The Personality Wild Card
Someone once asked me, “How often do you fight with your spouse?” After almost 15 years of marriage, you’d think it would be easy, but I could not think of a single incident I would qualify as a fight. I’ve never yelled at my husband, and very rarely have I lobbed snide remarks. Sure, we’ve disagreed, maybe even argued, but our voices have never risen so high in timber the neighbors could hear. And nothing has ever lasted more than a day, always culminating with an expression of feelings and exchange of acknowledgment and remorse.
The person who asked me hardly believed what she was hearing. I could hardly believe I was able to say it. So many people couldn’t give an account of how many fights they’ve had with their spouses over the years because there have been so many. I consider myself fortunate that I have trouble doing it because I can’t recall any. I have tried to think about why I can’t recount any big incidents or remember raising our voices to one another. There are always many factors that contribute to a high or low number of conflicts in a marriage. Some factors are almost 100% out of our control, but the good news is that even things we can’t control don’t have to control us or our families.
My mom has shared with me many times how early in their marriage she would overreact immediately to something, and my dad would shut down. He would start to not even tell her things he knew would upset her because he didn’t want her to overreact, didn’t want the confrontation. They finally got on the same page and changed their approach to conflict with each other. My mom would take some time away to cool down and then come and tell my dad how she felt, calmly. They agreed that when my dad began telling his side of the story, my mom had to stay quiet until he was done and speak calmly in response. I attribute my parents’ discovery of better conflict resolution to my positive upbringing.
By realizing the differences in their personalities, they were able to connect with each other better and in a less abrasive way. Any time parents can do this with each other, it demonstrates for children a positive way to be a spouse. After all, what is parenting but demonstrating for our children how to do life well.
Noticing personality traits in children is also important when approaching the art of parenting. When I was young, my parents noticed something early that helped them in their disciplinary technique with me. They discovered that being sent to my room was no punishment. I did well by myself and would read a book, play with my Barbies, straighten my room or many other things. I welcomed a trip to my room and would inevitably not learn a lesson. However, they found that when they spanked me or washed my mouth out with soap (only one time for good reason), it was humiliating for me, and I did anything I could in the future to avoid it.
My personality has to deal with pride, and children who are prideful do not like being told that they are wrong and did something bad. When caught in a mistake, the child could get angry, sad, disappointed in themselves, or a combination of the three. Some kids get angry or sad that they got caught, while others feel this way because they disappointed someone they loved. That was me. If I knew my parents were disappointed or said they were confident I could do better, I felt a sense of failure that automatically exacted my own sense of punishment on myself. Thankfully, I had parents who figured out how to tame my pride and encourage me out of my sense of failure.
Another factor that is hard-coded into all of us is something called a love language. A love language is our method of communication to express or receive love messages. We are all different, and very often in a marriage, love languages differ as well. I highly recommend reading The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman who explains each one in detail; I’m confident you will easily identify which love language is your spouse’s and which is your children’s.
My primary love language is quality time. My daughter’s primary love language is quality time. It’s easy for us to show and receive love between each other because we are speaking the same language. My husband’s primary love language is physical touch, and my son’s is words of affirmation. Because these are not my love languages, I have to make a concerted effort to remember to use these languages to express love to them so they can receive and understand it. They also need to make sure they know my love language so that when they want to show me love, they express it in my language.
Your personality type or your love language does not have to cripple your parenting technique or your marriage. Every personality type has their pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses. The trick is to use the strengths well, and harness the weaknesses to teach a lesson when the opportunity presents itself. Be a student of your spouse; be a student of your children. It’s just like when you were dating your spouse…you found out what they liked and you did that so they would know you love them. Identify their love languages and speak their language when you’re showing affection and when you’re dispensing discipline. I can guarantee your marriage and your parenting will benefit.
Look for Part 2 of this post soon: