It might seem infuriating when you just want a little alone time, or when you can‘t seem to agree on light fixtures for the bathroom. “But what a boring world this would be if we were all the same,” says psychologist and couples counselor Ph.D. “It‘s okay to disagree—as long as you do it respectfully.” Here are 10 common ways you and your S.O. might be worlds apart, and how to mesh your preferences.
1. YOU LIKE TO PROCESS THE DAY ALONE; HE’S READY TO CHAT AT DAY’S END.
Everyone relaxes differently. Husband-and-wife team , a leadership coach specializing in personality types and a relationship coach respectively, say that introverts process everything internally. “Extroverts process out loud, and ramble until they know what they’re really thinking.” The introverted partner gets annoyed, while the extroverted partner thinks the other isn‘t listening.
The best solution? Respect differences. Let the introvert relax solo, while the extrovert calls a pal. and leave major problems or decisions for a time when you’re both fresh. “There are few things less productive than trying to hash out the events of the day when someone is tired,” says Ivankovich.
2. YOU LIKE TO BE INFORMED; HE LIKES TO BE DIRECTED.
“There‘s a broad spectrum from highly directive speech to more informing speech,” says therapist and career coach , an expert in personality type and communication style. “One person might say, ‘Pick up some bread on your way home.‘Another might say, ‘We‘re out of bread.‘” Some appreciate directives like the first statement — while others see these as “orders.”
Word choice is huge, adds Ivankovich. “No one wants to feel condescension in a relationship,” she says, suggesting partners “flag” when they feel ordered instead of asked. “Couples are usually happy to help, but the walls can go up with hurt feelings when someone feels controlled,” she explains.
3. YOU LIKE TO STICK TO A PLAN; HE LIKES TO KEEP OPTIONS OPEN.
Certain types like sticking to a distinct plan; others feel anxious and boxed-in if everything‘s on a calendar. “Some can‘t function unless a plan is in place—even on vacation,” says Linden. “To balance this preference, though, they often unconsciously marry a turn-on-a-dime, spontaneous type.”
The key here is to see the benefits of both approaches. “If you‘re a spontaneous type and something affects only you, wing it all you want — but when it affects the other person, be willing to try a plan,” says Linden. “If you‘re more rigid, recognize that no planning often results in fewer opportunities instead of more.” A balanced approach is the best of both worlds.
4. YOU MAKE DECISIONS WITH YOUR HEART; HE MAKES THEM WITH HIS HEAD.
Can‘t come to an agreement when it comes to disciplining your kids? He might be listening to his head, while you‘re listening to your heart. “Some people prefer to make all decisions using analytical reasoning,” says Linden. “Others base decisions on how it will impact others.”
You have to work hard to compromise in these situations. “Emotion is a moving target and can change rapidly, whereas rational thinkers are far more concrete in their thought process,” Ivankovich explains. Talk it out until you both feel comfortable with a balanced solution—even if you disagree on some points.
5. YOU ASSUME THE WORST; HE DOESN’T KNOW YOU’RE WORRIED.
Reading between the lines can be a common trap for couples. “The more different your personality preferences are from the other person‘s, the more likely you will get it wrong when you try to guess their intentions,” says Linden. “Considering the many facets of personality, you are actually more likely to get it wrong than you are to get it right.”
So don‘t guess his intentions. If you‘re not sure what a comment about your finances means, for example, ask. “Assume best of intentions by default,” says Linden. “Don‘t go up the ladder; you can get resentful about something that isn‘t even real, which damages relationships.”
6. YOU UNWIND WITH A QUIET NIGHT IN; HE UNWINDS WITH FRIENDS.
Can‘t agree on Friday night plans? It’s probably because you and your husband unwind in different ways. “The extroverted partner is dying to go out; the stimulation makes the extrovert feel alert,” says Linden. “Meanwhile, the introvert is longing for the moment when they can retreat and recharge their batteries in solitude and quiet.”
The solution? Divide and conquer: kiss him goodbye for a boys‘ night sometimes, while you cozy up with a book. Otherwise, split time between quiet nights in and public affairs. “Communicate what you might need to feel comfortable in either situation,” says Ivankovich, explaining that perhaps you need to ask your partner to introduce you to others at a party, for example. “Compromise is a two-way street, not just giving into what one person wants.”
7. YOU TALK IN DETAILS; HE TALKS ABOUT THE BIG PICTURE.
Some people love details — understanding, categorizing, and keeping them together. Others have “‘bright, shiny lights’ syndrome,” says Battaglia. “They flit from idea to idea and don‘t stick with one thing for very long. They are visionary in their thinking—and these types get bored with the details the other loves.”
The differences here can complement each other well, as the broad-thinker encourages a partner to “dream big, take risks, and see possibilities,” while the detail-oriented person makes sure the task is actually carried out. The key? Making sure you agree on the end goal — like the layout of a new home — before you put the pieces together.
8. YOU THINK HE’S COLD IN ARGUMENTS; HE THINKS YOU’RE HOT-HEADED.
One partner is often calm and rational in arguments, while the other is emotional and hot-headed. “Thinkers and Feelers actually speak different languages, and they don‘t translate well,” says Battaglia. “Thinkers also move on very quickly, while the Feelers ruminate, hurt, and keep up injustices.”
Ivankovich suggests writing down your partner’s response in a fight — and repeat it back to them. “Communicate how the other person‘s response made you feel — maybe anxious if your partner is overly emotional, unheard if your partner is cool,” she explains. This method is helpful especially for the thinking partner’s benefit, who may not see that the feeling partner is still reeling.
9. HE LIKES SPONTANEOUS SEX; YOU LIKE TO SCHEDULE IT AHEAD.
Certain personality types believe set-aside time for sex and romance is a sign of love and respect—an idea that may fly right over the heads of spontaneous types. Women especially, who are usually more emotional by nature, can equate blocked-off time and love — whereas guys can think ladies are stuck in a rut.
The Battaglias say to negotiate. Sometimes, the spontaneous partner should ask how far in advance the schedule-oriented partner would like plans to be made. Other times, the planner agrees to a chunk of time for some fun, unstructured activities.
10. YOU’RE CONCERNED ABOUT BEING RIGHT; HE WANTS TO REACH A SOLUTION.
With decision-making, often there is often no right or wrong way, just different ways. “It is unreasonable to expect that you and your partner will always agree,” she says. “It‘s also unrealistic to assume that you will never have to compromise.”
You can waste so much time arguing about a decision that you never reach one—and get nowhere. “If we wait for life to be perfect, we will miss out,” Ivankovich says, suggesting to think about what might happen if the decision doesn’t go your way. You might see there is no “right” or “wrong” — just your unbending “my way or the highway” view.