INFPs in Love

Isabel Myers (INFP) married a man named Chief, an ISTJ and a good man.  They were happy together, but according to Isabel's own type theory they weren't predicted to be perfect for each other.  Later on, Myers said that if she had known about type theory, she probably wouldn't have married Chief.  Hm!  There is a lesson to be learned here: type is not everything, nor should it be the decisive factor in choosing your lifemate.  Take it from the founder of type herself. 

Then too, the connections between type, attraction, love and marriage haven't been well studied yet.  (The question is more complicated than you'd think.)  You can read about this question and the various attempts to answer it here.

The Idealist Temperament and Love

Do opposites attract?  Not always! Tieger and Barron-Tieger (2000) found that Idealist-Idealist pairings have an average satisfaction rate of 73%--the highest attraction rating for all the NF pairings, and almost the highest possible satisfaction for all pairings. 

  • Idealists were 73% satisfied with Idealists.
  • Idealists were 64% satisfied with Rationals.
  • Idealists were 51% satisfied with Artisans.
  • Idealists were 46% satisfied with Guardians.

But satisfaction between the temperaments was not equal.  Seen from a reverse perspective, here is how Idealists are viewed by the other temperaments:

  • Idealists were most satisfied with Idealists (73%)
  • Rationals were second most satisfied with Idealists (65%)
  • Guardians were third most satisfied with Idealists (58%)
  • Artisans were fourth most satisfied with Idealists (54%)

As a further note, the Rationals had a higher satisfaction with an NF mate than with any other temperament.

Isn’t this a fascinating mess of information?  Let’s put it into context.  Green = Guardian, Blue = Idealist, Purple = Artisan, and Teal = Rational. 

  • SJ x SJ    79%
  • NF x NF    73%
  • SP x NT    73%
  • SJ x SP    71%
  • NT x NF    65%
  • NF x NT    64%
  • SP x SJ    63%
  • SJ x NT    62%
  • SP x SP    59%
  • NT x NT    59%
  • SJ x NF    58%
  • NT x SP    54%
  • SP x NF    54%
  • NT x SJ    52%
  • NF x SP    51%
  • NF x SJ    46%

Now, it is a mistake to generalize by temperament--it’s frequent that types will go counter-temperament, and temperament is not the definitive factor in explaining type-based behavior most of the time (CITE)--but since we don’t have anything better to go on... So just remember: These observations are generalizations that may or may not apply to all Idealist types. 

Ever since Keirsey published Please Understand Me II in 1998, it has generally been accepted that the Rationals are the best partners for the Idealists.  This appears to be true--at least from the Rational point of view.  The Idealists, however, actually tend to be more satisfied with other Idealists.  

But Rationals are the second favorite choice for the Idealists.  Indeed, NF-NT and NT-NF satisfaction rates fell within 1 percentage point of each other--a very equal evaluation indeed. 

Idealists gave the lowest ratings of all to Artisans (51%) and Guardians (46%). It seems that Idealists strongly prefer other intuitives.

One further thing that should be noted here is that the Idealists reported a broad range of satisfaction compared to other types.

  • Idealists: 46% - 73%  (27 percentage points of difference)
  • Artisans: 52% - 73%  (21 percentage points of difference)
  • Guardians: 58% to 79%  (21 percentage points of difference)
  • Rationals: 52% - 65%  (13 percentage points of difference)

Compared to other types, the Idealists appear to have the most to lose if they make a wrong choice.

INFP/ESTJ and INFP/ENTJ

One study found a slight preferential relationship between INFPs and ESTJ Supervisors (Marioles, Strickert, & Hammer, 1996).  Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, this is one of the two "ideal" types predicted by Keirsey in the original version of "Please Understand Me."  (In the next version of the book, he changed his theory in accordance with his new view that Intuition and Sensing should match up between partners for the best results, hence only the ENTJs are listed.)  The question is, do INFPs choose ESTJs because they actually prefer ESTJs, or do they choose them because ESTJs are common and ENTJs are rare?  Commonality implies a wider variety of choices and better opportunities for good type development.  Rarity implies less choice, and it is often harder for rare types to achieve good type development.  Hence the supply of "good" ESTJs is much larger than the supply of "good" ENTJs simply because there are more ESTJs than ENTJs. 

At any rate, the ESTJ-INFP pairing seems not turn up for couple therapy as often as other pairings.  Does this mean that they are happier than average?  Actually, the NFP-STJ pairing had an average satisfaction rate of 42% in comparison to the 86% that was reported for the NFP/SFJ relationship (Tieger & Barron-Tieger, 2000). 

There are a number of websites in which INFPs discuss their relationships with ENTJs in depth.  Unfortunately for us, ESTJs don't hang out on the internet much and could not be reached for comment.  ;p

  • Blog post describing an ENTJ male/INFP female relationship (there are other blog posts on this topic if you browse their site).
  • Reflections of an INFP widow on her ENTJ husband of 40 years (very touching, but you will need to read the whole thread to get the story).

INFP/INFP

The Marioles et al. study also noted that INFP males showed a slight inclination for INFP females.  Is this a good pairing?  Evidently so; the average satisfaction rate found for an NF-NF couple was 73%.  Keirsey (1998) also believed that other Idealists would be good mates for INFPs. 

On the internet, one of the Idealist types that INFPs seem to gravitate towards is the ENFJ Teacher.  For example, on the forum Personality Cafe one can find a continual exchange of admiration and appreciation between ENFJ and INFP forum members. 

In terms of incompatibility, Keirsey did not think that the STPs would be ideal mates for the INFPs, noting that STPs do not take life as seriously as INFPs do.

Marital Satisfaction

Unfortunately, INFPs have the second lowest marital satisfaction of all types (the INFJs were even less happy).  Why could this be?  Keirsey (1998) has noted that INFPs have some of the most trouble of all in finding a mate.  Do INFPs have a hard time finding the right person, or do they settle for less than they actually want? 

It might also be noted here that like all NFs, INFPs tend to idealize their relationships.  Imperfections in their beloved may be ignored, or else may cause disillusionment when discovered.  For now, the question of why INFPs are unhappy with their marriage/intimate relationship remains open for speculation.

Recommended Reading

If you're looking to approach the issue of choosing a soulmate or patching up your marriage from a type perspective, I recommend these two books: