Not sure why, but on four occasions over the last few days I’ve witnessed the same phenomena. Maybe I’m supposed to get some kind of message from that. Maybe it’s just that prevalent.
In each situation the wife and the husband had very different personalities. Nothing unusual about that. We know that more than 80% of people in the USA marry someone who is similarto them in ethnicity, age (within 5 years), attractiveness, socio-economic status, values, and the like. However, we also know that a large number of people marry someone dissimilar to themselves in personality or temperament. The theories are that by marrying someone of similar background we accomplish a degree of familiarity that gives us comfort, but by marrying somone different in personality we “balance” ourselves in some ways.
Therefore, it’s not unusual to see that mates are very different while being very much alike. Whether you see the differences or similarities depends on what you pay attention to. In my business, I try to notice both. However, I especially pay attention to the differences.
The simplest method for evaluating differences (there are many, as you might imagine) is by evaluating two aspects of behavior. Does the person tend to process before acting or act before processing? Does the person seem reserved and a little more difficult to get to know or does s/he seem open, affable, and easy to get to know? This methodology has existed from roughly 300 B.C. so it’s nothing new or novel. It does, however, work rather well in most cases.
With those four questions we derive four basic temperaments and from many years of research and experience we know something about how those temperaments interact with each other. I call them Commander, Communicator, Completer, and Calculator. You can read about them in my new book Your LovePath that will be out just after the first of the year. (I’ll offer you a discount if you wish to put your name on the list to be notified as soon as the book is published. To put your name on the list email info@JoeBeam.com.)
It would take many more pages than I have room for here to describe these temperaments and interactions. Therefore, I address just one small, but important, matter. The Commander tends to be a person that is competitive, bottom-line-driven, direct, let’s-fix-it-now, and has a strong ego. The Completer tends to be a person that is laid-back, likes to think things through before acting, avoid conflict when possible, family-oriented, tradtional, and loyal. Though I don’t have space to give more direction, you likely already see that these two temperaments married to each other can lead to some unhappy situations. commanders will take risks. Completers hate risk and want security. Commanders want to fix things now, directly and bluntly. Completers want to let it alone for a while and, if forced into conflict they aren’t ready for, will often resort to passive/aggressive behavior.
As many problems as that brings when the husband is the Commander and the wife is the Completer, in all four situations I witnessed recently the problems were exacerbated because the wife was the Commander and the husband was the Completer. She wanted to address things immediately, say bluntly what she wanted to communicate, and force the husband to solve everything right now, which, in her estimation could be done if he would just do what she asks. He, on the other hand, wanted to stay very calm, think things through for a while, and, sometimes, ignore the problem long enough for it to take care of itself. In these situations the Commander gets frustrated that the Completer won’t stand up in face-to-face combat to resolve matters. The Completer feels disrespected, badly treated, and walked on. Usually the Commander gets more forceful and strident while the Completer gets quieter, more reserved, and starts building a wall to protect himself from the Commander’s intensity.
I’m not familiar with all the cultures in the world, but I’ve lived long enough in this country to understand ours. Americans tend to react negatively to strong, intense women because our culture expects the man to be the leader and the woman to be the follower. Yes, that is changing, but it’s still true in most situations. As much as it hurts for either partner to be forceful toward the one who doesn’t have that temperament, it seems to be much more painful if it is the husband experiencing that from his wife. Culturally, maybe even religiously, he sees himself as the leader and feels somewhat emasculated if he feels that she is usurping his responsibility. For many, it would be seen as usurping not just his responsibility but his right.
Interestingly, in each situation I recently encountered, I had great difficulty convincing the wife to stop degrading her husband by her verbal attacks, countenance, tone of voice, and the like. It appeared that at least in these four cases, each wife had lost respect for her husband because he wouldn’t stand up to her strong personality and deal bluntly and directly with their problems. The quieter he became — the more protected behind a wall he built to avoid her onslaughts — the more she attacked. When I tried to explain that this wasn’t his temperament, she replied that it should be.
Does that mean that thes Commander wives were insensitive? Well, it’s according to whom the insensitivity is addressed. They tended to be insensitive to the effect their words had on their husbands but extremely sensitive to anything he said in reply, no matter how mild, and would become angrier quickly.
Does this sound like woman bashing? I hope not because I am not in any way trying to be sexist. I’m a reporter here, not a commentator. I’ve seen the very same thing with Commander husbands and Completer wives. It just seems that when the role is reversed it somehow is more intense. Again, maybe that’s a cultural thing. It’s at least an expectation thing.
So what does a couple in this situation do to become happy? Unfortunately, I cannot explain that in detail this short space. It involves the following steps:
1. Understanding your own temperament and the temperament of your spouse.
2. Understanding what NOT to do when communicating with your spouse.
3. Understanding what TO do when communicating with your spouse.
4. Learn and use a system of compromise that leads each of you to get what makes you happy.
5. Follow through on this new understanding and methodology for the rest of your life.
If you followed that, it means that typically you don’t have to have therapy or counseling. The problem typically can be rectified by an educational process that you then implement in your methods of interacting with each other. I know. I’ve seen it work repeatedly over the last decade.
The book Your LovePath can help. Get on the discount list by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The best I can offer you, however, is an intense educational weekend in which I interact with you directly to help you see how it applies to you and your situation. Additionally, for the next few months I am making myself available to those who attend the workshop for 90 days after the workshop. You can find out more about the workshop by contacting us at http://www.joebeam.com/troubled_marriages.htm#form.
Please know this. If you have this type problem and don’t deal with it, life is much more likely to get worse than get better. You can learn the methods to live together happily.