“It is risky”; “It is going to be fun”: Your Spouse is Psychologically Different – Understanding temperament in marital unions

It is not a cliché that the two individuals who make up a couple are different; people are psychologically different. Due to biological make up, people exhibit different dispositions towards events and issues which directly or indirectly affect others around them.  Temperamental issues, if not managed well in a spousal relationship, can birth frustration, bitterness, resentment and discord. Based on the different mental responses to external factors that people exhibit, psychologists have identified four basic temperament types, which include sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic and melancholy. While it is possible for an individual to exhibit the qualities of these four temperaments, the qualities of two of the temperaments are inequivalently noticeable; hence, people’s temperaments are described in terms of the combination of two, and the more prominent one is referred to as the primary temperament. There are three levels of intensity: classic, moderate and mild. Further, the features of the secondary temperament may impact on the primary temperament. Each temperament has its own advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes, temperamental differences may be likened to two individuals standing at different points to view an object. They will see different features of the object; and neither will be said to be wrong.

Temperaments are innate in persons and cannot be changed for another. However, it is not impossible to perfect the good elements and overcome the undesirable aspects of one’s temperament. Studies have shown that there is a connection between temperament and family issues. With efforts, temperamental issues can be managed. It is important to be familiar with the manifestations of each of the temperaments for us to have the knowledge of   how our personalities affect those around us, and why our spouses behave the way they do.

  1. Sanguine: A Sanguine is naturally lively, optimistic, playful, expressive, fun-loving, attention-seeking, persuasive, adventurous, sociable, entertaining, easily amused, enthusiastic, affectionate, receptive, trusting, approachable, generous, sincere and carefree. With these attributes, a sanguine often gives life to events and parties and is described as the people’s person.

Conversely, a sanguine has the tendencies to be impulsive, disorganized and forgetful. He/she also has the tendency to abandon projects as his/her attention span is short. He/she is prone to expressing quick, strong but short-lived emotions. Some people consider them garrulous and may be lumbered by their seemingly interminable talks. He/she appears unserious with his/her work. Also, because a sanguine trusts easily, he/she has the tendencies to be naïve and entrust people with his/her work.

While the company of a sanguine may be enjoyed for his/her sense of humour and entertaining quality, the spouse of a sanguine may occasionally be frustrated by his/her partner’s forgetfulness, lack of focus/concentration on a task and “live-in-the-present” attitude. It may also be challenging for spouses of sanguines to deal with their ever-changing and intense moods. 

  • Choleric: This temperament is characterised by the predominance of testosterone which explains why it is often rare among women. A choleric is active, focused, result-oriented, self-confident, self-reliant, strong-willed, decisive, visionary, quick-thinking, bold and positive. He/she is ever full of ideas. He/she rarely succumbs to pressure as he/she wants to control, change and overcome everything. He/she is tagged an agent of change for his/her ability to mobilize and coordinate people to perform specific tasks. A choleric likes the company of supportive and cooperative people. With these qualities, cholerics often tend towards leadership roles and can hardly be comfortable with subordinate positions. 

On the other hand, a choleric is easily annoyed, impatient, tactless (especially in communication), domineering, opinionated, aggressive, may be unsympathetic. He/she is easily prone to making decisions not only for him/herself but for others.

A choleric’s perceived pride, incessant anger, lack of compassion, domineering and unsympathetic spirit, ever-demanding and forceful nature, and tactlessness may constitute problems in marriage.  

  • Phlegmatic: Phlegmatic people are often described as calm and harmonious, whose hallmark seems to be peace. They are peaceful, kind, thoughtful, careful, conforming, submissive, meek, consistent, relaxed, composed, rational, compassionate, reliable, even-tempered and not easily angered.

A phlegmatic may be passive, lazy, stubborn, resistant to change, overly relaxed, indecisive and unenthusiastic.

With a phlegmatic’s caring and tolerant nature, a peaceful ambience is created in marriage. However, his/her perceived laziness may infuriate his/her partner, especially a choleric one who always want things done fast and right. If given the peaceful moments they need, reassured, and genuinely praised, phlegmatics are more likely to be at their best.    

  • Melancholic: A melancholic is compassionate, meticulous, analytical, organized, reserved, quiet, creative, responsive and responsible. He/she enjoys solitude. He/she is a good listener, especially in an interpersonal communication.

Nonetheless, a melancholic is pessimistic; moody; anxious; overly-focused; lacks courage; worries a lot, especially about his/her health. He/she is inclined to magnifying difficulties and prone to depression.

The way melancholics plunge into themselves and find it difficult to get out of the state, the way they take things close to their hearts, the way they accumulate insults and erupt much later with a volcanic annoyance may adversely affect their marriages.

Some temperaments may seem naturally incompatible; nevertheless, any combination can make a great team in marriage if partners learn to respect each other’s styles and negotiate their temperamental incompatibility well.

Temperaments need to be understood and deployed in strengthening marriage and family towards fruitful brightness and cheerfulness. The following tips can be of effective help:

  1. Identify and understand your as well as your spouse’s temperaments: The knowledge of your temperament and your spouse’s and the knowledge of the basic qualities of these temperaments give you a better understanding of your personality and your spouse’s. It helps to correctly appraise your spouse’s behaviour without blindly jumping into conclusions about your spouse’s behaviour. For instance, a fun-seeking, carefree sanguine married to a worrying melancholic will understand that the melancholic is not a killjoy if he/she views things only from the negative point. The knowledge of one’s temperament also helps to improve on one’s personality and make effort to jettison aspects of one’s temperament that negatively affect one’s spouse. For instance, a choleric wife/husband may want to give thoughts to his/her words before spewing them out or become more patient with his/her spouse. In addition, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your spouse’s temperament helps to determine what they are (not) capable of.
  2. Respect your spouses’ differences: Being judgmental of your spouse’s personality breeds discord and resentment. It should be noted that your spouse did not willingly choose his/her temperament. Temperaments are innate. Therefore, being critical of your spouse’ temperament, rather than correcting in love and with patience, will not bring about the desired result.
  3. Negotiate a solution: This requires pragmatically coming up with a resolution in the different areas where spouses pull towards opposing ways. Here, the importance of effective communication for more effective resolution should not be undermined. First, it is important for spouses to communicate their needs, fears, desires and expectations. It is also pertinent for partners to listen to each other empathetically.  

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