After writing about personality type’s impact on careers (Do What You Are), parenting (Nurture by Nature) and communication (The Art of SpeedReading People), my co-author Barbara Barron and I turned our attention to perhaps the most complex application of the rich Jung/Myers model – romantic relationships.
Naturally, we were curious about this ourselves, but regardless of the stated topic of so many talks we gave, or the makeup of the audience, inevitably we would be asked questions about type and compatibility. The apparent huge interest in the topic led us to tackle this fascinating but challenging subject in our fourth book Just Your Type.
Clearly, there are many, many things that influence relationship satisfaction that have nothing to do with Personality Type! However, after seeing how many other important aspects of life are impacted by Type, we were convinced it probably plays a big role and determined to conduct serious research to find out.
We approached the topic the way we did in our previous books – by conducting the most comprehensive research to date. We began by interviewing several therapists who specialize in working with couples to identify the key issues that cause problems in their clients’ relationships. Next, we created an extensive online survey completed by 2,500 individuals, of which 1,040 responses were included in the analysis. One main objective of the study was to determine the most satisfying aspects of a relationship and the most common sources of conflict for individual members of every type combination – a truly daunting task, since there are 136 combinations in all! Our hope was to use what we learned to help all people have the most satisfying relationships possible.
We followed the quantitative survey with an open-ended questionnaire designed to collect more anecdotal data. Among the topics we explored were what each partner does to bring the other closer, push him or her away and show appreciation. Participants were also asked about the secrets of a satisfying relationship and what advice they would give another couple who shared the same type combination, to improve their relationship. Seven hundred and fifty individuals provided this feedback.
Finally, we conducted in-depth telephone interviews with hundreds of couples. The questions covered a range of topics including how they met, what attracted each to the other, and what they liked most and least about the relationship. To ensure this research was comprehensive and robust, the sample included significant numbers of people with different personality types, genders, ethnicities, geographic locations, marital status, numbers of children, educational backgrounds, political philosophies, occupations and income ranges.
Some Key Findings
Not surprising, our research showed a strong link between Personality Type and relationship satisfaction. Good communication was considered the single most important component.
- Ninety-two percent considered good communication to be the most important aspect. The more satisfied they were with the quality of their communication, the more satisfied they were with their relationship.
- The more similar people were to their partners, the more satisfied they were. Fifty-two percent of those who were satisfied described themselves as similar compared with 22% who were satisfied but were dissimilar from their partners. This suggests that while opposites may attract, the more similar people are, the easier time they may have understanding and communicating with each other.
- Those most satisfied with their relationship were also more satisfied with their careers.
- The more type preferences a couple had in common, the higher they rated their satisfaction with the quality of their communication.
But this does not mean that people with fewer or even no preferences in common can’t still have great relationships! Most couples don’t share all four preferences in common. About:
- 10% of couples share all four preferences
- 20% share three preferences
- 35% have only two in common (the most common occurrence)
- 25% have one preference in common
- 10% have no preferences in common
So, while sharing preferences in common does not guarantee couples a satisfying relationship, it seems that people with fewer preferences in common may have to work harder at their relationships.
Mars and Venus?...Not so fast!
In an effort to confirm or refute several popularly held beliefs about differences between men and women, we analyzed the data to see what, if any, effect gender had on specific behaviors and attitudes. In several instances, results suggest that peoples’ behavior is often influenced more by their type than by their gender. For example, slightly more women than men considered intimacy the most important component of a satisfying relationship. But the far greater differences occurred between Thinkers and Feelers. About 60% of Thinkers (both men and women) considered intimacy most important, compared with 75% of Feelers (again, both men and women). And, slightly more male Thinkers than female Thinkers considered it most important!
When asked to rate the importance of intellectual stimulation, by a wide margin (58% to 45%), more women than men considered it most important. Predictably, more Thinkers than Feelers considered intellectual stimulation most important. But, by a very substantial margin (63% to 41%), more women Thinkers than men Thinkers considered it most important. These results – typical of many of our findings – suggest that Type preferences, especially Thinking and Feeling, have more influence on behavior and attitudes than gender.
What Makes for a Satisfying Relationship?
We looked at 22 aspects of satisfying relationships to determine which were most important to people of different types. The items included: intimacy, sexual compatibility, communication, shared values, shared interests, security, trust, mutual respect, companionship, shared religious beliefs, financial security, similar parenting styles, being listened to, intellectual stimulation, having fun together, accepting each other’s differences, mutual commitment, fidelity, mutual support, humor, spending time together and spiritual connection.
The aspects and percentages that a clear majority felt were most important, were:
1. Trust 95%
2. Communication 92%
3. Mutual respect 92%
4. Mutual commitment 86%
5. Fidelity 82%
This list reminds us that some things are important to people of all types. Even partners who are very different from each other can have a deep connection when they share these core values.
Here are the aspects that significantly fewer people indicated were most important:
1. Shared religious beliefs 18%
2. Financial security 27%
3. Shared interests 28%
4. Similar parenting style 33%
5. Spiritual connection 34%
Clearly, some types value certain characteristics more than others. In Part II of this blog, I’ll share which aspects are most and least important to different types, which can help predict which problems might arise for different pairings.
Thinking and Feeling + Judging and Perceiving: a Powerful Brew
Because some people believe that differences in Judging and Perceiving are the source of most conflicts in relationships, we examined how similarities and differences on this type dimension affected relationship satisfaction. We found almost identical levels of satisfaction for couples who were alike and different on the Judging/Perceiving scale.
But when we factored in Thinking/ Feeling with Judging/Perceiving, we noted some dramatic differences. Those reporting the most satisfaction:
- TJ with TJ 74%
- FJ with FJ 73%
- TJ with TP 71%
- FP with FP 70%
Three out of these four combinations were the same on both the T/F and J/P scales. These combinations were probably the most satisfied because all three pairs (TJ with TJ, FJ with FJ, and FP with FP) are similar in important ways. For example, both TJ partners tend to be logical, rather thick-skinned and prefer to live fairly structured lives. While both FJ partners tend to be highly sensitive to each other and like their homes neat, so there are not likely to be many complaints about sloppiness – a common source of marital arguments. And both FP partners tend to be gentle and adaptable, with less need to exert control over the other.
But it is equally interesting to learn which combinations of T/F and J/P were least satisfied:
- FJ with TJ 58%
- TP with FJ 55%
- TJ with FJ 49%
- TP with TP 46%
FJ with TP pairs were probably less satisfied because FJs tend to be extremely sensitive and may feel that their honest – but sometimes blunt – TJ partners are insensitive or dismissive of their feelings. TPs with FJs may find their partners too sensitive, judgmental, and controlling. And TJs with FJ partners may have similar issues, plus the additional factor that TJs are logical and impersonal, while FJs need to express their feelings and emotions and try hard to please others.
In Part II of this blog, I explain how other type dynamics affect relationship satisfaction and share some of the specific joys and frustrations for different type combinations. I’m very gratified that the findings from this research have helped so many couples identify potentially problematic issues, recognize that it’s normal for different types to have different values, and to develop a deeper appreciation for what is most important to their partner.
For a deeper dive into the research, and to learn the joys, challenges of your type pairing, and the best way to reach your partner, please see Just Your Type: Create the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted Using the Secrets of Personality Type.