Myers-Briggs types have much to tell us about ourselves and other people. Our MBTI type reflects our preferences for crowded parties or small gathering, describes how we connect with other people, shows us how we naturally respond to stress, and gives us a picture of our innate strengths and weaknesses. Another thing it’s often used for is trying to predict what type of person we’ll be attracted to, and most compatible with, in a romantic sense. Unfortunately, MBTI only gives part of the picture in this regard.
Types in Love
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Use of the MBTI for romance is subject to much debate. Isabel Myer wrote in Gifts Differing*, chapter 11, that “it seems only reasonable that the greater mutual understanding between couples with more likeness than difference should lead, on the whole, to greater mutual attraction and esteem.” This was supported by her study of 375 married couples who were most frequently “alike on three of their four preferences rather than on only two, as would be expected by chance.” However, Isabel Myer was an INFP woman happily married to an ISTJ man. According to her own personality theory, they “shouldn’t” have gotten along, especially since she thought that shared S-N preferences were the most important for predicting a couple’s happiness together and understanding of each other. Obviously type isn’t the only important ingredient for happiness.
David Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me II* agrees with Myers on the importance of S-N pairings, saying that his SP Artisan types are most compatible with SJ Guardians, and that NF Idealists are most compatible with NT rationals. His ideal pairing is someone who shares your S-N preference and is your opposite in the other three preferences. For example, he would pair an INFJ with an ENTP.
Continuing with INFJs as our example, these theories have influenced many INFJ profiles online. Jennifer Soldner’s Guide To INFJ Relationships lists ENFP, ENTP, INTJ and INFJ as the best matches for an INFJ. The worst matches are ESFP, ESTP, ESTJ, and ENTJ (note that this last one contradicts Keirsey’s rule for pairing NF and NT types). For the most part, these suggestions seem logical at first, much like Isabel Myer said when theorizing that people will get along best if they are similar. It doesn’t explain, however, why one study found that INFJs were most likely to marry either INFJs or ESTPs, or why Myers herself was happy married to someone so dissimilar in terms of type. Clearly there’s something else going on here.
The “Something Else”
Even with their generalizations about which types get along most easily together, both Isabel Myers and David Keirsey admit there are other very important ingredients to a lasting romantic relationship.
Individual relationships defy generalizations, and it should be stressed that two well-adjusted people of any two temperaments can find ways of making their marriage work for them.” (Keirsey)
“Understanding, appreciation, and respect make a lifelong marriage possible and good. Similarity of type is not important, except as it leads to these three. Without them, people fall in love and out of love again; with them, a man and woman will become increasingly valuable to each other and know that they are contributing to each other’s lives.” (Myers)
A mutual willingness to work together and actively build-up the relationships is more important than compatible MBTI types. One aspect of this is understanding the other person and learning how to love them. Becoming familiar with their Myers-Briggs type will help tremendously, but it’s not enough by itself. You also benefit from an understanding of Love Languages.
The five love languages theory was first published in 1995 by Gary Chapman, a relationship counselor and pastor. He says every person has a “language” that they use to communicate and receive love, either Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, or Physical Touch. Everyone has one primary love language, and you might have a secondary love language as well. If someone’s partner is not speaking their love language, they will not feel loved. There’s a test on Chapman’s website if you don’t know what your love language is and want to find out.
Layering Love Languages
In theory, any MBTI type can be combined with any one of the five love languages. I’m guessing, however, that there are some love languages that are more likely for certain MBTI types. Let’s take a quick look at the characteristics for the four type groups as related to different love languages.
SP types are typically concerned with outward, concrete ways of viewing the world, and focus on the here and now. Keirsey describes their preferred role in a romantic relationship as “playmate.” I could see SP types being particularly inclined toward Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, or Physical Touch as a primary love language. These all involve doing something for or with the loved one, which would appeal strongly to SP types.
Duty-fulfilling SJ types tend to play what Keirsey described as a “helpmate” role in relationships. They are stable, traditional, and thoroughly dependable people. SJ types might be most in tune with Acts of Service, Quality Time or Words of Affirmation as a love language. These love languages visibly or verbally confirm that a SJ’s loved ones appreciate their constant reliability.
NF types are idealistic, enjoy abstract thought, and are natural romantics. Keirsey described their role in a romantic relationship as “soulmate.” They search for deep, genuine connections. Quality Time and Words of Affirmation seem like the most likely love languages, though Physical Touch and Acts of Service are also good possibilities. The key for NF types is genuine depth in a relationship, so they are inclined towards a language that increases emotional intimacy.
The NT types are highly intellectual, and Keirsey described their relationship role as “mindmate.” They are logical, abstract, and have little tolerance for the superficial. Words of Affirmation and Quality Time seem like the most likely love languages for an NT type, but after reading two different forum topics on MBTI types and love languages (one on Typology Central and one on Personality Cafe) I learned many NTs favor Physical Touch as well. My personal theory is that NT types view Service and/or Gifts with suspicion, wondering what the other person wants from them, while the others seem more genuine.
What about you? What are your Myers-Briggs type and love language(s)? Do you see a connection between the two? Share in the comments!
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9 thoughts on “Love Languages and MBTI Types”
My love language as an INFJ is Words of Affirmation and my husband is an ISTJ who is Quality Time. We aren’t an ideal match when it comes to either MBTI or love languages since each one of us struggles with the other’s language. I think it’s fun to play around with different theories of why some connect or where similarities help and hurt, but in my experience with my spouse, just learning about your partner’s personality and language can make a world of difference. My husband and I are so different but we love learning about what makes each other tick and how we can best make one another feel loved. 🙂 Love definitely is far from an exact science, lol!
I’ve been reading so many articles lately that argue just about any two people can make a relationship work IF they are committed to understanding and working with each other. It seems to be more about a willingness to love someone for who they are rather than finding someone who’s perfectly “compatible” (whatever that means). Thanks so much for commenting!
This is great! Very informative and I agree with your conclusions! They make sense. Discussing it with my mom, we discovered that the people we know did have at least one of the Love Languages you matched with the Keirsey Types as one of their top two Love Languages. I’m an ISFJ and my love languages are Quality Time and Words of Affirmation. I was wondering if Giving/Receiving gifts was one of my strong ones, but I realized I like to give and receive gifts that reflect something about my relationship with that person or that says “I understand you,” not just a gift because it’s a gift. When it comes to gifts, I guess I sound more like a “soulmate” a bit there. I get excited when I can be a “helpmate” and just give someone a hand or be an encourager to them, I like being “the helper.” I like these different descriptions for the types: “playmate, helpmate, soulmate, and mindmate.” These very accurately describe the way the Keirsey types express love from my own personal experience with people in my life. The INTP and INTJ in my family are definitely “mindmates.” I can come to them with difficulties (technical difficulties, money questions, even career advice) and they will express their love to me by helping my figure out a solution. My mom (ENFJ HSP) and I had some “soulmate” Quality Time this morning reading this post together and matching it up with our own experiences!
Thanks! It’s nice to learn someone else’s observations match up with what I was seeing 🙂 I’m so glad you and your mom enjoyed this post.
Interesting! I have actually been thinking a lot about this lately. My husband is an ISTP and I’m an INFJ, which most personality sites say is a recipe for disaster. And it could be with some people. However, we have found that our weaknesses and strengths are opposite each other’s, thus complimenting one another. My husband calls us “yin and yang.” I help him think ahead and plan better, since he is so “in the moment.” He keeps me with grounded with his logic and reason, since I tend to be a mess of jumbled up feelings. It works out really well for us, and has helped us grow as individuals. That’s not to say this pairing isn’t without it’s challenges, however, we don’t give up and work through that. We come from similar backgrounds and agree on political/religious/child rearing issues, so we are always on the same page with the important things. No matter what personality clashes we endure, at least we always share the same beliefs and values; it’s SOMETHING we can agree on. Now, if we had completely opposite views on all of those, we could have a much bigger problem and maybe it wouldn’t work out. I definitely think your personal values and belief system play into the dynamics of the relationship, too.
Thanks for your comment! I like ISTPs, and even ESTPs (which most personality theorists say is a big no-no for INFJs, since it’s “like dating your shadow function”). And I agree with you that relationships are more about being willing to work together and building on common values and beliefs than on finding someone who is perfectly “compatible” with you in a theoretical sort of way.
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This is great! I thought about writing something like this!
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I’m a little late to the party but I would like to weigh-in nonetheless. I am an INFJ and my love languages (equally based on GCs test) are Quality Time and Acts of Service. Which are dead-on and make sense to me given my personal understanding/acceptance of my type. Quality Time for me is making my self available when there is a true connection or someone needs my assistance/counsel since I am very selective. Acts of Service can translate into allowing myself to give in the INFJ way of thought, feeling, big picture assessment, etc. thank you for writing this article.
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I like this connection. Like Myer, I’m an INFP married to an ISTJ. In the last few weeks, I’ve been reading more about our types, and things make so much more sense now, like why something I left out is driving him crazy and I didn’t even notice it was there. I’m words of affirmation and he’s acts of service, but we both have physical touch as a secondary.
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