You already know I am the moody one. So this past week I went through some of our daughter’s personal items. I was grateful to see some things making the generational journey we’d anticipated – someday – not now. Some odd things really touched me – the music she played in the car, because Laurie (Laurel) would email me and comment on a particular song that touched her that day. Her husband gave me the tassel from her post-graduate education, because we researched and proofed American Indian elective courses, and we studied clouds and weather together. And a little angel that I didn’t notice until today had a crown of laurel leaves on her head.
Ken and I have different personalities, different learning styles, and consequently, react differently to varied stresses including our grief. Laurie and I were more alike – very visual people. Ken is more analytical. That does not mean either of us is more right – or more wrong – than the other. We are just different.
Those very differences are likely what attracted us to each other, and we know that some of those differences when carried to extreme (cute once in a while when you are dating, but multiple times a day – those same behaviors can actually become irritating). Remembering your first love (Rev. 2:4 ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.) is, we feel, an essential rule to both spiritual and physical relationships. Particularly when you are experiencing a huge stress such as grief.
Grief, of course, is one of life’s major stresses, and there are many stories of broken marriages, lost relationships and major misunderstandings and woundings from not sharing grace with our truths.
Sanguine, my personality, is more like the Biblical character Peter as Tim LaHaye described it in Spirit-Controlled Temperaments during the era of our marriage (before many of you were born.). Ken, on the other hand, is mostly Melancholy, like Moses. (He doesn’t like to stop for directions either.)
All kidding aside, we don’t want our relationship to suffer due to fallout from this great loss we suffered together. But many couples have argued, and eventually separated or divorced – because they express their loss differently, and often don’t understand or are unable to express mutual compassion for reactions we truly do not understand.
Ken is treading carefully, because he knows my emotions are very close to the surface these days. For example, being a visual person, I would typically want all of the precious memories (including every email and recipe in Laurie’s handwriting) to be visible. It seems disrespectful to ‘put them away’ which to Ken would be the norm and bring him the most peace. It is not that he cares less. He still knows they are here, and he treasures them. He cannot fathom that I cannot take my to-do-tomorrow stack and place it in a drawer and close the drawer. He figures, the next morning I can go to that drawer and open it and viola! There is my visual. I on the other hand cannot comprehend something so meaningful being put-away and therefore in-visible. So we share and we compromise.
He helped me organize all the emails we found so far into a folder. They are now ‘put away’ or organized for Ken, and available and visible for me in a way I feel honors them. I will be doing the same with her recipes, rather than having them scattered about, I will decorate a holder and have them “respected” and visible for me, and when that is accomplished he will heave a huge sigh of relief at seeing wood – the cleared tabletop where most of it is stacked as I sort them.
Then there are the tears and the talking (or writing) I do (like Peter, just because it was silent and I have never understood or appreciated silence). From Ken there are also the reflective reminders of what has not changed. I have used Ken’s surprisingly calming phrase on him many times (oh, you are upset! Has God died?) but he rephrases it for me. He does that because although the phrase makes him laugh and see the temporariness of his (rarely) overblown minor frustration, it would not sound the same to me. His wife-adapted version is more like a prayer that he is praying while holding me – thanking God for the truths that God has not changed, that His promises are true whether we see them, or feel them, or not.
Your spouse or family member could also be a Choleric, like Paul in the Bible (very focused, and direct), or a Phlegmatic like Abraham (God says pack up and start walking, I’ll give you directions as you go – and Abe does…without a murmur or whine. I encourage you to find out if you don’t already know.
I hope this doesn’t seem off-topic because it really it helps if family members can understand themselves and see how one another is wired so we can better respond instead of reacting to stress or to difficult personalities or both.
Below are links to personality tests
This one based on Florence and Marita Littauer’s Personality Type materials (Personality Plus , Wired This Way, etc)