at Susanbritt1@verizon.net or