Perpetual Issues

May 2012. Originally copyrighted and posted in "Type for Life" by the Center for the Applications of Psychological Type, Gainesville, FL. Used with permission.

I recently attended a course on couples counseling based on John Gottman's research-based approach. Of particular note was their research suggesting that 69% of the issues couples face together are perpetual differences that are essentially unsolvable. These differences come from a variety of sources, including personality.

What is called for is civil discourse in discussing those differences, or as they say, "moving from shouting distance to speaking distance." It seems to me that an understanding of type differences is ready made to aid that discussion. Here are some examples that focus specifically on each of the preference pairs; of course the whole type of each person involved is part of the equation.

Extraversion-Introversion: Marie is an ENTP. Her husband, Jack, is an INTP. Marie has a wide circle of friends she likes to see regularly. Jack enjoys his time alone. Marie often goes out with her friends without Jack, but always keeps him informed of the highlights.

He willingly planned and attended their 30th wedding anniversary party with nearly 200 guests. He even put together a wonderful presentation about their differences and totally surprised Marie by how much he revealed. They have a perpetual difference of how much time to spend with others that will never be "solved."

Sensing-Intuition: Cindy is an ENFP. She rarely remembers details and she knows it! Her husband, Matt, is an ISTJ. He usually remembers details and he knows it. She sings in a choir and is always asking him exactly which songs she has sung when someone requests that information. Yes, he could be annoyed, but he isn't. He's proud of the fact he can help her out!

They have been married for 42 years. She is not about to ramp up her memory of details nor is he about to forget them. This is a perpetual issue in their relationship that will never be "solved."

Thinking-Feeling:Marge is an ISFJ. Her husband, Fred, is an INTJ. Until she learned type, she was convinced that he was cold and unfeeling. She herself was warm and attentive and expected that in return. She felt ignored. He perhaps epitomized the old joke, "I told you once that I loved you. If I change my mind, I'll let you know." Type helped her realize and understand their differences, although they will never be "solved."

Judging-Perceiving: Joan is an ESTJ. Her husband, Phil is an ENFP. Phil often looses track of time, attempting to pack in one more thing before they go out or before he comes home from work. When she says, "Let's leave at 5," he continually translates that into "Let's leave 5-ish." Luckily she loves to read, and she learned to pick up a book while waiting for him.

Since they value making and eating supper together, they've agreed that neither one will begin cooking until the other one is home, although snacks are permissible. Their differences are "unchangeable" but their behaviors, and more importantly their perceptions of their differences, are well-managed.

So what are your perpetual issues with those you are close to? How have you managed them using type?

CAPT's Building Better Relationships guide is an in-depth report on type for couples, with detailed descriptions of the effect of each of your MBTI preferences on your relationship.