In Part I of this blog: “What the Research Tells Us” I shared some results from the most robust, comprehensive study done to date on how Personality Type impacts relationships. I identified the issues that participants reported were most and least important for a relationship to be satisfying. Our data showed that “what planet” men and women are purported to come from is not as important as their preference for Thinking or Feeling. And that becomes even more powerful when you factor in if the person is a Judger or Perceiver.
Clearly, some (whole four-letter) types value certain characteristics more than others. Looking at which aspects are most and least important to different types may help predict where problems might arise for different pairings. For example, 81% of INFPs rated intimacy as most important, compared with just 52% of ISTPs. It’s reasonable to assume that ISTP and INFP couples might experience conflict, or at least tension, around issues of intimacy.
Here are some additional examples of disparate ratings for aspects of a satisfying relationship for different type combinations. The percentages reflect how many people reported these aspects were most important.
· Security ISTJ: 61% INTP: 31%
· Companionship ENFJ: 74% INTJ: 56%
· Spending time together ENFJ: 65% ESTP: 18%
· Humor ENFP: 71% ISFJ: 48%
· Shared values ISTJ: 77% ESTP: 46%
· Mutual support ISFJ: 86% ISTP: 52%
· Sexual compatibility ESTP: 64% ISFP: 32%
· Having fun together ESTP: 91% ISTJ: 66%
· Spiritual connection ENFP:45% ISTJ: 27%
· Fidelity ESTJ: 88% INTJ: 73%
· Intellectual stimulation ENTP: 67% ISFJ: 28%
What Temperament Tells Us About Relationship Satisfaction
A quick refresher: there are four temperaments – popularized by the California psychologist David Keirsey: Sensing Judgers (SJs), Sensing Perceivers (SPs), Intuitive Thinkers (NTs) and Intuitive Feelers (NFs).
Since temperament reflects core values, we examined how temperamental similarities and differences might influence relationship satisfaction. Here’s how the different temperament pairings rated their satisfaction (from most to least satisfied):
SJ with SJ 79% SP with SP 59%
NF with NF 73% NT with NT 59%
SP with NT 73% SJ with NF 58%
SJ with SP 71% NT with SP 54%
NT with NF 65% SP with NF 54%
NF with NT 64% NT with SJ 52%
SP with SJ 63% NF with SP 51%
SJ with NT 62% NF with SJ 46%
The reason why SJs with SJ partners reported being the most satisfied probably has to do with their traditional nature and the importance they place on commitment. The second highest ranking was NFs with NF partners. This makes sense because NFs invest a lot of time and energy trying to improve their relationships and they also rate communication as among their most cherished values. Significantly, few (59%) of NTs with NT partners reported being satisfied. Perhaps it is because both partners tend to be naturally critical and have exceptionally high standards. In other words, they may just be harder to please.
When We Add Thinking and Feeling into the Mix…
Clearly, looking at relationships through the temperament lens provides valuable insights. But by including Thinking and Feeling, a deeper, more granular picture emerges.
Because SJs with SJ partners were the most satisfied (79%) and NFs with SJ partners the least satisfied (46%) we looked at how satisfaction would be affected if we also factored in a person’s preferences for Thinking/Feeling and Judging/Perceiving. Here are the results, ranked from the most to least satisfied for the SJ and NF combinations:
SFJ with NFP 86% NFP with SFJ 53%
SFJ with NFJ 67% NFJ with STJ 49%
STJ with NFJ 58% STJ with NFP 45%
NFJ with SFJ 57% NFP with STJ 42%
The most satisfied combinations were SFJs with NFPs (86%) and SFJs with NFJs (67%). A likely explanation may be that both types are committed to pleasing their partners and making their relationships work. The least satisfied were NFPs with STJs (42%) and STJs with NFPs (45%). This is particularly interesting since according to our research, a high percentage of NFPs and STJs become couples.
Although it’s impossible to know for sure, this finding might be further evidence that opposites really do attract – but they don’t always have the most satisfying relationships. A likely explanation for their mutual dissatisfaction: NFPs often feel controlled, criticized and stifled by their much more traditional STJ partners. And STJs are often uncomfortable with their NFP partners’ unpredictability, emotionality, and lack of follow-through.
We found that the more type preferences factored into the analysis, the more insightful and useful the findings. For example, 44% of all SPs considered fidelity to be the most important aspect of a satisfying relationship. But almost twice as many SFPs (63%) than STPs (33%) considered it most important.
Quite possibly, this is because the supersensitive SFPs are more tuned into the pain that is caused, and the damage done, when one or both partners are unfaithful. These results underscore the importance of making the distinction between Thinkers and Feelers when interpreting findings that focus only on temperament.
“The Whole Enchilada”…136 Combinations
As was mentioned earlier, Just Your Type contains a chapter for each of the 136 type combinations. It describes the joys, the frustrations, and specific advice for both people on how to reach your partner.
As an example, here’s what happens with one type combination:
ISFJs with ENFPs
This combo has only one preference in common: Feeling. But it is an important one that often gives the couple a strong emotional connection. Sympathetic, caring, and sensitive to each other’s needs, ISFJs and ENFPs value harmony and providing mutual support.
Their differences are often the source of their initial attraction. ISFJs find the ENFP outgoing, fun, enthusiastic, charming and clever. ENFPs admire their partner’s gentleness, focus, quiet energy, thoughtfulness and stability, a calming influence. Because they have so many complementary characteristics, they have a huge opportunity to help one another grow.
But since they are different on three of their four type preferences, they can face some formidable challenges. For example, ISFJs are rule followers, ENFPs are not; ISFJs are planners; ENFPs love to be spontaneous; ISFJs are caretakers who often feel obliged to organize their ENFPs (often preferably chaotic lives) which can lead to resentment. And the ENFP’s gift for creativity can often rub the much more realistic and down-to-earth ISFJs the wrong way.
ENFPs and ISFJs typically have very different social needs as well. Whereas ISFJs usually prefer to spend time alone with their partners or with a small group of close friends, ENFPs often have a large collection of friends and associates with whom they enjoy spending as much time as possible (often making plans at the last minute, which can leave the much more planful ISFJs feeling anxious).
ISFJs and ENFPs also have very different communication styles. ENFPs tend to be fast talkers who think out loud, while ISFJs need to think things through before they are ready to discuss them. This difference in style can lead ENFPs to feel their partners don’t share enough, and ISFJs to feel rushed or interrupted.
Here’s a sample of the advice offered to couples of this type combination:
How to Reach your ENFP Partner
· Make an effort to socialize more
· “Plan” to be spontaneous (he/she doesn’t need to know it's planned!)
· Be willing to experiment sexually
· Take two cars to parties, so you can leave when you want, and he/she can stay
· Don’t immediately shoot down ideas, even though you may see practical details your partner has overlooked
· Be diplomatic when offering feedback
· Make sure your partner has his/her own space to decorate as they want
How to Reach your ISFJ Partner
· Provide as many details in advance of social engagements (who will be there, how long you plan to stay, etc.)
· Try to keep common areas tidy
· Honor your commitments, especially to activities important to your partner
· Acknowledge the considerate ways your partner takes care of you and your home
· Remember special dates; anniversaries, birthdays, holidays
· Give presents that are aesthetically pleasing, but also practical and useful
· Make time to spend together – just the two of you!
· Respect your partner’s routines and rituals
· Give your partner plenty of time to prepare & try not to change plans
Some Final Thoughts
Relationships are complex and complicated, which is why between 40-50% of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, and why the average length of a marriage is eight years. That said, human beings seem instinctively drawn to be part of a couple.
Millions of people have found the Jung/Myers Model of Personality Type a valuable framework for understanding themselves, their partners, and how they relate to each other. It provides a positive, non-judgmental, practical way of helping couples identify their similarities and (hopefully) appreciate their differences.
The best relationship advice I ever heard was this: “The purpose of life is to grow…the purpose of relationships is to show you where you need to grow.” Understanding Personality Type can accelerate that growth.
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