Introvert or Extrovert? How Temperament Affects Marriage
- Tuesday, March 04, 2008
There are many different methods of testing for temperaments and personalities. One of the simplest is through the ministry of Florence Littauer and Marita Littauer (www.classervices.com). They have available for purchase tests that will help you to identify your own and other people’s temperaments. These tests are also included in their books, such as Your Spiritual Personality (Jossey Books), Love Extravagantly (Bethany House), and Personality Puzzle (Revell).
What’s Temperament Got to Do With Anything?
LARRY: When I first dated Kathy, I was impressed with the energy and flexibility she demonstrated. If there were some minor conflict between us, she readily faced the problem and even offered compromises that suited both our interests.
But after we were married awhile, things began to change . . . things like when Kathy consistently squeezed the toothpaste tube in the middle, in obvious rebellion to my careful instruction. Imagine my surprise when I found my compromising and flexible bride was no longer interested in making any changes. Status quo was now her goal in life.
I’d never heard of the different temperaments when we were dating. Although Kathy demonstrated versatility during that time, there were plenty of warning signs that popped up to reveal her desire to be perfect, but my love-blinded eyes just didn’t see them. Years later when we learned about the temperaments, I was identified as a choleric, whereas Kathy tested as a melancholy. We began to understand the different perspective we each had.
Women normally see a man’s potential and hope he will change after marriage. Men, on the other hand, fall in love with a woman just as she is and expect her to stay the same throughout marriage.
KATHY: When Larry and I were engaged, I thought my eyes were open to any weaknesses Larry might have. I even considered writing down the imperfections in him so that later, if those things upset me, I would remember that I went into marriage with my eyes open.
The real surprise came when the things I loved about Larry before we married became sources of irritation. As a result, I went into marriage with two strikes already against me: the weaknesses I was aware of and the lack of knowledge about how strengths might be taken to extremes.
I loved Larry’s take-charge personality when we were dating. He organized our dates and I felt secure, knowing I wouldn’t have to make decisions. I didn’t know, though, that he would take that temperament characteristic and tell me how to stack the glasses in the kitchen cupboard. Nor did I expect him to comment on how much toilet paper or tissues I used in the bathroom. Yet Larry had an opinion about that and . . . everything else.
Had I known about the temperaments before we got married, I could have gone into marriage more knowledgeable and less defensive over Larry’s self-assuredness. Instead of accepting his confidence as the way God had made him, I took it personally, got angry, and believed he loved me less.
Who’s Got the Order and Who’s Got the Fun?
After Charles and Karen studied the personalities/temperaments, their marriage radically changed for the better. They understood how they could complement each other instead of looking at their differences as annoyances. However, they still have moments when they forget what they learned! When they notice one of them trying to take control, usually in a negative way, they stop right away and remind themselves that they’re having a “pantry moment.”
That phrase developed because Charles, the melancholy perfectionist, likes compartments in the pantry, dishwasher, and refrigerator to be maintained in a categorical and orderly fashion (small items on top, canned goods in a row, cups and saucers in their proper slots in the dishwasher, etc.). Karen, the fun-loving sanguine, is more interested in getting things put away—but not necessarily in a perfect way—so that she can get on to what is “fun.”
When Karen is out of town, Charles straightens up everything in the pantry, fridge, and dishwasher. When Karen is home, she tends to forget the “rules” and just puts things behind the closed doors. This bugs Charles! Yet his precision bugs Karen! However, they have learned that this can work in their favor.
When they start to argue, they stop and remind themselves that they’re having a “pantry moment.” That’s a signal to get to the bottom of the communication difference rather than try to control each other.
Karen and Charles’s marriage is now more calm, warm, caring, and intimate. They rarely fight because they understand each other’s personality in a deeper way, and they see it as a blessing instead of a source of competition. Charles brings the order, Karen supplies the fun.
Excerpted from What's in the Bible for Couples © 2007 by Kathy Collard Miller, D. Larry Miller, and Larry Richards, Ph.D. Copyright © 2007; ISBN 9780764203848
Used by permission of Bethany House Publishers. Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.
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