UNDERSTANDING THE MALE TEMPERAMENT
--By Tim LaHaye
Why Opposites Attract Each Other
What could be more opposite than male & female? Yet they still attract each other after thousands of years. Unfortunately, they often fail to realise that their physical differences are only symbolical of the many other differences in their natures, the most significant of which are their temperaments.
A negative is never attracted to another negative, & positives repel each other in any field--electricity, chemistry & particularly temperament. Instead, negatives are attracted to positives & vice versa. I have found that almost universally true of temperaments.
Have you ever wondered what attracts you to other people? It is sometimes the subconscious recognition of & appreciation for their strengths--strengths that complement your own weaknesses. Consciously or otherwise, we all wish we could eradicate our particular set of weaknesses, & we blissfully admire the strengths of others. If given enough association with the person who sparks our attraction, we experience one of two things. Either we discover weaknesses in them similar to our own & are turned off by them, or we discover other strengths we are lacking, which translates admiration into love. If other factors are favourable, it is not uncommon for such couples to marry.
Like temperaments rarely cohere. For instance, a very outgoing person would seldom marry another, for both are such natural extroverts. Those of an angry temperament, on the other hand, make such severe demands on other people that they not only wouldn't marry each other, they probably would never date--at least not more than once. Two melancholy people might marry, but it is very unlikely. Their analytical traits find negative qualities in others, & thus neither would pursue the other. Two slow & stolid people would rarely marry, for they would both die of old age before one got up enough steam to propose.
In the Western World, where couples choose their own partners, you will find that, in general, opposite temperaments attract each other. For a previous book, I surveyed several hundred couples & fed their responses into a computer. Less than 4/10's of 1% indicated that they matched the temperament of their spouses!
Those who tend to be disorganised & undisciplined themselves are apt to admire careful, consistent & detail-conscious people. The latter, in turn, favor outgoing, uninhibited individuals who compensate for the introvert's rigidity & aloofness. The hard-driving person is often attracted to the peaceful, unexcited one, who in turn admires dynamic drive.
After the honeymoon, the problems from this kind of selection begin to surface. Sparky Sanguine is not just warm, friendly & uninhibited--but often forgetful, disorganised & very undependable. Besides, he gets quite irate if his ladylove, Mary Melancholy, asks him to pick up his clothes, put away his tools, or come home on time. Somehow Rocky Choleric's before-marriage "dynamic personality" turns into anger, cruelty, sarcasm & bullheadedness after marriage. Martin Melancholy's gentleness & well-structured life-style becomes nitpicky & impossible to please after marriage. Philip Phlegmatic's cool, calm & peaceful ways often seem lazy, unmotivated & stubborn afterwards.
Eight Steps to Adjusting to a Partner's Temperament
1. Admit to yourself, "I'm not perfect." It isn't enough just to say the words, "I'm not perfect". You must really admit it to yourself. Once you realistically acknowledge that you bring weaknesses into this relationship which your partner must learn to live with, it will be easier to allow him the same human frailty.
2. Accept the fact that your partner has weaknesses. All human beings reflect both strengths & weaknesses. It cannot be otherwise until the resurrection. The sooner you face the fact that anyone you marry will have weaknesses to which you must adjust, the sooner you can get down to the business of adjusting to your partner. Resist all mental fantasies of "If only I had married _____!" or "If only I had married another temperament." That is not a live option, so why not accept your partner's weaknesses?
3. Concentrate on & appreciate your partner's strengths. Your partner does have strengths. That's what attracted you to him or her in the first place. So your problem now is twofold: (1) disillusionment at the discovery of weaknesses you didn't realise existed; & (2) an inordinate concentration on them. Individuals regularly come in for counselling with all manner of complaints about their partners. When I ignore what they have said & ask, "Is there anything about your partner you do like?" they invariably reply affirmatively & soon list a few for me. I write these on a card until we total eight or ten, then show the person 1 Thessalonians 5:18: "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." Every morning the individuals are asked to review the lists point by point & thank God for each item. This not only cancels their obsession for dwelling on a partner's weaknesses but helps them be grateful for their strengths.
One man to whom I gave this prescription for his "lack of love" for his wife reported that in three weeks he was "madly in love" with her again.
Until a person turns on the spigot of gratefulness & gives thanks "in every thing," he will live in misery. You will never find a happy griper or a person who loves his partner after complaining about her all the time! Thanksgiving is the key to acceptance, love & happiness.
4. Pray for your partner's weaknesses. God is able to provide the strengths your partner needs for the improvement, but it will never happen if you are on his or her back all the time.
5. Apologise when you are wrong. EVERYONE makes mistakes! Fortunately, you don't have to be perfect to be a good person or partner.
If in anger you have offended your partner in word or in deed, you need to apologise. God in His grace has given us the example & the means for repairing mistakes & offenses. An apology reaches into another's heart & mind to remove the root of bitterness that otherwise would fester & grow until it choked your relationship. That is why the Bible teaches: "Confess your faults one to another..." (James 5:16).
6. Verbalise your love. Everyone needs love & will greatly profit from hearing it verbalised frequently. This is particularly true of women, whatever their temperament. I once counseled a brilliant engineer, a father of five, whose wife left him for another man whose salary was one-third of her husband's. After a bit of probing, I learned that he had not uttered his love for ten years. Why? He didn't think it was necessary. Verbalising love is not only a necessity for holding a couple together, but an enrichment of their relationship. We men have to work at loving, but it's worth it.
7. Accept your partner's temperament & work with it. Whatever your partner's temperament, bear in mind that you made the choice. A man once gave me a card which read: "Never criticise your wife; it's a reflection on your judgment." As long as you remain critical of your partner, you will experience conflict. A woman reported recently, "My husband & I irritate each other." Why? Because neither would let the other be himself.
It is absolutely imperative that both spouses learn how to approach each other in the light of their respective temperaments. Hopefully, not all couples are as different as my wife & I. No matter what needs to be done, we can always expect to fix upon different ways of doing it. If we're taking a trip, Bev thinks we should take the northern route & I opt for the southern. She drives "too slow" by my standards & I drive "too fast" by hers. Incidentally, we solved that by establishing a firm rule: "He that has the steering wheel makes the decision--the other keeps quiet." We don't even shop alike. Bev buys just what we need; I hate to waste my time going to the store without filing up the cart. It used to irritate her that I always brought home far more than the grocery list; now she knows that it's the price of not doing the shopping herself.
8. Expect God to improve your partner. Every growing person matures. Because we all begin insecure & apprehensive, we are often overly defensive. As Christians, the Holy Spirit is continually working on us in an attempt to mature us into that person He wants us to be. Your marriage partner today is not exactly the same person he or she will be in a few years, so you can afford to be patient.
Anger & Fear Stifle Communication
Sweethearts rarely have trouble communicating before marriage. In fact, they can talk on the phone by the hour. But to destroy that relationship it only takes the angry action of one to set up a fear reaction in the other. Oh, they usually make up & renew their tenderness & communication, but the damage is done. Each has seen the other in his "true light". Consequently, the spirit of free communication will be inhibited. The anger of one builds a formidable block in the wall that obstructs communication. The self-protection reaction of fear keeps the other from expressing himself freely, & thus another block is added to the wall. Gradually, such outbursts & reactions build an impenetrable wall until the former lovebirds are not really communicating at all, apprehensive that the anger of one will be ignited or the fear of the other will cause added pain. Tears, silence & pent-up feelings all play their part, & before long they need counseling because "we can't communicate any more." Lack of communication is not the problem. Anger & fear are the culprits!
Pressure Doesn't Make Your Spirit!
Pressure does not make your spirit--it merely reveals it. What a man is, under pressure, is what he is! If you explode under pressure, you are admitting that underneath a carefully constructed facade you are an angry person. Some people have more tolerance & can take more pressure than others, of course, but if you are an angry individual, your weakness will show up sooner or later by the way you act, react or think. And we all know that the home is potentially the World's greatest pressure cooker.
One hostile husband told me, "Well, I have to find someplace where I can be myself." Yes, he did, & that was his problem--himself. A person at home always reveals his true nature. We can put up a front outside the home, but under the pressures of family living, the real individual manifests himself. I have found only one remedy. Let God change the real you so that your hours at home can be pleasant & those who love you most will not be threatened.
Anger & Masculinity
Men seem to have the strange idea that anger is a justifiable masculine trait. "Every man gets angry," they exclaim. Some would insist that a man who doesn't have an anger problem isn't a real man. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Man's natural tendency toward anger has probably started more wars, created more conflict, & ruined more homes than any other universal trait.
An angry person makes poor decisions, wounds those he loves with his tongue, overreacts, disciplines too severely, & continually does things that calm thought would not otherwise permit.
Bob Hutchines, former judo champion for Southern California & now a missionary in Mexico, told me, "I was just an above-average judo performer until I learned how to make my opponent angry. Then I could use his force against him. That's how I won the championship." Millions of men, like Bob's opponents, fall into the thinking trap that you are not a man unless you get angry. In truth, anything you attempt when angry can be better accomplished in full control of your faculties. That is particularly true of family living in relation to both wife & children. The most common complaint of the fearful wife concerns her husband's angry methods of disciplining the children.
Discipline, particularly spanking, administered in anger is almost always wrong. Even though the child deserves the punishment, if it is meted out in anger, the child tends to read the spirit of the parent & consider the spanking unjust. The parent would accomplish much more by waiting a few minutes to gain emotional control & then administer the punishment. In that way, the child receives the full benefit of its corrective instruction because he has no one else upon whom he can transfer the blame.
In all probability, more sons have been alienated from their fathers because of Dad's anger than anything else. And the tragic part of it is that the son will probably treat his son the same way. Angry fathers produce angry children.
Anger not only destroys homelife but ruins the health. The book "None of These Diseases" lists fifty-one illnesses that can be caused by tension produced by anger or fear--high blood pressure, heart attack, colitis, arthritis, kidney stones, gall-bladder troubles & many others. For years I have quoted Dr. Henry Brandt, who says, "Approximately 97% of the cases of bleeding ulcers without organic origin I have dealt with are caused by anger." At a seminar in Columbus, Ohio, a medical doctor identified himself as an "ulcer specialist" & reported, "I would take issue with Dr. Brandt--it's more like a hundred percent!" At the same seminar a young doctor who identified himself as an internist informed me, "Yesterday afternoon I treated five patients with serious internal complications. As you were talking, I made a mental note that all five were angry people."
Doctors have warned us for years that emotionally induced illness accounts for 60-85 percent of all sicknesses today. What they mean is that tension causes illness. Anger, fear & guilt are the primary causes of tension, so they are clearly the major culprits in poor health.
The Subtle Problems of Bitterness & Resentment
A woman once commented, "I never get angry; I just become bitter." Many others would admit the same about resentment. Let's understand something very clearly--the Bible condemns all human bitterness, resentment & indignation. They are just subtle forms of anger.
At a seminar over seven years ago, Bill Gothard made a statement to the effect that every couple he counseled for marital disharmony had either married without the approval of their parents or had developed a conflict with one or both parents that eventually created conflicts within the couple's relationship. When the person who had attended the conference shared that thought, I remember considering it a bit extreme. Since then, however, the Christian counselor on our church staff, Pastor Gene Huntsman, & I make this question concerning the couple's relationship to their parents a standard inquiry, & without exception we have found Mr. Gothard's formula to be correct. People who harbour bitterness & resentment toward a parent, brother, sister or boss are bound to let it spill over & injure their relationship with others. Resentment & bitterness preserved in the recesses of the mind is like cancer; it grows until it consumes the whole person. That is why people who cannot forget an unfortunate childhood, rejection by others or injury are invariably miserable people.
Bitterness indulged for those you hate will destroy your love for those most precious to you.
Husbands--Test Your Love
Many husbands protest, "But I do love my wife!" When I hear the wife's version, it often goes, "He sure has a funny way of showing it." Women universally think that love ought to be demonstrated. And they are right! Love is an emotion that motivates to action. I would challenge you husbands--on the basis of how you have treated your wife during the last two weeks--to test your love against the Bible's nine characteristics of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Score yourself 0 to 11 on each of the following nine traits. Try to remain objective.
Add up your total & throw in one free point to reach a potential 100. How did you do? If you scored 90 or over you are doing fine--keep it up. If 80-89, you need to work consciously on being more loving. A score of 70-79 signals that you are in trouble & your relationship is gradually deteriorating. At 60-69, your wife is unhappy & so are you.
A husband's love for his wife is a genuine reflection of his spiritual relationship to God. The Bible says, "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love"--1Jn.4:8. It also warns, "...he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God Whom he hath not seen?"--1Jn.4:20. We could legitimately modify that question & ask, "If a man doesn't love the wife he can see, how can he love God Whom he has not seen?" The Bible very clearly affirms that our love for God, which He pours into our hearts by His Holy Spirit, will flow out to others. The man who professes to be a good Christian but doesn't love his wife is kidding himself!
Of the nine characteristics of love listed previously, the one that most charms & warms a woman's heart is kindness. I have observed a very ordinary man with little of this World's goods enjoy the love of a woman because he was kind to her. In many cases, that is all he had to give, but it was sufficient. A woman seems to respond faster to kindness than to any other gesture from the heart. In fact, I have never known a woman to leave a husband who was kind to her. By contrast, I have seen a woman leave a man who heaped furs, diamonds, & cars upon her but failed in the one gift a woman seeks most--love expressed by kindness.
What is kindness? It is an unselfish spirit of thoughtful consideration, administering to another's needs & desires. Loving-kindness prompts a man to make the bed or do the dishes just to help out or because his wife is tired or busy. It inspires a man to bring home flowers for no special reason, take his wife to dinner apart from special occasions, or change the baby before she asks. Each special gift loudly proclaims, "I love you, honey, & I'm sure glad you married me." Loving-kindness looks for an opportunity to bring pleasure into another's life. A husband who is kind to his mate will never lack for love.