By Janel Breitenstein
My husband is a human resources guy. So between the two of us, we have probably taken 80% of the personality tests on the planet. (Real ones. Not like the magazines’, “Is your husband a ferret, donkey, or ring-tailed lemur? Take our quiz!”)
It becomes like a weird party trick. He can talk to someone for a while and make a remarkably accurate guess on whether they’re an Enneagram Six, an ESFJ, a Beaver, a Harmonizer, or a high C on the DiSC.
But here’s what I like: The rule in our marriage goes that these categories can only be used to help us understand, not to pigeon-hole.
At the point a personality test—or any label—becomes a way to get someone pegged, it moves out of “help me know you” to “I don’t need to ask. I already assume I know.” No one wants to be explained away: “Oh, don’t mind her. She’s one of those INTP’s.” As a culture, we do this with gender stereotypes too. We joke about men installing the toilet paper roll upside down, or women talking your leg off. But in reality, there are highly detailed men quietly reinstalling toilet paper rolls in bathrooms around the world, and greatly introverted women whose husbands are talking circles around them.
Like a resume, our spouse-on-paper is only a shadow of the person in real life. Knowledge about our spouse can’t ever replace knowing our spouse.
Stereotypes are only helpful if they give us a leg up on loving better.
The good stuff: A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2)
Action points: What’s one way you stereotype your spouse as a “cheaper” way of understanding him or her? Are there patterns you could nix in your house that don’t help people love better—like making jokes about the genders?
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