There have been numerous personality tests developed to give us insight into what our overall personality is like, such as Myers Briggs Type Indicator, the Jung Typology Test, and a score of tests based on what is known as the Five Factor Model. Before my wife and I got married, we made each other take the MMPI-II, which is the mother of all personality tests. It consists of 567 true false questions and takes quite a while to complete. When scored, it indicates whether one struggles with any psychological or emotional difficulties. It even indicates if a person is lying, trying to appear more normal, or trying to look crazy. We both passed enough to know that the other person wasn’t a serial killer.
This weekend, my wife taught a class and administered spiritual inventories and a personality test. The personality test she offered was one developed by Gary Smalley that bases personalities around animal characteristics. The categories are: lion, otter, golden retriever, and beaver. It had been a while since we took the test and we laughed as we looked at the results. My wife is a Lion, and I am a Beaver. Our secondary result was Golden Retriever.
As you may suspect, Lions and Beavers are not very similar creatures. Lions, like my wife, tend to be goal oriented, direct, decisive, competitive, and enjoy a good challenge, but they are often too blunt and must temper their aggressive, goal-oriented behavior. Beavers, like myself, are orderly, respectful, have high standards, are problem solvers, steady, creative, and take their own sweet time. On the downside, Beavers often have unrealistic expectations of themselves and others, try to be to perfect, and are often inflexible.
In our household, whenever I am in true Beaver mode and my wife is being a Lioness, it looks like an episode on the Discovery Channel. Sometimes I chew on her and she growls! I say that in jest, but our differences are often what cause our conflicts.
I think there are a couple of things to remember about personality differences in marriage. Until recently, it was believed that personalities are fairly locked across one’s lifetime. That has recently come into question. I agree, I think some facets of our personalities do change, but I feel they are unlikely to dramatically change.
When it comes to marriage we often hear clichés such as “opposites attract”, but this is also contradicted by sayings like “birds of a feather flock together.” So which is it? From my experience doing a great deal of marital therapy, when couples differ greatly on important core issues this turns out to be a detriment to their marriage. Now, I am not saying if your core beliefs differ greatly from your spouses that your marriage is doomed to fail. I am simply saying it takes a great deal more work.
So marrying someone very like you when it comes to your values, worldview, and what you view as most important in life is very important. Yet, having differences in how you relate to and view the world can have its benefits. The fact that this beaver married a lion brings a set of advantages to our relationship. We temper each other. I bring some order and calm into her world and she brings adventure into mine.
You see, God uses marriage to help change us in certain areas. Marriage is like a mirror that reflects where your strengths and weaknesses are. It shows you areas of your personality that are strong, but also reveals your weaknesses. I firmly believe that God uses marriage to make us more like Him.
I also think we should remember that we didn’t marry someone exactly like us, and this is a good thing. While sometimes our differences might be frustrating, this is how we grow and change. We must remember that we can’t change our spouse’s personality. We have to learn to accept and love their strengths and weaknesses. We must also learn to accept influence from one another. At times I need my wife to tell me that I am being too rigid and she needs me to temper her at times.
Don’t spend your marriage trying to turn a beaver into a lion or a golden retriever into an otter. Instead, appreciate what your spouse brings to the table and remember that marriage is a lifelong process where our different personalities sand the rough edges off of one another allowing us to become better people.
So what are you, a lion, otter, golden retriever or beaver? Take the test here for yourself and share your results!
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.