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Personality Matters

What personality type are you attracted to and does it determine marriage success?  Are opposites happier in a marriage?  Psychologist Portia Dyrenforth and colleagues conducted a large scale study of more than 20,000 participants to address the impact of personality types on marital success.  They looked at five personality characteristics to determine which had the most impact on relationship satisfaction.  Ironically, the similarities or differences between personalities had little effect on marriage satisfaction.  Instead they found that individuals who scored high on conscientiousness, agreeability, and emotional stability were the happiest in their relationship.  The other two characteristics that they looked at were extroversion and openness to experiences which didn’t seem to have the same impact on relationship satisfaction.  What’s most important is your own personality type rather than how that fits with your partner’s personality.

So what do you look for to find the perfect mate?  Assessing personality and observing behaviors often are not the first things that we look at when seeking a relationship.  Physical attraction, financial security, sense of humor, and displays of affection are important components we tend to seek in a spouse.  But based on the above study, being responsible, mature, and having integrity are essential characteristics for a satisfying relationship.  Whatever the ideal traits are to find in a potential mate, remember that your characteristics influence the level of happiness you experience.  We need to focus on changing ourselves so that we can be more conscientious, agreeable, and emotionally stable.

Can we really change our personalities?  Based on research, along with my clinical and personal experiences, I believe we can change aspects of our personality.  How much often depends on the individual’s motivation to change and the rewards for that change.  With motivation and the right tools, we can alter the characteristic patterns of the way we think, feel, and behave which contributes to our personality make-up.  Dr. Christopher Soto, research psychologist from Colby College, believes that personality is about 50% innate and 50% learned and noted that even small changes in a person’s personality can produce positive effects on relationships.  Change begins with awareness and then moves into specific action items to implement.  It’s never too late to change!

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