On today’s #MarriageMonday, we’re diving into differences! We all have them, but they can move from fascinations while we’re dating to frustrations when we get married. Let’s talk about it!
Jill: We’re all different. That’s no secret. But it’s funny how quickly something can move from being “cute” while we’re dating to being downright frustrating when we bump into our differences day after day.
Mark: No kidding! And we are so different! When we talk about “differences” in marriage, we’re often referring to gender differences, but it goes deeper than that. One of the first books on differences Jill and I read was His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley. When we read the book, we resonated with a lot of what was written, but we didn’t fall quite as neatly in the male/female categories Harley slotted the needs in.
Jill: We’re also big fans of The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This wonderful resource helped us to better understand how we were each speaking love to each other, but it wasn’t in the right language! Mark’s love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch, while my love languages are quality time and acts of service. (You can take this assessment here.)
Mark: Even after reading so many resources, we continued to bump into more differences. And that’s when we began to identify some ways we are different that no one seems to talk about. We were tripping over these personality/temperament differences daily because they are core to how we operate. The more we’ve talked about them with friends, family, and in our speaking and writing, the more we’re finding that we’re not alone in these frustrations. We want to share the six “operating system” differences with you today!
(You can also take a free quiz right here to help you determine your own personal “operating system!”)
Jill: We dig deeper into each of these in No More Perfect Marriages, but we want to give you the overview here as well. So let’s start with number one:
1) Internal Processor / External Processor
Mark: We recently shared about this on TikTok, but an internal processor makes decisions and sorts through facts and feelings in their head. An external processor makes decisions and sorts through facts and feelings in conversation.
Jill: Both are normal and right ways to process life — they’re just different! I am definitely an internal processor. We joke that I will think and think about something for days or even weeks and then let Mark know what “we” decided. Although this isn’t fully true, it’s completely different from how Mark processes life. He processes everything out-loud. Every thought. The signs we pass as we’re driving down the road. Topics he’s curious about.
Mark: Once we understood this difference, we actually realized our opposite operating systems can help each other out. Jill will never talk things out loud like I do, but she’s learning to let me know she’s thinking about something before she’s done thinking about it. I have found that Jill’s internal processing has helped me to think through things a little more before I speak.
2) Introvert / Extrovert
Jill: Mark gets to Friday night and thinks, “It’s the weekend, who can we get together with?” I get to Friday and think, “I’m so glad it’s the weekend because I don’t have to see any people until Sunday at church!” Oh my, we are so different!
Mark: This has nothing to do with social skills. It has everything to do with how we are emotionally refueled. Extroverts are refueled by being with people. Introverts are refueled by being alone.
Jill: I am an introvert and love being alone. Mark is an extrovert and loves being with people. As an introvert, I prefer one-on-one conversations. As an extrovert, Mark enjoys group settings and loves a good party. I love to have a small core group of friends and Mark feels like more is better when it comes to friendships!
Mark: Navigating this difference requires the God Tool of compassion. If you’re the extrovert, you need to have compassion and understanding for your spouse’s need for quiet. If you’re the introvert, you’ll need to have compassion and understanding for your spouse’s need for socializing. (We recently talked about this one on TikTok as well.)
3) Medium-High Capacity / Medium-Low Capacity
Jill: “Capacity” refers to the emotional capacity we have. It also refers to our pace of life and how many balls you can juggle before it’s too much and stress sets in. I am medium-high capacity and Mark is medium-low capacity. Both are normal. One is not more “right” than the other. We just have to know ourselves and know our spouse in order to respect and honor both who we are and who they are.
Mark: I have always told Jill she’s not a Type A personality… she’s Type AAA! The girl keeps going and going! When she wakes up in the morning, she is instantly “with it.” She can stay up late and still get up early in the morning. That is not me!
This has caused conflict in several ways. Jill has been frustrated because I wasn’t keeping up, and I have been frustrated because I always wear out before she does.
Jill: Once Mark and I identified the concept of “capacity” and how we were wired with differing capacities, it was a huge revelation for our relationship. We were able to start letting each other off the hook and be our very different selves.
4) Innie / Outie
Mark: Nope, we’re not talking belly buttons here. We’re talking about the way we organize our “stuff.” Innies tend to file, while outies tend to pile. This “innie” man married an “outie” woman and fireworks have happened over here because of the difference.
Jill: Innies appear to be very organized because most of their stuff is “in” something. Their mantra is “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Outies often have to deal with a little more visual clutter. That’s because their mantra might be “out of sight, out of mind!” We tend to be pilers rather than filers, because if we file something we might forget about it.
Mark: Jill and I have actually become more like each other without losing ourselves. I’ve relaxed about my expectations on how things are organized. At the same time, I’ve been able to teach her a couple ways to keep her piles, but store them in a way that is slightly more “organized” and less visually overwhelming to her.
5) Structured / Spontaneous
Jill: Are you seeing any patterns in your own marriage here? This next part of our temperament has to do with how much planning we prefer. A structured person likes to plan and work the plan. A spontaneous person likes to go with the flow. Structured folks like to have their ducks in a row while spontaneous folks are the free spirits of this world. Both are normal and okay, but conflict can happen when we bump into each other’s preferences.
Mark: I am the spontaneous one and Jill is more structured. I value planning and structure, but in the end, I like to decide what I’m doing based on how I’m feeling. Jill, on the other hand, has a plan and will usually work that plan no matter how she’s feeling.
Jill: An interesting way this plays out is how we approach surprises. Mark loves surprises. I hate surprises. They create excitement for Mark, and they create stress for me.
Mark: We’ve learned to balance each other out. I am much more sensitive to the structured people around me, because Jill has helped me value their need for information. Jill is much more inclined to suggest something spontaneous than she used to be, because she knows how much I enjoy that.
6) Thinker / Feeler
Jill: Usually in marriage, one spouse leans more toward thinking and one leans more toward feeling. In our marriage, I am the thinker and Mark is the feeler. Thinkers use facts and research to make decisions and interpret the world, while feelers use emotion and intuition.
Mark: We first noticed this difference when we were househunting. Jill had a spreadsheet (both on paper and in her head!) with the facts about each house. She kept track of square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, size of yard, miles to the nearest grocery store, etc. I, on the other hand, remembered houses by how they felt to me, how the neighborhood felt, and whether I felt like I’d connect with the neighbors there.
Jill: Again, neither of these are wrong! One of the best ways to work as a thinker/feeler team is to operate within our strengths. To lean on the research and deep thinking of the thinker spouse, and to lean on the intuition of the feeler spouse.
How about you?
Differences aren’t labels. They’re not excuses. They’re most certainly not deficiencies. Differences are the personality and temperament traits that describe how we process the world around us. We start by understanding ourselves first and then we move to understand our spouse better.
Marriage (and parenting) challenges happen when we think the way we do things is the right way or the only way. When we begin to understand and accept our spouses for who they are, we are making important progress!
We broke down each of these core differences into a quiz that helps you identify your own Personal Operating System Inventory. We want to encourage you and your spouse to take the quiz and start the conversation about your differences!
If you’d like to dig even deeper, we encourage you to pick up a copy of No More Perfect Marriages as well!
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