Temperaments in Marriage

The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse by Art and Laraine Bennett is a follow up to the book The Temperament God Gave You. I had not read the latter, and was concerned that I wouldn’t quite “get” the temperaments as they are defined in the books: choleric, sanguine, melancholic and phlegmatic. There is an overview at the beginning of the Spouse book which, I think, adequately identifies the temperaments – enough to make some sense of the book itself. There is also this quiz which is more in depth and might help those who have characteristics bridging more than one temperament.

With the difficult and often frustrating task of “getting along with others” it is helpful to have some guidance in how to communicate with those who don’t think quite the way we do. And when that someone is our spouse – someone with whom we have to deal on a constant basis – lack of understanding can lead to hurt feelings which, over time, can seriously damage a relationship.

The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse explains that your soul mate isn’t really trying to drive you nuts; he or she just is the way he is. The first part of the book describes each temperament in the role of spouse (and parent). In the second part, the book explains the best ways for a spouse to communicate with each temperament as well as offers tips for that temperament in dealing with others. It then goes on to describe the dynamics of each marriage, whether one marries someone of a like temperament or if one is in a “mixed” marriage.

This book is a good resource for ideas on how to improve communication within a marriage. You do not need to have read their first book to understand this book, although I intend to read The Temperament God Gave You for greater insight into each temperament, personalities of mixed temperaments, and how to parent children of different temperaments, which I think would be useful knowledge (anybody have a copy they want to loan me?).

I will say that I am not entirely sold on the whole temperament-as-an exclusive-way-to-classify-people idea. I would certainly hesitate to say something like, “Oh, you’re reacting this way because you’re a (fill in the blank).” Perhaps it is because I am a mixed temperament (choleric-sanguine), and my husband is even more mixed (primarily melancholic-sanguine) that I have trouble saying, “Oh, that is so – us,” to any of the relationships listed. Rather, I saw threads of commonality in most of the temperaments and found the communication techniques described in the book as generally useful for most people most of the time.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find out more about The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse.

6 thoughts on “Temperaments in Marriage

  1. Hi Michelle,
    It is interesting you list your dear hubster as Melancholic-Sanguine. Reading I’ve done (for example Florence Littauer) indicates that there are two combinations which aren’t really ‘true’ combos because they are opposites. This is Melancholic-Sanguine and Phlegmatic-Choleric. She talks about one of them being a mask–usually to deal with childhood difficulties. It might be worth exploring. However, I do agree with you that all of this is just a tool for understanding, not for putting people in a box.

  2. Oh your husband is a freak of nature like me and a marriage of extremes. Someone told me sanguine-melancholics aren’t possible (like Sharilyn’s comment suggests), so I’m glad to see there’s someone else out there with this temperament (other than my dad and me; I forced my parents to take the test, too, to see where my personality came from).

  3. Kate, maybe you and my husband just need counseling!

    Actually, Sharilyn, I don’t think it is a mask as much as an “acquired” temperament. This was my biggest problem with the book. My husband is likely, primarily, a meancholic and I am likely, primarily, a choleric. But, as this book points out, a choleric wife and a non-choleric husband have problems about who wears the pants in the family.

    I have, over a long time, sought to suppress my choleric (bossy) tendencies while my husband has attempted to develop them. In addition, we have both wanted to be a fun house where our children’s friends would want to hang out. So we have worked on being sanguine. And even the characteristics of the phlegmatic…well, the meek shall inherit the earth. There are many virtues, especially self-sacrificing ones, which would fall under that category.

    If you act a certain way for a long time, it gets easier and more natural. I reject the notion that a born melancholic can’t learn to enjoy spontaneous trips for ice cream or that a sanguine can’t ever be serious about serious subjects.

    This is why I’d like to read the first book and learn more about combinations. I also think the first book would be more helpful with children who have not spent decades trying to be less self-centered or working to overcome the desire to live in a hermitage.

  4. Michelle,

    I read the first book in fact I’ll email you and you’re welcome to borrow it for the summer or maybe we can trade. It discusses how as you grow older/grow in virtue that the temperments might blend more which sounds like what you’re talking about with your combination of temperments. It’s been awhile since I did the tests but I was shocked by the fact that my husband was a choleric even after 20 yrs of marriage (His secondary is melancholic which I had seen more) I can’t remember if it was part of the book suggestions but we did the test for each other and my husband’s answers for me flipped my primary and secondary (Sanquine-Phlegmatic) I think because he sees me as a responsible mom/wife/daughter more. The book really helped me understand my one child who as a strong Melencholic doesn’t want to talk things out she really needs some peace and quiet to process things.

  5. I read the first book but not the second (yet) but I have it here, waiting for me….the first book was EXCELLENT and really helped me understand my daughter–whose personality is very different from mine (melancholic-choleric).

  6. Yes, that’s my exact assessment of the whole “temperament” issue.

    To me, analysis of the temperaments always just seemed like “Catholic personality tests”. I haven’t seen anything to disprove my theory, so far.

    How could it possibly HELP anything to explore all aspects of these theories of personalities? “So, I found out I was an “a” but my husband sees me as more like a “b” but my sister has always thought that I was a “c” so I must have been suppressing my more “b” nature because my mom is a “b” and my dad is a “b-c” oh geee. I’m so much more enlightened now!

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