Benjamin Hardy's newest book opens with this:
My wife—the woman I love the most in the world and have five wonderful children with—almost didn’t marry me . . . because of a personality test.
That personality test was the Color Code, which groups people into four types based on their primary motivators:
- RED are the power wielders. POWER: the ability to move from point A to point B and get things done, is what motivates and drives these people. They bring great gifts of vision and leadership and generally are responsible, decisive, proactive and assertive.
- BLUE are the do-gooders. INTIMACY: connecting, creating quality relationships and having purpose, is what motivates and drives these people. They bring great gifts of quality and service and are generally loyal, sincere, and thoughtful.
- WHITE are the peacekeepers. PEACE: the ability to stay calm and balanced even in the midst of conflict, is what motivates and drives these people. They bring great gifts of clarity and tolerance and are generally kind, adaptable, and good-listeners.
- YELLOW are the fun lovers. FUN: the joy of living life in the moment, is what motivates and drives these people. They bring great gifts of enthusiasm and optimism and are generally charismatic, spontaneous, and sociable.
When Ben took the test, he was categorized primarily as a "White." Here's why that was a problem:
Lauren was a Red. So when her family found out that I was a White, they were very concerned. Lauren had previously been married to an abusive and self-absorbed guy, who was also a Red. Her parents thought, given her interest in me, that she might be going too far the opposite direction to compensate. Or that she was being overly cautious to avoid the trauma of her prior marriage.
Like many others who put stock in personality tests, Lauren’s family considered the Color Code to have some validity and truth. They saw people through the test’s lens—as one of four types.
“If this guy is a White, and she’s a Red, she’s going to walk all over him,” were their genuine concerns. “She needs a real man, not a White.”
She was wondering the same thing. Could a Red and a White really work together? Whites rarely get promoted at work. Whites are pushovers. Whites are dreamers but don’t stick to long-term goals.
Fortunately for both of them, she went for it anyway, and gave him a chance. Ben has since gone on to get his PhD and become a leading expert in entrepreneurial psychology, a bestselling author, and a multimillionaire. If Whites really are pushovers and dreamers who don't stick to long-term goals, he certainly isn't a White anymore.
His new book, Personality Isn't Permanent, is about the human capacity to change how we see ourselves and take on new, desired identities. It is a theme that he understands from personal experience, and backs with research to demonstrate that we ALL are capable of such transformation.
The "Personality" Tests of Love and Sexuality
As a Sex, Love, and Relationship coach, I was interested in how the idea of "unfixed personality" could shift the way we approach our love lives -- especially because it is fairly common to give relationship advice based on personality type to predict what "type" of person is most romantically compatible with another "type" of person.
An article titled "What star sign should you date based on your Zodiac?" (Cosmopolitan) and another titled "These are the 3 most compatible Myers Briggs types for you, based on your Myers Briggs" (Bustle), are just two example of such advice.
In fact, when it comes to helping people figure out what "type" they are, the field of sex and relationship improvement has plenty of tests and quizzes of its own that will tell you:
- What your partner does that most helps you feel loved (The Five Love Languages)
- What turns you on (Erotic Blueprints)
- How much separation, communication, and intimacy you're comfortable with in your relationships (The 3 Attachment Styles)
- What types of experiences help you cultivate love toward your body (3 Types of Body Love)
What's great about these types of tests is that they help to VALIDATE your current experiences as legitimate and normal.
Knowing that "gifts" is a love language helped me to feel comfortable telling partners how much I appreciate gifts without feeling that it made me materialistic. Finding out my erotic blueprint is primarily "Energetic" and 0% "Sexual" helped me to understand why I've never been that excited by porn, and why I feel most turned on by anticipation and energy build-up.
What's problematic about these types of tests is that we think of them as fixed and enduring qualities, when they are really just snapshots of preferences at a specific time.
I took the Love Languages for a second time more recently and discovered that my primary love language is now "Touch" instead of "Gifts." My husband isn't a natural gift-giver, but I feel more loved by him than anyone else I've been with. I think the fact that he shows me love with touch is why I answered the questions the way I did on that test this time around.
After reading Hardy's new book, I have a suspicion that my preference for how I like to be shown love actually shifted to match the way my husband naturally shows it to me; if I really needed gifts to feel loved, this relationship would have ended a LONG time ago.
So what does all this mean? How do we use the new research from this book, and the idea that personality is never truly fixed, to make better choices in sex and love?
1. Choose a long-term partner based on purpose-compatibility instead of personality-compatibility
Compatibility is still an important thing to consider when choosing a partner -- without it, each of you are likely to feel that you are constantly compromising in order to please the other person. A certain degree of ease comes with a natural "fit" between two people.
But that sense of fit and ease should be grounded in shared values and purpose, rather than specific personality traits.
Dr. Hardy explicitly advises against marrying for personality...
...Because personality will change over time. Obviously, there needs to be a connection. But the initial personality you fall in love with will not be the same person two, five, ten, or twenty years later. As the context and complexity of the relationship evolves—jobs, money, moving to new locations, kids, travel, aging, tragedies, successes, new information, new experiences, cultural shifts, identity shifts—each party’s personality will change.
Moreover, even the most fascinating or attractive personality will lose its novelty over time. Rather than marrying a person for who they currently are, it takes far more wisdom and discernment to marry for who you can see them becoming—their future self—and how they will enable you to become your desired future self. Will marrying this person enable you to do and be all that you truly want? And will you enable them to be all that they truly want? Who and what could both of you become if you were partners?
Marry for aligned purpose, not personality. That purpose will transform both of you over time.
2. Forget about finding a "perfect" partner and learn how to create a transformational relationship
When we buy into the idea that our personalities and identities are fixed, then it becomes very important to find a partner who is VERY well-matched with us, because we will both stay basically the same forever -- which creates a LOT of pressure!
To Hardy, this is part of the the "problem of discovery":
Because people have an idea of a fixed and innate personality, they spend loads of time looking for the “perfect” person to date and marry. Many people never commit to long-term relationships because of this fundamental misunderstanding about people. They think that when they find that “right” person, everything will just work out...
Just as you will never “find” yourself, you will never “find” that perfect soul mate. The reason people want to find that perfect person, just like they want to find that perfect job, is because the “discovery” perspective is selfish. The end goal is all about meeting your own gratifications and happiness, rather than happiness being the by-product of something much bigger. Of this, Harvard business professor Clayton Christensen said, “The path to happiness is about finding someone who you want to make happy, someone whose happiness is worth devoting yourself to.”
Developing a powerful relationship isn’t about “finding,” but collaboratively creating and becoming new people together, through the relationship. Both parties must adjust and change, becoming a more united whole that transcends the sum of the parts. If one or neither party changes for and through the relationship, then the relationship will be lopsided and will likely fail. High-quality relationships are transformational, not transactional. Often, the transformation is unpredictable and unexpected, as collaboration is a creative act.
3. Self-acceptance is still important
One thing I do NOT want you to take away from this book is the idea that because you have the capacity to change who you are, that you SHOULD, or that you NEED to, in order to be more lovable or worthy.
You are already lovable and worthy exactly as you are. You do not NEED to change who you are in order to be worthy of love.
At the same time, if you want to achieve specific goals in life, you might need to evolve certain aspects of your personality in order to become the person who will achieve those goals.
The fact that you are capable of changing who you are on a personality level does not mean there is less necessity and value in self-acceptance. It is still important to accept who you are, and LOVE who you are, in this moment, no matter how much you also want to grow and change.
Acceptance does not mean resignation; it simply means acknowledging reality and coming to terms with where you're at and who you are currently, and bringing compassion to your current self.
From there, you can take steps toward becoming your desired Future Self out of self-love ("I am worthy of shedding the beliefs and patterns that no longer serve me and my purpose!"), rather than self-rejection ("I have to get my f*cking act together if anyone is ever going to want me or love me, because right now, I totally suck as a person").
Feel the difference?
4. If you decide to become someone different, do it from your purpose (not for validation)
I think it's safe to say that we have all had experiences of trying to change who we are in order to be more appealing to someone. In certain ways, that's exactly what Hardy did -- he transformed himself from a White to someone entirely different, in part because he knew he had to in order to be seen (by her parents) as a suitable partner for Lauren.
The reason he was able to do that, and not generate the type of resentment that often comes from changing who we are for someone else, is that he did it as much (if not MORE) for himself as he did it for Lauren.
HE already wanted to become someone different, and then Lauren helped provide the motivation to commit to the Future Self he wanted to become.
Had Lauren wanted him to become someone he didn't want to be -- if she wanted him to become a lawyer, or a professional athlete, or to give up aspects of his ambition or autonomy -- I doubt that changing to please her would have worked out so well.
If you tend to be a people-pleaser, you might want to interpret the findings of Personality Isn't Permanent to mean that you can morph into WHOEVER your partner wants you to be.
After all, if there is no "true" you, then what's to stop someone from asking (or demanding) you to change who you are? Why should they accept you as you are, when we are all so capable of evolving and changing?
The answer is this:
Because changing for someone else's purposes and values, rather than your own, is a form of self-abandonment. It might lead to feelings of validation initially, but self-respect is about becoming a self that YOU respect. And what YOU respect is all about what you value and what you want.
In other words, when it comes to getting and becoming what you want in life and love:
To thine own Desired Self be true.