My wife Nancy Gillespie and I have had the privilege of speaking at several of the Love Never Fails (now known as Love’s Sacred Embrace) retreats at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on the subject of Temperament. Nancy conducts a fun exercise based upon Myers-Briggs preference theory that gets people thinking about how they and their spouses are similar and different. I then follow up with a rambling, disjointed rant that touches on temperament, offers some insight into our 37 year old marriage, and serves up a little food for thought about marital relationships. The following thoughts are from my last talk in April 2012.
• According to Art and Laraine Bennett (The Temperament God Gave You), we like, hire and hang out with people like ourselves; we fall in love with people opposite to ourselves.
• Not only are we attracted by others who have different temperaments, but the attraction may represent a longing for completeness similar to the physical completeness that we seek in those of the opposite sex.
• Couples who have opposite temperaments tend to have more disagreements but may make better decisions.
• Couples with similar types may be more compatible but may lack the perspective necessary for dealing with their lives.
• I believe most young people enter into marriage largely unaware of who they themselves are, and less so of whom they have married.
I could go on like this for awhile, but recommend instead that you read the book, which is available in the OLMC library, at the Holy Family Bookstore in Carmel, and on Amazon.com.
Before closing, I wanted to share one point in the Bennett’s book that resonated with me. I spent the first 50 years of my life essentially un-churched, and Nancy, a cradle Catholic, left my spiritual fate in the hands of The Holy Spirit, rather than trying to convert me herself. This, I feel, was an act of both faith and love since, as an old hippie, I probably would have resisted her “encouragements” just for the sake of resisting. And although I arrived very late at the party (perhaps “vineyard” would be a better term), I arrived. Anyway, the book contains this observation: “We are called to help our spouses grow close to the Lord, not to grow perfect by ourselves.”
In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether you and your spouse are complete opposites or cut from the same cloth. What matters is that you find your way to God, together. The rest will take care of itself.