They rode off into the sunset, with a promise of eternal felicity, and lived happily ever after…

Or did they?

The reason romantic fiction sells so well is that we end the story with the glowing sunset and not with the next day's argument. But real relationships don't stop at the fairytale ending: they require hard work and maintenance from both parties so you can navigate the quagmire together.

Whether the relationship is with a long-term partner or new significant other, there are times when a decision must be made as a team. Sometimes, there'll be a meeting of minds and the decision will go off without a hitch. Other times, it will be immediately apparent that you're coming at the problem from two completely different angles.

A Thinker/Feeler relationship can be particularly challenging in these situations. Thinkers in the Myers and Briggs personality system use their heads to make logical and reasonable decisions, while Feelers use their hearts to make values-based decisions and consider the impact on people. These are very different ways of approaching a problem. Learning how to manage the Thinker/Feeler dynamic is key to fewer struggles and more sunsets in your relationship.

Opposites attract...and fight!

Thinker personality types have tendencies toward logic, competence, rationality, justice and unbiased data. They want truthful answers and drive toward clarity. When they process incoming information, it is through the lens of objectivity and analysis. Thinkers believe every person has a responsibility to take care of themselves, and this internal focus means they will value individual achievement over group cooperation. More on this in a moment.

Feeler personality types lean into characteristics like empathy, cooperation, compassion, service and authenticity. They want world peace and drive toward consensus. When Feelers process incoming information, they perceive it through morals, aesthetics and the subjective human variables of others. Feelers believe everyone has a responsibility to take care of those around them, and this external focus means they will value the approval and comfort of others, even if it means being ambiguous.

When decisions are being made, a Thinker’s best skill is to keep the ideas generated consistent with the goal and arrange them in a way that can be analyzed. A Feeler’s best skill is to evaluate your intent as a couple and sensitively persuade the other person towards resolution. Both approaches are equally valuable. 

But in stressful situations, they can be taken to extremes. During arguments, what you may end up with is a Thinker who drives too fast toward a hard conclusion without considering the other person's feelings and a Feeler who becomes too caught up in the vibes in the room to make a clear, decisive decision.

Now that we have identified and understand our partner’s style, we can tailor communication strategies to bridge, minimize or avoid the Thinker/Feeler gap. The following tips will help you avoid personal attacks and defensiveness, where the Thinker feels irrationally sabotaged and the Feeler feels callously persecuted. Don’t get personal, get polite is the best mantra to remember.

How to fight fair with a Feeler

1.  Bring tact to the argument.

When arguing with a Feeler, try to make small talk about things you both agree on first and ease your way into the bigger issue at hand. Respect that Thinking and Feeling are two sides of the same coin and equally compelling—you can honor their values even if you don’t agree with them. Show good intentions when you begin and keep them by not passing judgment when Feelers share their thoughts, no matter how irrational you consider those thoughts to be.

2. Talk to the heart.

Praise the Feeler for their contributions so you don’t appear detached from all the emotions at play. Learn the subtleties of body language and tone of voice, adding emotional awareness to your listening skills. Don’t rush or force a decision or offer criticism before their points have been heard. Help your Feeler avoid decision paralysis with a patient reminder that they won’t always win the approval of others—and that’s okay. Give them time to process. Apologize if you catch yourself trying to pressure or manipulate them into changing their beliefs or views.

3.  Recognize the value of emotions in decision-making.

Feelers notice the invisible, so use it to your mutual advantage. Identify the human elements in the argument and ask the Feeler to create a list of potential emotional outcomes on either side of the decision. Assign them the people tasks ahead of time to gather relevant information and any hidden agendas they feel might apply to this decision.

How to fight fair with a Thinker

1.    Bring your fact.

Present logical arguments and evidence to win the Thinker over. You'll do better if you prepare your argument in advance and include some facts or data for the Thinker to ruminate over. Offer them data from experts as opposed to peers. Don’t be afraid to argue for the greater good when necessary. Thinkers appreciate decisiveness.

2.    Talk to the head.

This means framing your emotions in a logical context, and being vocal and precise when stating your opinions and needs. Help your Thinker avoid their compulsive need to fact-check with a patient reminder that no solution is perfect or permanent, that sometimes we agree to disagree, and that sometimes there is no solution to be had—and that’s okay. Trim your points and get to them as promptly as possible. Apologize if you catch yourself making assumptions about their lack of feelings…yes, they have them, but they don't automatically tap into their emotions as a tool for decision-making.

 3.      Recognize the value of logical reasoning in decision-making.

Thinkers see things at face value, so use it to your mutual advantage. For example, you can identify any hardcore ‘yes/no’ solutions that you need to decide on and ask the Thinker to come up with the pros and cons or give a rapid-fire bullet point list of where potential outcomes might take you as a couple. Assign them any research tasks beforehand in order to gather relevant information that might contribute to making a good decision.

Fair fights mean healthy relationships

Eternal felicity may sound like fiction, but practicing your conflict-resolution skills will bring the head and the heart of your relationships into harmony. These skills are not intuitive but must be consistently worked on, especially if your relationship is at stake. The tips in this article will help you voice concerns, fight fair, and move beyond the sunset to the happily ever after.

Jolie Tunnell
Jolie Tunnell is an author, freelance writer and blogger with a background in administration and education. Raising a Variety Pack of kids with her husband, she serves up hard-won wisdom with humor, compassion and insight. Jolie is an ISTJ and lives in San Diego, California where she writes historical mysteries. Visit her at