Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Type’s Biggest Relationship Pitfall

This is the biggest challenge each introverted personality type may face in a relationship.

Romantic relationships can be challenging for introverts in an extroverted world. After all, what should a romantic relationship be like? What role should physical contact play? What scripts should each person follow? My well-meaning extrovert friends and mentors would frequently tell me that all of this came instinctively, that it “just happens” or you “just know it” with no further explanation.

Maybe it’s instinctual to extroverts, particularly mainstream types, when society’s conception of relationships is based on their perspectives and experiences. But it’s not usually this way for us introverts.

In this article, I’m going to draw from personal experience as well as interviews I’ve done with introverts of every Myers-Briggs personality type. I also use Jung’s original theories and the type descriptions in Isabel Myers’s famous work Gifts Differing. In doing so, I’m going to explore each introverted personality type’s strengths in a relationship as well as some pitfalls they may face. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, hopefully this will help you better understand us introverts as we try to navigate the sometimes-murky waters of relationships.

(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality assessment.)

Each Introverted Type’s Main Relationship Challenge (and How to Overcome It)

ISTP

Strengths: 

  • Emotional stability
  • Physical fitness
  • Conventional interests

Main challenge:

Emotionally unexpressive

ISTPs are often called the strong, silent type. They’re the most likely introverts to ride motorcycles, fix things around the house, and run marathons. And with their auxiliary mental process of Extraverted Sensing, they often develop the conventionally good looks and physical fitness of mainstream extroverts. If you’re in a relationship with an ISTP, you probably know they’re not interested in causing drama or talking about their problems; they want to go and do something together, and they can be fun “playmates” in the words of typologist David Keirsey.

But there is one thing you need to watch out for: communicating about emotions. ISTPs may not be comfortable expressing their emotions, and may not really even know how.  They’re good at being independent and solving problems for themselves, so this sometimes means they don’t have much practice opening up to others.

Try to create an environment where your ISTP can feel safe sharing whatever is on their mind without you reacting with strong emotion. Also, learn to pick up the subtle signs that they’re distressed, since they probably won’t react with strong emotion themselves. You might just need to ask them privately if there’s something bothering them and wait until they feel it’s the right time to talk about it.

INTP

Strengths:

  • Passionate about interests
  • Quirky from the beginning
  • Friendly

Main challenge:

Telling too much without listening

The INTP is one of the most energetic introverted types: quirky, spontaneous, fun, and even childlike in their wonder for the experiences life has to offer. INTPs are founts of knowledge and love to spend their time chasing down new ideas. And they’ll gladly share their findings with loved ones, anything from philosophy, science, pop culture, or anime. Their eccentric style is on display from Day One, so if you like them when you first meet, you’ll probably keep liking them later.

But there are a few things to be aware of with the INTP. For one, they may have trouble figuring out the right time and place to talk about personal subjects. I’ve known young INTPs to open up about intensely personal and traumatic experiences to someone they just barely met. If they’re giving you too much information at the beginning, try steering the conversation elsewhere or just politely telling them that you appreciate how they’re opening up to you, but they may be going too fast.

Also, INTPs are great at talking when they get onto a topic they like, but sometimes they forget to listen. A polite reminder of this will go a long way. Be empathetic with them, since they may have trouble understanding social norms and have no idea they’re doing anything inappropriate. They’re often clueless at first but eager to learn and improve when they see that you care.

ISFP

Strengths:

  • Eye for beauty
  • Seek emotional depth
  • Conventional interests

Main challenge:

Shyness

One of the many virtues of the ISFP is a keen eye for beauty: in themselves and in others. They want to be their best selves and bring out the best in others. ISFPs want deep, meaningful relationships, so if they find someone who’s a good match, they’ll hold on and won’t easily let go. They may even start daydreaming about life together after the first date, although they probably won’t say anything aloud. ISFPs also aren’t as picky as other introverts about what to do on a date. Like ISTPs, they tend to like activities like going out to see new places, trying new foods, and going to concerts — for just long enough not to be overstimulated.

Something to be aware of with ISFPs, though, is their craving for depth means they probably expect the same kind of dedication from their significant other. They may be scared off by someone who procrastinates on committing, thinking that person is trying to back out. What’s probably happening is the ISFP’s love interest has been enjoying the process of getting to know them and just hasn’t thought about where the relationship is going in the future; it’s not necessarily that they’re not committed.

Also, ISFPs tend to compete with extroverts for the same dates — they may look for sociable, energetic extroverts, since this is the social norm, but may be overlooked since they aren’t as social themselves. For someone who wants to date an ISFP, be aware that you may need to do more work, since they might not come straight to you and introduce themselves.  

And for ISFPs, who can sometimes be shy and reserved, be aware that you may need to step out of your comfort zone a bit if you want someone to notice you. You may also need to open up about your intentions and feelings earlier than you were anticipating. It can be hard to be vulnerable and express yourself, but that may be what the object of your affection needs to know that you’re serious.

INFP

Strengths:

  • Idealistic about romance
  • Sincere and authentic
  • Deeply devoted 

Main challenge:

“Grass is greener” mentality 

The INFP might be considered the most romantic of all the introverted types. They daydream about romance in their younger years and develop an ideal of their perfect true love as well as an ideal about their perfect self. As one of Jung’s Introverted Feeling types, an INFP has a strong set of personal values that may be very different from those in society. They will often spend a long time thinking about approaching someone they’re romantically interested in before doing anything. But once an INFP does commit, they incorporate them into a very small circle of close friends, and give their full heart and devotion.  

Even so, INFPs can find it hard to stay in love. Falling in love happens slowly and deeply, but life can chip away at our dreams, no matter our personality type. Not wanting to be a burden, INFPs may keep their complaints to themselves, so their significant other may not realize how much turmoil they’re going through. The person they committed to may turn out to be different than the one they imagined while under the spell of romance, and they may wonder if they should have chosen differently, or if they could ever choose better. They may wonder if there’s something wrong with them if a relationship doesn’t work out, and breaking up can be a very personal blow to their self-esteem.  

Be very gentle when approaching an INFP about relationship problems, because while they are open-minded about finding solutions — and will probably appreciate the opportunity to get to know their significant other better — they may panic if you suggest the relationship isn’t working.

And for INFPs struggling with doubts about their commitment, call to mind the reasons you made the commitment in the first place. It may seem that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, or that you could find the perfect relationship if you tried again (although backing out of a relationship might be right in some circumstances). But it can also be important to appreciate what you have. You may not be able to change the other person, but a person who really cares for you will do their best to accommodate you and work with you to bring romantic magic back into your relationship. Realize that it takes a healthy mix of realism and idealism to make a happy relationship.

ISTJ

Strengths:

  • Dependable
  • Organized
  • Knowledgeable 

Main challenge:

Uncomfortable with spontaneity

No one is quite as dependable as an ISTJ. The ISTJs I know are as good as their word, all the time. Nothing is more important than being consistent, true, and faithful, especially to friends, family, and coworkers who are counting on them. If they’re running late to an appointment, expect to hear from them beforehand with a reasonable explanation. If they commit to doing something seemingly trivial, they’ll go to great lengths to fulfill their word, even if something momentous comes up. Their dominant mental process, Introverted Sensing, also gives them a strong interest in memories. Life is an opportunity to make memories, and they want to create beautiful memories for those they care about. They can be great at organizing trips, planning kids’ birthdays, and keeping life well-scheduled and well-ordered.

But the flip side is because the ISTJ follows an orderly life and keeps the rules, they expect that everyone around them will too. While it is efficient to schedule all dates and activities in advance, the ISTJ’s ideal of structure may conflict with their love interest’s desire for a bit of spontaneity, especially if that person is a Perceiving type.

Also, the ISTJ’s unassuming manner may make them fade into the background in large groups, which can make it hard to attract the interest of a potential mate. If you want someone with the ISTJ’s faithfulness and caring concern in your life, look beyond the most charismatic and assertive members of your social groups. In fact, your best bet may be to join an organization like a club or church, a place that offers the kind of predictability and understandable scripts in social situations that ISTJs feel comfortable with.  

And for ISTJs looking for dates: Likewise, become a member of a group or community, find your place in it, and then let that build your confidence to start dating.

ISFJ

Strengths:

  • Loyal
  • Caring
  • Drama-free

Main challenge:

Suffering in silence

Once you get to know them, ISFJs are just about the warmest, kindest, most caring people you’ll ever meet. They will remember your birthday, hometown, favorite foods, and all the little details about you that make you feel special when they’re around. They don’t like conflict, and they rarely show anger, so they’re often great people to talk to when you need a listening ear or someone to get you through a tough time. In relationships, ISFJs are supportive of their significant other and dedicated to their children. They don’t mind taking a quiet role in the background and taking care of the necessary daily tasks to show their love for those they care about.

However, if you want to have a good relationship with an ISFJ, you’ll probably have to ask for feedback. They don’t like to complain and don’t want to cause conflict, so go out of your way to get their thoughts on how things are going in the relationship and what you can improve on. Then listen and adjust to what they say. They don’t want drama or hurt feelings, so they wouldn’t tell you to change if it wasn’t really important.

And don’t be surprised if one day your pliant, laid-back ISFJ gets upset for what seems like a random reason. It probably means you didn’t pick up the subtle signals that they were upset, like when they do things for you and you don’t express enough appreciation. Tell them you appreciate their specific contributions and acknowledge all they do for the relationship behind-the-scenes.

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INTJ

Strengths:

  • Intellectual problem-solver
  • Self-aware
  • Committed

Main challenge:

Understanding feelings

The INTJ can be an intriguing romantic interest. They’re mysterious, intellectual, and deep thinkers. If you like conversations about solving complex issues that involve a deep well of knowledge, then dating an INTJ can be an exhilarating experience. INTJs apply their interest in solving novel complex problems to the issue of relationships, and as soon as they become interested, they will study people and relationships exhaustively. They’re frequently willing to try new approaches and are open to adjusting away from traditional social expectations, such as how much physical touch is necessary for a relationship or how long a couple should be friends before dating. And once they commit, they’re likely to stay committed, since they will have thought through all the possibilities and come to the insight that this relationship is the right choice.

But the INTJ’s intellectual prowess can also present a challenge in relationships. INTJs can be painfully unaware of their and others’ emotions, and can intellectualize problems until the human element disappears entirely and the relationship becomes a problem to solve rather than two people who need to share their feelings. Help the INTJ see that expressing and discovering feelings is an essential part of a relationship, and there are some things that can’t be expressed as philosophical arguments.

In addition, INTJs may be overwhelmed by the traditional highly social expectations of relationships. Be sensitive to your INTJ’s emotional needs, even if they struggle to understand their needs themselves, and be open to unconventional possibilities. For example, in the initial dating stage, you may only see each other 1-2 times a week, but the INTJ will still consider you a good match if you align on your intellectual interests. And once in a committed relationship, be aware that they will probably need a lot of alone time — not “alone” time together with you, either — to recharge in their mind, even if they love you with all their heart.

INFJ

Strengths: 

  • Insight into relationships
  • Peaceful
  • Creative

Main challenge:

Relationships can be too draining

Jung described the INFJ’s dominant mental process as visionary insight connecting them to the ancient patterns of the unconscious mind, the archetypes. By enjoying a close connection to the unconscious mind, INFJs, like INTJs, can come to deep insights about the world. While INTJs’ auxiliary process is Extraverted Thinking, making them more likely to be interested in constructing systems of ideas, the INFJ’s auxiliary process is Extraverted Feeling, making them more likely to be interested in learning about and appreciating systems of values. INFJs are interested in expressing the visions of their minds in art and creative works, and they often develop an interest in relationships and people.   

INFJs have much to offer in a romantic relationship. Because they seek deep insight, they can understand people’s emotional problems and help them heal. They also prefer being peaceful to being right, so they often excel at preventing or healing conflict. They would rather stay quiet than be misunderstood, so they aren’t likely to cause drama, and they’ll give their insightful feedback in private.

Yet relationships can be challenging for INFJs. One good INFJ friend told me that she finds the prospect of a lifelong relationship overwhelming because of the social demands involved. Being with another person for so much time would be draining and take the INFJ out of the beautiful world of their mind. Not to mention that INFJs may feel a lot of pressure to keep the peace with the people around them, which can be extremely taxing.

To keep your INFJ happy, be aware that they will need a lot of alone time. They will also need you to be understanding and let them talk slowly and express themselves. Don’t interrupt or think you know how to finish their sentences. Let them talk and truly listen to what they have to say.

For INFJs who want to find a relationship, remember that you have wonderful gifts to offer, but people raised in our extroverted world may have a hard time seeing them. Try to find opportunities to get to know people in one-on-one settings where you can talk about subjects of mutual interest. Don’t be afraid to express your affection for someone, even if you have a hard time finding the right words, because otherwise they might not pick up on it.

And if you’re in a relationship, consider your energy needs and the personality of your beloved. Are they willing to let you be yourself? Are they attentive to your emotional needs and sensitivity to conflict? A loving significant other will appreciate you for who you are and let you blossom into the person that you were meant to be.

Your Personality Type Doesn’t Determine Everything About You

While our personality type doesn’t determine everything about us, our tendencies are important factors in how we naturally conceptualize relationships, as well as what strengths and challenges we may have. Hopefully this article helps you be more sympathetic with yourself and others when you face relationship challenges. I hope it also helps you recognize that even if the extroverted world doesn’t understand you, there’s a lot that you as an introvert have to offer.

If you want to learn more about introversion, Jungian types, and how the mind works, subscribe to my podcast Introvert University, available on Apple, Google, Spotify, and more.

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I’m Harrison Paul, the Introvert Philosopher, founder of Introvert University and the Type Justice Blog. I focus on educating the world about introversion and raising consciousness about introvert oppression. I hold an M.A. in philosophy from San Francisco State University, teach Mandarin and technology, and write fiction about introverted protagonists saving the day in introverted ways. My introvert epic fantasy series Kaybree versus the Angels is available on Amazon, and I’m currently seeking representation for my far-future introvert YA series Aurora Lightwalker and a nonfiction book called The Quiet Minority: Why Introverts Are Oppressed and How We Can Solve It. I live in California with my wife and our baby daughter, Galadriel.