I’m no techie, but I know that when you’re buying a computer, the type of processor you get matters. You want to get the latest and greatest because it’s likely the quickest and most efficient.  

As I type, I can see a sticker near my keyboard that states the manufacturer name and title of my computer’s processor. It’s easy to identify and recognize what’s inside my laptop because of that sticker. 

If only it were that easy in life and marriage! We’re each individually wired to process information and make decisions in different ways. It can take us years to be able to identify our own processor and that of our spouse. He/she doesn’t come with a sticker stating their type and neither do we! 

When you’re married, it’s likely that your spouse processes information in ways that are different from you and that can create conflict sometimes. But just because you process in different ways doesn’t mean that either way is wrong, they’re just different.  

If we want to grow personally and in our marriage, a key step is to identify how we and our spouse process information. Once we know our type, it helps us to better understand one another and communicate effectively. 

This week I’m going to talk about two main types of processors. I believe we are all either one of these two options: 

Internal: Internal processors need time to think alone about decisions. They need to analyze all options before they can make a choice. They generally monologue and keep their thoughts quiet. When they open up about a decision, they’ve given it much analysis and have carefully selected the words they’ll use to articulate their thoughts.  

External: External processors need to think and talk out loud with someone about their ideas. As they dialogue and brainstorm with someone, they can eliminate options and come to a conclusion. Just because they talk about an idea doesn’t mean it’s what they’re going to choose, they just want to flesh it out by talking. 

If you have a married couple with one internal and one external processor, it can create tension and anxiety. I know from experience: I’m an internal processor and my husband is external. We’ve been married for nearly 15 years and in just the past few years I’ve realized that he’s an external processor. He loves and need to talk things out.  

I’ve learned that when he’s talking about an idea, decision, or change, I don’t need to adjust and start planning for the future, which is my tendency. He’s just sharing his thoughts and brainstorming with me.  

Over the years he has learned that I can get lost in my thoughts. When I process something seriously inside and alone for too long, it can turn to worry and anxiety. My husband can identify when something is troubling me and he’ll ask me to talk to him about it.  

We’ve also each been able to identify how our processing method can affect the other person and how we can adapt to be respectful of each other. Sometimes I can’t handle listening to a brainstorming session while I’m making dinner or about to fall asleep, so he tables it for later. I’ve learned that sometimes I need time to think before making a decision. I’ve also realized that I need to go to him with a problem instead of worrying and losing sleep because I’ve internally processed alone for too long.  

Homework: This week identify whether you and your spouse are internal or external processors and how your unique styles affect your marriage. Talk together about how you can help each other process information in the way that’s healthiest for each other and your marriage.  

I’ll be back next month with Part II on additional processing methods that will help us better understand ourselves and our spouse.