Temperament 101: James and Elizabeth (part 1)

You’ve probably heard about temperament somewhere.

Maybe you’ve taken one of the free online tests that tells you if you’re melancholy, sanguine, choleric, or phlegmatic. Or maybe the test you took used animals, such as beaver, otter, lion, or golden retriever. So how does this thing I do differ from those tests, and how can it help you? What is temperament anyway?

Although free tests share some basic principles with the test I use, they aren’t nearly as in depth. For one, there are 5 temperaments, not 4. So if you are a supine, other tests will totally miss you. There are also 3 areas of temperament: inclusion, control, and affection. And it’s possible to be a different temperament, or a blend of 2 temperaments, in each area.

One dimensional tests don’t even come close to measuring who God created you to be.

So let’s look at some typical test results and see how we use the information to solve a marriage issue.

James and Elizabeth

James and Elizabeth are both in their mid thirties. They’ve been married 10 years and they have three children ages 8, 6, and 3. James is a salesman. He’s successful in his job and makes a comfortable salary. Elizabeth was a receptionist at a law firm, but she left that job after the birth of their first child and is a stay at home mom. They are both born again Christians and are active in their church. Their children are homeschooled.

James and Elizabeth are seeking counseling because of increasing tension in their marriage. Elizabeth says that James ignores her and the children, and that she feels like a single mom. He takes no responsibility for running the household. James states that Elizabeth is “always on him” and rarely gives him a moment’s peace. He’s pretty sure she spends all day on Facebook, because the house is never clean when he gets home. He will admit that the children seem happy and well cared for. They struggle in their physical relationship and have not been intimate in months.

The results of their temperament tests are:

Elizabeth – Sanguine in inclusion, Choleric in control, Sanguine/Phlegmatic in affection
James – Melancholy in inclusion, Supine in control, Melancholy in affection

Obviously, James and Elizabeth don’t share any common temperament traits. How do they make their marriage work?

Is it even possible? Absolutely.

Marriages between opposites can be amazingly strong and fulfilling — as long as they resist the urge to kill each other! Each partner brings different strengths to the relationship. When they learn to work together instead of fighting each other, the results are incredible.

The first step for James and Elizabeth is to understand that God wired them differently. No temperament is better or worse than any other. It’s simply a matter of what God chose to do when he designed you. Every temperament has strengths, challenges, and needs. The goal is to maximize your strengths, minimize your challenges, and meet your needs in ways that are acceptable to God and to the people around you.

Step 1: James’s and Elizabeth’s inclusion temperaments.

The area of inclusion covers casual social interactions. These are not close relationships, but coworkers, people at church, store clerks, the mailman. These are the people who walk in and out of your life every day. Inclusion tells us how many people you approach for socialization, and how many people you want to approach you. It also determines your intellectual abilities, creativity, and whether you relate better to tasks or people.

James is melancholy in inclusion. Melancholics are deep thinkers

Although most people think of melancholics as loners, I really don’t like that designation. Many melancholics are actually very outgoing. The key is that melancholics are not energized by being with people. They need to be able to choose when and where to socialize, and they need time alone every day to recharge.

As is common with melancholics in inclusion, James is a deep thinker who spends a lot of time in his head. He is artistic and a good writer, and he relates better to tasks than to people. He likes order and quiet, and tends to approach relationships as another thing on his to-do list.

Elizabeth is sanguine in inclusion.

Sanguines are extremely people oriented and are energized by being with others. They are talkative and outgoing and always looking for fun. They crave attention. They are warm, loving, and popular with their friends.

Sanguines are also creative, although they have trouble following through with a project. They are not task oriented and will often abandon chores in favor of doing something fun. Elizabeth typifies this … she has multiple projects in various stages of completion, and her house is often in disarray.

You can already see the problems, right?

And although we eventually want to turn this around to working with the strengths they each bring to the marriage, we first have to solve the immediate issues.

The first glaring issue is the fact that James is probably in the wrong career. He’s a salesman. A job that requires a high degree of social interaction is a poor fit for a melancholy in inclusion. James is great at it … he comes across as friendly and outgoing, almost always makes the sale, and earns top commissions. But at the end of the day, he is done. He has no desire to even see, much less interact with, another human being for the rest of the night. Trouble is, he’s going home to a wife and 3 kids.

In the meantime, social Elizabeth has been home all day with those 3 kids, and she’s climbing the walls. She is craving conversation with someone over the age of 10. She wants to go to a restaurant, to the mall, anyplace where there are people. She desperately needs her husband’s attention.

So what happens?

James walks into the kitchen, gives a quick hug to the kids and a perfunctory kiss on the cheek to his wife, and disappears into his man cave. Elizabeth knows from experience that he won’t be out until it’s time for the kids to go to bed. She is hurt, disappointed, and angry.

So what’s really going on here, and what can they do about it?

More next time …