“What is your goal?” he asked me after I shot back yet one more rebuttal to our “conversation.” (Was it really a conversation at this point? It was quickly getting tense). Here I was in all my D/I glory, quickly becoming “last word Ashley” in our relationship. I had a comment for everything, and it wasn’t always laced with much tact.
When my then boyfriend, Nathan, quietly asked me this in his S personality way, it stopped me in my tracks. This wake-up call was a pivotal moment in our relationship. What is my goal?
Speak to the personality style
Let’s hash this out a bit. Our relationship was a bit on the rocks. After a breakup and trying to get back together again, I had built up a wall of defensiveness and anger, and it was sabotaging any chances of deep connection between Nathan and me. Nathan’s a smart man, though. He knew my personality style well. He is a high I/S, which means people and relationships are important - and conflict is not his favorite thing. Yet here I was, in all of my high D confrontational glory, ready to start swinging.
His style doesn’t want to confront. My style was ready to WIN. He could have just shut down, but he wanted this relationship to work. So he did something powerful for a high S - he voiced the little thing. Before we escalated to anger and fighting, he simply spoke to me in a way a D hears: he asked me about the end result.
Now all of a sudden I was faced with a powerful punch. Beyond my jabbing, my defensiveness and my retaliation, what was my ultimate goal? To beat him down? To push him away? No, when I really heard this - truly took it in - it brought to light my ultimate goal: to love this man. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. Above and beyond this one conversation, my goal was to be his wife and walk through this life together. It was hard to do that when he was shielding himself from a battleground all the time.
That one question changed me. It spoke in exactly the terminology I needed for it to sink in. And this one question set the trajectory for our marriage. Before every conversation, this is my mantra now. What is my goal?
Your world will have times of being turned upside down
This same question is now a powerful part of my marriage and family coaching, as I help families move from chaos and reaction mode to living a life of intention, not waiting for “one day”, and creating that family they love to come home to.
This wasn’t the only time knowing our personality styles has greatly impacted our relationship. Years later, with three children and a big transition coming up in our lives, knowing these personality styles helped us through an incredibly rocky time. At this point Nathan and I had been married for over a decade, and we had made a big decision for our family: we were going on the first of some epic adventures, taking our whole family to Costa Rica for a month.
Two months before we left, our world came apart as we got a call that changed so much. Nathan’s parents were getting a divorce. What followed was a snowstorm of intensity, including attempted suicide, rehab for multiple family members, and everything Nathan knew as his nuclear family being flipped upside down.
Pay attention to your triggers
We were about to go on the biggest trip of our lives, and Nathan’s family was in turmoil. He was trying to juggle a busy real estate business, his family’s drama, us getting our house ready to rent out and all the logistics of moving into an RV - not just a move, but a major downsizing. We had three kids at home we were unschooling, plus I was juggling multiple businesses of my own.
It was a busy and intense time, and would have been the perfect recipe for disaster in our marriage, as we both tunnel-visioned in to our own struggles. But knowing our personality styles was what kept us connected.
As a high D, I was feeling so out of control. I couldn’t “fix” the pain Nathan was going through. I couldn’t handle everything on my own, and the mountain of to-dos before we left was monumental. So I did what helps me most. I would, every day, every week, do a huge brain dump of all the things I had to do that day/week and put them all on a list. Then I would pick one thing and do it. It helped me feel in control of my situation and allowed me to accomplish one thing for my sanity.
As a high S, Nathan needed security and stability when it seemed everything was turning upside down. So regardless of the crazy of the day, we always ended it together. Every evening, we’d enforce the “7-7 rule”. All children in bed by 7pm - they could read, but they were to stay in their rooms. Same for in the morning - no children out of their rooms before 7am. Having this time for just us was so powerful for our marriage, as we could really talk and focus on connecting between the two of us. The more we worked as a team, the better parents we were to our children as well. So every evening, we’d start out on the back porch, digesting what went on that day and what we may need to process through. Then, after an hour or so, we’d wrap up the heavier conversation of what all was going on and look to just relax and connect together.
Deeper understanding, deeper connection
Making lists and enforcing some consistent together time to connect on a daily basis were pivotal in our marriage during a time where it would have been easier to move apart. Recognizing our personality styles and what we could do to support one another and have grace and understanding is why I’m so adamant about the families I coach going through this. Recognizing triggers for reactive behavior can be such a light-bulb moment for parents and couples as they gain more understanding as to the “why” behind the action. It leads to deeper connection, better engagement, and truly highlights how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.
Not sure of you or your partner's personality style? Take a personality snapshot together to ensure you are speaking the same DISC language!