Openness, a Source of Conflict
About the Guest
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What about your spouse? On today's broadcast, popular author and speaker Dennis Rainey talks with communicators Tim and Joy Downs about the part personality differences play in marital conflicts.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What about your spouse?
Openness, a Source of Conflict
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We've been talking all this week about marriage. We've been talking about conflict in marriage. One of the things that can create conflict in a marriage is how we communicate with one another, and it seems like in a marriage there is often one partner who wants the other one to share his or her thoughts and feelings and emotions, and then there's another partner who just wants to be left alone.
Rachel: [from audiotape.] If you haven't guessed it by now, I am an extrovert. I'm what psychologists refer to as an "open" personality.
Jake: Well, I, of course, am just the opposite – sorry, we're closed.
Rachel: Extroverts like to be around people. We enjoy conversation, and we feel recharged by relationships with others.
Jake: Introverts like people, too – like, two people or three, and, I mean, like, a day. We feel recharged by being alone, and conversation wears us out, especially conversation with strangers.
Rachel: Jake has a button that says "Go ahead and talk. I'll just be napping here."
Jake: Yeah, well, Rachel has this sign at work that says "Extrovert at work, please interrupt me."
Rachel: Jake has a clever way of letting his listener know if he's getting tired of the conversation. I learned this after about two days of marriage.
Jake: Well, I just turn my body away from the other person, and I take a step back, and then I sort of jangle my keys, as I'm kind of standing here.
Rachel: It's his subtle way of saying, "This plane is going down, and I'm bailing out. Bye-bye."
Jake: Yeah, I mean, it's actually very rude, and I try not to do it, but the temptation is always there. It takes energy to interact with people, and when you're an introvert, energy is always in short supply.
Rachel: You can imagine the difficulty we've had trying to come to agreement about friendships, parties, and social gatherings of every kind. We've had to work hard to adjust to each other. There are still a few things we need to improve, like the holidays are coming up, and we need to invite …
Jake: Excuse me, bye-bye.
Bob: Are you the introvert or the extrovert in your relationship?
Dennis: You need to ask that question?
Bob: I know. I just thought we'd let the listeners see that it's obvious, right?
Dennis: I'll tell you what, few issues that we started out our marriage with have remained to this day, but that's one of them. I mean, we are different when it comes to what fuels us, what gives us energy and excitement, and I love people, and Barbara is a quiet person. She's reflective, she likes her garden, she likes her watercolors, and she likes to paint, and she likes to create, and she likes a select few people to be open with.
Bob: We have an interesting spin on this at our house. I tend to be more the extrovert only if I can be the center of attention at the same time, you understand.
Dennis: I can't imagine that.
Bob: I know that's hard for you to believe. Mary Ann would tend to be more extroverted in small, intimate relationships. It's not that she wants to be in a big group, in a big party, but when she's around a few close friends, she opens up like a flower, and I might go, "You know, I got my fill of this 10 minutes ago, can we go home now?"
So it's not a strict black-and-white kind of a situation – I know you black and white, but this doesn't break down that way.
Dennis: Well, we have a couple here who are different. One is an extrovert and one is an introvert. Tim and Joy Downs join us for a fifth day. It's been great to have you all with us this week. We learned a lot about you all and all the arguments you've had.
Tim: More than we want you to know.
Joy: Yes, yes.
Dennis: They've written two books on resolving conflict. One called "Fight Fair," and a second one, "The Seven Conflicts, Resolving the Most Common Disagreements in Marriage," and all this week you've been helping us understand that there are really seven categories of where we disagree as a couple, and you come to this one called "openness," and you say that we fall into one of two categories – an extrovert or introvert.
Tim: Exactly. Psychologists talk about open personalities and closed personalities. Open personalities are what we traditionally call extroverts, closed personalities introverts. And we break this down into two components, just as we have all of the others – sociability and energy.
Sociability is how much do you like to be around people? How often do you like to be around people? Some people are recharged in social situations, some people are drained in social situations.
And then energy is how are you refreshed? How do you get your batteries recharged? Well, some people are recharged by grabbing a group of friends and getting together, and in the social situation they're charged back up. But that very same situation might drain your partner. They need time alone just to have time to reflect, time to just be away – silence – that's how they recharge.
Dennis: And so, Joy, you are the …
Dennis: And Tim is …
Dennis: And there's been how big of a problem in your marriage around your difference in personality?
Joy: Probably one of the biggest of our marriage.
Joy: Oh, yes – ongoing, it covers many different areas, and I imagine that we'll deal with it the rest of our lives.
Bob: Is this because you're always saying, "Hey, let's get together with some friends. This will be fun. Let's" – and Tim's going, "I'm exhausted, that's the last thing I want to do," and so you wind up missing each other in those – is that what fuels this?
Joy: It's social situations, it's how involved you want to be at church, how involved do you want to be in ministry, it involves how much do you want to get to know your neighbors or not get to know them. It involves so many different facets of your life, and we have come closer to the middle, which has been a good thing, but it hasn't been without some pain and butting heads.
Dennis: Do you recall the first kind of large disagreement over where you wanted to spend your time?
Joy: Well, you know, Dennis, I don't remember a certain point or milestone. I think it was gradual, where I really began to see the differences between Tim and I and how it affected a lot of different facets of our life. And one thing that has seemed very ironic to me, and I know that it's the Lord working in our lives, but Tim has been the one who – though he is an introvert, he has been able to be in more social situations.
So he has had an office of people that he works with, he speaks at conferences and interacts with people, he's with groups of people interacting about projects, and I have – we have both chosen for me to be at home with my children for the majority of the time.
And so a conflict that would come up for us would be that I would feel alone, I would express that to Tim, I would express my need for that, and he would think, "What do you need that for? It's not a big deal, you're doing a great job as a mom." He really wouldn't see my need for being interactive with people, and yet I think that it made me angry that he had so much positive feedback and so much interaction with people from a person who said he didn't need it.
So it was a conflict in him trying to see my need for it for me to try to let go of it in some ways.
Dennis: I'll brag on Tim – you've been scheduled to come in here for these interviews for a number of months, and I got an e-mail from Tim, in fact, several months in advance saying, "Could we get together for a meal?" I think I wrote back, Bob, and said, "I'll check into it," and I got a second e-mail from Tim saying, "Joy's coming, can we have lunch together?"
And all this time I thought it was that Tim wanted to have lunch with me. It was actually so that Joy could get together with Barbara over lunch. But he was doing battle on your behalf to make sure that the lunch was a time where you had someone else to talk to.
And I think for some men, they don't pick up on these clues their wives give them and, as a result, they're still making the same mistake 22 years into their marriage.
Tim: It's a thing that we fight with all the time, because my instinct is to try to get some time alone. You know, I can feel crowded in situations where Joy feels lonely. She's trying to get some more social contact, I'm trying to get away from people.
You know, for an introvert, your first question is, "What are we going to do?" The extrovert's first question is, "Who are we going to do it with?" So an extrovert says, "Well, I'm going to go see a movie. Do you want to come with me?" The introvert says, "No, I've already seen the movie." And the extrovert says, "Well, then, I guess I won't go, because what's the point in going to a movie alone?" And the introvert says, "What planet are you from?" You go to a movie to watch a movie, but to the extrovert, no, it's just an activity that you do with people.
Dennis: And for a newly married couple who haven't experienced this as many times and haven't kind of come to terms of engagement around this problem, how do they get beyond the feeling of one being right – of course, it's the extrovert – and the introvert being wrong?
Bob: Sometimes an introvert, Tim, can be running away from relationship, which we shouldn't do.
Bob: Which we shouldn't do, and sometimes an extrovert can be getting too much out of a relationship and not enough out of the time of solitude or time along with the Lord. This is one of the ways where we can help each other move toward the fence, isn't it?
Tim: It is. This is another case where we help each other keep from becoming extreme people. I grew up in a creative background. I studied art when I was in school. I dreamed of locking myself in a studio for the rest of my life. That actually sounds good to me.
And so, you know, if you let me go, I will become an extreme person, and I'll become an unhealthy person. It's almost like Eric Hoffer once said, "A man by himself is in bad company." Well, in the same way, someone who is extremely extroverted, you know, you can lose yourself in relationships and busy-ness with other people. You never have to stop to plan, to think, to reflect on your life. You just stay busy all the time.
Neither one is healthy, so this is a place where we live in tension with one another, and we draw each other towards the fence.
Bob: Has Joy helped you be a better relator to others, by calling you over to her side?
Tim: Very much, very much. I would be an extremely introverted person if it weren't for my wife. She's taught me to relate to people and to care about other people, but we joke all the time about this, because someone will come to me and say, "Thank you so much for that gift you sent," and I will say, "Who are you?"
You know, I joke with people, I'm becoming so thoughtful that I even give gifts I don't even know about anymore.
Bob: To people you don't know.
Dennis: Tim, and I want to ask you at that point, it really does seem that introverts grew up finding their enjoyment alone. Have you actually learned to truly gain some energy and some enjoyment from others?
Tim: You know, I have. The stereotype of introverts is that they don't like people. That's not true. It's that they approach people in different ways, and you mentioned one, Dennis. I need smaller groups of people, and I like more intimate friends. What I don't like is chit-chat with strangers or always having to meet new people or walking into a large group.
If you want to understand that introvert just understand it costs them to be around people. You are plugging them in, and the energy is flowing. Their batteries are being depleted. So if we walk into a party together, Joy is ready to be recharged, I'm ready to be depleted.
So, yes, I have learned to be around other people and to enjoy other people, but I'll never enjoy the same kinds of get-togethers, and I won't look for as many of them as she will.
Dennis: I kind of have to grin, Bob, and you do, too, because here's Tim, who emcees and he doesn't like big gatherings of people, and it's 9,000, 10,000, 11,000, 12,000 people, and Tim is up front.
Bob: It's interesting, and this is one of the paradoxes of this whole introvert/extrovert issue, but I've seen a lot of guys in my life who are involved in radio – the guys you hear who do the morning radio shows, an you meet them, and they're real quiet, and they're real shy, and you go, "This doesn't even sound like the same guy who is on the radio," but there is something about the microphone or the platform. It's a different kind of relating to people, isn't it?
Tim: That's right. It's a controlled way of relating to people. You get up, you say what you say, you leave.
Bob: I'm guessing, Joy, that Tim, who is a great communicator, and who enjoys that kind of a platform, you're the extrovert and yet you probably would prefer the party to the platform, wouldn't you?
Joy: Yes, but it was like Tim said, when he goes to a dinner with someone or a few guys, he is charged by that, and he is energized by that. If he is with a few people, he is energized by that, and he likes that. And I'm not the life of the party, either. I don't like to be the center of attention, but I do like to be around people, and I'm not the big group party person, either, but I do enjoy groups of people and interacting with them.
Bob: Has he helped you come to a place where maybe the feeding off of people, you've seen that that's not always the best thing for you?
Joy: I didn't really think of myself as feeding off of people.
Bob: Maybe I could have phrased that a little differently. It's that plugging in and drawing energy from them.
Joy: Sure, sure, right. Yes, that's been good, and Tim has really enabled me to really step back, and I think that I am still in a learning process of just wanting more solitude, time with the Lord, and to plan myself, and I think that I've really changed a lot in that way.
Bob: You know, all this week, as we've talked about these different kinds of scenarios, these different kinds of – well, the conflicts that we keep going back to – we have talked about this idea of the fence, and compromise has a negative connotation to it, but preferring one another, the verse that you read earlier this week from Romans, chapter 12, verse 10, where in deference to one another, we do lay down some of our own natural tendencies, some of our own idiosyncrasies, and we move toward one another.
There is nothing negative about that as you, Tim, have moved more away from those introvert tendencies, God's been using that in your own life to make you more like Jesus, hasn't He?
Tim: Absolutely, I have no doubt that I am a much healthier person, a much better person, because I married an extroverted woman. But I want to say, at the same time, it hasn't always been easy, and that something we emphasize in "The Seven Conflicts" is that it's not always an enjoyable process when God keeps you from becoming an extreme person. Sometimes it's painful.
Dennis: I think what some extroverts think in the very recesses of their hearts – "If he or she could only become like me," then they would be happy.
But here is what the Apostle Paul says in that same chapter, Bob, you were just quoting, Romans, chapter 12, verse 16 – "Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not be haughty in mind. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Don't think you have the biblically approved personality. Extroverts are not the ideal personality that God made."
He made all kinds, and what we have to do as believers with our spouses is realize the reason we married him or her is because they were different. And it's interesting, after you get married, the very difference that attracted you ends up being the very same difference, same difference, that you want to change and try to make them like yourself. If they become like you, you wouldn't be nearly as attractive.
And so we need to realize that the Scriptures bring Adams and Eves together, husband and wife, and God does meet needs in one another's lives by our uniquenesses and our differentness, and we need to be careful about trying to change the very thing that God created to make us a whole person.
Bob: And when we see these points of conflict in our marriages, and we're going to see them because they're going to be there – rather than just ignoring them, we need to deal with them in an appropriate way.
I think Tim and Joy have done a great job in their book on "The Seven Conflicts," of helping us see where the trouble spots are. This other book, "Fight Fair," helps you understand once you know where the trouble spots are, here is the repair manual that gives you – well, you called it earlier this week – kind of the rules for fair engagement on this issues, because sometimes we can move from the issue to the way we're fighting about it, and the conflict escalates not because the issue has gotten any worse, but we just didn't know how to approach one another on it.
Dennis: You know, all this week we've been talking about conflict that is common to all of our marriages, but I don't really feel like, Bob, you and I have had a chance to ask Tim and Joy about the biggest conflict they're ever experienced.
Bob: You mean a doozy, a real explosion?
Dennis: A real doozer.
Bob: Something where it got silent and cold for days at the house?
Dennis: Well, that's on Tim's side.
Bob: Or it got loud and expressive for days at the house?
Dennis: Yeah. Before we finish, I want you two to come back, and I want you both separately to think about the "The Doozer."
Bob: See if you come up with the same one.
Dennis: That's right.
Bob: In the meantime, our listeners can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, to get copies of your books, or they can call us 1-800-FLTODAY and we'll make arrangements to get copies of these books sent out to your listeners, and then, don't forget, there is just a little bit of time left for you to register for one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences at the special rate for FamilyLife listeners. We need to hear from you before this offer expires, and if you get a busy signal when you call, either go online or call us back.
The phone number is 1-800-FLTODAY. You can go online at FamilyLife.com. Again, you'll save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee. If you register right now for one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences, we've had a lot of folks contacting us today to get registered, but we've got folks ready to take your call and, of course, you can go online at FamilyLife.com.
If you are registering online, and you want to take advantage of this special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners, you need to type my name, "Bob" into the keycode box on the registration form. Or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY make sure you mention that you listening to FamilyLife Today, and, again, you'll save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee for one of these upcoming conferences, and we'll make arrangements to get you a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey's new book, which is called "Moments With You," that will be out in bookstores very soon.
It's a daily devotional guide for couples. It's the sequel to the bestselling book, "Moments Together for Couples," so go ahead and do it right now – either call us or go online and get registered for an upcoming FamilyLife Today Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference. You'll have a great weekend, and, of course, you can take advantage of the special savings if you contact us right now. Dennis?
Dennis: Well, Bob, it's been fun to have Tim and Joy Downs talking all this week about resolving conflict. Have you had any conflict with marriage this week since we started talking about this?
Bob: I'd rather not talk about that.
Dennis: Tim, Joy, I want to thank you for your work on both these books, "Fighting Fair," and "The Seven Conflicts." I asked you just a few moments ago for "The Doozer," the conflict of the century. Well, we're in two centuries now, aren't we?
Well, anyway, the conflict that you experienced that – well, it was a big one. Have you been able to come up with your answers?
Tim: Well, I would say we have a conflict that comes up again and again. For us, if I picked one of the seven conflicts we really own, it's caring. Joy is far more caring than I am. My problem is I think a lot of things, being an introvert, that I never bring out. I have an internal world, and if I think them, I think that's done it. I don't think to say them.
And so the conversation that we have again and again is "You need to tell me, you need to say this." I have a failure to engage sometimes. I think, "Why bother?" "Why go there?" "This is going to be a lot of trouble." "This is going to be a lot of awkwardness." "I'm not sure how we'll work it out."
The big lesson I've learned in marriage, Dennis, is if you don't engage it's always worse. When you engage, it's bad, but when you don't engage …
Dennis: It's worse.
Tim: It's worse.
Bob: Does the emotional thermostat in the home sometimes get turned down, Joy, when the caring isn't there?"
Joy: Sure, and it covers a lot of different facets.
Tim: And the lesson for me to learn has been, if it is a problem to Joy, it is a problem.
Bob: that's right. And I think just your transparency this week in being honest and open and vulnerable about these issues – I think you've helped a lot of folks, and I know we've talked about some things that may seem pretty light and trivial, and we know there are folks who are experiencing some conflict that is on a much deeper and more profound level, and to get into some of those issues, you could do a whole series on some of those very issues.
But I think what both of you have done this week and, Dennis, I think what the Downs have done in their books is give us the template, the roadmap to help us, whatever the issues are; to help us know how to get to where we need to go.
Dennis: We've said it over and over on this broadcast – you need the biblical blueprint to know how to build a home, and if you don't know how to resolve conflict according to the Scriptures, I don't think you're ultimately going to have the home God intended for you to build.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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