Monday, January 26, 2009

MBTI: Personality Differences in Couples

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.

There are four dimensions of measurement. We each have qualities of all dimensions. But just as some of us have a dominant right or left hand, even though we use both hands all the time; we tend to have preferences for certain MBTI types.


Extroverting <---> Introverting

Which has to do with where you get your energy. Extroverts recharge when they're around people and they tend to think out loud. Introverts need alone time to recharge and they tend to process internally before speaking.

Intuiting <---> Sensing
Which has to do with how you take in information. Intuitive look for the big picture and patterns (the forest). Sensors look for the details (the trees).

Thinking <---> Feeling
Which has to do with how you make decisions. Thinkers use data to analyze situations. Feelers look to their intuitive gut responses.

Judging <---> Perceiving
Which has to do with your basic orientation to the world. Judgers like to narrow options, make the choice, act on it, and move on. Perceivers like to keep options open and add more possibilities.

I have heard it said that when couples have different preferences on more than two dimensions, relationships are more of a struggle. Richard, my partner, and I differ on two dimensions, and they bite us all the time. I have preferences for Feeling and Judging. He has preferences for Thinking and Perceiving.

How does this play out?

Feeling - Thinking Scenario

B. (Feeler): Today is not a good day. I'm having some pain.
R. (Thinker): Why not try a warm bath, or doing some yoga stretches. That often helps. Or we could watch reruns of the Twilight Zone. That might distract you.

When all I (the Feeler) really want to hear him say is:
"Oh sweetie. I'm so sorry you're hurting. I'm by your side."

Judging - Perceiving Scenario

B. (Judging): I don't know what to do? Should I try myo-fascial physical therapy or acupuncture or different meds? I can't stand this confusion. I want to find the one thing that will work!"

R. (Perceiving): You can try them all! And if something doesn't work once, you can try it again later. It might help then. The good news is that there is always something more to try that might help.

B. (Judging): Groan...I just want to figure out what will work!

We are different. I recently wrote a post about how Richard's Thinking preference and my Feeling preference trip us up. I am Deanna Troi to his Mr. Data (for the Trekkies among you).

When you think about your own relationships in an MBTI context - what do you notice about how the differences between you and your partner show up?

Are you both Extroverts, or is one an Introvert? Do you both like to dive into the details (Sensing) or does that make you crazy because all you want is the big picture (Intuiting)? Is one of you a Thinker and the other a Feeler, like Richard and me? Is one of you a Judger who likes to make a choice and move on, while the other, the Perceiver, likes to add more possibilities into the mix and postpone making a final decision (again, like Richard and me)?

And for those of you who seem to be similar to your partner across all four dimensions -- what is that like? I can only imagine.

more to come about MBTI and couples and illness


Kerry said...

How interesting Barbara! I have always thought my husband and I were a lot a like, but perhaps it is our differences that help our relationship work. Three differences out of four! Kerry

Anonymous said...

My husband and I have the same differences! For example, when planning vacations, I quickly decide where I want to go and could buy tickets the next day. My husband is like, but we could go here! Or we could go there! And then he will search multiple websites for airfares, on and on... He loves lots of open options and is reluctant to decide. Classic P vs J. But often I find that all his info-gathering and exploration is helpful. Our collaboration seems to work well in the end; with me pushing him not to procrastinate so much, and he pushing me to explore options, we wind up in a good place - a well researched fun vacation with the tickets purchased in time!