Hi All,
My wife seems to be an:
Supervisor, Executive / Provider, Sentinel, Consul (& Turbulent).

- but with tendencies toward:

I'm an arty, slightly flaky, introverted, disorganised INFP who can't settle for 'work for work's sake'. I need a higher purpose. I'm also indecisive and look for the middle-ground with people and situations.

What can I do to ease/improve the relationship? I read some opinions elsewhere this morning, that these business-like ESTJs basically expect everyone else to change to be more like them. And that things have to be done their way, no matter what.

WHAT I CAN (try hard to) DO:

I can see that even if I can't change my fundamental personality, there ARE behaviours that I could improve upon, so that I rub her the wrong way less, such as:

- Being more organised
- Being moreFocussed
- Being more disciplined
- Having 'my act together'
- Having a plan
- Being more decisive
- Being less 'emotional'
- Be less flaky
- Be more goal-oriented
- Get things done
- Have a plan - but follow through on it

I think most people would agree that these are all positive things to strive for anyway.


Giving in to everything without question - and just obeying and pandering. I'd be concerned that I could end up creating a monster. My dad let my mum away with her behaviour (obnoxious and angry - in her case), and now she's a 70+ year old, spoilt brat, demon who just shouts all of the time.

Giving in, and never questioning could make my wife - over time - even harder to please. As the bar is raised, the potential for me annoying her could increase.

Any thoughts, folks?


Bard says...

That is a tough one, because as I read the list of things you can try to do, several of them jump out at me as, indeed, trying to change your basic personality. And some of them sound like somebody criticizing you, rather than you coming up with ideas on how to improve *your* life. Have you been told "Get your act together!" "Don't be so emotional!" "You're so flaky!"?

It might be more helpful to think of goals that are more specific and behavior-oriented, *and* to think of strategies you can use to help you achieve those goals. And I'm going to add, not just goals that you hope will please your wife, but that have some benefit to you as well. For example, instead of "be more organized," maybe something along the lines of--and obviously I'm being completely hypothetical here--"My desk is a mess. [Um, hypothetical but from my own life.] I'll bet it would bug my wife less and make my life easier if I could organize it a little. Let me start by taking everything off the top and looking at every item with the questions 'Can I toss it, If not, can it be somewhere away from my desk, If I need it at my desk, where can it live?'" That sort of thing.

Asking yourself to be less emotional is like trying to make your brown eyes blue, or vice versa. What we can work for is to develop more equanimity and put our emotions into perspective as another part of the whole, rather than as a giant tidal wave that carries everything in its wake. I'm finding meditation very helpful for this. In particular, a book I've been recommending everywhere is Pema Chödrön's The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times, but that's just one that speaks to me; there are lots of good resources on meditation. You might also look into cognitive behavioral therapy, either working with a counselor or working on your own; CBT has been shown in a number of good studies to be effective within a fairly short time (12-24 sessions in many cases when one works with a therapist), especially for those common INFP maladies, anxiety and depression. Among its strategies are looking at the cognitions that underlie or precede an emotional response, bringing out and questioning the core assumptions that often fuel an emotional spiral, and designing behavioral plans to change one's experience of the world. It's a goal-oriented, empowering, and (again, if you're working with a therapist) collaborative approach.

One other thought I would add is, Work on one thing or a few things at a time. If you try to change everything at once, you'll just end up overwhelmed and even more discouraged than you were before. Ask me how I know this. Personal experience? Why yes! Personal experience repeated ad nauseam? Why yes, again! But if you start to have success in making changes in *one* area--and again I emphasize, one area that is important to *you*--then you will start to look at everything in a more energized and optimistic light.

Johnwhiteartist says...

Hi Bard,
That's a brilliant response, and I really appreciate the effort you've given to me.

I think you are right about the items that are deeply personality type things and the items that are modifiable behaviour things.

As I suspect you alluded, the less 'flaky' and less 'emotional' items are deep set and more 'the way I am' at present, as opposed to the way I choose to behave.

I definitely was told in no uncertain terms by my wife's late mother "You - need - to - get - your - ACT TOGETHER!" You know what? Much as it annoyed me at the time, and much as I angrily rejected the charge at the time to her face, I admit now that she was spot on. I think if the behaviours are improved like being even a bit more organised - or goal-setting and striving to achieve the goals - or even just sticking to realistic plans and schedules - the 'flakiness' and 'not having my act together' and even the 'over-emotional' traits could start to improve as a result. It would be worth my while to write down the problems and see which are causes and which are effects: find the connections.

I like your advice to pick one thing to start with, and work on that. I may even mention the CBT to my counsellor next time I see her, and ask her what she thinks. Doesn't CBT also get you to think about how our behaviours affects others?

I'll definitely bookmark this post, and refer back to it often Bard. I want to improve myself.

Oh, I should mention that my wife recently said of herself - in slight annoyance - when I mentioned these personality testing websites:

"I don't NEED to change."


Molly Owens says...

It's interesting that the assumption seems to be—by your wife, and to some extent, by you—that hers is the 'correct' personality. Certainly this is probably due in part to the fact that ESTJs tend to be more rigid while INFPs are more flexible and accommodating. But I think our society also often values ESTJ traits more than INFP ones, and it sounds as if this assumption is echoed in your relationship dynamic.

The question that occurs to me is, why did your wife choose you? I doubt she was under the impression you were just like her when you married, but still, she decided you were the one for her. I have a bit of a bias here in that I think that we often choose people unlike us because we covet their qualities. In this case I wonder if your wife wished she herself were more free, creative, comfortable with her emotions, etc., and this is what made it attractive to be around you.

I say this not to try to persuade you to dig in your heels, but just as a bit of encouragement. Your personality isn't wrong, or something that needs to be corrected. When you're making compromises, as every married person does, just remember that your INFP-ness isn't a deficit—in fact, it's probably something even your wife envies on some level.

Johnwhiteartist says...

Hi Molly,
I was very excited to read your excellent reply, thanks. You asked a great question about what it was that originally attracted my wife.

I just read a quote, "We fall in love with a personality, but end up married to a character." So that's a public, social, external personality - and then the inner, real character, who becomes revealed to those closest.

We met as young art students. I was free-spirited - as you suggested - with very big long hair at that time, and always seemed to be enthusiastic and passionate and ambitious about my chosen creative field. She was very impressed with my artistic and musical talents. She also thought I was very caring, affectionate and nice. She was from a very regimented family environment.

They say opposites attract and complement one another. So yes, she may have liked and envied some of my characteristics. I suspect she may also have seen me as a sort of exciting 'project'. She says that I was the 'talent' and she was the businesslike, organised one. I went from college straight into an office situation and hated it. Within a year of two, we had our own little business but it was a constant struggle for her to get me to try as hard at it as she did. It was frustrating for her trying o get me into 'business mode'. By the age of 25 she was so fed up, she decided to stop concentrating all of her efforts on me and make something of herself. She got more training and got a job, and was on the way to her Project Management career. Eventually I got a job too, an artistic person working in I.T., in offices, the corporate world, with business, intellectual and very technical types - doing horribly, fiddly, repetitive, technical work within complex systems.

Most of it was hell for me, so I whinged and moaned about how much I hated it for years. I worked mostly in those sorts of jobs for 18 years and was made redundant 2 years ago and am still unemployed, feeling like I missed my true creative calling. So you can imagine how hard it's been for her to put up with it all, and she she feels that I blame her for being in a career that made me miserable and depressed. And now here we are. She saw me as someone who changed a lot, for the worse. And who wasn't supportive or caring anymore. I don't see that, but I certainly would have been very wrapped up in and wallowing my own misery and self-pity.

After I was made redundant, I actually discovered happiness again. I was no longer the bitter, negative type. Life at home was nicer, she even said so. Sadly, with the country in recession, this wasn't coupled with me finding another job - so far.

Sorry for the long reply!

Anne F. (not verified) says...


If you are still out reading this board posting, I was immediately compelled to reply today. I came across this site and this thread after searching for answers for myself. I masqueraded as an ENFP for years, but the E was a learned style...I now fully understand that I am an INFP. Anyway...here's the thing...I married a great guy nearly 15 years ago. We were both already out of university and well into careers. Now in our 40s, I am putting pieces together (all the blips, red flags and supposed wrongs on my part - yeh right) all while unraveling a ball of yarn with financial issues and deceptions he has created over the last 10 years. What I have known for a long time is that he is an ESTJ who borders on ESFJ and often when stressed he becomes ENTJ. You see, we all have a natural and a learned style...a type that comes out when we are comfortable and happy, and another that reveals itself when we are stressed and unhappy. Check out other personality analysis tests - Birkman, DISC, StrengthsFinder, etc.

What compelled me to reply...
My marriage is a wreck now. I requested that my husband go to counseling with me. Through this the hurt he has been doling out for years came to a head...such awful things said to and about me...like you, I am creative, disorganized at times, flit from thing to thing sometimes, etc. BUT I am surely not in shambles, not unattractive, not flakey, etc. I know this, because I am confident and because my view of self is shaped not just by me but by what others have acknowledged...now my husband is another story...he lacks confidence but fakes it. He is inflexible, intolerant, unkind to the common man, has excessively high expectations of himself and others...and well...as the therapist has revealed...he is a Dysfunctional Narcissist. So, there you go...not only are we polar opposite personality types but we are on completely different ends of the spectrum in terms of view of self, view of success and happiness.

So where do we go from here? I am reflecting a lot now, thinking of what comes next, and considering what life might be like without him in it. I am also thinking hard about what life might be like with him still in it but with this new knowledge, and potential to work on things. Who knows...

All I can say, is that YOU are of course, NOT ALONE in all this. You MUST find a place in which you feel deeply that you are of value...that you do count...are gifted. You just operate differently than your wife. No one personality type is right or wrong, better or worse...and it takes many types of people to make the world thrive while remaining an interesting and entertaining place.

I encourage you to seek counseling together - with the PRIMARY GOAL being this:
Pay the 3rd party (therapist) to listen and guide discussion toward helping you each see the value in one another but also in yourselves individually. Find a way to start from a place of interest in friendship with one another and go from there. Start "dating" one another again...seriously, take turns asking one another out...for ice cream, Chinese takeout to the park, coffee, a movie, a walk. Start there and see where it goes. But also, settle on a STOP word - something that when either of you feels angry, vulnerable, misunderstood, etc. you can say it...make it something funny that will help you each crumble into laughter...And, if none of that works...think seriously on why you are together, what you each get out of it...and how many living, breathing years you have together yet in which to build happiness or misery together. And if misery seems to be the answer - settle on you both parting ways. Life is too short - I know this after my husband had cancer and I had a stroke...believe me - I am near choosing to part ways, because, well...life is too short!

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