Sunday, April 29, 2012

What Happens When Non-Planners & Planners Date?

Honestly, I have no idea how it is that I married a non-planner, but I guess back then in my 20's I thought his spontaneous nature was just so cool. Obviously that did not last, and right after my divorce, I specifically avoided that personality type-- until I slowly came to appreciate the more laid back guys. So, what is the secret to having a planner successfully date a non-planner?  The answer is simple: you need to meet each other half-way.  You need to appreciate each other's view points and more than ever, you need to communicate effectively. If you don't, this is a recipe for disaster.

Let me explain the mind of a planner-- we like to look at our calendars and see that there are things we can look forward to-- not just days in advance, but weeks in advance. My planning abilities come in very handy at work, where I have to schedule court, client meetings, trainings, etc. Being a good mom also requires planning in order to set up playdates, fun trips, summer camp, doctor's appointments, etc. Many of my friends have also enjoyed the benefits of having me (aka Julie Macoy Cruise Director) take care of dinner reservations, show tickets, etc. So, what is the downside? The downside is that if I ask someone to check their calendar and send dates, I am sorely disappointed when it doesn't happen.

It's taken me a while to appreciate the negatives to being a planner, but overtime I found that I'd packed my schedule so tight that others would get frustrated having to wait a month to get on my calendar.  Often, I had to turn down certain last-minute opportunities because I was already over-committed.  Basically, I wasn't leaving any room for fun, spontaneous things to happen (and this is exactly the fear that non-planners have about planning too far in advance).  What this meant was that those awesome laid back people that I found so cool were not in my life as much as I wanted (and needed) them to be.   So, to get them back in my life, I had to learn to chill out and not plan so much.  Trust me, it can be done, but this is still a work in progress for me.

What non-planners need to understand is that those of us that like to plan, when faced with a lack of response or cooperation, can quickly assume that we either don't rank or that the other person is being non-commital. Neither one of these is pleasant, and it raises the following question: why should I stay? In dating, when so many people focus on screening for reasons to leave a relationship, my main point is those that plan are equally focused on finding a reason to stay.  If you can't meet us half-way with our desire to plan, it just won't work.

Dr. Chapman (author of 5 Love Languages) is right that paying attention to your partner's love languages is key, but I'm going to go one step further-- you cannot lose sight of the personality type you are trying to work with because that plays a huge role in what you need to focus on as well.  As Einstein said, you cannot expect a fish to climb a tree.  Just as planner isn't going to stop planning, a non-planner will not all of a sudden turn into Julie McCoy.

Non-planners that fall in love with planners have to be patient with us-- a genuine planner is not one that is trying to control you or get you forfeit your way of being.  It's just that we are wired completely differently-- the plans give us some predictability, and that is what we really crave.  The chaos is scary.  So those that are a bit more laid back need to teach us not to fear the unpredictable--  and if you choose your words wisely and act in a consistent manner, it is your reassuring presence over time that will win over the planner.

So, not only do I think planners and non-planners can date, they should date-- and together they can learn a lot from one another.  It is simply about meeting half-way in these cases; I have seen it done, and I think that if you appreciate each others' strengths, you will be just fine.

1 comment:

  1. I, the non-planner in the relationship, just finished reading this, as suggested by my partner - the planner. I'd like to offer my perspective, as a non-planner. The mind of a non-planner, if you will.

    As non-planners, we (generally speaking) really do genuinely appreciate the planners in our life. It takes the pressure off of having to plan certain things with other people that might end in failure or disappointment. To us, planning is stressful on several different levels. For one, it means having to focus on one particular thing at one time - which I'd hazard to guess for MANY non-planners, is already a day to day chore in our daily lives and routine. Focus doesn't come easily to us, so with so many options out there - where to go for dinner, where to stay when we go on vacation, when we're going to do laundry or go grocery shopping - it just makes our heads spin. For us, it's a lot easier to function on more of an as-needed opportunistic basis. Get home early from work on a Tuesday? Great! There's an opportunity to get that laundry done! Running out of food in the fridge? We'll try to go grocery shopping on the way home from work tomorrow... if nothing else comes up (and by "nothing else," I mean "if we aren't already scheduled on the calendar by our s.o.). Planning things to the smallest detail is EXCRUCIATING to us, and takes the fun out of things, as we've just expended all of our energy and enthusiasm on the planning stage, often leaving us stripped of the ability to actually be able to enjoy said planned activity. Now we understand that some things must be planned. Weddings, for example. Your kid's graduation party, or birthday party. No one I've ever heard of has held an impromptu funeral under conditions that did not involve some sort of unusual duress.

    Our lack of planning does not typically constitute a lack of interest, nor does it denote a lesser rank or value towards a certain person or event. Our lack of desire to plan has way more to do with being in the moment and enjoying the process of meandering the paths that unfold before us. And if part of that path is there because someone else who NEEDS to plan - who ENJOYS planning - has laid that out for us, then it's often that much more appreciated and enjoyable! As you mentioned though, you can't expect a fish to climb a tree, and sometimes, we non-planners feel most alive "flying by the seat of our pants" and seeing what unfolds, whether it's spontaneously ducking into a place we've never seen or been to before, or just deciding on a whim to grocery shop at 9:00 on a Wednesday night. We tend to be big believers in "whatever is meant to be is what will be," and we're pretty happy with that.

    I couldn't agree more that together we can learn a lot from each other. We non-planners can learn to better appreciate the value of the time and thought that goes into all those details that boggle our minds, and in turn, hopefully you planners can learn to sit back and be in the present, and enjoy that moment you worked so hard to plan - and not use the downtime to plan what's next.