Is your relationship suffering because one partner is more insightful of psychologically minded than the other? Tune is to this episode, where Chris helps you navigate this issue.
Chris is the owner and lead therapist at Resilience Counseling in Corpus Christi, TX, and his insights from years of helping couples may offer you some encouragement and ideas.
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Hi, everybody. Welcome to The Resilient Self. We’re here to talk about the human experience, mental health, wellness, relationships, and of course, how we bounce back when things don’t go as planned. Thanks for being here. Let’s get started.
Hey, everybody. Welcome to this week’s episode of The Resilient Self. I’m Chris Neal, and I’m here today to talk to you about insight gaps in relationships, the difference in the relative personal insight and development journey of two different partners. Now, there could be any number of reasons for this. Maybe one is in therapy and one’s not, or maybe one’s just more psychologically minded and tends to think about those things. Notice those things more, whatever the reason. Sometimes partners just have different levels of personal awareness, orientation or even knowledge about human interaction. And so what if in your relationship you’ve identified such a gap? I would say not so fast. Don’t be quick to assume that you necessarily have more insight than someone who may simply view the world through a different lens. Let me give you an example. The Meyers-Briggs personality type indicator.
Many of you probably know that or have played with it. I’ll point you to the intuitive versus sensing domain there. What we know from Myers Briggs, and I’m I’ll, I’ll admit I’m not a huge Myers Briggs proponent. It’s okay. I think it gives us some interesting ways to talk about the differences between people, but it’s, it’s not my primary thing for how we conceptualize personality or, or relationships. But it does give us some interesting things to think about, like intuitive and sensing. So someone who is on the intuitive side of that scale, and don’t forget, these are continua, they are not binaries. You’re not either all sensing or all intuitive or all thinking or all feeling but people who are more intuitive, maybe drawn to deeper meanings and, and, and hidden agendas and that kind of thing, whereas people who are sensing by nature may simply be drawn to the facts that are right there in front of them.
Sometimes a strength than a sensing person can be. They just remember stuff better. I was jealous of, of the people who could memorize all the words on their spelling test in school. And maybe, maybe they were just more sensing, whereas I was more interested in what was going on in the book. So maybe there’s an insight gap, but maybe we just view the world through a different lens. And it’s not really about personal insight or understanding. Maybe we just care about different things. We’re focused on different things. Now, having more insight can be great for personal development, but let’s be honest, being a really insightful person can make you a real pain in the butt in relationships. Does your partner always worry that you’re analyzing them or judging them or holding them up to the new article or, or book that you’ve read?
I, I think that the moment that we entertain the idea that we have deeper insight than our partner, I think that really gives us a moment to just tap the brakes and really consider the full ramifications of what we’re doing. And you know, if your partner does feel like you’re analyzing or judging them, just remember nobody likes a smarty advance. I’ve been Mr. Smarty pants and, and it never goes well. So I will acknowledge I’ve had to learn how to just chill and, and just, you know, hold space for my partner and let, let them let that person be who they are. And I find when I can do that, things tend to go better. So let’s say though that you’ve said, okay, Chris, I hear your warnings. I’m good. I got you. I’m not being smarty pants. I’m not analyzing my partner, but I do think that there is a fundamental difference between that person’s psychological, emotional, relational understanding about the world and us and themselves than I am bringing to the table.
The question then becomes, do you want to bring this up with your partner? Consider that your partner may have already thought about this even they may recognize that you’re more attuned to those things and interested in them. And so bringing it up could hit a nerve, and you want to be prepared for that. Also, I would encourage someone to really drill down about the context and reason for bringing something up. What do you want your partner to do with that information? Or is it just, it doesn’t become a power play. It’s so easy to weaponize things like this. And, and so I think we just really want to go gently on that in relationships. Of course, I’m interested in what we do, but I think there’s a lot to learn about our relationships as we drill down on why we do them. And so if you want to bring it up, <laugh> for me, it feels kind of like the more I really want to click send on an angry email, the less I probably should.
I don’t know if you’ve had that experience or not, but I’ve gotten myself in hot water on those once or twice. And so maybe this is kind of that same thing. The more you really want to bring it up with your partner, the more I think you want to get clear about why you might want to do that and what we’re going to, what we’re going to get out of it. What’s wrong with having an insight gap? I mean, after all, we all bring different strengths to a relationship and say, how is this different? It can be frustrating for both folks. I think it can lead us down this road of shoulding from both partners. You know, you should be more focused on this. Well, you should give me a break. And you know, when we get into shoulding, that leads us to all kinds of other challenges and difficulties and resentments in a relationship.
You know, sometimes if your partner does not seem as psychologically motivated as you, then you might consider, and I’m not suggesting this, I’m, I’m saying it’s possible to interpret that as not being as committed to the relationship. And I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think it really is, is situational. If there is such a gap it doesn’t have to be catastrophic for a relationship. I’ll point out that relationship have all kinds of inequalities in them. Health, inequality, fitness, income, intelligence, creativity, even just the simple ability to manage the tasks of living, paying the bill, mowing the lawn, all that kind of stuff. And, and so we can learn, and I think it helps us to learn to celebrate each other’s differences while acknowledging this can exacerbate insecurities. It can also be a conduit for, for empathy and curiosity about our partner.
And when we develop deeper insight, it gives us the opportunity to become better, not only as individuals, but as a partner. And so when we can learn to be more empathetic, more compassionate, have greater humility with respect to the differences between ourselves and our partners, I think it just paves the way for stronger relationships and better understanding, maybe less conflict. Now, what do we do about it? One of the things I think we can do is try to find ways to turn towards each other instead of creating more division. John Gottman talks about this in, in his teaching. He talks about how do we get couples to turn towards each other? And if you don’t know Gottman’s work you, you might find it interesting. He’s, he’s one of the primary researchers in relationships and why marriages sustain. And he’s got lots of programs out there that, that we’ll talk about at some point.
And one of the things he finds in his research is that when we can turn towards each other, that tends to be a very good thing. It can empower us to reframe points of conversation in helpful ways when we turn towards each other. I’ve mentioned in other episodes the non-violent communication approach of Marshall Rosenberg. Check out the website, the resilience health.com, if you want to read more about that. I’m a big advocate for non-violent communication. I think it’s a great way of understanding emotions and needs and how we can negotiate those and manage those when they’re different in a couple. You know, sometimes when this comes up, if it’s acknowledged, it can motivate the lesson insightful partner to read or study or maybe even get their own therapy. Just a word of caution. You really should go to therapy. <Laugh> is often not a very helpful thing to say to someone.
Now, you know, your, your circumstance and your person, and if you have that trust and that buffer in your relationship, you can say that good for you. But to me it’s sometimes that feels a lot like telling someone to calm down. The, the best way to make sure someone doesn’t calm down is to get in their face and yell, calm down. You really should go to therapy. Is, is a delicate issue. And, and as a therapist, I want someone there because they want to be there not because their partner’s making them go or, or strong arming them to go tread lightly. There would be my advice to just about anyone. But if you’re a partner says, you know, I think I would like to know Mark about these things. I do want to be better for our relationship, then we can work together on, on finding solutions that you can, can be a supporter for that person.
I think also when we get frustrated with our partner, when we can focus on the I instead of the you, instead of saying, you, you do this, you do that, you’re upsetting me. You get on my nerves. Instead of that, when we can say, Hey, I feel this way when this happens. Gottman teaches that. He’s not the only one who teaches that, but, but I think it’s just often good advice when we can approach difficulties of any kind, any kind of disparity or disagreement with our partner focusing on, Hey, this is what I’m bringing to this. Can you help me out? Rather than, boy, you sure annoy me, then. We certainly lay the path for things to go better. I think we can see such gaps as an opportunity if we choose to. We can see it as a chance to support our partner where they are on their journey.
They’re not going to be in the same place as you. And sometimes while it can be frustrating, it’s also an opportunity for you to just bust out that next level compassion and empathy. It lets us really turn our attention to the unique ways that our partner does contribute to the relationship and maybe ways that they support you in other ways that, that you feel you need help. It helps us build empathy when we can step into the experience at another, be attuned to where they’re at. Then it fosters compassion, loving kindness for the other no matter how they are and where they’re at.
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What if you’re worried that the relationship just isn’t going to sustain such a gap? I think it does. I don’t force you. It certainly compels you to just get really authentic and real about what you really want from a partner. And sometimes we, we observe these things and it it forces us into this place where we’ve ggot to really decide, you know, how we’re going to move forward. We want to look out for how this may manifest itself. And Gottman has his four horseman, criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. We’ll talk more about these in other cases, but that’s, that’s through his research. What he defines is the things that really are brutal on sustaining a relationship. None of those four refer to a differential in the relative abilities of the partners. Couples all over the world throughout time have navigated successful relationships. Happily so when, when they just have different approaches to these things.
I mean, every psychologist isn’t married to a psychologist, right? I mean what fun would that? And so think about couples, you know, who have big differences in their, in their relative capabilities. You know, physical capabilities are completely different strengths. And, and I know there’s the old thing opposites attract. And that may or may not always be true, but I think we want to see this as a growth opportunity and a way to really appreciate the unique contributions that our partner brings to us. Even if sometimes it makes it harder for us to come together on some ideas. I think it also just is a cue to work on your own insight. What do you really need? If you’re not on the same psychological level of insight do you need to be? And when you are frustrated with that, rather than pointing that out at your partner, then that gives you a chance to work on your own self-compassion.
It’s okay that you have frustrations in your relationship, but we want to put those things in perspective and avoid the temptation to awfulize these things simply because we recognize the discrepancy or disparity there. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s awful. It also gets you to turn inward. Remember, when you have feelings of frustration or anger or disappointment or whatever, those feelings are yours. You own them and you are responsible for them. So the more we want to point to our partners with blame for our own unhappiness, the more we need to remember to turn inward and be sure we’re living into our own values, and make sure that what we’re experiencing is really related to the thing that’s right there in front of us. In the end, it’s on you. You’ve ggot to decide what you really want and need from a partner. Like any other difference, you’ve ggot to measure it up to that standard empathy and compassion for the self and the other can go a long way towards helping this go better. So friends, that’s what I’ve got for you today. Insight gaps in relationships. And if you want to talk about it, reach out to me through the website, the resilience self.com. There’s links to our social media platforms. There’s our accounts, and there’s ways that you can reach us in a variety of ways, and I would love to hear from you. Thanks so much for being here. I hope to see you next time right here on the Resilience Self.
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