Illustration by Nilufer Zakirova
Can Contrasting Personalities Succeed in Marriage?
What are the odds of maintaining love and respect when one partner is an introvert and the other an extrovert? Jack Medlin
Opposite personalities are well known for igniting exciting and often contentious love affairs. It is natural to seek in another qualities that we ourselves do not possess. But what are the odds of maintaining love and respect when one partner is an introvert and the other an extrovert? Or when one is used to being the dominant force in a relationship and the other is compliant? The extrovert is charming and thrives on group dynamics, whereas introverts are perfectly content to be alone. They can maintain a happy union if each one allows the other to be himself, which can be achieved by allowing the other to lead their life without interference. Or, each type can stretch him or herself to take on a bit more of the opposite personality trait after getting married. The submissive partner (often, but not always the woman) was probably attracted to her future husband because of his self-confidence and strength. The dominant partner may have married his wife because she seemed pleasant and compliant. He may need a spouse who he perceives as needy and dependent, so that she will stay with him. The problem is that this dynamic often leads to boredom and aggression with the dominant partner, and resentment and ebbing self-esteem for the submissive partner. In general, personality types play a less important role in staying together to the point of getting married and staying married than the qualities discussed below. Any combination of opposites can be successful if most of these are present. True love is characterized by vulnerability and trust. It’s based in the real world of diapers and bad hair. Partners know each other’s foibles and strengths-all of them. No topics are forbidden. They are being our own true selves (remember the vow ‘for better or for worse’? In fact, they try to buttress each other where they are “weak.” The opposite is dwelling on Fantasy Island, where daily life is built on a foundation of sand. Successful marriage partners “complete” each other, searching for ways to lend tangible support or just listen to daily tribulations.
The opposite is a ‘partner as life raft’ situation, wherein one feels that he or she needs the other to survive-literally. This is too much pressure for a mere mortal. When such a codependent arrangement blows up, they’re off looking for the candy box or the next lover. Are spouses best friends? That’s how it should be. Sexual intoxication can only last so long. Partners have to look forward to seeing each other at the end of the day. The opposite is a ‘taking hostages’ situation. As in Gift of the Magi, unselfish partners put the other’s needs ahead of their own some of the time. Unselfishness is the bedrock of real love. A constantly demanding partner is not a loving partner. What’s the difference between a demand and a request? When one is requesting, a ‘no’ is perfectly OK, because one is merely stating a preference. Forgiveness is a tough but essential piece of the puzzle. Everyone makes mistakes, and no one has a time machine to go back and fix them. Celebrate each day of a relationship by releasing that day’s “screw-up.” Put the past in the past. The opposite is having a laundry list of imagined past transgressions, and pulling it out whenever one becomes angry. If one was brought up in a dysfunctional household, one may have an emotional void that no one can fill. But security and trust are essential in a love relationship. When one trusts that one’s partner will always be there, one can breathe easily. The opposite is eerily reminiscent of a fearbased childhood, in which one will do anything to protect himself, to avoid being dominated, abused and criticized. This kind of fear can kill a relationship-or the people in it. Truthfulness is another core of partnership. Not the kind that we use to hurt someone else, but being authentic. Everyone is accountable for his or her own actions. There is no secret that is hidden from the other. The opposite can lead to a huge web of deception, and is self-perpetuating. Trust flies out the window, and affection goes with it. 2
The importance of winning in sport Do you think people are more likely to play fair if there’s no chance of winning? Or is there no point in sport without competition?
Illustration by Nilufer Zakirova
DR. WALLACE: What’s more important in athletics, winning or all the other things that sports are about, such as good sportsmanship, learning to be a team member, giving your very best, etc.? I’m a coach of a Biddy Basketball team. — Rodger, El Paso, Texas. RODGER: “All the other things” and winning are equally important. It’s like asking, “Which is more important, the brain or the heart?” The goal of every athletic competition is to win. Without the desire to win, “all the other things” lose importance. But how a team wins is also important. Obeying the rules and respecting the opponent are a huge part of enjoying athletic success. One of the greatest athletic highs is the thrill of victory. But knowing that you have given your all in a contest will sustain you even in defeat — indeed, it will turn defeat into victory, at least in the long run. Winning is the focal point, but playing the game is what matters. ANTI-DRUG CAMPAIGN PAYING OFF DR. WALLACE: Is teenage drug use on the upswing or the downswing? I have to give a speech in class, and I need to know the trend. — Brandon, Jackson, Miss. BRANDON: The nation’s concerted anti-drug campaign is finally paying off, with teens in large numbers getting the message. A University of Michigan study found that 33 percent of graduating seniors took at least one illegal drug in the past year. That number might seem high, but the percentage was 54 percent 10 years ago 23
Is still the illegal drug of choice; 27 percent of the seniors surveyed said they smoked pot at least once in the past year. The researchers credit the reduction to long-term educational efforts. These efforts must continue. Ten percent or even lower drug usage is a reachable goal. SHAME ON THE COACH DR. WALLACE: Please settle this friendly family dispute. My older brother drinks about a half gallon of milk every day. He only drinks whole milk and will not drink 2 percent or skim. I keep telling him he’d be better off not drinking whole milk, but he says that his football coach told the team that whole milk is nature’s best food, and he listens to his coach. I know the coach is mistaken. Please enlighten him and his players. — Ginny, San Diego. GINNY: Milk is indeed chock-full of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, including calcium, but whole milk also has a high fat content. So, set the record straight: skim milk, not whole, is actually nature’s perfect food. It contains all the good stuff without any of the not-so-good stuff — namely, fat. Shame on the coach for being so mistaken on a matter of health. Make sure your brother reads my answer and encourage him to pass it along to the coach. Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column.
I have never been a big fan of the saying that “winning is not important”. Because it is. It always is. At every level. We play the game, and we compete, with the ultimate goal of winning. It’s that simple. Adults and kids of every age love to win and hate to lose. Some more so than others. And there is nothing wrong with that. But we are kidding ourselves if we think that winning isn’t important. Youth sports studies always indicate that winning does not rank high on the list of reasons why kids participate in competitive sports. And that is very true. If you have ever had the pleasure of coaching kids of any age you should understand that. Having fun, meeting new friends, being part of a team and learning new skills are always higher on that list. Winning comes much closer to the bottom for kids. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to them. Nor does it mean that it isn’t an important part of competition. It is just not as high a priority for kids. More important to adults The reality is that winning is much more important to the adults than it is to the kids. The problems arise when adults are unable to cope with winning and losing in sports. In their own adult games that they play, or worse yet, in games that are for the kids and the adults are merely involved as coaches or spectators. Like most adults, I love to win and have always hated to lose. In fact, I have always been a horrible loser. I am sure that part of it was because of the culture I was brought up in. The other team never played well enough to beat us. When we lost it was because we played poorly enough to lose. It can be difficult to give credit where credit is due – namely to the other team when they have defeated you. The first time I can actually remember that happening was when I was playing professionally in the American Hockey League and our coach Robbie Ftorek told us after a game that we had played as well as we could that day, but the other team played better. Maybe that is a result of having been fortunate enough to have played on good teams where we were expected to win or had a chance to win every game. That is not always the case. Maybe it was a result of coaches not recognizing how well the team actually did play on a given day because they didn’t win. If you didn’t win, you couldn’t have played well, could you? Jack Mcdonovan
Illustration by Nilufer Zakirova