I am an ENFP. I have been in a relationship for 4 years with someone that I love. He is wonderful and we have the same values in life and in what we want to do in the future. Last year I met someone that I was very attracted to. I know that it was lust, and really I barely know this other person, but I have been thinking about them constantly and I don’t know what to do. I don’t understand why I can never be satisfied in a relationship! Part of me wants to end my relationship to pursue this other person… or any other person, just to feel that excitement and passion that could be stronger with someone else. I don’t understand and hate myself for feeling this way, because I just feel like I will never be satisfied and so I can never be happy. What do I do? Is there any way you can help me understand myself and how I can be satisfied?
I once heard that we ask for advice when we already know the answer but wish that we did not. For this reason, I try to look for clues in the questions people ask to determine which response their heart needs most. With your question, Anonymous, I’m unsure. Your heart seems genuinely torn and so here is what I am going to do: I’m going to give you both the answers you’ve asked for and I’m going to leave it to you to decide which one feels right.
The first answer doesn’t relate directly to your situation but it does relate to being an ENFP. Because here’s the thing: we are indecisive folk. We see possibilities everywhere. We get so caught up in the what-could-be that we forget what is and I know that more than anyone. It’s intoxicating and it’s infuriating. We want it all.
When I was nineteen years old I was madly in love. It’s easy to be madly in love when you’re nineteen because your hormones are going crazy and you’re having the best sex of your life and everything feels surreal. But I also wanted to go see the world. I wanted to get out and have all those crazy experiences you can only have when you’re young and single and free. I wanted foreign boys and passionate on-the-road romances. I deliberated over staying-or-going for almost a full year. I drove everyone I knew crazy. My ESFJ mother was exhausted by my stress and indecisiveness. At the end of a particularly agonizing phone conversation, she sighed and told me, “I hope that someday you find peace.”
Long after I hung up the phone, that phrase stayed with me. ‘Peace’ was not a feeling I had ever striven for – to the point where it shocked me that she suggested it as an option. I wondered what peace meant. I wondered what it felt like. I became moderately stressed over the idea that I might never find it. I told all this to my INFJ best friend.
Being who she was, my friend wrote a song. The only lyric I remember is, ‘Some hope that you will find peace – I only hope you get a window seat.’ And I immediately wished that I could get those song lyrics tattooed on my heart.
Here is what my best friend knew when she wrote that song that both myself and my mother did not – I was not on the hunt for peace at that time in my life. Later in life I would be and I would find my own route there, but for the time being I was allowed to not want peace. I was allowed to want chaos and madness and romance and window seats. I’d become so accustomed to listening to the advice of people who were vastly unlike me that I’d forgotten all of that – that peace didn’t have to be the end goal. Not yet and maybe not ever.
And that is the first option that I want to give you, dear Anonymous. The option of not finding peace, if you don’t want it. The option of being restless. The option of breaking out of the relationship you’re in and grabbing everything you want out of life with both fists, until you’ve exhausted yourself to the core. I want you to know that you’re allowed to leave – for no other reason than you want to. Than you want someone else. Than you want those butterflies, that passion, that whirlwind feeling that you’re worried you’ll never feel again. Life doesn’t have to be a search for peace and tranquility and a relationship that looks perfect on paper. It’s allowed to be madness. It’s allowed to be passion. It’s allowed to be all about you and the life that you want. You’re allowed to choose your window seat, Anonymous, the way I eventually chose mine. And it may even be what helps you find that peace in the long run.
Here’s your second option. You have a boyfriend who loves you and whom you love back. You share the same values. You want the same things. Those are rare gems to find in a person whom you also love romantically and it seems like you already know that.
And yet, you are attracted to someone else. There is someone else whose clothing you want to rip off, whose lips you want to kiss, whose body you want all over yours. They have a word for this phenomenon and it is ‘normal.’ It’s not even an ENFP thing: Everyone in the history of the Universe who has been in a serious relationship for a significant period of time has – at one point or another – wanted to be with someone else. Some people ignore this impulse. Others give into it. Others walk just far enough toward the abyss to realize that they don’t want to fall in. Of those three options, if you want to stay happy and healthy in love, I can only advise the first (and okay, maybe the third).
Nothing about the experience of being attracted to someone who’s not your partner is exclusive to being an ENFP but it is a situation we encounter in high frequency. And here’s the unfortunate thing about personality: You don’t get to choose the way you’re wired. You don’t get to stop being a person who sees every opportunity and wants every option under the sun. But you do get to decide how you manage your own brain. Do you pursue all of those options with fervor or do you refocus your energy on your own relationship? Do you chase the unknown or do you develop what you already have at home? I’m not suggesting that either of these options is the superior one – I’ve tried them both and found each of them to be satisfying in their own right. Only you can decide which one you need right now.
Here is what I can tell you about your personality (and perhaps this is the answer you’ve been looking for all along): Your cognitive functions develop in descending order. You have extroverted intuition first, introverted feeling second, extroverted thinking third and introverted sensing last. It seems as though your extroverted intuition is in full swing right now as you imagine alternate possibilities with other people. But it’s your tertiary extroverted thinking that needs to be called on in this situation. And you have to go through your introverted feeling to access it.
Extroverted thinking is immensely helpful when it comes to staying faithful – it listens to what your introverted feeling wants and then makes a concrete plan to achieve it. The thing is, as ENFPs, we can sometimes get so obsessed with dwelling in our extroverted intuition (that is, examining all the possibilities out there) that we forget to pay our introverted feeling adequate attention and therefore are shit at making decisions based on how we feel. We are afraid of what we’ll find if we sit with our feelings and so we ignore them. And that is exactly what you must not do in a situation such as this.
Because here’s the thing – there is no miracle answer to this question (aside from pursuing polyamory). There is no have-it-all solution that your extroverted intuition is going to magically come up with. I know that’s what you want, Anonymous (and don’t we all) but in this case, it doesn’t exist. In this case, there is only you and your heart.
Right now, you need to think through how you feel about both options. Consider that you may never feel that crazy, passionate, over-the-moon feeling of meeting someone new ever again. Then, entertain the notion that you’re never going to feel the intimacy, comfort and support that you feel with your particular partner ever again. Sit right inside the feelings – process them, acknowledge them, cry over them a little if you need to. But don’t run away from them. Don’t rescue them with mental possibilities and maybes. Let them nestle fully inside your heart and stay there. And then ask your heart which situation feels more wrong. Which feeling you cannot live without. Because that is the answer you need.
Here is the good news in all of this, dearest Anonymous – you’re an inspirer. You’re a champion. You are going to be over-the-moon fantastic at whichever option you put your mind to – because that’s how your brain is wired. You’ll find wonderful possibilities with other people if you leave or you’ll find wonderful possibilities within your relationship if you stay. For any ENFP, the decision itself is the hardest part. Once you’ve made it, your extroverted intuition will jump back into play and make sure that you’re making the absolute most out of whatever option you’ve chosen.
So stop deliberating over your options, dear Anonymous. You’ve done so for over a year now and it’s gotten you nowhere. It’s time for your brain to get quiet and let your heart make its decision. Because you’re going to find a way to be happy either way.
Best of luck,