Fighting and arguing happens, in some way, in every marriage. Happy and healthy marriages are not exempt. Sometimes we fight about things that feel trivial, like chores or where to eat for dinner or what movie to see on our date night. Sometimes we fight about things that feel much more foundational, like how to raise our children or what plans we should make with our finances. Again, fighting itself is not the problem. But, how often do you feel that you are not being understood in a fight? How often do you feel like you cannot fathom where your spouse is coming from? Could it be that the conflict comes from your core personalities more than it comes from the apparent issue?
There has been a lot of internet discussion lately around the differences between introverts and extroverts, with a rally-cry for introverts to be valued for their strengths instead of overlooked as mere wall-flowers. One of the things we’ve found most interesting about all of this banter is the discoveries of how introverts and extroverts handle conflict differently. Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, says this in a recent Huffington Post article:
People don’t realize that introverts and extroverts respond differently to conflict. In general, introverts take a much lower-key approach to conflict. They prefer for it to not happen at all, and when it does happen they want to defuse it. They tend to speak in softer voices to make the conflict more minimal. Extroverts confront problems head on. They might raise their voices.
It’s very important to pay attention to this difference. Introverts, when they are minimizing conflict, feel like they are honoring their partner by reducing the dissension between them. But what introverts don’t understand is that their extroverted partners can experience this as abandonment or withdrawal. Introverts, on the other hand, feel that if their extroverted partner really loved them, then they wouldn’t be so aggressive. If each partner in this situation could understand why their partner is acting the way they are, then they could take their differences less personally.
Are you and your spouse having a hard time understanding each other in a fight? Do you feel like sometimes you are talking in circles? Are you the extrovert feeling like your spouse is shutting you out? Are you the introvert feeling hurt that your partner is flipping out on you and losing their cool? Maybe it’s not about you. It could be that you are not fighting against each other directly as much as you are struggling with the different ways you each approach a conflict.
Of course, it’s also true that you’ll have fights in your marriage even if both of you are introverts or both extroverts. There are many more factors besides these two that make up the core of our personalities. We believe that a big part of loving each other on purpose is taking the time to understand each other. Simply understanding a little bit more about the way your spouse thinks, approaches situations and conflicts, and values certain characteristics can help ease your own tension in an argument. If you could think to yourself, “He’s not yelling at me to hurt my feelings, he’s yelling because this is the way he expresses himself,” you might be in a better place to make a repair attempt and begin to calm the fight.
We’ve found this fun way to not only learn a little bit more about our personalities, but also to compare our personalities with famous celebrities. For today, take this free online test, have your spouse take it, and compare your results. Then see which celebrities you are most like and try to imagine them as a celebrity couple. We think it will be a light-hearted way to learn more about each other and could even make for a silly ongoing joke between the two of you.
If Tony and I were a celebrity couple we could be Albert Einstein and Cate Blanchett or Daniel Day Lewis and Tina Fey. Either way, I’m going with it!
You are reading Day 16 in our 31 Days of Loving on Purpose series.
Get Your Free #staymarried Love Notes
Sign up to be the first to hear about new blog posts, podcasts, speaking events, and giveaways! As a treat, we’ll send you a free set of printable love notes straight to your inbox.