On Time Every Time

You may wonder how soon those annoying weaknesses surface after you say, “I do.” I am not sure if there is a standard amount of months, weeks, days, or hours, but I can tell you how it happened for us.

Within days of our wedding, John and I headed for Texas and pilot training for the United States Air Force. His schedule was very hectic. Mine was more laid back. The only day we really did anything together that involved a specific arrival time was Sunday morning church.

That first Sunday morning in Texas went something like this. . . . We got up and John announced that we would be leaving for the base chapel in fifty-five minutes. Plenty of time, I thought. I ate a bowl of cereal and then took a shower. The time kept ticking by as I dried my hair and put on a little make-up. The next thing I knew, John was rapping on the bathroom door and announcing, “We need to be in the car in 4 minutes and 37 seconds.” I am not kidding you! I remember thinking to myself, So that’s why watches have a second hand.

Moments later he returned with an update: “2 minutes and 30 seconds till we leave,” he barked. At this point I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Wow, this man was serious about time. Why hadn’t I noticed that before? Honestly, I have no idea how many minutes or seconds it was before our car backed out of the driveway to head for church, but that was the day I learned that I had married a man who could not only tell time, but wanted to be on time. And there I was — a woman who wore a watch because it was pretty. Opposites attract.

We married each other’s strengths, and now the weaknesses were getting in the way.

I have a very outgoing, optimistic personality. John is much more reserved. When we share the speaking platform he has been known to say, “Kendra is here today making new friends. It’s not that I don’t like all of you, but, frankly, you wear me out.”

John has a very peaceful phlegmatic personality with just a hint of melancholy perfectionism. It is a small hint, just a dab, and it surfaces mainly in the arena of timeliness. He is a quiet individual with occasional bursts of enthusiasm. I am an enthusiastic person with occasional bursts of calm. People truly do wear him out. They energize me. I am spontaneous. He is calculated.

The Influence of Gender

It is important to understand that the personalities are not linked to gender. In your home, it may be the husband who is the extrovert, a sanguine/choleric, and not the wife. Some of our best friends follow that pattern. Curt is outgoing and the life of the party. His wife, Pam, a phlegmatic/ melancholy, is much more reserved.

I remember a conversation I had with Pam a few years ago. I was telling her about a wonderful idea I had . . . a wonderful, fantastic, spectacular idea . . . which is, by the way, the only kind the sanguine has, whether they are really good ideas or not. Pam listened intently, smiled occasionally, and nodded knowingly. When I finally paused to take a breath and looked at her for her approval, she simply said, “That’s a very good idea.”

My immediate reaction was disappointment. Pam didn’t like the idea, I thought. What was wrong? Hadn’t I explained it adequately?

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Knowing me so well and loving me anyway, this dear friend continued in the next breath. “Kendra,” Pam began, “you have to remember that I am a phlegmatic. I used the word very, and that is a lot of enthusiasm for me.”

True, true. Pam was not one to waste time or energy on extra adjectives! Her husband and I cannot get enough adjectives in one sentence. Curt and I share similar personalities. Pam is more like John.

Lord, Change My Spouse!

I told you that I am an enthusiastic extrovert. If I carry that typical strength to extremes I am capable of being overbearing and generally obnoxious. Enough of that. Now I’m ready to get brutally honest about someone else’s personality.

John’s peaceful personality can sometimes morph into procrastination or such quiet resolve that he appears aloof and arrogant. When we married, it was easy for each of us to see the weakness in each other. And, unfortunately, we decided it was our duty to change the other person. This came to light one evening as we attended a party together.

I love parties, especially theme parties! John is generally not as enthusiastic about social gatherings, and on this particular evening, he attended the event rather reluctantly. I am guessing that part of his reluctance was the realization that because I was so excited about the event, the chances were great that the strengths of my personality . . . friendliness, enthusiasm, upbeat outlook, etc. . . . would be carried to extremes and he would be frustrated.

Unbeknownst to me, John had a plan to combat my potential “off the Richter scale” behavior. His plan was to get quieter. He just knew that as I witnessed him growing more and more quiet, I would get the message and quiet down myself.

I also had a plan. Because I knew that his quiet nature was capable of making people uncomfortable, I had decided that I would combat that by exuding more enthusiasm. Surely he would notice my increasingly upbeat attitude and make the appropriate adjustments.

Right now you might be asking yourself, “Were John and Kendra really that naive?” I guess the answer would be yes. And the answer to your next unspoken question, “Did this possibly work?” would be no.

John got quieter and I got noisier. I got noisier and John got quieter. It was a vicious, downward spiral. But, thankfully, it did culminate in a very honest conversation on the drive home. That conversation began the change in the way we operated. It was not a quiet and calm conversation, and it did not result in an immediate change, but it was the catalyst we needed. We were not loving or appreciating each other’s personality strengths. We were not trying to improve in our areas of weakness. We were not doing our kids a favor.

Copyright © 2008 by Kendra Smily, Used with Permission, Published by Moody Publishers. Adapted from Do Your Kids a Favor.