Harness Your Differences for a Stronger Relationship
Mother nature is no dummy.
She knows, for example, that if we chose our mates by soberly assessing their personality traits, comparing them to our own, then calculating whether or not they’re a compatible match for us, the human population would have dwindled beneath the replacement threshold several thousand years ago.
Luckily for us all, that isn’t how people evaluate a love interest. You focus on their dimples, their shoulders, or the funny voice they make when they’re impersonating their dog. Questions about long-term compatibility are a problem for another day, for the newly smitten.
Until the honeymoon period fades. Then, you begin to see the person in front of you more clearly, and to question whether nice shoulders can outweigh their bewildering approach to personal finance, or housekeeping, or their relationship with their mother. You begin to wish the dog would just shut up.
At this stage, many couples arrive in marriage counseling or couples therapy, at war with each other and harboring doubts that they’re fundamentally compatible. If basic things are feeling hard, are they in the right relationship? Is their partner really “The One?”
Sometimes, the answer is no. But much more often, the couple is as “right” for each other as anyone else, and the discomfort they’re feeling is the seed of growth. They have woken up from the fever dream of infatuation and arrived on the threshold of a stronger, deeper, and more functional partnership — and they can move into it together by learning to accept their differences and harness the unique strengths they each bring to the table.
In this article, I’m going to tell you how to do that. You’ll learn what really makes a couple compatible, and how you can use your differences to build a stronger relationship. I’ve also recorded an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast on this topic. You can tune in on this page, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen.
Our authentic relationship experts know how to help you learn, grow, and move forward into a bright new chapter.
Personality Type Compatibility in Relationships
Too often, we think about compatibility in relationships in terms of “sameness.” But the strongest relationships are between people who know how to make good use of their complementary differences, which admittedly is easier said than done. Couples who have major irreconcilable differences often get caught up in power struggles over whose way of being is “right.” One partner is messy, the other is a neat freak. One is a saver, the other is a spender. One wants to party every weekend, the other wants to merge with the sofa. The question becomes, who will get their way?
But rather than getting locked into neverending conflict about who needs to change, they could learn to appreciate each other and allow themselves to be pulled slightly toward the center, and become a more well-rounded unit as a result.
This would ultimately be good for the relationship, and for both of the people in it; we get into trouble when we go to the extremes of our personalities. Partnering with someone who is different from you will tamp down your excesses, and help you lead a more balanced, happy, healthy life.
Shared Interests vs. Compatibility
People who are dating often search for someone who shares a lot of their interests. This makes sense — having things in common gives you something to talk about, and something to do together. But liking dogs, or tennis, or beach vacations is not actually a signal that you’re compatible on a deep level. Neither are similar political or religious views. These labels can be points of connection, but they don’t actually tell us much about who a person is at their core.
Our interests and worldviews change over time, while our deeper personality traits remain relatively stable. Fifteen years from now, it won’t matter whether your partner still enjoys rock climbing, but it will matter how well they attune to other people’s feelings, or follow through on what they say they’re going to do, or consider the long-term impacts of their actions.
Focus on deeper personality traits while you’re dating, and you’re more likely to find a match that fits you where it matters most.
What Personality Types are Compatible?
If you’re wondering which personality types make a good match, you may be disappointed to learn that there’s no definitive answer. Compatibility is more about what you do in your relationship, and less about who you are.
If you can accept, appreciate, and grow into your differences, you can create a compatible pairing with your partner.
Here are a few examples:
Introverts and Extroverts
When an introvert and an extrovert get together, it can be rough. An extremely extroverted partner will want to spend every evening out with a crowd, while an extremely introverted partner will look for any excuse to stay home. They can get pretty frustrated with each other, and they may even call it quits in the relationship over this difference.
But something beautiful happens when an introvert and an extrovert allow themselves to grow toward each other.
The extrovert, who may be used to distributing their energy among a large number of people they don’t know very well, will be forced to go deeper into the pool of a single relationship. They’ll become more introspective, and have a greater tolerance for calm. Their capacity for emotional intimacy will expand.
Meanwhile, the introvert will be forced out of their comfort zone from time to time. They’ll go to parties that they would have skipped if it wasn’t for their partner, and over time, they’ll feel more at-ease socially. Their number of friends and acquaintances will grow, and their life will be richer for it.
Spending vs. Saving
But when a spender partners up with a saver, it doesn’t have to be a disaster. The thrifty partner can learn to loosen up a bit and enjoy the money they work so hard to earn. The spender can adopt some of their partner’s healthy financial habits, like keeping a budget and putting money away for retirement.
As long as they are having open, honest, ongoing conversations about money and the role it’s playing in their relationship, they can find a middle ground that allows them both to live more prosperous lives than they otherwise would.
It’s hard for one person to fulfill every need that children have. When you partner with someone who has a different parenting style than you, that can help your children get everything they need — if you and your partner can avoid tearing each other apart over your differences.
For example, kids need structure, rules, and consequences, but they also need grace, patience, and freedom. When someone who leans more authoritative in their parenting style partners with someone who leans more permissive, they can make decisions together about when to use each approach, and give their kids a more well-rounded upbringing as a result.
Many couples find this hard, but working with a parenting coach can help you and your partner learn to appreciate that both styles have merit, and that allowing yourselves to be pulled toward each other is in your children’s best interest. Going to either extreme would be a mistake, but helping each other find a healthy balance can be an incredible gift to your children.
Personality Type Compatibility: Ps Vs. Js
A major difference that couples run into is one that you likely would never consider at the start of a relationship. That’s the difference between “perceivers” and “judgers” (aka Ps and Js) on the Meyers-Briggs personality inventory.
A perceiver is a go-with-the-flow type, who likes to remain open to new information and experiences, and doesn’t enjoy closing off options or making definitive plans. Ps tend to be very rooted in the present moment, which helps them be flexible, adaptable, and spontaneous. They have a deep appreciation for complexity, and they don’t feel a need to categorize things in black-and-white terms. They may have trouble with commitment and planning for the future.
The term “judgers” here is not a synonym for judgmental. Instead, Js are people who like order and the feeling that things are settled and decided. They like to categorize the external world and make firm plans for the future, which gives them a sense of control. They can sometimes be all-or-nothing thinkers, and they can experience a lot of distress when things are up in the air or don’t go as planned.
Both of these types exist on a spectrum. Everyone does some “perceiving” and some “judging” every day. But when someone with a strong P orientation partners with someone with a strong J orientation (which often happens — they both see in each other a way of being that they’d like to embody), power struggles can result.
The J will try to impose more order and structure over their shared life than the P is comfortable with. They may plan a vacation six months in advance, and then feel frustrated when their P partner tries to radically revise those plans 48 hours before the plane boards (after giving it zero thought up until that moment). The P will wish their partner could relax and stop being so uptight, and they may feel a bit infantilized, as if they have a manager rather than a partner.
But, if they can learn to understand, accept, and leverage each other’s unique strengths for the benefit of the relationship, Ps and Js can make an incredibly compatible pairing. For example, Js can run the family calendar, and create a structure in their shared life that the P would never have on their own. Meanwhile, Ps can use their go-with-the-flow superpower to adeptly handle all of the unexpected curveballs that life throws at them. Ran out of ice in the middle of the dinner party? No problem. Just found out your kid needs an owl costume for the school play…tomorrow? P will grab their glue gun and some feathers and handle it, without a lot of stress.
And being around someone with an easygoing inner narrative can offer huge benefits to a J. We attune to our partners not only emotionally but also physiologically. Being around a calm person can literally slow your breathing and your heart rate, which can counteract the negative health impacts of a J’s stress.
Compatible Personality Types
If you’re looking for someone you’ll be compatible with, or questioning whether you and your partner are really a good fit, remember that compatibility isn’t about how alike you are. By embracing the strengths that come along with your partner’s unique personality (and your own), you can create a well-rounded unit together that helps you take on the world.
[1:03] How to Know if You Are Compatible in a Relationship
- Couples often think differences create relationship problems. However, compatibility isn’t about being alike.
- A healthy relationship is about appreciating your partner for who they are and what they bring to the table, not about finding someone who is exactly like you.
[6:48] What Makes a Compatible Relationship
- Anxiety over compatibility can last until marriage.
- When you’re dating or in the early stages of a relationship, it’s easy to get a false sense of security because you have common interests and worldviews with your partner.
- These initial similarities can change over time in a long-term relationship, so focus on deeper connections rather than labels.
[14:07] Compatibility of Personality Types
- Instead of focusing solely on your relationship’s similarities, look for complementary differences.
- The introversion/extraversion continuum is one example of a compatible pairing.
[23:41] Myers-Briggs Personality Compatibility
- Perceivers and Judgers on the Myers-Brigg Personality Test can create a compatible pairing.
- They can balance each other out and bring out the best in each other.
- It’s not about forcing or changing your partner to be more like you; it’s about putting your strength into the relationship so that both parties benefit.
[49:36] Resolving Conflicts in Your Relationship
- If you’re having trouble resolving compatibility issues and recognizing differences on your own, consult a licensed marriage counselor or therapist or even a relationship coach who specializes in the subject.
- A counselor, therapist, or coach can provide a safe environment for you to discuss your relationship’s problems without getting into an argument.
Music in this episode is by Night Beats with their song “Right-Wrong”. You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: https://nightbeats.bandcamp.com/. Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.
Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast
Personality Type Compatibility in Relationships
The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
Free, Expert Advice — For You.
Subscribe To The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
Let’s Talk: Start With a Free Consultation
If you’re ready to grow, we’re here to help. Connect with us, and let us know your hopes and goals. We’ll follow up with recommendations, and will help you schedule a first, free consultation.