Do you wonder what that commanding choleric will be like once you have tied the knot? Or your snappy sanguine suitor when he finally springs the question? Laraine Bennett takes a look at the four temperaments–as spouses–in the first of a four-part series.
“It was going to be one of Rabbit’s busy days. As soon as he woke up he felt important, as if everything depended upon him. It was just the day for Organizing Something . . . a Captainish sort of day, when everybody said, ‘Yes, Rabbit’ and ‘No, Rabbit,’ and waited until he had told them.”
–A.A. Milne, The World of Pooh
Congratulations! You have fallen for that dynamic, motivated, inspiring bundle of energy known as the choleric! Dating is one thing, but what will he (or she) be like as a spouse? If you read my previous column on the choleric date, you will recall that this temperament is ambitious, goal-oriented, and talented.
You probably fell for that confident, decisive style—and it’s true, he does present well! Since the choleric tends to throw himself into achieving his goals, he can be an energetic suitor. The choleric in love may be suave, fascinating, talkative, persuasive, attentive— whatever it takes — to win his heart’s desire. He may also express impatience to keep the relationship moving forward towards the high expectations he’s set for it.
But watch out, he doesn’t give in easily (if at all). He loves to take charge and wants everyone to respect the fact that he is right — if not always, then ninety-nine percent of the time. He values loyalty (to himself, to his family, to his goals) at all costs. Whether male or female, this temperament is competitive, confrontational, and always on the go.
Once married, though, a choleric’s priorities may shift from wooing his spouse to hard work—earning a living, raising a family, keeping up a house. In such cases, the spouse of a choleric may wonder, “What happened to that romantic creature I dated?” Cholerics can make grand gestures when inspired, and can be charming and debonair if they want to impress someone. But they aren’t really romantic by nature. (It’s the melancholic who is the true romantic. She is the weeping woman in black at the widow’s watch, waiting for 20 years for her sailor to return from the high seas.)
Your choleric spouse is likely to be a successful provider, whether he is the primary breadwinner or a secondary contributor. He puts his abundant energy to work in many different arenas: in the workforce or a home business, volunteering for church or school, and running the family. You will rarely catch him lazing around the house, watching TV, or wasting time. Even running routine errands will be conducted with an eye to efficiency. Choleric Frank Gilbreth (an industrial engineer whose family life was recorded by his children in Cheaper by the Dozen) required his family to “count motions” to make sure they did every task — even shaving, showering, and getting dressed — with as few wasted moments as possible!
The choleric may even be so efficient a worker and manager, that other, less “productive” (in his view) aspects of his life suffer. You may have to keep an eye out that your choleric spouse makes time for “unproductive” but necessary pursuits such as prayer, relaxation, and just spending time with his family — not coaching you to be more efficient, not pushing your kids to excel in a sport, but simply being together.
The active choleric (especially one who is married to a more quiet or easy-going spouse) will need to understand how an overbearing and driven nature can inhibit the areas of life that require time, delicacy, gentleness, and vulnerability. He may need to be convinced about the importance of lingering over a romantic dinner, turning off the Blackberry and just talking and relaxing in an intimate way, sharing what is on his heart.
A choleric would rather argue about politics than reveal his secret fears or hopes. When a problem arises, his first reaction is to solve it. Case closed. Sometimes, this efficiency fails to take into consideration his spouse’s feelings. This lack of empathy can become a cross for his spouse and children.
As the head of a household, the choleric wants to lead the family, but it can sometimes feel like command-and-control rather than leadership. One choleric dad we know says that, when it’s time for everyone to head off to Mass, he warns the kids: if you’re not in the van on time, we’re leaving without you! He’s not kidding. But this dad says that he only has to leave someone once, and voila! Lesson learned!
As parents, cholerics can run the risk of becoming drill sergeants – believing that too much affection or empathy makes kids “soft,” weak, or ill-prepared. Cholerics like to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and wonder why anyone else would need warm fuzzies to motivate them. A choleric parent may struggle especially to understand a phlegmatic or melancholic child: why isn’t he doing more; why is he so quiet? Is there something wrong with that child? (No, he just isn’t like you!)
It can be a challenge for the choleric to see things from another point of view and to realize that some temperaments do not have an equal sense of urgency or an equal capacity for expressing themselves confidently. Living within a family teaches us the importance of the virtues of flexibility, patience, humility, and empathy—virtues a wise choleric should learn.
The choleric’s goal-driven nature can be used for good or for ill — the key is focusing on the right goal. St. Paul persecuted the early Christian community (Acts 9), “breathing murderous threats against the disciples,” but once converted, he became the greatest apostle. The independent and opinionated choleric often finds it difficult to submit his will to another (for example, to his spouse, to a boss, to the Church, or to a spiritual director). He must continually fight against his tendency to pride, which leads him to prefer his own will, to think he is always right, to become angry with others, and to want to be in control when he really ought to let go.
But once the choleric realizes that he must grow in humility, obedience to God’s will, and in charity and solidarity with all men — for “none of us lives for himself” (Rom 14:7) — he will make great strides in his spiritual life as well as with his interpersonal relationships.