Temperament And How It Can Help Your Marriage Flourish

Temperament And How It Can Help Your Marriage Flourish January 30, 2024

Temperament is part of who we are as people. Getting to know your own and your spouse’s temperament gives you tools to manage your marriage better and grow in your relationship.

“What are you thinking about?” “Nothing.” How is that even possible? If you get a chance, and you want to gain a greater understanding of the differences between men and women, check out the video “A Tale of Two Brains.” A comedian speaking to couples explains the difference between the way the male brain and the female brain works. It is humorous and there is much truth to it. However, it is also helpful to look at the difference in temperaments. When we understand our own temperament and the temperaments of those around us, we have a better chance at getting along and understanding each other.

A temperament “is defined as the pattern of inclinations and reactions that proceed from the physiological constitution of an individual.” (Art & Laraine Bennett, The Temperament God Gave You, p. 8) Psychology from the Middle Ages led to the study of temperaments. Originally, the different temperaments were thought to be linked to various fluids of the body. We don’t see it quite the same way any more, but do pick up on patterns in human behavior that help to explain a lot.

To simplify things, we can look at four basic patterns of behavior. These are called choleric, sanguine, melancholic and phlegmatic. There are three basic components that help us characterize the patterns of behavior according to one of these four categories.

Extravert or introvert

The terms of “extravert” and “introvert” have become much more popular over the past few decades. Perhaps with so many businesses investing in personality tests and team-building workshops, people feel more comfortable with some of the language.

Extraverts tend to talk more, be focused on what is going on around them, make big gestures. Extraverts often feel energized by being in a group situation socially.

Introverts need time to process information. They are often more self-aware and internally focused. This can give the impression that they are reserved. Introverts often feel drained after being in a social situation.

Primary or secondary

Primary and secondary are less known terms, but can be very helpful for understanding others’ behavior and even our own behavior.

The person with a primary sort of reaction reacts quickly, viscerally. There may be a lot of passion in the reaction.

A secondary reaction has taken more time and reflection. Sometimes, it might feel to others like a slow reaction.

Getting to know yourself and your tendency in reaction can be of great help to finding self-control and navigating the exterior world more successfully.

Active and not-active

A third component is how active we tend to be. Some people are pulled towards inaction. They tend to not do very much. This plays with the other components to help determine which pattern of behavior is dominant in this person’s life.

Friendship and Love
Friendship and Love | Courtesy of Pixels

Four temperaments

Choleric temperament

A choleric person is decisive – for better and for worse. For example, a choleric person  enriches others. He digs in enthusiastically to accomplish his goals. This person’s energy and enthusiasm tends to attract other people. A choleric person is a natural leader. One drawback with this personality is that all of that emotion can boil over into negativity and aggression when not channeled correctly. The choleric person tends to be judgmental and opinionated.

Melancholic temperament

A melancholic person focuses on the ideal but might lose sight of the real world sometimes. This person tends to be thoughtful and compassionate with a bent for religion. That focus on the ideal can make these people critical and harsh in their judgment. Melancholics tend to form relationships slowly. However, once they establish a bond, their fidelity stays uncompromised.

Sanguine temperament

If you know someone who is creative, fun-loving, and high-spirited, you probably know someone with the sanguine personality. These people enjoy life and make life brighter through enthusiasm, optimism and a joyful attitude towards life. They tend to be outgoing and communicative. Sanguine people love large groups and lots of activity. They love to be at the center of attention, which can sometimes lead to unruly behavior. There is a risk of a certain superficiality with this temperament, as well as being inconstant.

Phlegmatic temperament

A phlegmatic person keeps to himself in a prudent manner. They think things through. Other people work themselves up. Phlegmatic people stay calm. At the same time, it can frustrate others because they can give off the feeling that they just don’t care. They tend to be punctual and orderly. Often, a choleric needs to work on containing his emotions. Meanwhile, a phlegmatic has to focus in order to be engaged and active.

What to do with this information

It might all seem very theoretical, but it can be helpful. The most important thing is to become more cognizant of how you process information and see what your spouse does. The next time you seem to have a misunderstanding, try to see it through the prism of your different temperaments and see if that sheds any light on the situation.

Above all, use this information to see how each of you can be contributing to improve your situation. You are a team and you have a covenant to love one another “till death does you part.”

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Marriage Series

Parenting Style

Temperament and How It Can Make Your Marriage Flourish

5 Keys to Celebrate Blessings in Your Marriage

God’s Plan for Marriage

Love Builds Security: God’s Plan for Marriage

About Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, LC
Fr. Nicholas Sheehy was ordained a Catholic priest in 2013 for the Legionaries of Christ. He has been involved in youth work including missions, retreats and apostolic outreach in Germany, Italy, the United States and Central America. He is passionate about the New Evangelization and formation for young adults and married couples. He is a spiritual director and retreat director, offering marriage preparation and marriage counseling through the Divine Mercy Clinic and Family Center. He is currently Executive Director and Chaplain of the Newman Center at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Pasadena, California. You can read more about the author here.
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