Is your partner a cautious type?

Understanding your partner’s personality leads to compassion and love. Through knowing your mate’s psychological makeup, you can become a more supportive and caring partner. The criticism of his or her ways evaporates when you realize how well it serves your beloved to succeed in his or her life. Behavior that is different from yours ceases to be seen as “weird” and begins to be viewed with tender appreciation.

If your partner is an overly cautious type, he or she is likely to point out all the possible negative outcomes of any suggestion you may have. “Let’s take a weekend of hiking in a new place we have not explored yet”, you suggest. To which your partner may reply, “But where would it be, and what if there are snakes, bears, mountain lions, and what if we lose our way and are stranded for days without anyone knowing how to find us?”

This may be very annoying and may be heard by you as negative or even critical. If you understand that your mate is attempting to organize all the information to gain a measure of security for him or herself, you may not take the ongoing objections as personal criticism. You may consider these concerns as points for needed reassurance. “I will explore the options for trails with the Sierra Club, check about the environmental risks, select only a well known and supervised route and let the park rangers know where we intend to go and when we plan to return.” Once you provide a picture of greater safety, he or she may be able to proceed with the suggestion with greater ease.

This overly cautious individual is often paired with a very care free, less fearful person who can benefit from having all the possible options brought up for consideration.

Some mates of cautious partners often withhold suggesting anything out of the ordinary. They suppress their adventuresome side to avoid the litany of possible woes that is expected to follow. Even ordinary events, not discussed and planned for well in advance, may create hardship for the couple.

The mate of the cautious person needs to be aware that anxiety and fear are the partner’s basic, necessary emotions for guaranteeing his or her security. Taking your mate’s needs into consideration in advance of any suggestion will help reduce the repeated pattern of your enthusiasm being turned into annoyance.

These cautious people like to know well in advance all the family plans. They need to prepare their minds for every eventuality to secure a safe outcome for themselves. They often bristle at last minute information or “withheld” data. “Why didn’t you tell me that the neighbor was going to stop by this evening?” To the partner, this may seem too trivial to report. To an aware partner, one preventative sentence is a small loving effort that helps reduce the mate’s anxiety.

The same processes that cause careful scrutiny of every event are often also applied to friends. Cautious people are slower to trust, but once they do, their loyalty is unmatched. They are devoted partners and friends and can always be relied upon to be helpful, logical and good problem solvers. They can see how tasks need to be executed and what pitfalls to avoid.

The loyalty of other people is most valued by the cautious person who is so highly invested in safety, security and stability. These individuals need to know who they can trust and to what extent. However, the process of testing their friends’ allegiance may be a long and tedious process. The cautious types often emphasize the negative reactions of others and minimize or mistrust the positive responses they receive.

It is hard to complement this cautious person, since he or she often doubts the sincerity of the giver’s positive feedback. It is perplexing to others who are doubted when they honestly appreciate their cautious friend. A cautious person’s partner may help by thanking the individual who paid the compliment to the spouse, and by affirming the speaker’s positive view. With time, the cautious skeptic may slowly begin to accept the positive comments he or she hears.

You may assume that this type of a cautious person would be routinely pleasant to avoid any negative repercussions. Yet, due to insecurities, fears and anxiety, he or she may at times becomes outwardly hostile, belligerent, sarcastic and even mean-spirited. It is not an easy task for the partner to stay gracious despite these damaging behaviors. However, if the partner understands that these are reactions to internal confusion and panic by the cautious mate, he or she may be able to not take the offenses personally. The cautious type needs to be told in no uncertain terms that this behavior is unacceptable, even if the source of it is understood.

If your partner is a cautious type of the nature described above, you may:

  • Realize that being cautious is not a choice for your mate, it is a central component of his or her inborn personality.
  • Understand that the demand for planning, knowledge and data stems from the compelling need to be safe and secure.
  • Be aware that the negativity and ‘worst case scenarios’ cited in response to your ideas, are not about you. Though tiring, they are self-reassuring methods for your partner’s sense of safety.
  • Choose to be very informative, a good planner, patient listener and open -minded in discussing life events with your mate.
  • Help him or her learn to be gracious about compliments and positive input from others by providing further support of their kind views.
  • Declare sarcasm, anger and aggression that periodically surface, as unacceptable conduct.
  • Be loving, clear and compassionate with the cautious type to help reduce his or her worries and facilitate uncovering the kind, loyal, analytical, and best friend you can ever have.

September 19, 2004

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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