There’s no way around it: relationships are hard work—no matter what your personality type is. Everyone needs to get certain things out of a relationship to feel satisfied. And if you’re an INFP personality type like me, you probably have a deep need for harmony and emotional connection.
Unfortunately, I didn’t always have harmony in my marriage. “Clash of the Titans” would have been a good way to describe our relationship at times. Thankfully, my husband was awesome enough to take a personality test so we could figure out how to work together better. We discovered that we’re complete opposites—he’s an ESTJ. We have zero letters of our personality type acronyms in common.
I understand now why we argued over the simplest things. My husband thinks in terms of logic and reason, while I live in a world of feelings, intuition, and personal values. I often said to him, “I don’t have a logical answer for this, it’s just a feeling I have.” For a long time, he couldn’t wrap his mind around this. But now he understands that’s how I think as an INFP.
Learning that my husband and I processed things differently because of our different personality types was like throwing our marriage a life preserver.
So, if you’re in a relationship with an INFP, here are some things you should know:
1. We work with feelings instead of logic. Most of the decisions we make are based on how the outcome will make us feel. Don’t ask us to explain our logical reasons for choosing something as most of the time we won’t have any. If it makes us feel good and fits with our personal values, it’s a good decision in our book.
2. We attach emotion to almost everything. If we’re watching a sad movie or reading a sad book, we may cry. But our crying isn’t a sign of weakness. Rather, INFPs tend to be empathic and caring. We’re so in touch with the emotional side of life that we may feel the suffering of others (including fictional characters) as if it were our own. Trust me, if you empathized with other people’s emotions the way we do, you’d cry too!
3. We may be sentimental about certain objects. Getting rid of certain things may be hard. To us, items from our past are not just material objects but symbols that represent moments in time or pieces of our heart. We may feel like we’re giving away a part of ourselves if we have to get rid of a treasured item. So, if we keep a birthday card from 15 years ago or that box of stuff from our college days, please try to understand.
4. Even if you don’t understand, please honor our decision-making process. INFPs can have a hard time making decisions because we see many different ways a situation could go. As mentioned above, we do things because it feels right and fits with our inner values and beliefs. If our partner questions our motives or puts pressure on us to decide quickly, we may get defensive. Give us time and space to “try on” different decisions and see how they feel.
5. Learn about our values. We’d rather be true to ourselves than try to fit in with the crowd. We don’t just follow the traditions of others—we explore our own values and ideas and decide for ourselves what seems right. These values are our very soul and moral compass. They involve an inner love of certain things and an inner aversion to other things. Our values allow us to wake up everyday without feeling like the world is going to crumble around us. So if you really want to get to know us, take the time to find out what we value.
6. Don’t purposely push our buttons. Some people think it’s funny to hover right around our boundary. They tease or say shocking things just to see how we’ll react. For example, telling us we have to go to a party right now, then saying, “just kidding, I just wanted to see what you’d do,” is not okay. While this might be entertaining for the other person, it’s not fun for us. If we get angry, it can take us a while to cool off.
7. It can take a while for us to bounce back from negative emotions. We process emotional experiences at a very deep level. If something negative happens to us—like fighting with our partner or experiencing a setback or loss—it can take hours, days, or even weeks for us to feel better (this of course depends on the severity of the situation). Don’t tell us to just get over our feelings.
8. Validate our feelings. We’re so used to people telling us to “suck it up” or “stop being so sensitive.” Sometimes we’ve even been laughed at when we’re emotional. This may make us believe that what we’re feeling is wrong. Please let us know that whatever we’re feeling is okay as there is no right way to feel.
9. Comfort us when we’re sad. If you notice we’re feeling sad, ask if you can just sit with us or if we want a hug. We may not want to (or be able to) explain right away exactly what’s bringing us down, but just knowing you’re there for us will help.
10. Know that there will be times when it’s difficult for us to compromise. Because we’re guided by our own values, there will be times when compromising goes against every part of our being. It may seem like we’re being stubborn, but we’re really just trying to honor our own values. This will happen rarely, but when it does, please make an effort to see things from our perspective. Try to understand where we’re coming from.
11. Sometimes planning stresses us out. We like having a rough idea of what’s coming up so we can prepare our energy in advance. But excessive planning can be overwhelming and stressful, so we may resist. For example, if we’re going on vacation, we may not want to sort through tons of websites and make list after list of where we could go. We’d rather let our heart decide and make a decision based on what inspires us.