What’s more important than Wedding Planning?

This week’s article takes a break from Wedding Planning and actually talks about something way, way more important… Marriage Planning.

It’s not the subject of glossy quarterlies, you can’t hire someone to do it for you; and you can’t just throw money at it to get everything you want.  We are a culture obsessed with weddings, but we sometimes forget the importance of learning how to live with, and love, your partner well beyond the wedding date.

While there are no guarantees for a happy and successful marriage, fortunately there are things you can do to get yours to the best start, and tools to use to work.  This week, Blair and I got started on exactly that.

While Blair and I have a lot in common, we’re also completely different.  I’ve had friends describe him as the yin to my yang (the contrary and complementary forces). I’m easily overexcited, impatient and energetic, while he is thoughtful and calming.  Sometimes this works really well, and other times..

One of our best friends is really into* the Myers-Briggs theory of personalities, and has made us take online tests in the past to find out about our personality type, and more importantly, how personalities interact with each other.

It’s really fascinating and I’ve been interested in finding out more – if Blair and I can understand each other’s differences, maybe we can learn how best to communicate, react and work with each other.  This week we took the test one step further, to meet with an expert who specialises in helping couples understand each others personalities.  Ali Lawrie has been using the Myers-Briggs personality model to help teams in corporate roles with workplace dynamics, and assisted individuals with career development.  She found that what people often found most useful from their personality typing was to understand the differences between them and their partners.  Ali changed her focus from corporate to couples, and started helping people strengthen their personal relationships.

Finding out our Personality Types
A valuable part of the session was to have our type considered personally by Ali, rather than ticking (sometimes confusing) boxes on the internet.  Our types were slightly different from those we had chosen for ourselves online, so I’m really glad we now know for sure who/what we are.

How our Personality Types fit together
As an ENTJ – ISTJ couple (if you’ve ever met either of us you’ll be able to pick who’s who!), we share qualities like being ‘Extraverted Thinkers’ – we make decisions quickly and easily, and like to live in a scheduled, organised and efficient way.  We’re also both always right and stubbornly stick to our decisions once made!

However, while I view the world with a “future focussed, optimistic lens”, Blair is reflective, looking to the past to what already works well.  This difference is demonstrated when we discuss change – I want to try something new, while Blair might prefer the tried and true.  Being aware of this, I can better understand his perspective rather than being frustrated by his inflexibility.

How can we be more understanding and tolerant of each other?
It’s different approaches to very simple things like planning weekends, stacking the dishwasher or engaging in robust discussion that can erode relationships.

Most significantly for us, is the difference in the way we argue.  I’m a born lawyer, and will keep talking, point-scoring and sparring until I win the debate (or drive him mad).  Blair’s introverted sensing function though, prefers to reflect and consider, often in silence, or by taking a break away from me. While I can sense this as rejection and him ‘giving up on’ instead of ‘sorting-out’ issues – that’s not it, rather he is ‘reviewing’ and ‘appraising’ the situation.

I need to reflect before taking action, be patient and recognise when to slow down.  Blair needs to prepare for the unexpected, and be open to new inspiration, for us to be best together.  Of course, the actual advise from Ali is much deeper and more personalised, with real strategies to put in place, but this gives you an idea of how it’s working for us.

I thought this kind of session was really worthwhile sharing with my readers, if you are in a relationship, engaged or newlywed, you can help sustain your relationship with an incredibly reasonable investment of $225.  Why not ask a parent to gift it to you as a wedding present, or add this to your gift registry?

Advice from Ali:
I have worked with couples who have very different personalities but with a mutual understanding they can learn to appreciate difference, therefore enriching their experience rather than being annoyed and frustrated.  It is true that our greatest learning often comes in the form of our partner.  Research has found that certain Types do get on better than others.  Understanding why this is and what our own make up is, is part of the personALIty session.

Ali Lawrie is a certified MBTI consultant based in St Mary’s Bay, Auckland.  Contact Ali through www.personalitytype.co.nz or email [email protected] to make an appointment (Skype sessions are available for out of towners!)