Most of us know that we can change. In fact, since you’re reading a blog where I talk about personal growth and development from a Christian perspective, I dare say most of you are actively trying to change for the better. We believe we can grow. We believe we can become better versions of ourselves. We believe in change and new beginnings.
But do we believe the same thing of other people? Do you think everyone you meet is capable of the same level of change that you are? Maybe you can say “yes” to these questions as an abstract idea. But if other people are changing and growing, do you suppose that you would notice?
I’m sure most of us would like to think that we hold space for others to grow. We probably also like to think we’d recognize change when we see it, but research indicates that most of us aren’t very good at this. To quote Psychology Today, “People tend to get attached to their initial impressions of others and find it very difficult to change their opinion, even when presented with lots of evidence to the contrary.” We tend to size people up quickly and then stick with our initial impressions even if we see proof that we were wrong. Read more →
I have lots of thoughts about love. Am I a relationship expert? no. Do I have much experience with romantic relationships? not really. But I’ve read an awful lot of books on relationships, written romances, talked at length with people who’ve had successful (and otherwise) relationships, and thought about it a great deal. In short, I fit David Keirsey’s description of NF personality types as people who are “in love with love.”
So of course when a friend shared a talk on Facebook called “Why You Will Marry The Wrong Person” by British philosopher and author Alain de Botton, I had to watch it. I think I skimmed de Botton’s article by the same name quite a while ago, but sitting down and listening to this talk prompted a whole lot of thoughts that I wanted to write about. Here’s the video:
“It is in fact hope that drives rage. … If we’re to get a little less angry about our love lives we will have to diminish some of our hopes.” — Alain de Botton
If you read the post from two days ago, then you know I already touched on unreasonable expectations in my post “5 Relationship Problems INFJs Often Struggle With.” Those of us (not just INFJ types) with particular romantic ideals and good imaginations might struggle with it more, but the issue of romantic hopes and dreams not matching reality affects everyone.
One of de Botton’s main points is that your will marry the wrong person because our idea of “the right person” doesn’t exist. By and large, we don’t have realistic ideas about what it means to find the right person or even how to love. We need to shift our expectations in the realm of romance. Maybe instead of looking for the ‘right’ or ‘perfect’ person, we should consider it a success when we, in de Botton’s words, “manage to find a good enough person.”
You Are Hard To Live With
“We are basically, psychologically quite strange. We don’t normally know very much about this strangeness. It takes us a long, long time before we’re really on top of the way in which we are hard to live with.” — Alain de Botton
As de Botton says, if you’re human you’re hard to live with. But he also says most of us are blind to the hows and whys. That might be true, but as someone who lives with anxiety I’m also quite certain I’m not easy to live with. I might not know everything that’s wrong with me. I’m probably missing some of the real reasons that I’m hard to live with and have blown other things out of proportion. But my anxiety tells me over and over again that there’s something wrong with me and people won’t, or shouldn’t, want to be around me.
“We tend to believe that true love means accepting the whole of us. It doesn’t. No one should accept the whole of us, we’re appalling.” — Alain de Botton
The way de Botton phrases this bothers me because I know that living with the idea “I’m appalling/ broken/ worthless” isn’t healthy, psychologically. I think the goal should be to arrive at a more balanced view of yourself. Maybe de Botton thought most of his audience needed to be told they’re appalling to help get them closer to balance, but I also think there are people who hear “you’re appalling” way too much (from self and others). What we really need to hear is that we’re worthy of love even though “in everyone, and of course in ourselves, there is that which requires forbearance, tolerance, forgiveness” (to quote C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves).
I’m a big fan of Brené Brown and love the work she does on shame and vulnerability. I know vulnerability is a vital part of human connection and I believe that it’s a good thing. Still, the part of de Botton’s talk where he discussed the vulnerability needed to create a good romantic relationship bothered me.
“We get into these patterns of not daring what we really need to do … [which is to say ] ‘I’m actually a small child inside and I need you.’ This is so humbling most of us refuse to make that step and therefore refuse the challenge of love.” — Alain de Botton
I’m not sure about this one. Yes, extreme vulnerability is needed to build relationships, but I’m also wondering isn’t it better to approach a relationship from a place of I could survive without you, but I really want you in my life rather than I desperately need you? Although, to be fair, he probably isn’t talking about the kind of “need you” that goes along with something like insecure attachment styles.
I also wonder if my qualms about this part of his talk might be more about some of my personal experiences and my fear of being seen as “clingy.” I don’t want to say ‘I need someone’ while I’m single because I don’t want to be that person who’s just all wrapped up in finding a relationship. Even in a relationship, though, I don’t want to say ‘I need you’ because it feels like weakness. I really do feel like I’m a small child inside and I need someone, but there’s also part of me that hates this side of myself.
But shouldn’t asking for what we want and need feel like (and be) something that’s okay to do? I suppose I’m going to have to (somewhat reluctantly) agree with de Botton on this point.
Learning How To Love
I do really like de Botton’s description of love as a skill that needs to be learned. It’s a sad thing that in the world today we’re constantly told love just “happens” or that it’s all about emotion. If that were the case, romance should be pretty easy but it’s not. And because we don’t think of love as a skill or something that requires hard work, we keep trying to find love that “feels good” or where we’re magically compatible. It’s no wonder that we’re continually disappointed.
“To love ultimately is to have the willingness to interpret someone’s on the surface not very appealing behavior in order to find more benevolent reasons why it may be unfolding. In other words, to love someone is to provide charity and generosity of interpretation.” — Alain de Botton
“True psychological maturity … is the capacity to recognize that anyone you love is going to be a mixture of the good and the bad. Love is not just admiration for strength. It’s also tolerance for weakness and recognition of ambivalence.” — Alain de Botton
Love is about so much more than just how we feel. It is an action and a choice. This reminds me of one of the questions that comes up quite often in the personality type community: “Which type is a good fit for me romantically?” The often unsatisfying answer is “any of them.” Oh, there are some types that tend to get along better with each other but type really isn’t a good predictor of which relationships will work out. It’s much more important to find someone who will work to understand you and whom you’re willing to work to understand than to find someone of a “compatible” type.
What We’re Really Looking For
“Quite a lot about our early experiences of love are bound up with various kinds of suffering. … We think we’re out to find partners who will make us happy, but we’re not. We’re out to find partners who will feel familiar. And that may be a very different thing. Because familiarity may be bound up with particular kinds of torture. .. [We may reject people because they will] not be able to make us suffer in the way we need to suffer in order to feel that love is real.” — Alain de Botton
I’ve been pondering this part of de Botton’s talk for days. Is it true in general? Is it true for me? It reminds me of something my ex-boyfriend said about what I think I “deserve” in love, which I don’t want to go into detail about but has been bugging me since he brought it up. I don’t have an answer as to whether or not we’re looking for lovers who will hurt us in all the ways that feel familiar from other people we’ve loved.
However, I do think that as a general rule often times what we’re looking for romantically isn’t necessarily what would be best for us. This goes back to the idea that we’re looking for someone who will just accept and understand us, when in reality we all have parts of ourselves that are hard to live with. We should really be looking for someone who will help us become a better person and with whom we can build compatibility (more on that in a moment).
“You probably believe that when somebody tries to tell you something about yourself that’s a little ticklish and a little uncomfortable that they’re attacking us. They’re not; they’re trying to make you into a better person. And we don’t tend to believe this has a role in love.” — Alain de Botton
I think you should look for someone who loves who you are so much that they want you to grow into an even better version of yourself. They’ll also want you to do that for yourself as much (or more) than they want you to do it for them.
I want to make sure and note, though, that this is a very different thing than someone who tries to manipulate and/or change you “for your own good.” No other human being has the right to decide what’s good for you or mold you into something you’re not. Someone who really loves you will help you grow as yourself, not make you change into what they want.
This is my favorite quote from the whole talk:
“You cannot have perfection and company. To be in company with another person is to be negotiating imperfection every day. … We are all incompatible. But it is the work of love to make us graciously accommodate each other and ourselves to each others incompatibilities, and therefore compatibility is an achievement of love.” — Alain de Botton
“Compromise is noble. We compromise in every area of live, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t compromise in our love life. … Let’s look a bit more benevolently at the art of compromise. It’s a massive achievement in love.” — Alain de Botton
I have issues with trust. I knew this to a certain extent, but being in a relationship has brought it to the forefront of my attention. My boyfriend wants to build the kind of trust that I’ve always wanted in a relationship, which is fantastic. But it’s harder to get there than I was expecting and that’s frustrating for both of us. I probably feel safer with him than anyone else who I haven’t known a minimum of 10 years and yet I still feel nervous opening up to him and being “me” around him.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I love Brené Brown’s TED talks. Since writing that post, I’ve read her book The Gifts of Imperfection and I’m halfway through Daring Greatly. Since I’ve been confronting some deep-seated fear issues as well as this trust thing, they’ve been really good books for me. They’re tough, though. For example, she has a list of 10 things that “Wholehearted” people who believe in their worthiness do. I’ve only got one down pretty good and maybe half of two others. And that’s even though all 10 points on the list are things that, in theory, I agree are good and which I’ve considered worth pursuing for quite some time.
The Anatomy Of Trust
Earlier this year, Brené Brown gave a talk called “The Anatomy of Trust.” In this talk, she tells a story that she also relates in Daring Greatly about her daughter experiencing a betrayal of trust at school. You can click here to read the full story or just watch the video below, but in short summary the situation got so bad that the teacher took marbles out of the Marble Jar (marbles go in when the kids are making good choices and come out if they’re breaking rules, acting out, etc.). Read more →
So you want to date an INFJ. I’m not quite sure whether to congratulate you or pat you consolingly on the shoulder. Perhaps both.
Assuming you want this relationship to go well, one of the most important things you can do is try to understand your INFJ love-interest. We’re the rarest personality type and we often feel misunderstood and alone. Showing us that’s not going to happen with you will instantly endear you to an INFJ’s heart.
And so here you are learning about the 15 things INFJs really want you to know as you begin a relationship with us. They might not all be equally true of every INFJ, but this list is the result of feedback from and discussion with nearly 20 different INFJs so you’re getting a pretty good idea of what we’d like to say to you.
Even though I’m an INFJ myself and I’ve written a fairly successful book about the INFJ personality type, I still like to get feedback from other INFJs before writing a post like this. And so I want to say a big “Thank you” to everyone in the Facebook group INFJs Are Awesome who responded to my question about what they thought people should know before dating an INFJ. You guys helped make this post so much better than if it were just me typing away my thoughts in a vacuum.
1) We take relationships very seriously
While there are some INFJs who will have one-night-stands or enter casual relationships, most of us are interested in something long-term. If you’re not willing to take the relationships seriously we need to know that up-front so we can make a decision about whether or not to bother with you. Most of us know how to be alone and we’d rather stay single than settle for a relationship that just adds stress and anxiety to our lives. We also have a vision for how we want our lives to go and we’ll be going into a relationship trying to figure out how you might fit in with that vision.
2) We need to feel safe and accepted
This one is huge for INFJs. If you’re not a safe person for us to be around then we either 1) won’t enter a relationship with you or 2) will be trying to get out of the relationship. We desperately need to know you won’t dismiss us. We don’t actually expect you to fully understand all our quirks, nuances, and oddities but we need to know you will accept and even love them. We need to know you’re interested in getting to know the “real” version of us and that you won’t run away when we start opening up. Similarly, we typically have strong values and we’re looking for someone who lines up with them. INFJs can be very accepting of other people’s differences, but the closer you get to us the more closely we want you to line-up with our core beliefs. Read more →
Once upon a time, I told my sister, “I don’t think I’d ever date an ENFP.” Even though I’d seen lots of people describing ENFP-INFJ as a “perfect” pairing it just didn’t sound like a good fit for me. I loved having ENFP friends, but the ones I knew were either so intense they made me feel anxious, or so extroverted they wore me out, or too scattered for me to think I wouldn’t eventually get irritated with them in a closer relationship (or all of the above).
Then a few years after making this statement, I started actually getting to know one of my ENFP acquaintances. And now we’re dating (doesn’t that sound like just the sort of coincidence that would happen in a romance story?). He does have an intense personality but I’ve done enough work overcoming my social anxiety that doesn’t scare me any more (actually, it’s rather exciting). He’s the most extroverted person I know but I’ve discovered it’s not a problem for us. And he’s not scattered or flaky (which, it turns out, is another of those unfair/too widely applied stereotypes bouncing around Myers-Briggs circles).
Now, I could spend the next 1,000+ words telling you about how wonderful my boyfriend is but that’s probably not what you clicked on this post for (if it was I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed). Instead, we’re going to talk about why ENFPs and INFJs have a reputation in Myers-Briggs circles for getting along so well. Read more →
I’m so excited to have a guest post from Susan Storm today. When we decided to trade guest posts, I asked her for an article on INFJ relationships (which I felt unqualified to write as a very single INFJ) and she sent me this fantastic post. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Do you ever feel like finding your way in the dating world is messy and confusing? Are you married and wondering how you can understand your spouse better? As an INFJ blogger I get these types of questions a lot. I get it! Being part of such a rare personality means that finding a like-minded soul can be a huge challenge. I hope this article will encourage you and help you feel more at ease in the world of relationships.
What I’m not going to do:
So you might think I’m going to give you this huge list of personality types that are or are not compatible with INFJs. But I’m not going to go there. I’m a firm believer that any type can be compatible with any other type. Your Myers-Briggs type can only tell you what your preferences are; it won’t tell you who you should or shouldn’t date. The most important thing in any relationship is to understand your partner and try to work together in a way that respects each other’s differences. I really hope this article will help you find some answers to some of the most common questions!
What’s the Most Common INFJ Pairing?
From my own personal experience and from surveys done in various INFJ groups, it seems that INFJs most commonly wind up with XSTP personalities. I get questions about relationships daily, and probably 8 out of 10 INFJs I talk to about relationships are married or dating ISTPs or ESTPs. This seemed crazy initially…I mean, ESTPs and ISTPs are so different from INFJs, right? Plus all the personality dating books say that INFJs should date other intuitives. So why does this pairing occur so frequently?
Here’s my theory:
INFJs and XSTPs have the exact same cognitive functions, but in a completely different order. As people we tend to look for partners that will cause a “balancing” effect. If we’re primarily fueled by emotion and values, we might seek a logic-driven partner (and vice versa). If we’re imaginative and captivated primarily by theoretical possibilities we might seek someone who is grounded in reality and has his feet planted firmly on the ground. Read more →