The third kind of person to understand is the popular sanguine. Sanguines love life. To them, everything is an opportunity for a party. In fact, they are the life of the party. You can tell a sanguine has entered the room because their mouth is already going. They love to crack jokes and keep the conversation going. They put a smile on everyone’s face. They are driven to this extrovertism because they need approval. They want to be liked and want to please people. Unlike the powerful choleric and perfect melancholy, sanguines are driven by relationship, not getting the task done. To keep you on their good side is the most important thing to them. They aren’t afraid to be the leader, in fact, they make great leaders because they pull everyone in and make it fun to follow.
The popular sanguines are people-people and are infectious. But there is a down side even to these popular people. And that is they are so people-oriented they can be a little scatterbrained. They can’t find their keys, they forget appointments they made, and drop important balls that can offend others (the one thing they don’t want to do). If you are married to a sanguine you know how much fun they make life. But you also know the frustration their fun temperament can bring to organized people.
God has a wonderful sense of humor in that opposites tend to attract. Its a wonderful combo when fun-filled sanguines are paired up with highly organized task-people who can bring structure to the marriage and still laugh along the way. Married to a popular sanguine? Rejoice and have fun.
Another kind of person to understand is the perfectionist melancholy. You know them. They’re emotional and romantic. They have a really high standard for everything, maybe even OCD. Their desk may be a mess of stacks, but they know where everything is and don’t want you to move a thing! They are extremely organized and keep that organization the same. And they rarely make a mistake. They work in stages and never get the whole job done. You do not want to go Christmas shopping with a perfectionist! They can’t make a decision without all the facts and they can never get enough facts. They find the perfect deal at WalMart but are afraid they might get a better deal somewhere else.
They tend to be moody because they raise the bar really high for themselves, and then get bummed out when even they can’t measure up. They can find fault with their own best work. And…they raise that bar just as high for everyone else, so they can become very critical of others.
Perfectionists are great because they usually do things right the first time. But, that’s also their greatest weakness, because no one is perfect. We’re all sinners in a fallen world. If you’re married to a perfectionist, it can be difficult. Like the powerful choleric, the perfect melancholy is more concerned with getting the job done right than in maintaining the relationship. The best way to deal with a perfectionist? Leave them to their own system. To point out a perfectionist’s flaw is to attack their very soul. Because they see themselves as perfect (at least the very best he/she can be). Make suggestions to a melancholy but let them work at their own snail’s pace. Anybody married to one?
Understanding people is essential in building healthy marriages. Many of the problems in marriage are because we married someone who is our opposite. No wonder we can’t figure them out!
If you are married to a choleric person, you’ve married a winner. Cholerics are confident, sure-of-themselves people who aren’t afraid of a challenge. They know where they’re going and will find a way over, under, around or through any obstacle. They are Get-Er-Done people. And they don’t take no for an answer. If you want something done quick and correctly, get a choleric to help you do it. They have a powerful and sometimes domineering personality that makes them really valuable players. They are natural leaders and you can see it early on in childhood. Its the way they are wired to take charge. They tend to be extroverted and more focused on the task at hand than the relationship with others.
And that reveals the down-side of a choleric: they sometimes roll right over others to get the job done. Not cool. In a marriage, which has to function as a partnership, these cholerics, whether they are the wife or the husband, have a very hard time listening to the other side of an issue. They know their way is better, so they bowl others over and hurt feelings result. Cholerics need to back off a bit and listen as well as be heard. And if you’re married to one, ratcheting things up a bit only brings out the worst in the choleric, who will fight to win. How do you deal with your choleric?: “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).
Some years ago I had a young couple come in to see me to ask if I would marry them. The couple did not have the maturity to be married, but her mother and father had kicked her out of the house because she was pregnant. She was an embarrassment to them. So, she moved in with the boyfriend. Now, I know some pastors who would not marry them because they were living together. But, what do we want them to do? I want them to be responsible for that little one. They should settle down, get married, and raise their family. But, her parents just relinquished any responsibility and separated from her, as well as their soon to be new grandchild. How sad.
I did do pre-marital counseling and married the couple because I think that is the responsible thing to do. Her parents blew it because they didn’t understand unconditional love. So, they forced her into the arms of the young father. Its a tough way to learn about life. How much better it had been if those parents had sat down with the couple and coached them through what was ahead. It could have been a positive learning experience for everyone and they could have redeemed this relationship.
I’m reminded of another case where a responsible father sat down with his teenage son and had that straight talk, saying, “OK, now here’s the plan if your girlfriend gets pregnant…” “Dad,” the son replied, “that’s not going to happen.” Dad said, “I hope not, but let’s talk about what would have to happen. First, you’d have to sell that muscle car you’ve got, because with a family you can’t afford that. Then, you’re going to have to quit school and get a job because you’ve got responsibilities…” And Dad painted such a bleak realistic picture for the young man that he promised himself that would never happen! True story. Talk straight with your kids and love them no matter what stupid stunts they pull.
They say people retain 30% of what they hear, 60% of what they see, and 90% of what they do. So, every weekend I use a fill-in-the-blank outline with the key word left out to require people to do something to remember. Filling in blanks is easy, and yet helps connect with the listener. But that can work backwards in marriage.
If I say something half-way to my wife, she is left to fill in the blank. She might fill in the wrong answer and we’re in an argument already. And neither of us understand what the other was really saying because we filled in the wrong word. The other day, for example, I asked my wife about setting a breakfast date with another ministry couple. She said, “I’m not open to any day.” I filled in the blank and thought, how can we do this if she’s not willing to commit a time? But, she meant to say, “Just any day is not open, its got to work with my schedule”. Because she left blanks open, I filled them in incorrectly.
This is a common communication problem in marriages. We say just enough but allow our spouse to fill in blanks that we left open. And that causes strife. Choose your words carefully and remember this rule: If you leave blanks, people will fill them in. Better communication.
My father was old school. He was the bread winner and was in control of all the money. Mom had six children one after the other and was the stay-at-home Mom until my youngest sister was in school. If I needed $2 spending money, I had to find Dad, because Mom never had any spending money. He was the absolute authority in the area of finances. And Mom didn’t fuss about that because she was raised on the farm and they lived off the land.
My wife, on the other hand, was raised in a physician’s home. They had plenty of money but didn’t live like they did. Her father had an office, pharmacy, and nursing staff to manage. He also was a hobby farmer, preacher, pilot, and elected State Representative. If my wife needed $2 spending money she couldn’t find her Dad, and always had to go to her mother. Her Mom was the domestic engineer and wrote the checks and paid the bills.
When Anita and I got married, we had some difficulties. You see, I expected that financial management should be the man’s role in the home. That’s what I learned when I was a child! Anita didn’t see it that way. She thought I should be busy making a living for the family and she should be the one handling the finances of the home. We had unrealistic expectations of each other. We each thought the other didn’t trust us. We finally got it figured out that Anita is just a better bookkeeper than I am, but I am better at making decisions when money is tight than she is. So we learned to work together without feeling threatened by the other. Money problems like these cause a lot of stress in a marriage. Who is in charge at your home, and is that OK with your spouse?
My grandsons love to fix things. We have a battery operated plastic drill with plastic bits that they run to operate. They fix everything with it from my shoes (still on my feet) to the coffee table. In their pre-2 minds they see themselves as fixers. And when those boys grow up and become men, they again will want to fix things. They’ll work on cars, computers, video games, and Dad’s power tools, trying to figure out how to fix things better.
When those young men meet women, they automatically go into fix-it mode and want to fix all her problems. Its only a matter of time when the girl (or woman) announces that she doesn’t want him to fix it, she just wants him to listen. Guys don’t want to just listen, they want to offer solutions to fix the problem. Why else would she be telling him about the problem she’s having in the first place? Well, women like to think out loud and process the problem with someone who cares about her. The more the guy listens intently, the more he shows he cares. When he kicks into “fix-it” mode, he has stepped into her personal life matters and its not always welcome.
So, I have learned there is a time to ask Anita: “Do you want me to help fix this problem or do you just want me to listen?” And she tells me what what she wants, and I respond, “OK”. If she doesn’t welcome my solutions I just keep my mouth shut or ask a question or two. I do not offer advice because that’s not what she’s needing. A guy just needs to work on his own fix-it projects.