How to make partnerships REALLY work?

At their wedding everyone knew that Bryan and Michelle would make a perfect couple and live happily-ever-after. They shared the same hobbies, enjoyed the same type of food, held similar political views, had great jobs and even agreed on the number of children that they wanted to have.

Needless to say, it was a huge shock when just two years into their marriage they informed their family and friends that they had separated and were seeking a divorce. At the urging of family members they agreed to give counseling a try but neither believed their marriage could be saved.

Bryan was a friend of mine since grade school and I wanted to support him during this trial. I even hoped and prayed that he and Michelle might reconcile. How could I help my buddy?

It took a lot of convincing but I finally got Bryan and Michelle to agree to let me take a look at their behavioral profiles.  They completed the PDP assessment and I was surprised with the results.

Not only did Bryan and Michelle have very similar interests but, they also shared very similar behavioral profiles. Most of the time I see that partners have chosen someone who has a behavioral profile very different from theirs.  They are attracted to those behaviors and qualities that they don’t have and in most cases it works well because they are able to support their spouse and get supported by someone who has very different strengths.

Bryan and Michelle seemed to be attracted to each other because they were both very competitive and liked to win (especially on the tennis court) and they were very social and out-going, which meant that they liked to go out with friends and have a good time.  On the other hand, both were very impatient people, especially when things did not go their way. In addition, both were pretty messy individuals and each had a tendency to procrastinate.

When couples have very different behavioral profiles, and their relationship is based on mutual respect, they can have a wonderful marriage.  They know what the other’s weakness(es) is/are and they come alongside and support them. They form a team and each person contributes their part to the relationship. If, however, they don’t respect that the person is different and try to get them to change their personality, then there will be conflict and possibly a broken relationship.

Once the romance ended and infatuation gave way to a marriage partnership, Bryan and Michelle started to have problems. Little arguments led to full-blown conflicts which both of them wanted to win. Compromise was not an option; it was a sign of weakness. As both were high extroverts each wanted to have the last word; neither possessed good listening skills.  Bryan’s and Michelle’s expectation was that the other person had to change their behavior, otherwise the relationship wouldn’t last.

Unfortunately, Bryan and Michelle couldn’t work out their differences and their short-lived marriage did end in divorce.

Conflict can come to relationships where the partners have very different or very similar behavioral profiles. If the individuals are very different, the relationship will only flourish if you accept the person the way they are and don’t expect that they change their personality to meet your expectations. And if the individuals are very similar they have to be willing to compromise and stop nitpicking.

When partners are very different they can support each other and help to make the other person better. Couples who are very similar in their behavioral profiles run the risk of compounding the trait behaviors of the other person and themselves. For example: High dominance leads to a high level of competition; low extraversion leads to being less social and too focused on oneself and your partner; low patience leads constant interruption while the other person is speaking; high conformity can lead to a total lack of spontaneity and boredom.

If we look at the matching of behavioral profiles in the workplace we often see the same phenomenon. Take for example a high level executive such as a CEO. In most cases the CEO will work best with an administrative assistant who has the exact opposite behavioral profile than they do.  They work well as a team because each one knows the strengths of the other and the assistant makes sure that nothing falls through the cracks and in most cases, keeps the CEO well organized and on schedule.

Next time you have a conflict with your partner or a colleague at work, think about how your personality profile might be different or similar to theirs.  Is the conflict coming from the fact that you are very similar and mirroring the behavior that upsets you, or, are you very different and maybe aren’t respecting their differences.