Last month I went to a conference where I heard a talk on the four temperaments by Larraine Bennett, author of “The Temperament God Gave You.” I had read about them in college and found them to be very beneficial to understanding myself, and my relationship to others around me.
Rather than the temperaments putting me in a box saying, “this is the way you are,” it was freeing to accept that through my temperament it’s okay to have fewer quality friends or not like scary movies because I feel things too deeply. In regards to my roommates, it helped me live with them knowing we react differently in situations.
So, it was nice to hear a refresher on the temperaments in this conference. While the implication of this particular talk was in motivating and training children, it had me thinking a lot about temperaments in relation to spouses. You’ve heard it said that opposites attract and the saying is definitely true! You don’t want to marry someone exactly like yourself; you want someone to complement you. And although those personality differences can lead to a lot of struggle and conflict, it’s also these differences that stretch you and help you to become a better person.
As my husband and I just celebrated our anniversary, it was a great time to talk about the ups and downs of our years together and point out some of the memories that stand out. That first year was hands down the hardest! After being on your own, learning to share your life with another person who is different from you was hard! This for us was the most challenging time- filled with a new baby, new business, and lots of other adjustments. How we handle money, like to cook our food, prefer to spend our down time, whether we sleep better when it’s hot or cold, how we react under pressure – all these things were different! Thankfully these differences were not only the hardest parts but the most rewarding as well, which has strengthened our relationship and allowed our love to grow.
CS Lewis once said, “How gloriously different are all the saints.” It’s true with spouses and families, too! We each have something unique to contribute to our marriage, and our differences help smooth out each other’s rough edges and make our distinct attributes shine. For example, I am emotional and feel things deeply and strongly. My husband is more laid back and has trouble going past the surface to find his emotions and feelings. He reins me in and keeps me more even–keeled, helping me learn to control my strong feelings. I help him to discover his deep-seated feelings, particularly spiritually so he can recognize the subtle movements of God in his life.
I am cautious and he is adventurous. This particularly benefits our children because I keep them alive and he helps them to try new things. I am a planner while he likes to be spontaneous. As you might imagine, there is a time and a place for both. We both tend to be a little more introverted, but together we work well in social situations, being a source of comfort and encouragement among a bigger crowd. We balance each other’s spending habits, as I want to buy the cheapest thing and he sees more long-term value, and both can be a way to save money. Overall, he sees things more long-term, I see things more day by day. We need both viewpoints!
When it comes to arguments, this is where it has taken the most work and the longest time to learn from each other. I get angry right away and tend to yell more. I get upset when he doesn’t want to engage me in discussion and get to the bottom of it right then and there. He needs more time to process so he can talk about it later. If I can learn to wait until he’s ready to work through it, I have calmed down and we can discuss it more rationally. Thankfully, he’s also usually the first to be able to say, “I’m sorry” and let things go more quickly. So we have to keep our temperaments in mind when we get into fights!
In all of this, here’s the beauty: a couple balances out each others’ strengths and weaknesses, helping each other to become better versions of themselves. When we do this with holiness in mind, we build up virtue in each other and help one another get to heaven.
The problem is when we aren’t willing to bend and stretch to meet our spouse. When we just continue to butt heads saying we’re just too different, or when we give in to the demands of the other all the time without lovingly challenging them toward virtue, our marriage suffers. I’ve seen this happen with a couple where one spends too much money and the other doesn’t say anything about it, driving them into debt. Or when one sits on the couch all the time while the other is busy with the house and the family, driving them into resentment and insanity.
So in order for it to work, there needs to be the willingness to grow in the virtues such as patience, selflessness, humility, zeal, courage, temperance, and self-control. But, the rewards are worth it to have a well-rounded, deeply enriched marriage!
Don’t know your temperament? Take the free temperament quiz here: www.temperamentquiz.com