It would be enough if gender differences and differences in family background were all spouses had to deal with. But there are also different personality types, and opposite personalities really do attract.
And these differences can create conflict.
Extraverts and introverts are a classic example of opposites attracting. Family therapist Renee Baron explains that extraverts get their energy by focusing “externally — on things, people and activities.” They're more comfortable with others than being alone.
Introverts enjoy being alone and focus inward, “on their inner world of ideas, impressions, feelings and thoughts.” Extraverts need time with other people, or they become restless and bored. Introverts need time alone, or “they feel depleted and drained.”
But extraverts are often attracted to an introvert's calm, cool manner and their natural willingness to listen. Likewise, the introvert “often finds the extravert entertaining and charming,” admiring their ability to relate and converse with others.
Unfortunately, the introvert's quiet, calm, independent demeanor eventually can look “distant, detached and unsociable.” And, the extrovert's outgoing, energetic, enthusiastic ways may start appearing “tactless, loud and attention-seeking.”
If you and your spouse are extrovert-introvert opposites, Baron explains that “extraversion and introversion are natural preferences, not deliberate strategies to drive each other crazy.” Moreover, you have much to offer each other since you can both compensate for each other's weaknesses.
If your spouse is an extrovert, start by appreciating “the enthusiasm, energy and bursts of outright excitement” they bring to your marriage. Since extroverts live on positive feedback, Baron says you can never compliment them too much.
Baron explains that extraverts often organize their thoughts by talking them out. Their comments are “often more like a first draft than a final report.” This means they tend to talk a lot and have no concept of what “concise” means.
So when your extrovert starts to talk, “relax and remind yourself that you have a few quirks, too.”
If you're overwhelmed with the verbiage, try diplomacy: “I love you, but I need some quiet time now.” Such phrases as “Don't you ever shut up?” will cause needless hurt and drive your extrovert away.
And, don't push to leave parties too soon; extraverts need the social contact. Indeed, encourage your extravert to have frequent contact with others; it demonstrates respect for how they're wired.
If your spouse is an introvert, don't force him or her into social settings or make her or him feel guilty for not wanting to go. (Baron suggests: “Honey, I'd love to have you come along, but I understand if you'd rather not go.”)
And, if your introvert is expecting a quiet evening with just the two of you, don't insist on inviting a “few friends to stop by for a couple of minutes.” Your impromptu party is highly disrespectful of your introvert's need for quiet and solitude.
When you're alone with your introvert, especially during intimate moments, avoid chatter, keeping conversation to a minimum. What you see as communication your introvert may “perceive as superficial or meaningless babble.” This doesn't mean “taking a vow of silence.” It's showing respect for your introvert's “minimalist conversational style.”
Before attending social events, provide as much advance information as possible: What's the dress code, who's likely to be there, and how long will it last. And never throw a big surprise party for your introvert. Forcing them to be the center of attention is emotional torture. They need quiet, not the limelight.
By respecting and learning from each other's personality types, your oppositeness can bring tremendous strength to your relationship. That's why it's good opposites attract.
©2012, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan's website is www.marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.