Upset couple

A partner who misunderstands us or who seems to do things in a way which doesn’t make sense to us can drive us crazy. Counselling clients often express enormous frustration with the way their partner does or says things.

These kinds of differences can lead to real problems in the relationship. People often feel their partner is making things deliberately hard for them by their behaviour or words. Often people feel quite hurt by what comes out of their partner’s mouth.

One example is the person who ‘says things as they are’. This can feel rude or blunt to their partner. Sometimes it feels intentionally hurtful.

So what is going on?

The most common difficulty couples face – and one of the least understood – is differences in Personality Type.

Carl Jung, famous for his pioneering work in psychology, described the different Types in the early 20th Century. Recently, work in neuroscience (examining the function of the brain using sophisticated scanning), confirms the existence of different Types.What does this mean?

Basically, it means that at birth our brains are set to operate in specific ways unique to us. Some of us, for example, tend to favour thinking over feeling, for others, it’s the opposite. When I say ‘favour’, this is not a conscious choice. One way to think about it is that it is like the way in which we favour one hand over the other – we’re either Lefties or Righties.

These ‘preferences’ as we usually describe them, determine how we behave. The example of the ‘thinking’ person in relationship with the ‘feeling’ person can lead to some painful experiences.

‘Thinking’ Types tend to state things objectively or logically. Often they don’t think to take into account a person’s feelings, so they can say things which are hurtful to another person, without intending to.

A ‘Feeling’ Type will often say things in a way which can feel emotionally overwhelming to a Thinking Type.

Understanding our own Type, and that of our partner, can help us develop ways of communicating with each other which are more productive and avoid many of the difficulties couples experience.

In my practice I use Psychological Type work with couples where this is appropriate and help them develop tools to deal with the differences between them.

I will write further posts exploring this issue of Psychological Type.