I’m coming up on my 9 year wedding anniversary and I can safely say two things. I love my husband now more than I did on the day we got married and our relationship is far more complicated than it used to be. Both of those statements are true and interconnected. Marriage in your 20s is like playing house; marriage in your 30s with 2 kids and a mortgage is real life. Tough decisions come up every day, tensions run high on lack of sleep and stress can bring out the worst in people. BUT, it is these moments of tension and stress that strengthen and grow a marriage. All you need are tools in place to help you succeed and work together. Enter personality typing and, more specifically, Anne Bogel’s new book Reading People.
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I have followed Anne’s blog – Modern Mrs. Darcy – for years. She always has insightful book picks (I loved the Jane Austen Project) and I wait with baited breath for her summer reading guide to come out each year. She’s also been known to discuss personality typing and while the concept didn’t appeal to me at first, I wanted to support a fellow book blogger and so I decided to read her book, Reading People.
WOW. She had me hooked on personality typing from the first chapter. In it, she discusses how she and her husband have differing styles of arguing. She prefers to argue a point out immediately (me) while her husband needs time to process before responding (my husband.) When she further explained the emotions inside her when they argue at different levels and how understanding his personality helped her reframe the arguments, I was hooked.
I immediately dove in and took the Myers – Briggs test and forced my husband to do the same. Turns out, I’m an ENFP and my husband is an ESTJ. Basically, aside from the fact that we are both extroverted, we are total opposites. But knowing my Myers Brigg personality and his opened my eyes. Let me give you an example.
On a typical day, my husband walks in the door at 5:45 to find dinner on the table and the boys and I just sitting down to eat with him. My personality type gets stressed easily and has trouble with practical skills so getting dinner on the table for me is a HUGE accomplishment, but it often means the rest of the household chores pile up. When dinner comes, I want to sit and relax with my family and enjoy the meal regardless of the mess around me. My husband’s personality, on the other hand, is traditional and orderly and he struggles with relaxation.
All this means that by 5:46 he is cleaning up the entire house and I am foaming at the mouth at the dinner table. I used to take his inability to sit down to dinner before cleaning as a personal attack on how well I did as a SAHM. (Another fault common in my personality type is being highly emotional and prone to read too heavily into things.) I thought that his crazed cleaning spoke volumes about my failures, but I was wrong. He has trouble relaxing and he can’t settle down to a meal if he sees that the house is a mess. He MUST clean it all before sitting down to eat.
With my new framework in my head, I changed the dinner routine. We now sit down closer to 6. I spend the extra 15 minutes feeling less rushed and doing a bit more tidying. In turn, while he still cleans up behind me, I’ve accepted it.
More important than figuring out a routine that worked for both our personality types was learning that we both approach the same situation differently, but neither of us is “wrong.” Knowing each other’s ingrained strengths and weaknesses have helped to reframe my own expectations of our marriage and the roles we individually play within it.
The 5 Love Languages
In Reading People, Bogel also speaks about the 5 love languages and once again I had an AH-HA moment. There are 5 love languages and everyone has a primary and secondary language. These languages are guides to how we each give and accept love.
Mine are words of affirmation and touch. There is nothing that makes me happier than when my kids run in and tell me they love me or my husband gives me a hug when I’m having a bad day. My husband’s love languages are acts of service and gift giving. He prefers to show his love by running an errand for me or picking up a new sports jersey our son would appreciate.
Before I understood what that meant, I would express my love to my husband in the way I wanted to receive it back – with lots of I love you’s and hugs all day long and I would get frustrated that my husband wasn’t as vocal or touchy-feely. But when I read the chapter on love languages I understood. In order to truly show my love to my husband, I needed to clean out the garage or tackle the laundry pile growing taller by the day. Sure enough, when I do the most mundane of chores, I am rewarded with genuine gratitude and a huge smile. The same gratitude and smile I give him when I get a random kiss in the middle of the day. A simple shift in thought has turned into actions that grow our bond in more meaningful ways.
Anne Bogel goes over other personality typing styles in the book as well, making it a nicely rounded reference piece. You will have to do your own legwork when it comes to determining your various personality types. That being said, she includes the names of resources help you on your way. She created a book that is both practical and interesting. I am grateful to her for helping me create a framework to better view the world. I look forward to strengthening my own self-awareness and becoming more compassionate to those around me. Hopefully, you will give her book a chance. I promise you will be rewarded!