Where are they now? An MBTI® marriage update on the bradfords
I watched a movie the other day where the two main characters had the classic “odd couple” dynamic. In the end, they learned to make room for each other – literally and figuratively. Sure, they still argued. But there were levels of compassion and humility that weren’t present at the beginning of the movie.
That’s what marriage is like, isn’t it? “Opposites attract” is a common saying for a reason.
More than five years ago, my marriage was presented with a challenging milestone: the birth of our first child. My husband (Sean) and I were caught up in the throes of early parenthood. Those first couple of weeks, we sleepily fumbled our way through every diaper change and midnight feeding. While we were (mostly) in postpartum bliss with our son Phoenix, there was a noticeable disconnect between Sean and me.
It felt like we were on different planets.
Fortunately, help was on the way – in the form of a personality assessment.
How the MBTI helped during postpartum
On a friend’s recommendation, we took the official Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment. It was one of the most enlightening things we’ve ever done for our marriage.
We found out that I have a preference for INFP and Sean has a preference for ENFP. It explained so much. Even though our last three letters match, that one small difference (I vs. E) had led to some big conflicts.
Thanks to an inside connection (who also writes for this blog - hey Melissa!), The Myers-Briggs Company offered to film a video interview with me and Sean about how the MBTI impacted our relationship during that postpartum season. During the interview, we talked about how knowing Sean’s preferences helped me realize that his need for consistent social interaction outside the home wasn’t a rejection of me.
Before I knew more about my preference for Introversion, I didn’t understand why Sean couldn’t just learn to be happy in our little bubble at home. After all, we got to watch Parks & Recreation start to finish. Bonded with our son. Had food and groceries delivered regularly. And we even invited some friends over a couple times a month.
I was perfectly content. Why wasn’t he?
The MBTI taught us that his preference for Extraversion means he recharges when he’s around other people. He thrives in groups, so being stuck at home during those early months was especially difficult. Watch the video interview for the details.
Mental health and the MBTI
Since that video was filmed, a lot has happened. We welcomed another baby, lost some family members, and weathered a few storms. When our daughter Keira came along, we had another chance to face the postpartum season. This time, I understood and respected Sean’s preference for social interaction outside our little family circle. And he did the same for my preferences. In fact, he was more apt to flex his introverted side because I had a traumatic birth experience and needed some extra support.
Shortly after Keira was born, I started to have panic attacks and often felt hopeless. Thankfully, I started seeing a therapist right away. She diagnosed me with anxiety disorder and depression. In addition to seeking professional help, I revisited my MBTI results. It was refreshing to re-learn that everyone has the ability to shape their thoughts and behaviors, regardless of their personality type.
In my darkest moments, I had felt betrayed by my own need for seclusion. It was difficult to reach out, even to my husband. So, the idea that I could grow in any direction I wanted was empowering.
Sure, it’s easier said than done. But it was a start.
During this time, Sean handled my emotional plight with a tremendous amount of care. It was both intriguing and heartwarming to witness how his personality evolved. While we didn’t necessarily realize it at the time, now it’s clear he leaned into his second favorite process.
As an ENFP, his second favorite process is “introverted Feeling.” This means he makes decisions about what to do/say based on what will help the people around him become the best versions of themselves. Here’s what he said when I asked him about this:
“I’ve always been that way, but I think I had to consciously develop that part of my personality because of what you were going through. I got the kids out of the house more, cleaned up when you didn’t have the energy and stayed home maybe more than what felt natural at first. What’s interesting is that I didn’t completely abandon my extraverted nature. I don’t think that would have been healthy at all. But instead of saying ‘hey I’m gonna go meet up with my friends tomorrow,’ I started giving you more lead time. I told you at least a week ahead of time so you had a clear picture of what to expect. Your mental health was so tumultuous, so I didn’t want to make that worse by springing things on you.”
Sean’s response is a real-life example of type dynamics. More on type dynamics here.
What stresses out an INFP and an ENFP
Now that my mental health has improved and we’ve adjusted to life with two kids, we’ve also gotten savvier about how to be better partners. One thing that’s invaluable to us? Memorizing the list of things that stresses the other one out. Here’s a closer look at what those are:
- People/work impeding individuality
- Mundane tasks
- Time management required of me
- Critical negativity from others
- Open disrespect
- Unclear expectations
- When my values are undermined
- Crowds/too many people
Read more about INFP strengths and stressors here.
- Organization at expense of creativity
- Mundane tasks
- Too many details
- Lack of enthusiasm
- Micromanagement and distrust
- Long-term plans
- Forced decisions before feeling ready
- Rules over relationships
Read more about ENFP strengths and stressors here.
We used to joke that since mundane tasks stress both of us out, our house was rarely clean. Despite laughing it off, it was actually a point of contention for a long time. Recently, we had a lightbulb moment when we realized that hiring a house cleaner was more necessity than luxury – at least for us.
Not only did the decision eliminate some mundane work, it met my need for more flexible time management and Sean’s need to prioritize creativity. It seems so trivial, but it’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
Life after taking the MBTI assessment is full of little epiphanies just like that. It’s made our marriage stronger, and it’s helped us tap into our potential as individuals. If you and your partner want to experience those epiphanies for yourselves, take the assessment today.