15. Goodness of Fit - Mutual Match - RonaldMah

Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist,
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15. Goodness of Fit - Mutual Match

Therapist Resources > Therapy Books > Born That Way- Termperament Rel

Born that Way, Temperamental Challenges in Relationships and Therapy
by Ronald Mah

Temperament and temperamental match or mismatch may be a relevant dynamic for some relationships.  The issue may not be match as measured by similarity but match by fit.  Although two bolts may be identical, they cannot join together in functional fit, nor will either bolt fit into just any nut.  However, a bolt can be matched to fit the complementary nut.  The therapist may want to "…explore the role of complementarity versus similarity in life-styles themes as it relates to marital adjustment.  Complementarity, in this study addresses the dynamic of how different life-styles relate to the dyadic adjustment process" (Logan, et al., 1993, page 458).  Teglasi et al. (2004) makes essentially the same recommendation to investigate bi-directional influences, but in reference to educators (page 16).  As educators need to be aware of how their temperaments influence their reaction and responses to a student's individuality, individuals in a relationship need be aware of how they mutually influence each other.  The therapist who can facilitate this process should also be aware of how his or her temperament influences and is influenced by the clients.  The therapist may be not just a theoretical, ethnic, spiritual, or cognitive fit or misfit for his or her client, but also a temperamental fit or misfit.  The following considerations between partners and parents and children may be relevant between therapists and clients as well.  Partners or parents and children who are good temperamental matches by fit tend to have less conflict.  Partners communicate and support each other better, and parents find discipline simpler.  Partners or parents and children who are poor temperamental matches- misfit tend to have more conflict.  Relationships can become extremely strained.  With poorly matched members in a family, parents can be taught how to better meet the temperamental demands of their children.  Children can be taught to have better awareness and control over their temperamental challenges.  Members of a couple can also be taught how to better meet the temperamental demands of their partners and to have better awareness and control over their temperamental challenges- as may be the therapist.

The adage "opposites attract" seems to have some relevance.  Similarity of priorities in values and personality may not equate similarities of temperament.  "…temperament characteristics of mates, treated as separate variables, provide predictions of marital satisfaction that are superior to those obtaining using relative values of mates' temperaments.  Specifically, the similarity/satisfaction hypothesis yields correct predictions only part of the time and our findings regarding relations of individual temperament characteristics to marital satisfaction help explain the reasons for correct and incorrect predictions made on the basis of that hypothesis" (Blum and Mehrabian, 1999, page 118).  Goodness of fit directs parents, partners, co-workers, and the therapist to examine the bi-directional influence between the child and the environment, or one person with the second person.   "A poor fit occurs when a child's temperamental proclivities are at odds with the learning or behavioral demands of settings considered important for development and when behavioral styles evoke negative responses from others" (Teglasi et al., 2004, page 15).  A poor fit occurs in a couple when one or both partners' tendencies are at odds to the communication, relationship, and household demands, and when one partner evokes negative responses from the other partner.  If there is a good fit between the partners (or child and parent), the relationship tends to be positive.  With respect to a poor fit, it becomes the responsibility of the both persons to make the initial adjustments.  With families, those with more power—the parents, hold the primary responsibility.  

Poor fit can come from intrinsic temperaments and/or from culturally promoted temperaments.  By understanding how one person may be challenged by his or her temperament (and by how his or her partner is affected by it), both members of the couple can predict the behavior and as a result, make changes in management to help the individual be more successful.  If the partner of the temperamentally challenged individual is more aware (and he or she is so empowered), he or she can monitor the individual for predictable behavior triggered by familiar stimulus, and then help regulate the individual's response to the stimulus with appropriate interventions.  Making a temperamental evaluation of the couple "…should also assist therapists and couples to assess potential pitfalls in the relationship and provide cues for more effective therapeutic strategies as well as potential projections of therapy sessions needed.  Another use of the findings would be to assess the severity of the problems in the relationship.  If the therapist were able to isolate rapidly a large disparity in life-style themes, he or she might be able to design more powerful interventions requiring more change earlier in the therapeutic process, given that these couples may be more discouraged than others"  (Logan, et al., 1993, page 464).  While monitoring self and the other, one person should also be continually reflecting to the other person about triggers, temperamental challenges, and positive compensations to those challenges.  This will enable the individual to gradually move from being monitored and regulated by the other person and eventually, being able to self-monitor and self-regulate his or her own temperament and response to triggers.  

3056 Castro Valley Blvd., #82
Castro Valley, CA 94546
Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, MFT32136
office: (510) 582-5788
fax: (510) 889-6553
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