When we last left James and Elizabeth…
he had disappeared into his man cave and she was seething in the kitchen. Elizabeth feels like James doesn’t love her anymore and has no desire to spend time with her or their children. Their opposite temperament need is getting in the way.
But what’s really going on here is simple. After interacting with people all day, melancholy James is spent. He desperately needs time alone to recharge. He’s not aware of that about himself and doesn’t make the connection to his job. All he knows is that he simply can’t deal with the fact that Elizabeth never. Stops. Talking. Neither do the kids.
James is meeting a legitimate temperament need at the expense of his wife and children.
In the meantime, Elizabeth feeds the kids dinner and then grabs her coat. Yelling to her husband that it’s his turn to take care of his children, she heads for the mall. She walks around looking at things, orders a coffee, and people watches until the mall closes. She might buy something just to make herself feel better.
Elizabeth is meeting a legitimate temperament need at the expense of her husband and children.
So how do they resolve this?
Again, the first step is understanding. Once Elizabeth read through James’s temperament profile, she began to realize that he really wasn’t trying to avoid her. He simply had an honest, legitimate need to be alone after being with people all day long.
Likewise, James began to understand that Elizabeth really needed social interaction. She was talkative and outgoing because that’s how God had created her, and she honestly wasn’t trying to drive him crazy.
When spouses have opposite needs, a little compromise is in order.
James and Elizabeth both wanted their marriage to work, so they began to explore ways to meet each of their needs while still honoring God and each other. As a first step, Elizabeth agreed to give James 30 minutes after work to decompress. She would keep the kids out of his space and wouldn’t try to have a conversation with him. After the 30 minutes was up, he was expected to come out and interact with his family.
The scheduled down time helped.
Knowing he wouldn’t be interrupted, James was able to fully relax during that 30 minutes. Now that Elizabeth understood his need, he wouldn’t be leaving his sanctuary to face an angry wife. The tension level in the home dropped dramatically from this one change.
However, Elizabeth still needed social interaction.
James agreed to go out twice a week, on scheduled days, to the mall or some other place of Elizabeth’s choosing. After trying it a few times, they realized that James started getting anxious and restless as the evening wore on, so they agreed to start wrapping it up after 2 hours.
Elizabeth also realized that James wasn’t capable of socializing as much as she needed to, especially in light of his job. She began to explore acceptable ways of meeting her need for social interaction without forcing her husband to participate. With his blessing, she joined a women’s group at church that met once a week in the evening. She also began to use Facebook a little more (contrary to James’s assumption, she rarely got on social media) to keep in touch with family and friends.
They began to enjoy each other
Once Elizabeth didn’t feel as if she had to fight for what she needed, she found herself enjoying James’s company again. She didn’t mind quiet nights at home, and began to look forward to the evenings when they would put the kids to bed and pop in a movie. Now that she had an outlet for some of her conversation, her talkativeness didn’t bother James as much and he enjoyed spending time with her again.
When a church event came up that Elizabeth really wanted to attend, James agreed to go. They drove separate cars, so Elizabeth was free to stay as long as she liked and James could head home when he hit his limit. They decided how they’d answer the inevitable questions ahead of time so Elizabeth wouldn’t feel defensive.
Most importantly, they both learned to talk about what they needed.
Understanding how God wired them erased the feelings of anger and rejection, and they were able to work together instead of fighting each other.
Obviously, this is one issue. James and Elizabeth have a few other problems related to the differences in their control and affection temperaments, but the success they had in resolving this issue motivated them to work on the others. It’s taking effort from both of them, and it’s not happening overnight, but they are well on their way to having a strong, healthy marriage.
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When you know yourself, you can love better.