Are Certain Personality Types More Compatible Than Others?28 January 2022 / By Kim Jacobson Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on January 28, 2022
After learning your Myers and Briggs personality type, how many of you started typing the people in your life and the characters on your favorite TV shows?
C’mon. It can’t just be me.
It’s pretty natural to apply newly acquired knowledge to the world around us. It helps us retain what we learn and see the world through new lenses. Given that fact, it naturally follows that personality type compatibility is a hot topic!
“Why do I seem to care more about my friendship than my bff?”
“Is that attractive date actually trouble?”
“My partner seems pretty perfect for me, does science agree?”
We’re hardwired for connection and understanding personality theory compatibility satisfies our basic human inclination to predict the outcome of our relationships and inform our expectations.
Plus, there’s the added bonus that personality theory makes those annoying love triangles *way* more interesting!
Personality Compatibility Charts
Have you seen those charts floating around the internet? The charts that label personality compatibility with differing colors marking “great matches” and “danger zones”.
My first foray into personality compatibility was shortly after I got married.
My husband is pretty much the bomb-dot-com. I scoured that chart, totally sure we’d be in bright green as one of the best matches… when our personality combination was actually in red.
We were “danger zone lovers.” (Really Google? Danger Zone Lovers?)
Thankfully, a cookie-cutter personality compatibility chart doesn’t hold the answers about the future success of your relationship.
People are complicated. An ENFP with an Enneagram type 4 is going to be a different flavor than an ENFP with an Enneagram type 9 personality.
And that doesn’t even get you started on healthy cognitive stacking vs. shadow functions, childhood upbringing, whether you agree that pineapple belongs on pizza, tooth-brushing habits, sleep-walking truths, whether they’ll endure your yearly Lord of the Rings marathon – you know, all the important relationship fundamentals personality theory doesn’t quite account for.
Personality compatibility is nuanced, layered, and complicated. At the end of the day, the most important part of any relationship is the willingness to listen, work together, and value your partner’s viewpoints.
Basic Principles of Personality Compatibility
The most common personality type match can be found with any personality type! You just need two common type preferences (type preference = one of the 4 letters in your Myers and Briggs code).
Any two type preferences will do: two Extraverted Feelers can navigate the differences in worldview between an Intuitive and a Sensor, for example.
While two type preferences is the most common match, those who had three type preferences in common experienced a higher rate of relationship satisfaction. The old maxim that “opposite attract” might indeed be absolute hogwash.
In fact, it has also been found that the second type preference, Intuition vs. Sensing, plays a key role in initial attraction. We tend to be drawn to people who share the same worldview. They “speak our language” and there’s an undeniable ease in building a relationship with someone who shares this preference.
It’s worth noting that differences in Extraversion and Introversion have been found to cause the most conflict in long-term relationships.
Which makes sense when you think about it. Every weekend and holiday you’ve got to decide whether you’re gonna warm your couch or an acquaintance’s party. After forty years of that same conversation, you either have a fabulous system worked out or a spectacularly well-rehearsed fight.
In general, Feelers compensate for differences in other type preferences more adeptly than Thinkers. Affairs of the heart and all that. So a Feeler with one or two type preferences in common with their partner may experience more satisfaction than a Thinker with three type preferences in common.
Or, you know, that Feeler could have three type preferences in common, but a deeply divided opinion on the validity of a calzone as an appropriate pizza substitute that causes their relationship to implode.
A Section for the Data-Nerds
No judgments here. I love a good spreadsheet!
Researchers Tieger and Barron-Tieger found a few interesting relationship points:
First, SJs paired with other SJs experienced a 79% satisfaction rate in their relationships (which is considered quite high). This combination of preferences leads to strong values in tradition and commitment, which would result in a great long-term relationship combination.
Likewise, NFs paired with other NFs experienced a 73% satisfaction rate in their relationships. This is attributed to the proclivity NFs have to open communication and devotion.
Now, an NFP paired with an STJ, while reported as one of the most common relationship pairings, only reported a 42% satisfaction rate. More than half of couples with this Myers and Briggs combination are dissatisfied with their relationship, which made me (clearly a feeler) quite sad to see.
STPs are least likely to be concerned with the quality of their relationships, and thus STPs paired with like preferences reported a low 33% relationship satisfaction rate.
And last, NTs tend to be the most critical partners. An NT partnered with another NT experienced a 59% relationship satisfaction rate, which seems higher than I expected given the first piece of information. Way to go, NTs!
Similar research done by Nancy Marioles, PhD at St. Mary’s adds a bit of flavor to our discussion on personality compatibility:
First, that male INFP, INFP, and INTP as well as female ENFJ and INFJ types are most likely to marry someone with their same type preferences.
Second, the two personality types that support “opposites attract” are ESTJ paired with an INFP and an ESTP paired with an INFJ. She also noted that ESTP and ESTJ men are most likely to be married multiple times, which is a fascinating bit of information I have no idea how to use.
Last, Marioles found that women married to INTP men reported the highest level of dissatisfaction coming in at 31%. This means INTPs might find it especially important to find like-minded types when searching for a long-term relationship match.
I am not content to simply look at stats, learn new principles, and shrug on with my life as normal.
What does all of this mean for our relationships?
Instead of using these bits of information to jab and label, internalize expectations and use your newfound knowledge to improve your relationships!
For example: from the researchers Barron and Tieger-Barron, we learned that NTs tend to be the most critical partners. If I work with an NT in the future, this actually helps my relationship with them! I can know this is part of their nature and see that, as an NFP, I’m probably going to be sensitive to criticism.
I imagine having a straightforward conversation following the classic script “when you [action], I feel [emotion] because [internal logic, even if it makes no sense]” with a suggestion for how we can handle critical conversations in the future. I imagine listening and working together to create a balanced working relationship where we can benefit from the differences we each bring to the table.
Likewise, someone building a relationship with me might have to come to grips with the fact that I’m a nutso ball of energy with all the ideas and very little follow-through.
A potential employer with this knowledge might have an additional conversation with me about my plans to meet deadlines and any additional procedures we can implement together to help us both experience success.
The bottom line: personality compatibility pairings are worth learning from, but don’t let them dictate your relationship choices.
My husband and I have one type preference in common: Feeling. That’s it.
While that has the potential to be difficult, we’ve both enjoyed the balance this brings to our relationships. I have a much better system of follow-through because of my beau’s wonderful, grounded, persistent nature. And I’m happy to report that he is less bothered by the messes our kiddos make because I’m such a hot slob.
Relationship satisfaction, while impacted by personality compatibility, ultimately comes down to communication, trust, and respect.
And movie marathons. But that’s just me.
Your turn! In your experience, what has been the most compatible personality match?