So You Married an External Processor

I am not a psychologist. I’m merely an internal processor married to an external processor. But I think I might have some insight that can help you with your marriage if you’re a different kind of processor than your spouse.

It took me nearly twenty years to see how my husband’s being an external processor affected our marriage. First of all, I didn’t hear the terms internal processor/external processor until a few years into our marriage, and then I didn’t really think about which one I was and which one my husband was for years after that.

When I finally labelled my husband as an external processor, I realized that I had wasted much time trying to please him in ways that he didn’t really want to be pleased. Example: Once, my husband said that we should have dinner every night at 5:30. Together. At the dinner table. As an internal processor, I don’t say these kinds of things out loud unless I’ve thought them through and decided that they are important and achievable. And so my husband cleared the crap off the table and I did what food prep I needed to do to make sure dinner was ready at 5:30. I don’t know how long I did this. A month? Two months?

Music teacher schedules being what they are, many times one or the other of us wasn’t ready for dinner at 5:30. Eventually, after much internal thought, I told my husband that I just couldn’t keep up the schedule.

HE DIDN’T REMEMBER MAKING THE REQUEST.

After a few things like this happened, I realized that though it made me feel like a bad wife, I needed to wait until my husband had brought things up a couple times and we’d really talked it through before I bent over backwards to make a change.

Conversely, I’m sure my husband assumed that I was like him. Whenever I’d say something was important to me and he didn’t seem to take it seriously, I would be really hurt. But what seemed like a lack of respect was simply his taking my request for a change in our schedule or lifestyle as a passing thought—the first part of the decision-making process. Because that’s how he is. He doesn’t expect me to take his every word as a fully processed thought.

It has taken him as many years to understand that I don’t bring something up unless I’ve thought it through and it’s REALLY important to me. You can imagine the frustration we could have avoided if we’d realized this difference in communication style earlier on.

I know there are many, many discussions for new couples to have, but this is one more to tack on. Are you an internal processor? An external processor? Do you even know? Let me know in the comments how communication styles and internal/external processing have affected your relationships.

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