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Temperament 101

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These posts will explain the basics of temperament theory and how we use the information we’ve gotten from your APS test. I’ll also go over a few things about psychology and behavior that you may or may not be familiar with. In your counseling sessions, we’ll get down to the specifics of your temperament scores and how they play out in your relationship.

First, it’s important to understand that no temperament is better or worse than any other. They are simply different. Each temperament has strengths and challenges. If we were all good at the same things, the world wouldn’t work very well! We are each members of Christ’s body, but we all have different functions, and different functions require different strengths. The goal is to understand and develop our strengths while minimizing our challenges.

It’s also important to know that temperament is not the same as behavior. Temperament is the way God wired us. It doesn’t change. However, we all know that behavior is learned. We learn the behaviors that will allow us to survive our childhood, our marriage, or our job. It is very possible to behave in ways that are totally opposite of our inborn temperament. We can decide how to behave in any given situation. And having said that …

… your temperament is not an excuse. You don’t get to say Well, this is just how God made me to justify bad behavior. We are all capable of learning to be kind, compassionate, etc., and we are all capable of controlling our behavior. We are capable of doing things that we might not feel like doing for the benefit of those we care about … or not. We always get to choose.

Remember too that the traits listed in your APS are simply the things that tend to be true of the people who answered the questions the way you did. We find it to be about 95% accurate. There may be a few things that don’t seem to fit. That’s OK.

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So let’s dive in …

You’ve probably noticed that your APS report is divided into three sections … inclusion, control, and affection. They are the three areas of your life where your temperament determines your actions and reactions. It is possible to be totally different temperaments in each area, and it is possible to be the same across the board. God decided that when He created you.

Inclusion covers the area of casual social interaction. Your temperament here determines how many people you will approach to socialize, and how many people you want to approach you. We’re not talking about close relationships here, but rather coworkers, clients, the people in the grocery store, the mailman … people who walk in and out of your life every day. This area also determines intellectual abilities, creativity, whether you tend to be optimistic or pessimistic, and whether you relate better to tasks or to people.

Control is exactly what it sounds like. How much control do you want over others, and how much are you willing to allow others to have over you? This area also determines your level of independence and your organizational abilities.

Affection is where we talk about your close personal relationships … spouse, kids, other family members that you are close to, and friends who are considered family. This area determines how you express and receive love, how much physical affection you want and are willing to give, and how emotionally open you are.

When I picture these three areas, I picture kind of a squat triangle, with inclusion and affection level with each other at the base, and control a little bit above them at the peak. That’s because, although all three areas interact and overlap, control drives the other two. That makes sense when you think about it, because your control temperament is going to determine how much you are willing to push to get your needs met in other areas. In a difficult relationship, the stronger control temperament will usually hold the power. 

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You'll notice that there is a bar graph on your report for each area of temperament. 

The top bar in each area represents your expressed score. This is what you show to the world. The bottom score is your wanted score. This is what you want to receive from other people. 

For example, my control scores are 8 and 0. That means I like to tell everyone else what to do, and I would appreciate it if no one tells me what to do, thank you very much. So when I'm in a situation where I feel like I have no control, I am going to be frustrated, stressed, and angry. If I feel like other people are trying to control me, I will be frustrated, stressed, and angry ... unless I learn to control those natural responses and do something productive with those emotions.

That's a lot of what temperament therapy is ... learning to look at a situation that is bothering you, figuring out what your need is, and then learning how to get it met in a healthy, Godly way. It's also about understanding each other's temperament and learning to meet the needs of the person you love.

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Spaghetti and Waffles


No, it’s not a new item on the dinner menu. It’s a description of how our brains work, and it’s helpful to understand. Men’s and women’s brains really do work differently.

A man’s brain is like a waffle. Think about a waffle for a second … all those little squares. If you had a dropper, you could put a drop of syrup in each little square, and it would never spill over into the next one. You could also remove the syrup from one square with the dropper without touching any of the others.

In other words, guys compartmentalize. That’s not deliberate on their part … it’s how God made their brains. The ability to compartmentalize is a good thing in a lot of situations. In others, not so much. It explains why most guys can have a knock down, drag out fight and then want sex immediately after. In their brain, one thing has nothing to do with the other.

A woman’s brain is like a plate of spaghetti. Think about that for a second … all those noodles piled up, complete with your favorite sauce. I dare you to pull one spaghetti noodle off that plate without touching any of the others. It simply can’t be done.

So for a woman, everything is connected. If her husband does (or doesn’t do) a thing, she not only experiences this time of him doing the thing, but all the other times he did the thing, as well as all the times her dad, brother, and the kid down the street did the thing. Again, it’s not deliberate on her part … it’s how God made her brain. The ability to connect everything is a good thing in a lot of situations. In others, not so much. It’s why a husband sometimes feels like he has to “pay for” the things that other men have done. In her brain, one thing has everything to do with the other.

When you’re frustrated with each other, knowing this stuff sometimes helps. Sometimes you can just think Waffle Brain! or Spaghetti Brain! and laugh it off and go on about your day. You can learn to appreciate the good things about waffles and spaghetti, and have a little more tolerance for the not so good things. ?







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For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her, 
 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.  
He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.  
 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.  
 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. Ephesians 5:25-29 NLT (emphasis mine) 

The above verses are the basis of our teaching on marriage here ... hence our name, Ephesians 525 Ministries.

Guys, when you read this, I want you to understand something ... I do NOT think that your marriage problems are all your fault! But for a minute, it's going to sound like it. Please bear with me. I promise I will be talking to the girls in a bit. I have to start somewhere, and I start with the husband because of what God's word says in the above verses.

It's pretty clear in the above verses that the model for marriage is Christ and the church. So let's think a bit about what that looks like. What did Christ do for the church?

The immediate response from just about everyone I've asked that question of is He died. Well yeah, He did, and I for one am grateful. But Christ did a whole lot of other things for the church before He ever hung on that cross. 

For instance, do you think Christ was comfortable up in heaven with God? Of course He was. Comfortable doesn't even begin to describe it. Yet he gave all that up to come down to this mess of a world and be squeezed out of Mary's body and plopped in a manger. Do you think that might have been just a bit uncomfortable?

There are a whole lot of other things Christ did before he was crucified. He was tempted, hungry, mocked, rejected, used, beaten ... the list goes on.

And yet I've had guys tell me they'd take a bullet for their wife, but they won't give up the remote, because God forbid, she might choose a show he doesn't like. He isn't willing to make himself the least bit uncomfortable for her, but he'll swear up and down that he loves her.

My favorite question to ask a guy is If I dragged you into court on charges of loving your wife, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Now read these verses again ... what do they say happens when Christ loves the church? She will be holy and without fault. And we've seen this play out time and time again ... when a husband is loving his wife well, many of her issues will disappear. 

Why is that? Well, think back to our model of Christ and the church. What did the church do in all of this?

The answer, of course, is nothing. Christ did not go to the cross based on anything the church at the time, or the church now, did or didn't do. He went simply because He loves us and didn't want heaven without us. Mind boggling, isn't it?

Instead, the church responds to what Christ did by loving Him back and by following his commandments.

And that's the way it works in a marriage. The husband loves his wife, the wife responds with love of her own, and it ends up being a continuous loop.

In a troubled marriage, the husband doesn't love his wife ... usually unintentionally. Usually he has no idea how to love her, and it's generally because he has no clue about his temperament, her temperament, and how they interact. But since this is God's design, the loop still operates. Problem is, it's a negative loop. He doesn't love her, she responds with not love of her own, and it spirals downhill. And a lot of that not love is simply temperament mismatches that can be cleared up with some understanding and willingness to give the other person what he or she needs.

But here's the thing ... it has to start with the husband. He has to be willing to give up his selfishness, make himself a little uncomfortable, and give his wife what she needs. Then the loop gets operating in the right direction again. The wife can't start it. Most wives have been trying to do it for years before we ever see them here, and it just doesn't work. If you don't like that, take it up with God. It's His idea, not ours.


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So how do wives contribute to the negative spiral? Simple ... we don't always respond in a way that's helpful and loving.

When a husband accidentally does something that's not love, ideally the wife will a) let him know calmly that he screwed up, b ) tell him what he needs to do to fix it, if that's appropriate to the situation, and c) recognize and appreciate his efforts to do the right thing, even if they don't quite hit the mark. If he is intentionally doing something that's not love, then she needs to set and hold appropriate boundaries. 

Instead, because she is hurt and angry, she will either scream and throw things, retaliate, or shut down, depending on her temperament. Neither of these things encourages a husband to try to initiate loving actions. Instead, he tends to get selfish and either withdraw, retaliate, or go drown the pain somehow, depending on his temperament. 

And this brings us to a basic principle that everyone needs to learn ... we cannot operate on our feelings. We have to do what we know is right, whether we feel like it or not. It's OK to feel what you feel, but then you have to choose the right actions.

We all come into our relationships with baggage, and sometimes it's that baggage that causes a wife to respond in ways that aren't helpful. I'm not saying that women don't have their own issues. Everything that a wife does is not in response to something that her husband has or hasn't done ... but many things are. And what we've found is that, once the husband has pulled that loop in a positive direction, the wife then has the emotional energy to work on her own problems. She's out of survival mode and is more able to recognize the things she needs to change ... and just about every woman I've ever worked with is more than willing to do so. 


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Behavior Chains

This is an exercise I like to use whenever someone is having a "chronic fight" with a spouse, coworker, child, or any other human being on the planet. If you think about it, most arguments in any relationship have their roots in two or three basic issues that never get resolved. This is a great tool for figuring out how to get out of the argument cycle and make some positive changes. Of course, you can use it in any situation where you didn't behave the way you would have wished to.

You cannot do this in the heat of the argument. This is a post mortem examination that takes place after tempers have cooled and you have a clear head. You are doing this so that next time, you will hopefully be able to initiate some sort of change in the situation.

Grab a piece of paper. At the top, write the very first thing that happened in the situation. At the bottom, write the last thing that happened.

Mine would look like this:

     I asked him a question.



     I threw the coffee pot.


Now, begin to fill in the paper with everything that happened in between. It's OK if you don't remember every little detail, but put in as much as you can. I would write:

     He didn't answer.

     I repeated the question.

     He still didn't answer. He was staring at the computer.

     I asked a third time. This time, I yelled.

     He still didn't answer.

     I called him a name and stomped off to the kitchen.

    He followed me and wanted to know what I was so mad about.

Now, go back through it again and put down what you were feeling in each of those steps. I would put down things like ignored, invisible, unappreciated, angry, etc. This is the most important step of the process because feelings drive behavior. I didn't just throw the coffee pot because I felt like it. I did it because I was sick of being ignored (remember this is a chronic fight) and I wanted to get his attention, no matter how I did it.

At this point, you might need to put the paper aside for a bit, because writing it all down might dredge up some of those feelings, and you need to be as unemotional as possible when you do the last step. The final part of the process is to look for places where you could break the chain. In my scenario, I could have walked away after he ignored me for the first time. Remaining calm and not allowing him to push my buttons would have been much more effective than allowing my anger to control me. Since this is a chronic fight, he knew how I was likely to react. Doing something different would probably have produced some kind of change ... or not. I can't control him, but I can control me.

But if you're both committed to working on your marriage, then this exercise will produce change, because you'll be aware of what's really happening in a chronic fight. You can both choose to change your actions and reactions, and the underlying issues can finally be resolved.



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