Five Mistakes ISFJs Make in Relationships (and What To Do About Them)

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on April 16, 2020
Category: ISFJ

Protective, observant and loyal, ISFJ personality types are natural caretakers who will do everything they can to make their family and loved ones feel safe and supported. But selflessly loving others has its drawbacks. Here are the top five mistakes that ISFJs make in their relationships, plus some tips to help you manage them. 

1. Being way too selfless

ISFJs, you are so altruistic! But, while serving others is a noble thing, it can often mean sacrificing your own needs and desires in order to please your partner. A textbook ISFJ is that person who never forgets a birthday or an anniversary, is by their partner’s bedside when they are sick, is constantly checking-up on people just to make sure they are okay, and who feels guilty when something in the relationship goes wrong.

On the downside, Protectors will frequently give in when it comes to decisions, just to keep their partner happy. You might even change your habits to coincide with your partner’s interests, such as watching horror movies when you were never a fan of this genre, for example. The things you will do for love!

In the long-term, this self-dispossessing behavior can lead you to feel burned out, exhausted or even resentful. Many ISFJs give so much of themselves to others that they don’t know who they are anymore.

What to do about it: Save some time for yourself. You’ll always put others first -- it’s in your nature -- but you can’t pour from an empty cup. Prioritize self care so you have gas left in the tank to assist others. Schedule an hour of your day to read a book, take a bath, or go for a walk outside and simply wind down.

2. Hiding how you really feel

As a private sort who protects your loved ones, you’ll often repress your own emotions in order to maintain the harmony you prize in relationships. This can mean anything from saying “I’m fine” when you’re actually hurting, to staying very, very busy so you can avoid talking about whatever is troubling you.

While it comes from a place of caring, this self-repressing behavior is problematic on two levels. First, it leaves you wide open to being taken advantage of. Second, though you often hide your feelings for fear of being a burden, you expect your partner to read the signs and notice when something is off. And if your partner doesn’t pick up on your signals, you’ll eventually reach a breaking point, becoming passive-aggressive and insulting because you feel so underappreciated. Talk about pressure! 

What to do about it: Talk with your partner and be firm about what you need from them. Being specific helps keep the conversation neutral, so you could start by explaining how certain behaviors make you feel neglected. Maybe you’d appreciate it if your partner listened more attentively when you’re talking about your day. Or you’d like them to take care of the dishes, even though you told them you don’t need any help. By being honest and better communicating what you need from each other, neither of you will have to reach an emotional breakdown.

3.  Having a very rigid worldview

As an ISFJ, the chances are that you value structure and seek a methodical approach in everything you do -- including your relationships. You never accept a sloppy job and will aim for perfection in everything. Perfection, for you, is determined through the lens of your own values, beliefs and experiences. Problem is, you struggle to realize that your partner might have completely different experiences, and thus may respond in a completely different way.

Conflict arises when ISFJs assume their worldview is the only valid one, and they feel misunderstood when people question it. You might not even recognize your narrow- mindedness, thinking that your partner would “react the same way” if X happened to them. Cue massive amounts of misunderstandings. 

What to do about it: Get out of your head for a bit! While following a set of rules can give you a sense of security, it can quickly turn into inflexibility. Listen carefully to your partner and try to think about how their principles and beliefs are as valid as yours. When you expose yourself to something different, you’ll find you can’t always guess what’s right for others -- and that having a broader worldview will help you support people in a much more personalized and effective way.  

4. Taking things too personally

You might not wear your heart on your sleeve but fundamentally, you are an emotional individual. You genuinely care and proactively want to help others, but if something goes wrong, they feel responsible even when it’s not your fault. 

To cut a long story short, you take criticism very personally and read any constructive feedback as a personal slight. It hurts when someone comments on your looks, or suggests they could improve a cake recipe you’ve done dozens of times before. One fatal flaw of the ISFJ personality is that you struggle to separate yourself from the situation, which causes you to feel guilty and judgmental towards whoever is criticizing you.

What to do about it: Work on your self-esteem. This is crucial for you not to feel affected when people question your actions, or criticize your behavior. They’re not telling you that you’re a terrible person -- they might just have noticed you’re not taking care of yourself as much as you should and they’re worried about you. 

When someone provides you with actual valid criticism, be mindful that it doesn’t define your own self-worth as a person. Maybe you’ve been forgetting things lately, you haven’t watered the plants, or you didn’t go to the gym and your partner reminds you of that. Or maybe it’s just that  people are imperfect beings. Sometimes, your loved ones will project their own problems onto you, making you feel insecure about something that they’re actually insecure about. 

When you start working on your own self-esteem, you’ll find it much easier to put things into perspective and deal with criticism. 

5.  Avoiding confrontation at all costs

Confrontation: a word ISFJs fear more than anything. You have a habit of sticking your head in the sand; ignoring problems and hoping they’ll disappear by themselves. You’re pretty good at diverting the conversation when an unpleasant subject comes up, just so you can keep the peace in the relationship.

Problem is, the more you ignore a problem, the bigger it can get. Eventually, you reach a point where you cannot ignore the problem any longer and you’re forced to deal with it. Only by now, everyone’s emotions are running so high that it’s much harder to have a rational conversation about the problem. 

What to do about it: Learn to set boundaries. Instead of leaving it all to fate and avoiding confrontation, stand up for yourself. You don’t have to be rude or insulting. Rather, you can say something like “I feel you’re being disrespectful towards me,” or “The fact that you’re screaming is making me feel uncomfortable.” By explaining to your partner what’s okay and not okay for you, you open a path for honesty and vulnerability. This makes it easier to deal with confrontation in the future.

In conclusion

ISFJs make loving and attentive partners who will go to great lengths to defend those they love. When problems arise, it’s usually because you’re expecting your partner to demonstrate affection and compassion in return -- even if your partner doesn’t know what’s expected of them! 

The key is to open the channels of communication. When you learn to express yourself, see things from your partner’s point of view, set boundaries and have difficult conversations, you’ll find that you can avoid resentment and love with all the joy and contentment of a compassionate, selfless ISFJ.  

Andreia Esteves

Andreia is an INFJ who used to think she was the only person in the world terrified of answering the phone. She works as a freelance writer covering all things mental health, and psychology related. When not writing, you’ll find her cozying up with a book, or baking vegan treats. Find her at:

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Eastbourne2 (not verified) says...

Hi, I'm 53 years old and until last week had never quite understood myself and why i did things and reacted to situations like i do. It was suggested, by a friend, that i should take a personality test. I was classed as ISFJ. Having now studied my character type I can now relate entirely. I am now in the process of making changes within my life to enable me to both become a better person and to lead a more fulfilling life. I only wish that i'd have discovered it earlier !!

Andreia Esteves says...

Thanks for your comment! Happy to know the personality test was enlightening :) 

Trish Cullen (not verified) says...

I’ve always studied my personality type and this article is very written. I hate confrontation and will always avoid it. I’ve made a group of people feel uncomfortable and I’m so sad about it. 

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