Based on a webinar with MBTI expert Judi Grutter
You might think we’re going to do a match.com thing here looking at results of the MBTI assessment and comparing two types, but that’s not what this is.
Because really, any type CAN be in a successful relationship with any other type! However, understanding what similarities and differences you have is helpful in communication for any two people, including romantic love relationships.
The below can be applied to romantic relationships, but it can also be applied to family members, friends, coworkers, or others.
What attracts us to people with other MBTI personality types?
People are attracted to others either because they share core personality characteristics, or because they complement each other in some way. The core two letters of the 16 types tell you how you take in information and make decisions, and you can divide all MBTI types into these four groups:
Middle letters ST (ESTP, ESTJ, ISTP, ISTJ)
Middle letters SF (ESFP, ESFJ, ISFP, ISFJ)
Middle letters NF (ENFP, ENFJ, INFP, INFJ)
Middle letters NT (ENTP, ENTJ, INTP, INTJ)
For example, when an ESTP meets an ESTJ, they find very quickly that they share common experiences and have something to talk about. Even people who grow up in different countries will often find they have experiences in common.
When it comes to complementary attraction, it’s usually that they have the same two middle letters but often the E/I preferences or the J/P preferences are different.
Are opposite MBTI types attracted to each other?
You’ve probably heard the old adage “opposites attract.” And sometimes they do. When it works, we complement each other and can balance out relationships by bringing both sides into a conversation or problem-solving situation.
But when opposites don’t work together as well, that’s where MBTI personality type can be really useful. It gives you a language the understand differences that’s objective and unbiased.
Many psychologists, including Carl Jung himself, believe that attraction to someone with the opposite preference is partially because it helps us spur our own growth.
2 Keys to using Myers-Briggs type as a relationship tool
There are two things that are necessary in order to use a tool like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a relationship tool and pursue a healthy relationship:
1. Understanding MBTI type differences
It’s helpful for one person to understand their own MBTI type and the dynamics of their own personality. But both people in the relationship understanding MBTI type differences is exponentially better. Because by understanding how you’re motivated, what your values are, what’s important to you, what stresses you, how you like to be appreciated, how you’re energized and how you like to organize your time, you can then better understand how the other person is similar or different in all these categories.
2. Appreciating type differences
Understanding is important first, but theoretically is very different from appreciation without judgement.
For example, I have preferences for INFJ and my partner has preferences for ISTP. I can understand the differences in the three letters where we’re different – I take in big picture information that’s future oriented (Intuition), they take in information through their five senses and in the present (Sensing).
However, appreciating these differences means recognizing and valuing the good qualities that come with that different personality preference. With my partner, when we’re talking about home improvement projects I often get frustrated because I’m thinking of what the possibilities are of what our future kitchen could look like.
In contrast, they’re thinking about each step in the process of this kitchen renovation, and what tools or materials we need right now to get started on the demolition before we can even think about what type of floor will replace our current one.
And it’s easy for each of us to look at what want to focus on.
I don’t want to think about the long list of items we’ll need or how we’ll set up a camping stove for months while this is going on because that information feels like an overload and frustrates me. For my partner, they think it’s a waste to think so far ahead when there’s so many small thing to figure out in order to make this happen.
But, instead of getting frustrated, I use type to appreciate that my partner is in fact pointing out things that I typically don’t like to deal with and that frustrate me. They’re helping me address some of my blindspots in my own type preferences. And likewise, my partner recognizes that my long-term vision will help in the future, because pulling all those ideas together to a cohesive future vision isn’t something that he enjoys doing.
Appreciating someone else’s preference, whether it’s the same as yours or the opposite, is about gratitude for what that person brings to the relationship, and acknowledgement that their views can add to yours to be better than you would be alone.
What makes for a good relationship?
You know when you meet someone and you just click? Some of the time that’s because when speaking to someone of a similar type, they understand you without you having to reframe what you’re saying.
“A connection between two people is most likely when both people are tuned in and engaged, each feels that the other listens and hears.” – Carolyn Zeisset, The Art of Dialogue
Relating this to MBTI type, connection happens when the needs of each person are met in these four areas:
- Discussion and reflection
- Getting information and reaching conclusions
- Structure and flexibility
One thing that’s important here. It’s the responsibility of the person who understands psychological type to adapt to the communication mode of the person who doesn’t know psychological type.
“I have a lot of friends who’re my type, INTJ,” says Judi.
“Female INTJ types are rare, so over the years I’ve grown a circle of female INTJ friends all over the place. Whenever I’m traveling for work, I reach out to some of these friends and we can pick up conversations that we started years before immediately like no time had passed. You’ve probably experienced something similar to your type.
Personality type and love – INTJ and ENFP example
Romantic love is different from friendships. When I fell in love with my partner, I didn’t fall for an INTJ. My partner’s type was ENFP, and we talked about this a lot. What us to each other were our differences and how we complimented each other.
But then we had to learn to communicate our differences in a way that connected.
Notice how our shared preferences are Intuition, and in the case of INTJ and ENFP we both shared a dominant Intuition preference. And I think in a personal relationship, that makes it easier.
We both perceive the world the same way – in terms of possibilities. Their favorite function as an ENFP was extraverted Intuition, and my favorite function as an INTJ was introverted Intuition. ENFPs extravert the possibilities, and INTJs introvert the possibilities.”
Remember that type dynamics is a deeper way of looking at MBTI type. Instead of just looking at each of the four letters in someone’s MBTI type, type dynamics tells you how each of those preferences work together as a whole. It’s also why there’s no such thing as someone being just an Introvert or just an Extravert. Everyone extraverts some part of their personality and introverts some other part of their personality.
You can learn more about type dynamics in the blog here.
“When it comes to making decisions, I as an INTJ extravert the thinking process. And my partner (ENFP) introverts his Feeling process to come to conclusions.”
“Our relationship would go something like this:
I (INTJ) would mention that I had a training coming up in an interesting place, stated as a done deal (Thinking-Judging). 'I’m going to Chicago for 2 days – want to come along and see your brother?'
They would respond with something like, ‘Great! We can see my brother and take him to the theater, and take him to that wonderful restaurant that we like. Then we can drive down to Evansville and see mom. Then we can pop over to Evansville and see Jamie.’
They saw anything within 3 hours as a great Midwest possibility, and because they extraverted their Intuition preference, any possible idea related to this trip would be said out loud.
Now my introverted Intuition is swimming with too many possibilities that I haven’t had time to think through. So the Thinking-Judging part of my personality wants to shut them down.
“Wait – it’s just a quick training. No way are we turning it into a spring road trip.”
Being more non-confrontational, they’d stop sharing their ideas and move on to other things.
I in the mean time would go off by myself and start thinking. Engaging my introverted Intuition, I’d start to think to myself ‘why not go see Mom if I’m in the area anyway? Maybe a road trip could be fun.’
My Intuition preference was doing internally (introverting) was their Intuition preference had been doing externally (extraverting) during our conversation.
Then we’d get back together at dinner and discuss. In this time, they’d had time to use their introverted Feeling preference to make decisions.
‘You’re right,’ they’d say. ‘It would be way too much for this time of year.’
And I’d had time to engage my introverted Intuition.
‘You’re right,’ I’d say. ‘It would be a great chance to see other people.’
And in all this we had a choice. We could keep going back and forth and end up possibly in an argument, or we could stand back and look at what we were doing and how we were doing it. Thank goodness for type.
My partner had to learn not to overwhelm me with all the possibilities and ENFP enthusiasm. And I had to learn not to shut them down when I got overwhelmed with all my INTJ skepticism. But in the end, understanding, appreciation and love overcomes all.”
Want to learn more about MBTI personality type and relationships? Check out these articles:
Can personality type make marriage better?
Myers-Briggs personality type and conflict - what causes fights between MBTI types?
Myers-Briggs type and friendship – three ways to improve your relationships
Want to read more about a specific MBTI personality type and relationships? Take a look at the MBTI personality type pages below:
ESTP, ESTJ, ISTP, ISTJ
ESFP, ESFJ, ISFP, ISFJ
ENFP, ENFJ, INFP, INFJ
ENTP, ENTJ, INTP, INTJ