Welcome to our Friday series for couples, filled with mouth-watering food pictures and insightful relationship tips, because we all know that after a while, it’s all about the food when it comes to long-term relationships.
What happens when two people are completely different than each other? This really happens a whole lot more than you think. It could be that one partner is an extrovert and gets his energy from being around people, while his spouse is an introvert and gets her energy from being by herself, cuddled up with a good book.
Or it could be that one partner is a planner, obsessed with checklists, and seeing life in a very linear manner while the other spouse is spontaneous, likes to go with the flow, and has lots of creative ideas tied together like a spider web.
This one is probably the easiest to solve but it does take some willingness to consistently compromise on both sides. It is so easy to get caught up in your differences and this can turn up the conflict, add gas on the fire, and make you lose sight of the common ground.
My rule of thumb formula for this kind of situations is as follows:
Let me explain.
Identify the personality difference between you and your partner and make sure you label it. Stop trying to change it because it will not happen!
For example, Tom is a social butterfly that needs social interaction on a daily basis. He likes to go to most social events, whether at work or his kids’ friends’ birthday parties. Conversely, his wife, Sheila has often experienced social anxiety. She is a homebody, a stay-at-home mom, and avoids any unnecessary outings.
So, the name of the problem is “need for social interaction”. Ryan’s is high, Sheila’s is low.
This will NOT likely change any time soon. Neither is wrong, nor guilty, nor dysfunctional. They are both perfectly normal, but they are just different.
They both have to adjust their expectations that neither will change and that they don’t have to. They will just have to accept their differences about each other.
Let’s agree to accept these differences 60% of the time, meaning that if there are 10 opportunities to go out in a month, Ryan will go out 6 times, while Sheila stays home. No debate.
20% of the time, meaning on 2 occasions, Ryan will accommodate Sheila and stay at home with her and do something together. Or Sheila will go out with Ryan to social events. They can track it and take turns, no arguments this way.
20% of the time, meaning the other 2 occasions, they can mildly negotiate depending on the importance of the event, and hopefully, accommodate without labeling it a win or a loss.
It’s really not complicated, but it does take some serious adjustment of your expectations. If you have a difference in personality traits, you WILL have to adjust your expectations and give each other space if you want your relationship to survive. If certain things drive you crazy, then you don’t have to know everything, or pay attention to every detail, or question why your spouse is doing something that makes no sense to you.
Of course, I am not talking about things that would hurt the family, like spending the family savings, getting drunk, or having an affair. Those are potentially deal breakers for many people.
I am talking about things like grocery shopping. For example, I like to follow a list that’s connected to my meal plan for the week. My husband likes to wander around the store and grab whatever gets his attention, most of which makes no sense to me.
I used to get so mad and question his logic when I got home and would find the pantry full of 10 weird kinds of soups and 7 things of turmeric spice. Now, I just put aside some money in the budget for my husband’s trips to the store and I really don’t need to know or understand much about it.
How are you different in your relationship and how are you making it work? Let me know in the comments!
If you are looking for more relationship resources, go to my Free Marriage and Relationship Resource Center. You’ll find mini-courses, workbooks, and tangible advice. Are you ready to start improving your relationships?
ABOUT: Dr. Ruxandra LeMay is a private practice psychologist in Litchfield Park, Arizona with experience in family therapy, ADHD, stress and anxiety management, and executive coaching. She is the author of My Spouse Wants More Sex Than Me: The 2-Minute Solution For a Happier Marriage. Click HERE to check out her free resources on effective communication, emotional unavailability, intimacy, and anxiety management or join her at www.ruxandralemay.com for monthly blog posts.