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 Vol. 4, No. 5 

May, 2002

Priscilla's Page *Editor's Note*

~ Page 16 ~

Should Opposites Attract?

By Rebecca Rushmore

Image Previous articles on this site discussed four personality types and how they relate to us as Christians. A recent question was raised about how these affect the marriage relationship. Which personalities get along the best and which clash the most?

Of all the relationships we have here on earth, marriage is probably the most important. A good relationship between a husband and a wife makes for a happy home. A marriage shadowed by bitterness, fighting and other unpleasantness leaves its scars on not only the couple, but also their children and others around them. Good marriages are not just accidents. They are the result of hard work and understanding.

In general, marriages between two people with the same personality type have the potential to clash. Also, anyone married to a sanguine or choleric is in for a challenge. This is mainly due to the tendencies of these two types to require excessive attention and control, respectively. Frequently, opposites do attract. Sanguine individuals tend to marry melancholy ones and cholerics favor phlegmatics. Such situations are not always the case but do appear to be common. In no way can one combination be considered better than another any more than one personality type can be considered better than another. Each situation will have its strengths and weaknesses.

If two people are to enjoy a happy marriage, each must understand his mate's personality. Each personality type has unique needs and reacts to situations in a different way. Consider, first, the sanguine. Here is an outgoing person that loves to be the center of attention. He typically is an unorganized person. What problems could this create in a marriage if he weds a melancholy -- a quiet person who wants everything in order? A phlegmatic mate could also present some problems. This mate is even quieter than the melancholy and does not like to be involved in anything. A choleric mate would need to be in control and therefore take the attention from the sanguine to himself. Can you see the problems that might arise? How could some of these potential clashes be avoided?

What might the mate of a sanguine do to promote peace in the home? First, realize that there is nothing wrong with being cheerful and optimistic. Solomon recorded in Proverbs 17:22 "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones." It is good for all around if a person is happy instead of sad and depressed. Next, acknowledge that they need lots of attention. Everyone likes to feel that he is important, but the sanguine feels important when he is center stage. Third, accept the fact your sanguine mate will never be a neat, organized individual. Though he may try for short periods to be neat and tidy, it is not in his nature. Eventually, he will revert to his sloppy habits. This does not mean he cannot become neater; if he really wants to, he can. However, do not expect him to become a perfectionist.

A choleric mate always needs to be in control. If this is the man, that is good. He will lead the household by making decisions and guiding it the best he can. However, if the wife is choleric, problems could arise. One problem comes from not accepting God's commands. Paul writes:

"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body" (Ephesians 5:22-23)

Just as Christ is the master of the marriage between himself and the church, his bride, the wife in an earthly marriage must let her husband have the authority. The husband, whether he is a choleric who likes control or not, must assume this role if he is to be pleasing to God. With the Bible as a guide, this matter of authority in the home makes for better understanding between mates.

Another conflict that can arise with a choleric mate surrounds his love for controversy. Many times a choleric individual will argue just to argue. Knowing this, a wise spouse can learn to carefully pick the arguments in which he will participate. For peace, the choleric should learn to control his argumentative nature. Knowing that a choleric mate is by nature very stubborn can also help avoid hurt feelings and conflict in the home.

Melancholy individuals are hard to please. Sometimes the mate of such a person may feel rejected and that he is unable to do anything right. This leads to depression and resentment that can destroy a marriage. The spouse of a melancholy should understand that his mate, by nature, sets high standards for himself and those around him. Failing to meet those standards is not a sign of weakness or unworthiness. The perfectionist tendencies of the melancholy tend to irritate those around him. He deeply wants and needs things to be in perfect order for his peace of mind. A spouse who knows this can help the marriage by doing his best not to be a slob and keeping things as orderly as possible.

Since this individual sets such high standards, he is very critical of those who do not meet them. Depression is frequent, usually because he himself cannot meet the standards and because no matter how hard he tries, he cannot get everything in perfect order. If your mate is like this, work with him to set more reasonable standards and do not take his frequent criticism to heart.

The last personality type is the phlegmatic. This individual is unlikely to volunteer for anything. He will not want to socialize except with a few close friends. A mate who loves to go to social gatherings may feel closed off from others. Remember that the phlegmatic leans toward indecisiveness. When appropriate, make some decisions for him and you may learn that given time, he would have made the same decision. A man of this personality is the least likely to accept his God-given role of leading the home. If his mate takes the role, he will gladly let her. However, this is not God's plan. The godly wife, no matter what her natural inclinations, should insist her phlegmatic husband accept his responsibility in the home.

In a marriage consisting of any combination of personality types, good communication and reliance on the Bible are keys. When situations arise, sit down with your mate and let him know what troubles you; he cannot read your mind. Find out what your mate needs and try your best to meet those needs. If he is a sanguine, he needs attention and approval. The choleric spouse needs achievement and appreciation. A melancholy individual needs order and sensitivity. Respect and self-worth are necessary for the phlegmatic. Also, realize your own faults and how they affect your mate. Sometimes compromises may need to be arranged so that the needs of each can be met. Don't expect your spouse to do all the changing needed to make the marriage work.

God left us with some guidelines for a happy marriage. Read Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Peter 3:1-7. Mutual love and respect characterize a happy marriage. A marriage between a husband and a wife is similar to the relationship between Christ and the church. Neither should be full of unhappiness and strife. Also keep in mind that divorce is not an option in God's eyes. Do all that you can to ensure problems in your marriage will not keep you out of heaven.

Knowledge of the four personality types is not a cure-all for marriage. It is a tool to understanding your spouse and the reasons he acts the way he does. We discussed in this article mainly the faults and how to deal with them. Remember, you did not marry a person for his faults, but for his strengths. Enjoy the strengths, work with the faults and above all, keep God at the center of the marriage.

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