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For Your Marriage

Reviews of books pertaining to marriage, dating, family life, children, parenting, and all other things For Your Marriage.

The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse

It is not unusual for a wife and husband to differ greatly in terms of temperament. Perhaps she enjoys arguing a point, while he is a constant peacemaker. Or perhaps he loves social life, but she thinks parties take time away from valuable work.

In “The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse,” Art and Laraine Bennett provide a guide for husbands and wives who recognize how different their temperaments are, but wonder what to do about it.

“The ability to appreciate other people’s temperaments is especially important in marriage, because opposite temperaments tend to attract each other,” the authors comment. They say:

“The most important factor in a happy marriage is not being of like personality. Rather, what seems to make marriages happy is when husband and wife share core values and a commitment to the relationship – to honoring and respecting each other and meeting each other’s needs.”

Art Bennett is a marriage and family therapist; Laraine Bennett is a freelance writer. Their book examines the effects on marriage of the four classic temperaments that help to shape a human personality.

The concept of four basic temperaments “dates back 2,000 years to Hippocrates, the ‘father of medical science,’” the Bennetts explain. While the original “scientific rationale for the temperaments was bad,” the authors consider the concept itself good.

Each person is “born with one of the four as our primary temperament, indicating our natural predisposition to react in certain ways,” say the Bennetts. The four temperaments are the choleric, melancholic, sanguine and phlegmatic.

Briefly, the choleric “is your original ‘type A’ personality: He wants to take charge and get things done.” The phlegmatic “is a peacemaker” who “hates conflict.” Phlegmatics are “steady and stabilizing.” The sanguine “is your classic ‘people person,’” while melancholics are known for introspection, noble purpose and even perfectionism.

The Bennetts tell of a couple they call Ron and Stacy. Ron is “a deeply sensitive melancholic who requires time for silence and reflection”; Stacy is “a lively, talkative sanguine who needs abundant interpersonal interaction.” Only after the couple “were able to understand — and accept — each other’s temperaments” were they “able to avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings, and make their marriage the strong, loving union it had once been,” the Bennetts explain.

Frequently, only after a woman and man marry do they find their spouse’s temperament a source of annoyance. But “the real problem is not so much that we become tired of our spouse’s very different style,” say the Bennetts. Rather, “we begin to worry that what is important to us according to our temperaments … will not be considered important by our spouse” and that, therefore, “our vital emotional needs will not be met.”

What usually happens over time in a healthy marriage, the Bennetts say, “is that both spouses not only appreciate each other’s temperament, but they begin to grow.” For example, “the phlegmatic learns to initiate” or “the choleric learns empathy and patience.”

While opposites attract, a man and woman of the same temperament also sometimes marry. Such couples, say the Bennetts, “bring powerful natural gifts to bear” on their marriage, “but they’re also more likely to trip over obstacles they are blind to.”

Most people “are not purely one temperament, but are rather a combination or blend,” say the authors. Yet one temperament always is primary.

I welcomed the book’s easy-to-consult lists analyzing each temperament — its traits; the weaknesses and strengths it gives rise to; how it is manifested in a person’s decision making or behavior during a conflict; how it influences a person’s needs. Each list recommends positive ways to deal with a spouse by taking temperament into account.

Are you a melancholic married to a choleric? A sanguine married to a sanguine? No matter how temperaments combine for couples, they should garner beneficial insights and recommendations from this book.

About the reviewer 
David Gibson served for more than 37 years on the Catholic News Service editorial staff.

Disclaimer: Book reviews do not imply and are not to be used as official endorsement by the USCCB of the work or those associated with the work. Book reviews are solely intended as a resource regarding publications that might be of interest to For Your Marriage visitors.