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  • Writer's pictureStacy Taylor, LCSW

The Four Temperaments -- in Love

Updated: Mar 20, 2019

This is the third in a series of blogs on the four temperaments. I'd suggest reviewing the previous blogs so you'll be up to speed about the temperaments.

In a previous piece, I wrote about the challenges of clashing temperaments at work. Here I want to outline the potential pitfalls in relationships.

As a quick review, here are the four temperaments. The Choleric is a high-powered leader, who can be prone to impatience, anger when frustrated, and bossiness. The Melancholic is serious and intense, with a tendency towards depression and discouragement. Sanguines are high-energy, cheerful, bubbly folks, who love group activities, attention, and constant activity. And Phlegmatics are calm, level-headed, and easy going, if a bit lackluster at times. (Please note that there isn't any pure temperament. We are usually a combination of a couple of types, although there is generally one, primary temperament.)

To imagine some of the challenges of the differing temperaments in love relationships (or friendships), let's look at a couple, Becca and Adam. (Note: Becca and Adam are composites, not real people.)

The two have been together for three years. While they were madly in love at first, lately there has been trouble in paradise. As Becca tells it:

"Adam was the answer to all of my prayers, at least at first. I was having problems at work, and frankly, I was partying too much with friends. Adam is the most logical person I've ever met in my life. Being with him immediately centered me. I'd go to him, semi-hysterical by a new problem, and he'd calmly talk me through it.

"Adam is still great. But the problem now is that I'm a bit bored with him. I want to have fun! After work, I want to go hear music or take a salsa dancing class. I asked Adam to go dancing with me. He said okay, but I could tell that he didn't really want to. He's happy just puttering around the apartment with his many projects.

"I love Adam. I can maybe see spending my life with him. But I'm very worried that we'll become an old married couple before we're even 30."

Adam has his own point of view:

"Becca is the best thing that ever happened to me. She's exciting, tons of fun, and always up for an adventure. But, honestly, she can exhaust me. I come home from work and just want to relax and play with the cat. But she's raring to go, and wants to try a new restaurant or take a class. On weekends, I'm content hanging around the house or going for a walk. But she's not happy unless she's doing something new and different. I love Becca. I'm thinking that I want to marry her. But I'm worried that she may wear me out before too long. And I'm also nervous that she'll get bored with me someday and find someone else."

For Adam and Becca, their different temperaments can cause conflict and strain. Becca is a sanguine and needs constant excitement and stimulation. Adam is phlegmatic and relishes routine and peace and quiet.

Sanguines and phlegmatics aren't the only temperament types that can clash. For instance, the highly sensitive melancholic can dissolve into tears if the impatient choleric partner snaps at him or her. And the choleric partner may lose patience with the melancholic's indecisiveness and negativity.

Will finding a partner with the same temperament help? Not necessarily. Two cholerics can spend more time fighting with each other than loving each other. Two melancholics may bring each other down, and two sanguines could end up in bankruptcy court from overspending.

So what's the solution here? Try to find a partner where there is basic compatibility, although understand that there will always be differences. And hopefully your partner will bring out the best in you, and promote a peaceful and satisfying life.

At the same time, know that it is not easy to live with someone else, especially since we are all different. Be aware of your own temperament and how it may push your partner's buttons. And, if your partner annoys you, try to make some allowances for the differences in temperament.

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