My Spouse and I Have Different Personalities

The Situation

Jaycee is outgoing and can talk easily to almost anyone. Kendall is more reserved and prefers socializing in small groups.

Clover is practical and pays close attention to details. Details aren’t important to Patience; she is sort of all over the place.

Denver is quick to notice people’s feelings and tries to avoid arguments. Brooke is firm-minded and won’t run away from a good argument.

All these couples are dealing with personality differences in their marriage. It might seem trivial, but these differences can affect essential relational areas such as compatibility, emotional support, cooperation, and intimacy. The very traits that originally attracted and drew these couples together can later seem like flaws that need eliminating within the marriage.

Do you and your spouse have different personalities? If so, you’re familiar with the challenges of dealing with personality differences in your own marriage. Frequently, we hear that opposites attract; sometimes that is true. Two individuals with different personality traits might benefit from enjoying the same fun activities, but it becomes a bit more difficult when they have to actually deal with control issues, expenses, family and friendship, and other important aspects of their relationship. A key to an enduring marriage is when your and your spouse’s personality traits complement one another - or can at least coexist.

The lightbulb eventually comes on, hopefully sooner rather than later. Unresolved personality conflicts can be a major component of marital stress if they are not cleared up fast and changed permanently. At the other end of the spectrum, couples typically divorce after years of marriage conflict because their personalities are still incompatible.

The Way Forward

As professional Christian counselors and life coaches, we have two recommendations if you are dating or if you are married and experience major conflicts due to personality differences: First, cultivate a deeper relationship with God. Second, you should seek counseling.

Behavior modification by virtue of your own will and choice (and sometimes your spouse’s demand) is a viable technique, but it will not likely last over the course of a marriage. People almost always revert to their old selves. Behavior modification is trickery that comes from our human ego as well as the devil. People like to think that they can change their behavior through techniques and replacement therapy, but nothing can be farther from the truth.

The longer couples are together, the more their differences become apparent. Differences in personality are supposed to help you, not hurt you. However, the very thing we need from our spouse is often what annoys us the most about them. Left unresolved, conflict and resentment will develop, especially if a couple criticizes each other’s differences or if one tries to impose hir or her way of doing things on the other.

As we all know, love can be complicated. The heart wants what it wants! It’s in our human nature to seek partners who are similar to us. But that doesn’t always mean the marriage is going to be a satisfactory one. By yielding to the Holy Spirit, we can experience true, long-term change that behavior modification can’t produce.

I recall Jesus telling us in Luke 6:45 that “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” What we say (and do) reflects who we are. This is why behavior modification works temporarily. When our marriage gets difficult, most people revert to their old ways. We need the Holy Spirit to do an inside job of our heart to tenderize it and make it pure before Him and our spouse.

Here are three reasons why we need the Holy Spirit to change us permanently from the inside out:

1. Living together makes it more difficult to ignore personality differences
2. Conflicting personalities can gradually wear someone out
3. Personality traits will grow stronger if not resolved

If ongoing personality conflict doesn’t put a wedge between a couple, it certainly could be the reason for picking up separate interests, growing apart, or gravitating to someone else who shares common interests more than their spouse does. This is called emotional involvement. Emotional involvement with someone else can cause us to stop fighting for our marriage, lead to infidelity, and even worse – divorce.

Be careful with ongoing conflict due to personality differences, especially in the sexual arena of your marriage. Try to keep conflict low and prayer and God’s Word high in your marriage. God tells us in 1 Corinthians 7:4-5, "The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control."

Don’t give Satan a foothold over your marriage because you and your spouse can’t get along. Let the Holy Spirit deliver you, then go to counseling for practical ways to stay delivered.

Personality differences do not have to mean constant conflict and struggles. It is worthwhile to talk about the personality differences you have, and what they mean to how you function as a couple. Understanding each other’s needs and respecting the personality traits that you each have can help you as couple learn how to use your strengths to build a great marriage.

Compromise and understanding are part of all healthy relationships. People grow and change over time, but there are some personality traits and preferences that remain constant over a lifetime. Couples can absolutely function and thrive with personality differences, but it does take some transparent communication and mutual respect for those differences. When we understand our spouse’s personality and how it affects their needs, we will be a better spouse as well.

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