An old proverb states that a tiger cannot change its stripes. Individual attributes, for the most part, are that part of our personality that cannot be altered much. We cannot become more intelligent, but we can become more educated. We cannot become more attentive, or less impatient, or more optimistic. These are physical characteristics that are determined by our brain structure and our body chemistry. Drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, etc. can affect our brain chemistry and our personality. Some changes are reversible, but others are permanent and may result in addiction, flashbacks, hallucinations, and other abnormal conditions. Strokes and head injuries can also cause personality changes.
|POSITIVE +||NEGATIVE -|
|i1. Achievement attitudes - degree of motivation.||persistent, ambitious, obsessive||easy-going, moderate, unmotivated|
|i2. Emotional temperament - emotions that rule our lives.||confident, stable, calm, relaxed, patient||insecure, erratic, angry, dissatisfied, impatient|
|i3. Energy level - pace of our daily life.||active, energetic, fast||passive, lethargic, slow|
|i4. Intellectual factors - characteristics of our minds.||alert, inquisitive, intelligent||inattentive, dull-witted|
|i5. Material attitudes - how we regard our environment.||frugal, thrifty, materialistic||spendthrift, wasteful, spiritual|
|i6. Maturity - our level of experience and wisdom.||mature, knowledgeable, wise||immature, inexperienced, ignorant|
|i7. Philosophical attitudes - our ways of thinking.||optimistic, positive, flexible||pessimistic, negative, inflexible|
|i8. Physical attributes - how we regard our body.||youthful, healthy, strong, sane||old, sick, weak, mentally sick|
|i9. Risk attitudes - degree of concern for oneself.||conservative, cautious, calculating||adventurous, impulsive, daring, drug user|
|i10. Task performance - attitudes toward problem solving.||organized, accurate, skillful, methodical||error-prone, disorganized, blunderer, careless|
The following paragraphs discuss details of ten Individual Attributes of personality. In some cases, it is possible to anticipate how these characteristics affect relationships.
i1. Achievement attitudes. How motivated are you to reach your goal? Are you indifferent or are you obsessive? Sometimes personal goals do not become evident until age 25 or 30. Once you decide to have a family, further your professional career, or establish a business, you have a different degree of motivation than before you made this decision. Whereas you may have been indifferent before, your new perspective of life motivates to reach your goals. Or, if you have already achieved some of your goals, it may be more important to relax and enjoy life. In this case, your zest for accomplishment may diminish.
Ambitious and moderate people are often incompatible because they have different perceptions of what is important. The ambitious person feels that he cannot waste time on trivial things, and the moderate individual will be more contemplative and not make as much effort to achieve goals. A persistent person matched with a moderate or easy-going person will tend to nag. Nobody likes to hear "Why don't you do this? Why don't you do that?" over and over again.
i2. Emotional temperament. How patient are you? Do you get restless when you have to wait? How do you react to frustration? Does your temper explode when your car is not delivered on time from the auto shop or do you try to look for alternatives calmly? Your emotional temperament is a measure of the degree and duration of your outbursts of frustration and of your ability to remain calm under pressure. If you are irascible, you are likely to do and say things that will ruin a relationship. Many relationships end with the phrase "If that is what you think, then it is over!". Relationships endure better when the reaction to an unpleasant surprise is more logical and less emotional. However, an extreme disappointment or an unfortunate accident can cause great emotional grief that cannot be controlled. Two angry and impatient people are more likely to get into a fight than an angry and a patient person. A habitually angry person and a calm person cannot have a very good relationship even if the calm person tries to adapt to the angry person.
i3. Energy level. Do you like physical activities and sports, or would you rather sit down in a theater? Do you like to spend an hour at the gym or is it enough for you to walk around the block? Your energy level determines the rhythm of your life. Some people get up early and have already done many things before breakfast while others would rather stay in bed and sleep late. Human dynamos and slow, passive people can only frustrate each other. The energetic individual needs to be active to be happy. The slow individual will be miserable and exhausted with an active life style. Can such opposites manage to make good partners? Yes, but only if they do things separately. This can be completely unacceptable to a person with great libido because it demands mutual participation. Partners with similar levels of energy can have more satisfying relationships.
i4. Intellectual factors. Intelligent gentleman seeks dumb blonde for a serious relationship. Not very likely! Successful relationships require similar levels of intellect. When we have a personal problem, we need someone who can understand us. A dull-witted person may be very kind and loving, but this may not be enough for an alert, intelligent person. Intelligent persons understand each other better. Persons with lower intellect will feel more at ease with a person of their own caliber; they will not feel dumb or intimidated.
If you are of average intelligence, you should not be looking for a genius. You will end up in second place. Your decisions will always be subjected to analysis by a greater intellect that will make you feel inferior. Relationships between people with different intellectual levels generally end up like a parent/child relationship.
i5. Material attitudes. Are you economical or extravagant? Do you prefer to save for the future or would you rather spend what you have now? Do material possessions matter to you, or are you more interested in spiritual pursuits? Many relationships fail because of conflicts about money and possessions. "You make twice as much money as I do, why do we have to split the expenses half and half?", "I am the wife and you are supposed to support me.", "Why do you give so much money to your mother when I don't have anything to wear?"
Financial advisors and marriage counselors suggest that you discuss financial matters and obligations before you get married. The average marriage in the United States lasts an average of 7 years (it is not "till death do us part"). Your plans should include a prenuptial agreement that describes what each will take in case of a divorce. This is particularly important for second marriages when there are substantial assets or children from previous marriages. You should also agree on how to handle expenses when both people work, when one loses a job, or when the woman becomes pregnant and cannot work. You also need to discuss about savings goals, life insurance, wills, and revocable trusts. Agree on how previous debts will be handled. Marriage makes you legally responsible for your partner's debts. Are you uncomfortable talking about divorce and finances before getting married? You don't need to do it, but be prepared for unpleasant surprises.
i6. Maturity. Maturity is a personality attribute that describes good judgement. Do you do something without thinking about the consequences? Are your actions well thought out and premeditated? Maturity cannot be equated to education, but education provides maturity. Maturity is the ability to judge whether something is safe or dangerous, good or evil, or prudent or foolish. It is said that wise people learn from the mistakes of others, whereas fools learn from their own mistakes.
Can two people of different maturity levels have a successful relationship? As stated earlier, the relationship may work if the mature person has the patience to teach the inexperienced person and the inexperienced person is willing and able to learn. These are typical teacher/student relationships. The inexperienced person may initially feel inferior to the mature person, but as long as the level of intelligence is compatible, the relationships may be successful. In the long term, these relationships have the risk of failing when the inexperienced person matures and demands an equal relationship with the partner. At this point the person who had previously been superior may resent the change of status.
i7. Philosophical attitudes. Are you optimistic or pessimistic? Is the glass half full or half empty? Do you think that we are animals that have evolved on the earth as an accident of nature, or do you think that man was put on earth by a Divine Creator? Are you willing to consider changing your point of view? To what degree are you willing to fight to defend your point of view? Why do you think that you are right? The philosophical attitude of our personality develops from our education and our internal conception of how the world works. A positive philosophical attitude gives you hope when life is hard, whereas a negative attitude may even lead you to suicide.
How likely is it that two people with different philosophical attitudes are compatible? The chances are very small. Most relationships between people of different religions reach a crisis when it is time to educate their children. "Should we raise the children as Jews, Muslims, Christians, etc.?", "Should the children go with me to church with me and to the mosque with you?", "Will you change your religion for me? If you love me enough you will convert to my religion." So many people have been killed in the name of religion over the centuries that it is very evident that successful relationships cannot exist between people of different creeds. Even if your partner supports you, his or her family may object to your beliefs. You will not be a whole family.
As partners, optimists and pessimists face similar problems, but the tensions surface in different ways. An optimist may feel that he has a new business opportunity that will be financially rewarding, whereas a pessimist is sure that the investment money will be wasted without any results. In the end, they will fight about money. Successful relationships require similar philosophical attitudes.
i8. Physical attributes The physical attributes of your personality are a combination of your age and your physical fitness. Some people at age 50 are ready for the grave, whereas some in their 80's may be getting ready for a party. You are as young as you feel. Can an older person have a successful relationship with a younger person? The answer is yes, unless the age difference is very great. The average life expectancy in the United States is 84. If there are no health problems, age is not a deterrent to a good relationship. If you are thinking of raising a family, it is better that you and your partner are both young. This will give you time to raise the children and put them through school until they are independent.
When one of the persons is healthy and the other one is sick, the healthy person has to understand the level of effort that will be needed to take care of the sick person. This is not an obligation that should be taken lightly and it can stress the relationship. If a person has a mental illness, it is seldom possible to have successful relationship. The sane partner will always have doubts about whether offensive behavior or actions from the other person are intentional or a result of the illness.
i9. Risk attitudes. Hundreds of automobile accidents happen every day. You are taking a risk when you drive to work. You need to pay for your house and your food, so you take the risk every day. You do this not because you lack maturity, but because for you it is a necessity. You try to minimize your risk of injury by using seat belts and driving carefully. You are a cautious person. What about the person who goes mountain climbing or diving for the weekend? Is he or she more adventurous or daring? How about the hang glider or amateur pilot?
The level of risk of an activity can be assessed by asking your life insurance agent how much the insurance will cost for a diver, a pilot, etc. The death rates associated with each activity are a real measure of the risk. If you do something knowing that it is dangerous, you are a risk taker. If you know that the casino always makes a profit and you gamble anyway, you are a risk taker. If you smoke, drink alcohol excessively, or take drugs, you are a risk taker even if you think that you will not be harmed by your actions. The statistics are not in your favor.
Can two people with different risk attitudes have a successful relationship? Not always. People who are cautious do not like the stress of taking risks, whereas the risk-takers find it boring to do something less exciting.
i10. Task performance. Task performance describes the accuracy and organization with which we solve problems. Methodical people organize and schedule their work to know which things will be done when. Disorganized people do not have systematic ways of approaching problems and may not be able to solve some problems. Error-prone and disorganized people do not have much in common with accurate, methodical people. Relationships between these individuals are subject to stress because the disorganized person cannot meet the expectations of the methodical person. Disorganized persons are not neat and this is irritating to methodical persons. It is possible for a disorganized person to become more organized, but this requires great effort and changing established habits.