Relationships and Marriage: A Perceptual Styles Perspective, Part 2

Blog: Relationships and Marriage: A Perceptual Styles Perspective, Part 2

Picture of Lynda-Ross Vega Co-author of Unlock the Power of Your Perception and Your Talent AdvantageA question that we usually get during most of our seminars deals with the applicability of the Perceptual Styles Theory to finding the "perfect mate".  While there is no one factor or theory that can fully explain why, how, and with whom we fall in love, but the Perceptual Styles Theory (PST) can help individuals understand the challenges we’re likely to face in different types of relationships. This perspective can be invaluable in predicting communication issues, and in smoothing out issues when they do arise.

There are four basic Perceptual Style (PS) experiences in love, based on couples whose styles are the same, neighboring, one-off, and opposite:

  • Birds of a feather flock together

  • Since we’re neighbors, lets be friends

  • Opposites attract.

  • I understand the words you are speaking, but I have no idea what you mean.

Opposites attract

For each PS there is a direct opposite, and each has opposite views of the world. Opposites attract because our perception of the world is, by nature, incomplete. Individuals with opposite styles are often attracted to one another because they provide each other with a sense of completeness. Being with someone who does easily and well the types of things you struggle to do with mediocre results can be an exhilarating experience. The problem is that after a while, their inability to do it your way becomes a problem.

I have a close friend whose PS is Methods, while her husband’s is Activity. She wants to have a plan and a schedule and know exactly where they are going before they start out. He, on the other hand, dives into things head first and figures them out as he goes. Both of these approaches work, but neither is the best in all situations.

What are the issues? He sometimes wishes she would just once be spontaneous, and she wishes he would do a little more planning and pay attention to detail. Fortunately for them, they work on balancing their approaches and have come to an agreement on the situations in which each of them takes the lead. They focus on giving each other space to be who they are in their marriage—they don’t spend time trying to change each other.

The tricky thing about opposites is that what first attracts you—and what you feel is so complimentary because it fills a need you have—can quickly turn into what drives you crazy.  If neither party is willing to give, this can turn ugly fast. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can’t change your partner’s PS, so the challenge is to appreciate them for what they do and love them for who they are.

I understand the words you are speaking, but I have no idea what they mean

When a PS is not identical to yours, nor is it a direct neighbor or an opposite style, we call it a ‘one-off.’ Every PS has two styles that are one-off, and relationships between two people with these styles can often be stormy and unpredictable—habitual modes of interaction don’t work, attempts at humor fall flat, perspectives are at odds, and explanations or descriptions of the same event are likely to be strikingly different.

So what draws people into ‘one-off’ relationships?  Usually it is a shared interest or activity—you both love singing and meet in a community chorus, you both play tennis and meet at tennis lessons, you both love to watch football, etc.

One-offs can be attractive initially because they are so different from you that they seem exotic and fascinating.  But as soon as the initial fascination wanes, it is really very hard to find a common ground to build a relationship on. In all the years we’ve been using PST in coaching, we’ve never known a couple with one-off styles to stay in a lasting relationship.

Does that mean it’s impossible? Probably not—but if you can’t find common ground in your relationship (or if you feel like you are in relationship with someone from a different planet), it’s best to be advised that it’s going to take a whole lot of work on the part of both you and your partner to keep your relationship together.

Please share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below.

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About Lynda-Ross Vega

Lynda-Ross Vega is a partner at Vega Behavioral Consulting, Ltd. She specializes in helping corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, and individuals with interpersonal communications, team dynamics, personal development, and navigating change. Lynda-Ross is co-creator of Perceptual Style Theory, a revolutionary behavioral psychology theory and assessment system that teaches people how to unleash their natural strengths and build the life and career they dream of. For free information on how to succeed in business and in life doing more of what you do best, visit

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