A Deeper Look at Personality Traits In a Relationship
When Ashley came to talk last night, I expected Mike to be with her. But instead, she was alone. He’d gone grocery shopping and had completely lost track of time. She was disappointed and frustrated at the same time. She and Mike are planning to marry in a year or so.
Mike is divorced with two children, 14 and 8. Ashley is also divorced but has no children. Before they get married, she wants to talk out some things she’s concerned about. Better to exchange thoughts and settle issues now. Fortunately, he agrees. So, why wasn’t he here?
About 10 minutes into our talk, Mike called. He was home. And, he’d thought he could leave right away and still make our meeting, but now can’t find his car keys. The rest of my talk with Ashley was spent on two topics, both coming out of this incident. It turns out; this behavior is not unusual for Mike.
Ashley and Mike are both financial planners and while they don’t work with each other, they work at the same firm. Yesterday they drove to work together in her car. Ashley assumed they would ride home together. But, in the late morning, Mike needed to go to a client’s office. He told Ashley he’d be taking the car; that was fine with her. She assumed he’d be back by 7:00 p.m. when she’d be ready to leave the office.
At 7:15 p.m. there was no Mike, no car and no call from him. Ashley texted him but got no response. Finally, she called and found him at home with his kids, having dinner. Mike had completely forgotten she didn’t have a car; it had simply gone out of his mind. Ashley took a cab home.
As she was telling me about this, Mike called again to say he’d finally found his car keys in the snow outside by the car. He must have dropped them when he unloaded the groceries. Could he still come? No, we’d be finished by the time he arrived.
While Ashley is really patient and understanding with Mike in situations like this, it happens every day in some way. To say it’s annoying is an understatement. Though she loves him very much, she’s really anxious about (1) living with his flaky disorganization (absolute chaos), and (2) raising a child with him. Why? This is the way most Comfort style people behave. They lack organization skills and, worse, they expect someone else (whoever) to do it for them. What if their child imitates Mike’s behavior?
Ashley’s the opposite; she’s the Superiority (goal-setting) style, maybe even a little exaggerated. But, she also has the Control Over Her Situation style; she’s great with order and organization. How does she do it? She makes a to-do list every morning. Why? It empties her mind and gets her thoughts on paper where she can see them. Once a list is made, she may even reprioritize the items on it. Again, why? See the payoffs from her process below.
(1) Ashley’s process (skill) makes sure that immediate things get done on time.
(2) It also insures that she uses her time efficiently. There’s no wondering where things are, no doing things over again because something’s been lost. There’s no wasting time. In using this process: her order/organization skill, she makes sure deadlines are met at work and goals are met at home. Nothing falls through the cracks.
(3) Ashley’s anxiety falls as she does this process. Because she’s dropped that anxiety, she’s free to focus all her concentration and energy on moving through her day.
(4) It feels wonderful to check off the tasks as she completes them. Ashley loves this feeling; it means that she’s moving ahead. Both movement and completing her goals are Superiority style core qualities.
(5) Having the planning-ahead skill means life goes smoother and, therefore, much calmer. No heightened anxiety. By contrast, Mike lives in chaos. And, when they’re together, so does she. Witness the above situation.
On the other hand, Mike’s process is: (1) He promises something. Ex: coming back to pick up Ashley, (2) Ashley expects him to follow through (because he promised), (3) he doesn’t follow through, (4) she’s disappointed or resentful or angry or all of it because, (5) her life and their relationship are now seriously affected (because it happens over and over and over), and Ashley’s worried; she knows that love feelings are fragile and can’t stay whole indefinitely before they’re badly affected.
Fortunately, Mike sees the benefits of Ashley’s process and would like to have it. He’s often frustrated with himself because his life is so chaotic; the process of “being in charge of himself” is something he just never had to learn. So, building it would not only help out in his daily life, but it would also mean his relationship would go a lot smoother. How to do it?
(1) Mike must slow down, both his thoughts and his body. His mind is busy but scattered and since he doesn’t capture his thoughts in any way, on paper, or in an iPhone (or some other device), his mind continues to be busy but scattered throughout the day. He acts on those thoughts that are most immediately important (having dinner ready for his kids), but literally forgets the others. In this case, Ashley.
(2) Mike has to build a new skill, one that reminds him that now he’s the one who is responsible for planning his everyday life. That means he can’t just react.
When Mike was growing up, his mom did the household tasks while he did school and sports. During his first marriage, his wife worked so they could afford a daily housekeeper; she did a lot of the chores, errands and scheduling for the family. When Mike’s wife stayed at home, she did the day-to-day chores and errands. At work he has two assistants that structure his day. Since Mike has never lived on his own, there’s never been a reason for him to think about it any of it: lists, structuring his off-work hours, and so on.
(3) As Mike builds a responsible daily process he can count on, he should tune into the feelings that it brings. He’ll find that actually knowing what he’s doing at the moment and knowing what he’s doing next, produces great feelings. His overwhelmed and scattered feelings will gradually disappear. In their place he’ll notice that he feels more certain, more confident, stronger. He can finally trust himself. Great. These dividends are well worth the effort.
Big Thoughts In This Article.
- Understand that by the time we reach our late teen years or early twenties each of us should be enough in charge of ourselves that we don’t live in chaos or draw anyone else into it.
- Understand that many of us for various reasons do reach our adult years without various practical living skills. It’s nothing to be defensive about; we can learn what we need to.
- Understand that as we learn organization and order skills we equip ourselves to be proactive and so can direct our lives instead of reacting to life. What a relief!
Warm wishes until next time,
I’ve mentioned specific personality types in this article. You can become more acquainted with the four personalities that I write about by visiting my www.allaboutpersonalities.com site (by this Friday, the All About Personalities page will have an entirely new look and a lot more useful information) and my www.joansmoviereviews.com site.
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