Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Book Review: Incompatibility Grounds for a Great Marriage

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Incompatibility Grounds for a Great Marriage
Author: Chuck and Barb Snyder

Author's web site:
Date: 1988
Publisher: Questar
ISBN: 0-945564-02-3

Updated edition: 1590528166
Length: 255 pages including a long bibliography
Quote: “Marriage is beautiful, and we recommend it highly, even though about the only thing Barb and I have in common is that we were married on the same day.”
Known for “team teaching” in the 1980s, the Snyders presented themselves as an example of a couple who used good communication skills to surmount their differences and preserve their marriage. In this book they discuss personality differences that were and were not seen as gender-linked. In 1988 less information was available about the physical traits that shape some personality differences. This may be considered an asset; it allowed the Snyders to discuss personality differences that are probably learned, along with differences that are inborn, as something to respect and enjoy.
Chuck Snyder claims that he and his wife are the world’s most opposite couple...well, he uses a lot of jokes. He doesn’t even mention international, interracial, intergenerational, or interdenominational marriages. As photographed on the back jacket, the Snyders look well matched.
However, even when people marry perfect demographic thinks it’s important to be on time, and one thinks it’s polite to be a few minutes late. One makes sure lids are screwed on tight; one leaves lids off. One lists shopping as a favorite hobby; one shops mostly by comparing prices at home and likes to time just how fast s/he can get in and out of a store. And so on.
At this historical period Beverly and Tim LaHaye were specializing in teaching American Protestants to identify their temperament patterns in terms of the four classical elements. The Snyders don’t infringe on the LaHayes’ turf. In books like Transformed Temperaments, the LaHayes used the classical terms: melancholy, phlegmatic, choleric, and sanguine. These terms have acquired baggage of their own, these days, so on page 36 of Incompatibility the Snyders give the four patterns more contemporary names: idea person, analytical person, driver, and people person. In the twenty-first century, the temperament categories may be easier to recognize in terms of the physical traits that shape them: High Sensory Perceptivity (HSP), Long Brain Stem (LBS), Type A, and Attention Deficiency Disorder. Most, although not all, people have at least one of these four traits. It’s possible to test positive for three or even all four, although if more than one is present some tend to dominate others.
The Snyders do, however, mention the anomalies that crop up in every study of human personality. Chuck Snyder makes a solid case for classifying him as a Choleric, Driver, or Type A. This strong-willed, mildly extroverted but self-directed personality type is usually found in people who thrive in dominant positions. On page 23, however, Snyder reports that a personality test classified him as “submissive.” This is an odd combination, though not impossible. Many Type A’s have “submissive” or at least “passive” sexual preferences, but few are perceived as “submissive” in public. What’s going on when a Type A develops a “submissive” social personality? Sometimes this individual is depressed; sometimes s/he is a very intelligent person who’s learned not to sweat the small stuff, who strategically makes minor concessions in order to help win others to his/her way of thinking.
The main theme of Incompatibility is that people can make their incompatibilities work for them if they accept their complementarity rather than trying to make each other over. Heterosexual couples get an automatic head start toward learning this life skill, since their most obvious differences are what attracted them to each other in the first place. The general idea works for other family members, and for neighbors and co-workers, as well as for couples.
If I had to pick something about Incompatibility that's not to love, its susceptibility to gender stereotypes would be my choice. Gender stereotypes tend to be formed by our perceptions of our own individual parents. When a college athlete with a two-year degree in heating and air conditioning technology marries someone with a four-year degre in teaching, that couple’s children are likely to accept the stereotype “Women have more verbal intelligence than men.” When a gifted preacher marries a quiet, empathetic nurse, that couple’s children are likely to accept the stereotype “Men have more verbal intelligence than women.” Although recent S.A.T. statistics seem to support one of these claims, historical reality is that the English-speaking world generally accepted and reinforced the opposite claim for many years. Obviously both stereotypes have some basis in reality, and neither is completely true for all men and all women.
It can be helpful to challenge even stereotypes that are clearly supported by facts. The average man is taller than the average woman; Janet Reno is taller than Robert Reich. And rather than generalizing, “Men are more goal-oriented and women are more detail-oriented,” the Snyders might have come closer to Ultimate Truth by observing more specifically, “Chuck Snyder, a man who has a goal-oriented Type A personality, is more goal-oriented than Barb Snyder, a woman who presents herself as possibly even having an LBS introvert personality.”
Other readers might object to the Snyders’ evangelical Protestant viewpoint. Incompatibility is not an evangelical book; it contains lots of jokes and no real sermons, but the Snyders do expect their audience to be more familiar with the Bible than with other possible sources of illustrations for the points the Snyders make. (If anyone wants to make similar points using secular references, that would be an interesting exercise and might produce a valuable book.)
The Snyders discuss an interpretation of the biblical concept of wives “submitting themselves to their own husbands, as unto the Lord” that works for them. While everyone knows that this idea reflects the ugly historical reality that women had no civil rights in Greco-Roman society, a surprising number of women still argue that it has some special relevance for them today. The Snyders emphasize that this text indirectly states that Christian women should not “submit” in any way to men who are not their own husbands, and that the Christian husband is further told to be a servant leader whose authority comes from self-sacrifice. Still, for every extreme feminist out there who agonizes over her felt need to work out an elaborate system of keeping all decisions and responsibilities “equal,” there seems to be a moderate feminist who’s glad to be able to save herself time and stress by entrusting some decisions to her husband. Not because “men” are “supposed to” know more about things in general than she does, but because she’s found that her husband knows more about some things than she does. If she didn’t rate him well above average, why would she have married him? The Snyders don’t burden us with much detail, but they write like one of these fortunate couples. This feminist reviewer is glad for them. At least, I would have hated to have lost the benefit of my husband’s special talents and experience to a futile obsession with trying to be his “equal”...then again, I probably wouldn’t have been attracted to him if he hadn’t appreciated my talents and experience too.
Both of these criticisms are, however, trivial compared to the real problem with books like Incompatibility: Reading a book is no substitute for practicing what the book has to teach. Incompatibility is full of sound advice, made easier to take by the authors’ frank discussion of how hard it can be even for them to apply their own wisdom to their own everyday life. The book is worth keeping around for reference...but practicing the kind of wisdom it contains will always be one of those ongoing challenges that keep our minds active as we age.

Chuck Snyder no longer has any use for a dollar. Barb Snyder, or her favorite charity, might find a use for one, so I'm glad still to be able to offer Incompatibility as a Fair Trade Book. To purchase it online, send salolianigodagewi @ $5 for the book + $5 for shipping. As always, shipping charges are for a package, not a book; if you order additional books (like that updated edition for comparison purposes) you pay only one shipping charge, and if the additional books were written by the Snyders, Mrs. Snyder or her charity will get a dollar for each one.