Looking For Love With The MBTI

Looking For Love With The MBTI | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Dennis Skley, CC BY-ND via Flickr

People have been trying to use personality types to find their perfect romantic match since typology first became popular. In a previous posts about Myers-Briggs types and love languages, I talked about how falling in love — and staying in love — with someone is so much more complex than simply matching personality types. Sometimes when browsing personality type forums, I’ll come across posts from people asking how to find and attract a someone of a specific personality type (often it’s an ENTP asking for step-by-step instructions to win an INFJ, which I find hilarious). It’s like some of us think that if we can just find someone who is our ideal type-match, then we’ll be happy because we caught the mythical “compatibility” creature.

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Now, I do have some personality types I find more attractive romantically than others, but it’s not always the types I’m “supposed” to like according to Myers-Briggs or Keirsey theories. Even Isabel Myers was happily married to a man who her theory said should have been incompatible. An understanding of love languages and a mutual willingness to understand and work with each other is one piece of the puzzle. Another is something I just learned this week from Personality Hacker.*

The “Genius System”

Personality Hacker was founded by Antonia Dodge and Joel Mark Witt, who use what they call the “Genius system” to divide Myers-Briggs types into four groups based on the last two letters in a person’s type. In terms of function stacks, this means they group types based on whether the type introverts or extroverts their Judging function. The groupings end up looking like this:

  • “Harmony” — Extroverted Feelers (ESFJ, ISFJ, ENFJ, INFJ)
  • “Authenticity” — Introverted Feelers (ESFP, ISFP, ENFP, INFP)
  • “Effectiveness” — Extroverted Thinkers (ESTJ, ISTJ, ENTJ, INTJ)
  • “Accuracy” — Introverted Thinkers  (ESTP, ISTP, ENTP, INTP)

According to a new article on Personality Hacker, each of these groups look for and expressed love in a unique way. Most people would tell an INFJ to look for a relationship with an ENFP or an ENTP and avoid their opposite type, ESTP. This system stays that an ENFP and and ENTP express love in completely different ways, but ENTPs and ESTPs are actually very similar in how they love. That would explain why some INFJs find ENFPs really attractive, while others prefer ESTPs or ENTPs. It’s not so much about matching two specific types, as it is about finding types who express love in a way you relate to and understand. This Genius style take on the MBTI adds an intriguing aspect to the subject of personality types in relationships. You can check out the Personality Hacker podcast on how each type says “I Love You”* for a full explanation, but here’s my brief take on what this means:

Types of Love

Harmony” types, who use Extroverted Feeling as their first or second function, feel loved when they are connected, safe, cared for, and accepted as their authentic selves. They express love in a similar way, by encouraging the people they love and keeping in touch with them. They are primarily concerned with harmonious relationships and emotional connection.

The types who use Introverted Feeling, “Authenticity” in the Genius System, highly value honesty in relationships. They feel loved when they know someone is being real with them and is supportive of their own authentic expressions. Authenticity types express love by giving people space to be themselves and being willing to work through problems in the relationship.

Effectiveness” types, those who use Extroverted Thinking, value independence in relationship. They want to know that the person who loves them is supportive of their goals and can be trusted to function on their own. They are loyal and protective towards those they love, and give them room to be themselves.

Those who use Introverted Thinking, “Accuracy” types, feel loved when they are respected. They want to know that the person who is in love with them thinks they are impressive and that the relationship makes sense. In return, they are protective, non-judgmental, and strive to bring the best version of themselves to the relationship.

Matching Types

Ultimately, typology is simply a tool we can use to understand each other. When we understand ourselves and the people around us, we have a better idea of what we’re looking for in a romantic relationship. I think that’s really the best way to apply Myers-Briggs theory to romance. We can’t just say that all INFJs’ ideal match is an ENTP — people are far more nuanced than that, even within a type. But the better we understand how we’re wired and what makes us feel loved, the more likely we’ll be able to recognize whether a potential romantic partner would be a good or a bad match for us.

This is one of the things Debra Fileta talks about in her book and blog True Love Dates. You have to know yourself before you try to get to know other people in a romantic context, otherwise you have no idea what you’re looking for in a relationship. So maybe the first thing we should do when looking at the Genius System types is find which group we fit into. If we know who we are, we’re one step closer to knowing what we want.

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Love Languages and MBTI Types

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.

Elizabeth and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, an NF – NT couple

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)

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

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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A Relationship Questionnaire

A Relationship "Questionnaire" by marissabaker.wordpress.com

I was talking with a friend some weekends ago about items we have on our “future husband” and “potential boyfriend” lists. We were saying how it would be nice if we could find out more easily whether or not a guy was someone we would like to date before we agreed to go out with him, and I suggested (half-jokingly) “I say we prepare a detailed questionnaire for potential boyfriends and ask for at least 3 character references.” The more we talked about it, the better the idea sounded. After all, when you apply for a job, you have to answer a whole series of questions and you’re expected to provide references that can attest to your good character. Relationships are more important, and hopefully more permanent, so why wouldn’t we give as much consideration to finding out whether or not someone is right for you and you are right for them?

On the other hand, I’ve talked to more than one girl who was approached by a guy who was clearly working his way through a list of questions as they talked. They felt like they could see him putting mental check-marks down as he covered each topic. Ew … that’s creepy! We certainly don’t want to end up like that.

Non-creepy Questions

As I continued to think about this idea, I realized it would be less helpful to run people through a “prefect person checklist” than to have some kind of guideline for clarifying what we need in a relationship. There are certain things I think of as non-negotiable, such as a having a relationship with God. If I don’t clarify what that means to me before I meet someone, though, I might find myself making excuses for a guy because I like him, even if his beliefs differ from mine on significant points.

Before our conversation about surveying boyfriends, I came across something titled “My Little Book of Whether Or Not He’s Worth It” by Brittany Baily. There is much to like about her points, particularly her emphasis on not settling for a guy who treats you with disrespect. But I feel this kind of guide misses two very important things: 1) it ignores the importance faith plays in a relationship, and 2) it focuses entirely on what I need/want in a relationship. For my list, I wanted to address the need to have God as the center of your relationship, as well as the fact that a relationship can’t be all about what you want — you also have to think of the other person’s needs and be the kind of person they are looking for.

I’ve presented my list in a questionnaire form, mostly because of the conversation which prompted this post. I would advise against actually passing them out to potential boyfriends or girlfriends (but if you do, be sure to let me know how it goes!). Think of it as a guide to learning important things about the person you are considering, or in, a relationship with. You might want to fill one out with the answers you think you would like a potential dating partner to fill-in, and then answer one for yourself. Would your ideal match like the way you filled out your survey? If you meet someone who would answer one of these questions differently than you think you would like, will you be irritated by that or learn to live with it?

Relationship Questionnaire


  • How would you describe your relationship with God? (you can’t expect someone to love you the way you deserve/need/want to be loved if they do not love God even more than they love you)
  • What do you consider a good amount of time to spend in prayer and study on a daily basis? (how much time they give to God is an indication of whether or not they are worth your time)
  • How important is fellowship with other believers to you? What influences your decisions about which church group(s) to attend?


  • What kind of boundaries (physical and emotional) would you want to set in a dating relationship?
  • How much time do you envision spending together in person, online, or on the phone while dating? Will you write letters and/or emails?
  • What would make you mistrust someone you were dating?
  • Why didn’t your previous relationships work out?
  • How do you handle money? Are you a spender? a saver? some other money personality?


  • Are you typically introverted or extroverted? would you be comfortable spending time with someone who is more introverted/extroverted than you are?
  • How do you express anger?
  • How do you handle conflict?
  • Do you know what your primary love language is?
  • Is there anything in your past that you wouldn’t want to tell someone you just started dating, but probably should before you get married?
  • What do you consider your positive characteristics?
  • What do you consider your negative characteristics?


  • Do you want kids? How many? Would you consider adoption, and if so under what circumstances?
  • If you want kids, how would you like to educate them? Home school? Public school? Private school?
  • Would kids be encouraged to pursue higher education, if that’s what they want?
  • What do you consider appropriate discipline for young children? for teenagers?
  • Is it important to live near the extended family? Why or why not?
  • What kind of influence, if any, should our parents and family have over our relationship?
  • Are you closer to your mother or to your father? Why?

One Last Note

I hope you find these helpful. Feel free to add suggestions — I can continue to edit this based on feedback.

I also want to add that I talked about these questions with the friend who first gave me the idea, and requested feedback from a couple who has been happily married for almost 27 years — my parents. I’ve also been reading  about psychology, love, and relationships for years, and drew upon that information for some of these points.

Of Kayaking and Love Languages

image from stock.xchng

In keeping with my decision to blog every day of the Feast of Tabernacles, I’m going to share a story from a previous Feast for today’s post. I originally wrote this account to read aloud in a creative non-fiction class in 2011. The only thing I’ve edited from that version is changing the guys’ names, and my sister asked for her name to be taken out.

It was so hot in Panama City Beach that my glasses would steam up stepping outside from the air conditioned hotel. My family was there two years ago, in the fall, meeting with a church group that had chosen Florida as the location to observe the week-long Feast of Tabernacles, one of our annual Holy Days. Just a couple days into the Feast, my sister and I met two brothers, Quentin and Declan. Somehow, in the course of our conversation, the idea of kayaking on a nearby lagoon came up. Not entirely comfortable going anywhere with two guys we’d hardly known more than an hour, I was trying to politely refuse when Quentin suggested our whole family come. Well, surely he couldn’t be that dangerous if he was willing to include our Dad, Mom, and younger brother, so my sister and I agreed to the plan and invited the two brothers to eat lunch with our family in the condominium.

Of course, something had to go wrong. Mommy sliced her finger open on a can of pineapple, not too seriously, but enough to keep her from kayaking. Since she was laid-up, Daddy and my brother also stayed behind and my sister and I set out with Quentin and Declan. We split the cost of kayak rentals, but still, (or so my mother informs me) it was my first “date” as well as my first time kayaking. As it turned out, I enjoyed the kayaking part a lot more than the “dating” part. Quentin and I shared one kayak, and Declan and my sister shared the other. Both brothers had quickly lost interest in my sister after learning she was under 18, and I learned later that Declan and my sister hardly spoke the whole kayaking venture. By the time we got back to the hotel, I was convinced that lagging conversation would have been preferable to mine and Quentin’s discussion.

The kayaking adventure began promisingly. We watched pelicans ungracefully plop into the ocean and laughed at terns diving like missiles honing in on fish in the water below. The water was so clear you could look through the ripples and see fish swimming through snaky sea-grass while crabs skittered along the sandy bottom. Occasionally, a fish would randomly leap from the water, as if it was so happy to be alive that simply swimming was no longer enough and it had to take flight.

We had stopped paddling for a moment to take in the scenery when Quentin suddenly asked, “Have you heard of the book The Five Love Languages?”

I drew out my “Yes…?” like a question, which he took as permission to reveal that his love language was “Quality Time.” Then, as if the conversation were not awkward enough already, he went on to explaining that he particularly liked time spent with someone in a natural setting.

You mean like a lagoon in Florida, alone with someone you met just THREE HOURS AGO? I thought while mumbling something non-committal. Picking up my paddle, I cut short the conversation by steering our kayak back towards my sister’s and Declan’s kayak, vowing there was no way I was going to tell Quentin one of my primary love languages was “Touch”.