I recently read The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse by Art and Laraine Bennett as part of The Catholic Company’s Reviewer Program. The book was right up my overanalyzing alley, especially since I have a thing for personality quizzes (that’s according to my ever-obliging-husband who is always a good sport about taking the tests along with me).
Now I did have to do some background research before I could fully appreciate the book. Unlike their first book called The Temperament God Gave You (which I haven’t personally read but have heard a great deal about), this one doesn’t give as much background info on the different temperament profiles or how to tell what one you or your spouse has.
Although many of my friends swear by the four temperaments and know theirs in and out, I hadn’t personally taken this particular personality test. So I actually ordered Personality Plus upon the recommendation of my choleric-melancholic friend. She also said The Temperament God Gave You is a good read, but she felt that Personality Plus goes into greater detail about the temperaments. The book also includes a detailed personality profile test that requires you to look at 40 groups of words and to choose one word out of four that applies most often to you.
You can actually take the Personality Plus temperament test online here, but the Internet version doesn’t include the definitions of the words, which I found to be very helpful especially with some of the tougher word groups where I didn’t immediately recognize the word that most often describes me. For instance, the word “positive” when applied to your temperament means “knows it will turn out right if he’s in charge.”
There’s a more anecdotal temperament test available on 4Marks (a Catholic social networking site), but I found this one to be less accurate (and so did my husband when I showed him my results). Likewise, you can take the test that goes with The Temperament God Gave You can be found here. Although it yielded the same results as the Personality Plus test for me, this test version doesn’t breakdown your strengths and weaknesses in each area.
Once you know you and your spouse’s temperaments, The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse offers practical insight on how to better connect with your partner. The book includes communication “cheat sheets,” other tips for dealing with temperaments different than your own, and offers anecdotal examples of how and why couples who mix together dissimilar temperaments might clash – not intentionally but simply because they see the world differently – as well as ways to overcome some of the unique challenges you and your spouse temperament combo might create.
I gleaned a few helpful pointers from the book but in all honesty my husband Dave and I don’t fight much, but I can’t take credit for that. He’s the stable one with the patience of Job, after all.
Want to know what kind of temperament God gave Dave? He’s the peaceful phlegmatic. Sounds gross like he regularly dispels out phlegm. Not so at all. The only thing he regularly doles out is friendliness and kindness. Yes, I’m married to the all-purpose person. The great parent. The low-key, likable guy. The one who avoids conflict and rarely sweats the small stuff. Dave’s phlegmatic leanings were dominant, but he did have a few choleric and melancholic traits as well.
As for me? Brace yourself. I am a freak of nature, a marriage of extremes. A bizzaro sanguine-melancholic blend (I scored virtually the same points in each of those temperament) with a touch of choleric tendencies (AKA type A control freak leanings) with only a whopping two points falling in the peaceful phlegmatic category. I’m the personality combo that can lead to emotional problems, according to Personality Plus. I’m the one the Bennetts write about in their “opposites attract” section; yet, the opposites exist within me, not in my marriage.
The only solace I have is that my parents both took the test, and my dad and I scored strikingly similar – our points were distributed almost exactly among the different temperament types and he, too, is a peculiar merger of the sanguine (the optimistic extrovert) and the melancholic (the pensive perfectionist pessimist).
The crazy thing, as I previously mentioned, is the test was really accurate once I started reading the strengths and weaknesses of both types. I read these aloud to my husband, and he, the peaceful phlegmatic, just chuckled.
In fact, some of the anecdotes Personality Plus shared of other weirdo hybrids like myself were things I’ve actually done. Kind of scary when you read about a perfectionist’s filing system and recognize it as your own.
Ah, but as the Bennetts remind us in their marriage book opposites do attract (apparently sometimes inside of the same person as in my case). Maybe that’s why I’ve always felt that Dave was the yang to my yin and that we complement one another so well.
Actually, the same friend who recommended Personality Plus looked at our scores and said that Christ is a perfect blend of all four temperaments and that Dave and I together look a lot like Christ. Yippee! So what if Dave’s got all the strengths and I’m a heap of weaknesses – the reluctant optimist, the person who likes people but also needs alone time like she needs air, the woman who wants to lower her standards but feels like a failure when she does? Together we rock! There’s a reason God didn’t want man – especially the split personality kind of person like me – to be alone. I need someone to center me.
Clearly, this entire post is evidence of my temperament. I can’t stop yaking or overanalyzing my results. (This isn’t something new as this old post from last year about my Meyers-Briggs results reveals. Read it if you want to feel better about yourself seeing how messed up I am.)
In all seriousness, I found that knowing Dave and my temperament and subsequently reading The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse can only help your marriage. As the Bennetts point out, people typically marry someone with the same big-picture values but with different temperaments. Knowing your own and your spouse’s temperament isn’t meant to box you or your marriage in; it’s meant to give you a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses and how they function in the context of marriage.
I’ve joked about my unique temperament blend, but in all honesty it helped me to understand why I feel and do certain things such as why I sometimes set too high of standards for myself, my husband, and my children (it’s that melancholic girl in me).
Finally, as someone who is in a mixed marriage, I’ve often wondered why Dave can be so peaceful and at ease with life and not appear to need (at this time anyway) the Sacraments like I do. Knowing that a large part of his inner peace is innate and God-given has helped me to realize that how we react to life is not always a clear indication of the depths of our faith. God gives us different temperaments, and he doesn’t ever ask us to reinvent ourselves. He only desires that we work on being the best version of ourselves and love others who may approach life differently than us.
I hope to read The Temperament God Gave You in the near future and recommend their most recent book. You can purchase both books at The Catholic Company.