Introvert or Extrovert? How Temperament Affects Marriage
- Kathy Collard Miller, D. Larry Miller and Larry Richards, Ph.D.
- 2008 4 Mar
Luke 2:52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
As Jesus grew up, he was a model of wisdom, physical bearing, and love—both with God and his fellow man. Even as a young person, Jesus exhibited physical, emotional, and spiritual healthiness. We can assume he took good care of his body, respecting it as the temple of the Holy Spirit. He exhibited wisdom by making good choices. He was aware of his special relationship with God, his heavenly Father, and he knew how to respond to people in a way that showed them God’s love. As a result, he pleased God and was respected by others as someone with integrity.
If Jesus had married, he would have been the perfect husband. Yet an expressed opinion is that most likely any woman who married him still wouldn’t have been satisfied. That’s just like relationships, isn’t it? We’re never satisfied with what we have—even if it’s perfect. Yet Jesus’ personality can be an important measure for an engaged couple. They can assess their beloved’s strengths and weaknesses and evaluate how closely their potential mate resembles Jesus in action and attitude. Although none of us will be perfect here on earth, we can grow in wisdom and favor with God and men. As we do we will please our spouse or make the perfect “catch” for a future spouse.
How Others See It
M. Blaine Smith: There is considerable benefit to understanding each other’s personalities, to be sure. But the value comes in helping you understand where your potential for conflict will lie rather than in giving you a magical answer about whether or not to marry.
Jesus was the perfect human being—yet fully God. We cannot expect our future mate to be perfect like him, but we can evaluate Jesus’ strengths to gain an understanding of the four basic temperaments, which some call personality styles. They are the viewpoints about life that motivate how we respond to circumstances and people. Each personality or temperament has both strengths and weaknesses.
Here is a summary of the four basic temperaments:
- Sanguine: outgoing, desires fun, is emotional, outspoken, and relationship-oriented
- Melancholy: introverted, desires perfection, is organized, pessimistic, and task-oriented
- Phlegmatic: introverted, desires peace, is unemotional, pessimistic, and relationship-oriented
- Choleric: outgoing, desires power or control, is outspoken, strong-willed, and optimistic
Instead of displaying the attitude, “Now that you know why I act that way, you’ll just have to accept me the way I am,” we can choose to think of others. We can respond through the power of the Holy Spirit in a way that would help meet their needs and overcome the weaknesses of our temperament. That’s called versatility.
The Perfect Personality
Jesus didn’t exhibit weaknesses of any of the temperaments, but he demonstrated all the strengths of all four temperaments. He truly was the perfect person.
With children, he was the sanguine: lively and fun. His ability to teach effectively, especially with parables, shows his strength in organization and attention to detail—like the melancholy temperament. Jesus was most like a phlegmatic when he was able to sleep in a boat when the disciples thought the boat would be tossed over in a storm. And finally, he operated as a choleric when he confidently and forcefully threw the money-changers out of the temple. He took quick action and wasn’t afraid of anyone.
Knowing your future spouse’s temperament will help you understand them. Many people believe that the person they love looks at life the same way they do, but that’s usually not the case. Not understanding their way of thinking will lead to assumptions and misunderstandings when they react out of their perspective of life, not your perspective.
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.
Read more about what the Bible says about marriage in our Marriage Guide that walks through many hot topics surrounding marriage today in light of God's Word.