You’ll probably agree that knowing the nuances of your partner’s personality is integral to a strong union. In pursuit of detailed knowledge of one another’s inner worlds, maybe you’ve compared your astrological charts. Perhaps you’ve taken the Myers-Briggs personality test, or the enneagram. However, standing out among all others as the most accurate framework for qualifying personality is the Big Five personality test (Van Edwards, 2017).
The Big Five consists of–you guessed it–five main traits, each of which exists on a spectrum. Where you fall on the spectrum for each trait offers insights about your personality and how you are likely to relate to the world around you. And to your partner. And to the process of writing your prenup!
The five traits are agreeableness, extroversion, neuroticism, openness, and conscientiousness. Here’s a quick breakdown on what that means in lay terms:
People who are high on agreeableness are trusting, team-player types. They get along easily with others, frequently say yes, and might sometimes let others boss them around in order to make others happy (Van Edwards, 2018).
People who are low on agreeableness have no problem saying no (frequently), don’t enjoy working in groups, are competitive, and may tend to be suspicious of the motives of other people (Van Edwards, 2018).
People who are high in openness thrive on adventure and curiosity and love to try new things. They can also be unfocused, dreamy and idealistic (Van Edwards, 2018).
Low-openness personalities enjoy routine, predictability, and tradition, appreciate data-driven conclusions, might be inflexible, and are highly pragmatic (Van Edwards, 2018).
Extroverted people get energy from being around others, have no problem being assertive, and love to initiate conversations and share their opinions. Others may perceive them as attention-seeking (Van Edwards, 2018).
Those who are low on extroversion may be shy or reserved, private, and enjoy alone time more than their peers. Others might see them as somewhat aloof (Van Edwards, 2018).
Highly neurotic individuals tend to be worriers. They can be sensitive, emotional, moody, and/or insecure. Being highly neurotic can be misinterpreted as a purely negative characteristic. (In truth, every trait has its positive and negative aspects.) However, high neuroticism can also be correlated with success, and some research has even correlated neuroticism with creative thinking and imagination. Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Winston Churchhill would have all scored high on neuroticism (Management Today, 2018).
Low neuroticism is associated with emotional stability, calmness, and a tendency to feel that things will work out in the end. However, low-neurotic people may be perceived as cold or lacking emotion (Van Edwards, 2018).
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Conscientious people are known for their organizational skills. Rarely missing a detail, these folks do well with schedules and to-do lists. They could also tend towards perfectionism and rigidity (Van Edwards, 2018).
Those who lack conscientiousness pay more attention to big-picture thinking than to details, are highly flexible, find schedules boring, and miiiight not be the most reliable or neat among us (Van Edwards, 2018).
Where we fall on the spectrums spanning the above five traits can vary from situation to situation; personality tests show our average or our default, but lived experience probably involves some variety. Don’t expect that you or your partner will exhibit a trait exactly the same way every time or to the same degree in every circumstance.
It is very important to know your partner’s big 5 traits because it helps the two of you to relate to one another more effectively and to more correctly interpret each other’s actions. Communication expert Vanessa Van Edwards (2018) gave a powerful example of what can happen when we do not take someone’s personality into account when collaborating with them.
Van Edwards hired an intern (Eva) about whom she was really excited. When Eva failed to complete tasks, Van Edwards tried giving her more detailed instructions, then asking her to choose what she’d personally like to work on from a range of potential options, then finally pairing her with a more senior team member as a mentor. Unfortunately, Eva soon quit. Van Edwards realized her mistake immediately: She had interacted with this woman through the lens of her own personality matrix, rather than investigating taking into account this other person’s personality matrix.
Eva was low on openness, so Van Edwards’ range of suggested tasks was overwhelming for Eva. She was also low on conscientiousness, so receiving overly-detailed instructions paralyzed her into inaction. Additionally, she was an introvert, so pairing her with another person after already being thrown into a team of new people made things more stressful for her, not less. And while Van Edwards is high on neuroticism and appreciates check-ins, Eva was only medium on neuroticism and felt frustrated by these check-ins. Finally, as a highly agreeable person, Eva verbally went along with everything Van Edwards suggested rather than voicing her concerns.
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Consider how a similar dynamic could play out in your romantic relationship. Let’s say the two of you are moving to a new place. As a highly-conscientious person, you make to-do lists for the both of you, detailing your agreed-upon responsibilities surrounding settling into the new apartment. Personally, you would appreciate someone taking the time to do this for you. However, if your partner is not also high in conscientiousness, they might feel smothered rather than appreciative. Or if you plan an exciting date in a nearby city which you haven’t yet visited, on which you are scheduled to do an activity neither of you have ever tried, a low-open partner might find this date nerve-wracking. If you’re introverted and your extroverted partner plans a big party for your birthday with all your new neighbors and acquaintances, they probably performed this well-intentioned act with their personality in mind, not yours. Do you get the idea? When interacting with your partner, considering their personality matrix alongside your own can go a long way.
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Of course, personality will also inevitably play a big role in how you approach your prenup as well as what ends up in the final written product. Read on for some ideas to get you thinking about how to consider your partner’s personality during this important process.
Prenup + Personality: Tips and Insights:
-If your partner is high on agreeableness, check in with them and make sure they’re truly ok with all of the provisions the two of you agree to. Allow them extra time to check in with themselves and come back to you with what they are feeling.
-If you are low on agreeableness, try to hold back a little bit and let your partner contribute their ideas first + take extra care to put yourself in a receptive mindset. If your first impulse is usually ‘no’, ask yourself if ‘yes’ might be a possibility in some of those circumstances.
-If one or both of you is high on openness, that’s going to be fantastic for your prenup because you are more likely to feel open to one another’s needs and ideas, as well as to getting a prenup in the first place. Is your partner low on openness? Don’t take it personally if they reject some of your ideas or take some time to come around to the idea of getting a prenup. Remember that their reservations are likely not a direct commentary on you or your relationship, but just a part of who they are and how they relate to new experiences.
What is your love language? Read more here in our blog about love languages and your prenup.
-If either of you are high on neuroticism, a couple of things could happen: Predisposed to worry, high-neurotics might jump to the conclusion that their partner is not committed if they ask for a prenup. However, prenups are actually a major blessing for high-neurotic people, who tend to feel that worrying about and planning for the worst in advance makes it less likely to come to pass. Explain to them that writing a prenup and planning carefully for what you’ll do in a worst-case-scenario can get those worries out of the back of your mind, address them on paper, and in doing so help put them to rest. Someone low on neuroticism might not be as motivated to get a prenup in the first place, which could be problematic if the marriage someday stops working.
-A highly-conscientious partner will likely want to include many provisions and spell out every little detail. This person’s zest for detail and organization should not be taken as hyper-vigilance or fear about the marriage, but as an integral and lovable part of their personality. This person has your back; they’ll cover all the bases and make sure nothing important is forgotten. If you are both low on conscientiousness, this is all the more reason to hire a professional to help you with your prenup. The comfort of knowing you’ve covered everything important is well worth the investment!
-Someone who is low on extraversion values their privacy and might be hesitant to hire a professional to help with their prenup because it could involve divulging some personal details. They might really appreciate our interactive and advanced software which personalizes and automates the whole process, no lawyer needed.
If you want to decode one another’s personality matrices and use your knowledge to enhance your relationship, start with this big five personality test. You might even try taking the test separately, then guessing where each other lands on the spectrum for each of the five traits. Good luck!
Management Today. 2018. The Upside of Being Neurotic. Retrieved from: https://www.managementtoday.co.uk/upside-neurotic/personal-development/article/1464282
Van Edwards, V. 2018. Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People. London: Portfolio.
Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected].