On our first date, Fred and I discovered that we were both INTJs, one of 16 personalities in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Hooray – we could understand each other perfectly!
Well, not really. Six years later, it turns out we aren’t as similar as we originally thought. It’s been a process of “I don’t get why…” and “Wait, what are you doing?” and “Huh, really?”
Here are all the differences we’ve discovered – so far. Maybe you recognize some in your relationship.
1. I’m theoretical; he’s practical. I want to figure out problems; he wants to go out and solve them. We both like learning and creating, but my prominent mode is thinking and his is acting.
2. I like routine; he likes variety. Yes, I’m ordering the sushi for the fifth time this month – I’d get it every day if I could. And yes, I want to go to another cafe this weekend.
3. I plan; he’s spontaneous – at least in the realm of leisure. As we’re enjoying an activity, my brain already goes to what we’re doing next, what’s for dinner, and when we should leave. Fred’s a fan of “just-in-time thinking.”
4. I judge; he explores. Even though we’re both Js, Fred is much more open to new ideas than me. He reminds me to keep an open mind and not be so critical so fast when someone (including him) expresses an idea I disagree with.
5. My instinct is to follow rules; his is to question them. Small case in point: the pool at our hotel supposedly closes at 7:30 pm, but we wanted to swim later. Fred said we should just do it; I wanted to ask permission. (We ended up asking, and getting permission.) Fred makes me more flexible when I realize some rules are dumb.
6. I’m risk-averse; he’s risk-tolerant. When Fred decided to venture through malaria land on a bus, I had to grit my teeth – and stay home. When I paid $1,000 for a rabies vaccine, he was the one gritting his teeth.
7. My mood is variable; his is consistently positive. I’m happy when Fred’s mood rubs off on me, but I’ve had to assure him that it’s okay for me to feel down sometimes.
8. I work constantly in moderation; he works in spurts in excess. I can do 9-5 all year; Fred prefers binge working for six months then taking a break. I had to learn that those breaks weren’t lazy or unproductive; they were a needed counterbalance and recharge.
9. I abstain; he indulges. I have to sit by while Fred eats many small desserts throughout the week; he has to resist the urge to tell me to “live a little.” (And I do – just once a week.)
Recognizing these things was the first step. Next is actually, genuinely, wholeheartedly believing that your partner is entitled to their own approach. You may think you accept something, then discover rogue thoughts and feelings in your head when the difference comes up. It’s a process – so why not celebrate your differences this Valentine’s Day?