Married Life: The J/P Difference

And now for some free marriage advice from the St. Catherine Catholic Culture Center!

If there’s one thing I would like to tell to all newly-married couples, it would be this: learn to understand and appreciate the J/P difference* in your personalities and how they conflict and work together. Learn for the sake of your marriage, your sanity, and your coming children! It will make everything a little easier to understand.

If you’ve never heard of the Myers-Briggs personality typing systems/terminology, don’t worry. I’m just going to talk about one facet of it that you’ll be able to relate to immediately. (It seems to me that couples feature one spouse with a J preference and one with a P preference almost universally, so you’ll be able to look at plenty of examples amongst family and friends as well.)

Let me talk about my husband and me, and you’ll see what I mean by “J preference” and “P preference.”

P Preference: On the one hand, you have my husband. He is a marvelous dinner-companion, co-worker, and friend, with a free and easy manner that relaxes the people around him. Very spontaneous, he is good at both responding to emergencies without breaking a sweat, and taking trains to Boston for a day trip without being able to get a return ticket, and just hoping for the best (true story). Looking at his side of our bedroom, one can see that it’s fairly chaotic: order and organization are low on his priority list, and he doesn’t mind messiness because he always knows where to find his things in the midst of the chaos. He is perceptive and responsive to what is going on around him, and he is almost always open to new places, ideas, and people.

J Preference: And on the other hand, you have me: I handle the cleaning, organizing, and budgeting of our family. While being far from Martha Stewart, I have a much lower tolerance for chaos in our home than my husband, so I clean and scrub the place. With my natural knack for mentally putting everything in its place, I get us to the appointments we need to go to, mail the birthday cards that must be posted, fold the laundry that must be put away. Certainly I don’t do these things for pleasure, but I have a gear in my brain that makes it all make sense, and I feel like I was built to do it. I sadly often make snap judgments of things, ideas and people, ruling out many options from others’ free flow of ideas almost out-of-hand sometimes in a manner quite puzzling to people like my husband. I have a need for closure: finishing projects, tying up loose ends, and getting out of a restaurant quickly after we have finished eating!

With a little imagination and application to your own life, you can no doubt see where personalities on different sides of this spectrum might clash: house cleaning, vacations, how/where to spend the holidays… Thankfully, I learned about these dimensions of human personality while I was in college, so I have known about this dynamic in our marriage from the beginning. Although that has not made the gridlock we often have go completely away, it has given us both two great gifts: 1) we are able to stop, breathe, and not take the other spouse’s behavior personally, and 2) we are able to remember that the flip side of whatever qualities annoy us are the very things that attract us to each other as well. That knowledge is really priceless!

(If you would like to learn more about the personality theory behind this, there is a TON of information about the J/P dynamic [among others] in the form of websites, books, etc. I highly recommend that you find out more about the Myers-Briggs type theories, perhaps starting here at the official website.)

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* J = “judging” and P = “perceiving,” but these terms in context of personality theory don’t have the same definitions as the ones in the dictionary, so you don’t really need to know this right now. Please keep an open mind! 🙂

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