Some people are quiet, shy and more laid-back simply because of their personality. There is huge personlity difference between me and my husband, and there is nothing wrong with either of us. But when anything becomes excessive to the point that it is hindering our freedom or hurting other people, we cannot say, “That’s just the way I am.” Dave needs to talk to me more than he might prefer to at times because that’s what I need, and love requires that we make sacrifices for the sake of other people. There are also times when I would like to rattle on and on in conversation, but I notice that Dave isn’t really enjoying it so I decide to be quiet or I go find someone else to talk to.
We must work with God to find the balance between being who we are and not excusing rude or unloving behavior by saying, “That is just the way I am.” God is in the business of changing us into His image, and that means He Helps us control our weakness and He uses our strengths.
Dave and I have very different personalities, and yet we get along fabulously. It was not always that way, but we’ve learned to be what the other needs and yet not go so far that we lose our own freedom. I try to meet Dave’s needs and he does the same thing for me. Dave likes things that I don’t enjoy, but I still encourage him to do them so he can feel fulfilled, and he treats me the same way. When a friend or spouse needs you to adapt in some area to make the relationship better, it is foolish and selfish to say, “Sorry, that is just the way I am.” We may be more comfortable and find it easier to do what we feel like doing, but we can make adjustments and still not lose our individuality.
The apostle Paul said that he learned to be all things to all people in an effort to win them to Christ (see 1 Cor. 9:19-22). In other words, he adapted to his surroundings rather than expecting everything and everyone to adapt to him I am sure his decision allowed him to enjoy a lot of peace and game him more friends. We can make ourselves very miserable and have stress-filled lives by never being willing to change or adapt. We are all different, but we can get along peacefully.
As I mentioned earlier, my husband’s personality is mainly phlegmatic, and mine is choleric. Those personalities are opposites, but we complement each other when we walk in love. I make decisions very quickly and Dave tends to want to think about things a long time. I flow more out of instinct, but he uses more logic and reason. The truth is that we need both in order to make consistently good decisions, so God gives each of us a part of what is needed and wants us to lean on each other and work together. I have gotten better at waiting over the years but will never be as naturally good at it as Dave is. Choleric people do everything quickly, and phlegmatic people do things more slowly and deliberately. I can clean up the kitchen quicker than Dave can, but he will do it better because he’s more precise in what he does.
We have twenty people in our immediate family. That includes Dave and me, our four children and their spouses, and then grandchildren. We are close and spend a lot of time together, yet we have a wide variety of personalities among the twenty of us. My two sons and I are full-on choleric, and all three of us are married to wonderful phlegmatic people. One of our daughters is phlegmatic, as well as two sons-in-law and one grandson. Of course other family members possess even different blends of personality. One daughter is melancholy, sanguine, and choleric. My point is that we have quite a variety of people who all view things differently and need different things to sense fulfillment.
My daughter who is melancholy requires compliments from her phlegmatic husband, who frequently forgets to give them. He thinks she is beautiful but might not even think to make the effort to say so. They have discussed this several times,and he finally started making reminder notes on his calendar. The more laid-back, emotionless person needs to find ways to remind himself to do what needs to be done. There have been plenty of times in my life when I had to actually make notes in my journal reminding myself to hot talk too much or to midn my own business or to not come across as controlling. If the loud, more aggressive people have to tone it down a bit, I think it is only fair for the quiet, less emotional, and nonaggressive people to find ways to stir themselves up. I can look at a very nonagreesive person and think, Do you even have a pulse? And of course they do; it just beats a little slower than mine does.
Many marriages fail because people won’t make an effort to give their spouse what he or she needs. We tend to think that if we don’t need something, then nobody does. Or if a person does have a need that is different from our own, we tend to belittle that need. That kind of attitude is one of the quickest way to ruin a relationship. Thank God that in our family we’ve learned and are still learning that everyone’s needs are valid - even if a need is hard to understand or difficult for us to meet. Love demands that we all are willing to grow and change. That process is a bit more difficult for people who are more laid-back and easy-going. Changing takes work, and sometimes they just don’t want to make the effort or even see the need. To be honest, I reached a point in life where I became weary of thinking I needed to be less agressive, while all the people who appeared to me to have no pulse were applauded for never making any waves. If your personality is phlegmatic, you might want to make more of an effort to participate in what is going on around you and be enthusiastic about it. If you are, really, really quiet, you might want to make an effort to speak up a bit more, even if it is not the most comfortable thing for you. Your talking more is not any harder than my talking less! Try to get excited along with the people you care about who are enthusiastic about their latest plan or project. It is one of the ways you can show love.
I remember coming home with excitement about my latest goal or plan and feeling like Dave threw ice water on all my enthusiasm. His response was more logical, but it was not good for our relationship. He may have needed to balance me out a bit, but I needed him to join me in my dream. He has learned to do so, and I have learned not to have a new dream or goal four times a day. One day he said, “You are the visionary and I am the provisionary,” so we look at things from two different angles. I sometimes think about just my enthusiasm for completing the goal, but Dave has to think about how we are going to achieve it. God said that when a man and a woman are married, the two will become one flesh, but He never said it would be easy. Good relationships require a lot of hard work, education, and willingness to meet each other’s needs.