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John Grondelski recommends The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse by Art and Laraine Bennett.
BY Dr. John M. Grondelski
Temperament God Gave Your Spouse
By Art and Laraine Bennett
Sophia Institute Press, 2008
193 pages, $16.95
To order: sophiainstitute.com
centuries before Christ, Hippocrates identified four kinds of personality
types: choleric, melancholic, sanguine and phlegmatic. Like much of the
classical heritage, Christianity used what it could of the concept: Many
classical treatises on prayer and the spiritual life incorporated the
temperaments as a way of understanding human psychology and anthropology.
Like so much else of value, the idea
of the temperaments went into eclipse after Vatican II, as a whole generation
engaged in psychobabble, convinced that Myers-Briggs had discovered something
the Greeks knew two millennia earlier. The real aggiornamento
is afoot today, as the current generation rediscovers so much of our heritage
needlessly trashed by the culture vandals and marries the best of that
tradition with the best of contemporary insights.
Art and Laraine Bennett do just that
in terms of the sacrament of marriage in The Temperament God Gave Your
Spouse: They bring together the classical notion of the temperaments
with the best of modern marriage-counseling techniques to help couples better
understand each other and jointly live out their marital vocation.
“Understanding temperament helps us to grow in empathy, in understanding, and
in delicate charity — enabling us to show our loved ones how deeply we care
about them, so that we can become that ‘intimate community of life and love’
that we are meant to be.
“When we know ourselves (and our
temperament) better, and when we know our spouse better, we will be able to
live the sacrament of marriage more vibrantly and we will have a happier
marriage.” Building on the authors’ earlier work (The
Temperament God Gave You), this book shows how temperament comes
into play within marriage.
Temperament affects how people
“work, pray, argue, socialize, and show affection,” the Bennetts remind us. The
book then focuses on communication skills needed to connect with each
temperament type: “empathy, the softened start-up, the underlying positive,
being open to influence, being specific, and expressing overt appreciation for
our spouse.” The work spends almost 70 pages on various temperament matches in
marriage: temperamental opposites, temperamental complements and temperamental
kindred spirits. Useful summaries and communication suggestions are interspersed
throughout the book.
Temperaments are neither good nor
bad: They are how we are. What we do with our
temperaments matters, because we always act freely. Hardwiring is no excuse for us to act like
overbearing jerks, insufferable perfectionists, naive Polyannas or passive
Although the authors caution against
it, readers should still be wary about attributing undue weight to the
temperaments. The Bennetts note that their book does not address
psychologically-based problems, nor do they “underestimate the need for or
value of professional counselling.”
The book is intended to help normal
married couples and, with that caveat in mind, spouses will find useful
insights in these pages into mutual understanding and communication.
John M. Grondelski writes
from Bern, Switzerland.