For a six-month period of my life, I once refused to date anyone who was not an INTJ.
As an ENFP, INTJs are meant to be my ideal match. In fact, ENFP-INTJ relationships are theorized to not just be one another’s perfect fit, but the One True Pairing of the MBTI. They’re the psychological dream team – lofty idealism paired with intensive reasoning and follow-through. Together they can accomplish anything – and anything apparently translates to a lifelong relationship.
ENFPs and INTJs aren’t the only theoretically perfect pairing out there. INFJs are meant to be ideal for ENTPs. ESFPs are supposed to go batty for ISTJs. ISFJs are meant to find their superheroes in ESTPs and ENFJs are the theoretical soulmates for INFPs.
The definition of what makes up a ‘Perfect Match’ differs slightly depending on whom you’re talking to (or reading a book by) but most MBTI-enthusiasts will agree that at some point or another, they’ve allowed the MBTI to dictate their love life.
I’m here to suggest that we stop that.
The MBTI is a wonderful tool. It can help us understand one another, strengthen our existing relationships and improve inter-type communication immensely. But it is not the be-all and end-all of compatibility. In fact, it may only be a small component of what makes a relationship work.
After six months of going on dates with introverted, intuitive, thinking judgers, I personally had to come to the disappointing conclusion that I just wasn’t that into any of them. It’s not that I’ve never been attracted to an INTJ – I quite vehemently have – but none of the particular men I met during that time period fit the bill. We had phenomenal conversations, but that was all. The spark just wasn’t there.
Immediately after my INTJ dating experiment went south, I met an ENFJ who I was crazy about. Ironically, this type is theoretically a horrible match for my type. And yet, for a while, the spark was there in abundance. And I’m not the first to report this anomaly.
An INFJ friend of mine writes regularly about her happy long-term relationship with her ESTP boyfriend. The founders of Personality Hacker boast a successful ENTP-ENFP marriage. I’ve met more than a few ENTP-ISFJ married couples and several INFP-INFJ partners who couldn’t imagine life without one another. None of these relationships should, according to MBTI theory, work well. And yet they do. And the people involved in them are thriving.
The MBTI certainly highlights the cognitive differences that arise between different personalities– and it can be a great tool to use to help us work through relationship difficulties as they arise. But at the end of the day, we can’t allow MBTI theory to be the sole factor in dictating whom we date. Here’s why.
1. There is infinitely more to attraction than personality compatibility.
Being an INTJ does not mean you will automatically be attracted to every ENFP you meet. Being an ENTP does not mean you will forever be a hopeless mush every time an INFJ walks by.
The Myers-Briggs type indicator can suggest which personality types you are more likely to be intellectually compatible with, but this is only part of what makes a relationship thrive. There’s also physical attraction. Romantic connection. Compatibility of love languages and long-term goals and values.
Having compatible personality types only gets you part of the way there. To form an attraction and corresponding relationship with someone, you have to be compatible in a myriad of other ways – ways that the MBTI doesn’t dictate.
2. Not everyone is looking for the same thing out of a relationship.
Most of the MBTI ‘perfect matches’ are determined by which types naturally complement one another and balance out one another’s weaknesses. But not everyone is looking for someone who balances them out in a relationship.
Some people want their partner to be their best friend – in which case they may opt to date someone who has similar or identical functions to their own. Others want to date someone who 100% fills in their blind spots – in which case, their four letter opposite may be what they’re looking for. Many people find that they are challenged enough in their everyday lives – and they want their relationship to be their soft spot to land. In this case – and in many others – one’s theoretical ‘perfect match’ may not present the relationship they’re looking for at all.
3. Relationships aren’t a magical formula – they’re work.
Finding someone who is your ideal MBTI match does not mean that the relationship will forevermore be effortless. I’m inclined to believe that the success of a given relationship is much more strongly correlated with the amount of work that goes into it than with the MBTI-compatibility of the partners.
An ESFP and an INTJ who have put the time, dedication and effort into understanding one another are likely to have a much happier relationship than an ENFP and an INTJ who neglect working on their relationship as a team.
Any two types can become alienated, even if they’re theoretically perfect for one another. And any two types can deliberately make it work, even if they’re theoretically incompatible.
4. A significant proportion of the population is mistyped anyway.
During my period of deliberately dating INTJs (met and identified predominantly through dating apps), I found myself on more than one date with an obviously mistyped ISTJ or INTP. Ironically, some of the mistyped dates were the ones that I enjoyed most.
The fact of the matter is, an enormous percentage of the population is not familiar enough with the MBTI to properly identify his or her own type. Trying to root out an INFJ is likely to land you on an infinite number of dates with INFPs and ISFJs. Looking for an ENTJ may land you across the dinner table from more than a few ESTJs. If you’re relying on the self-identification of people who are barely familiar with the MBTI to predict your dating compatibility, you’re in for a lot of trial and error along the way.
So where does this leave us?
At the end of the day, we’d be foolish to discount the role the MBTI can play in strengthening and ameliorating our relationships. But we shouldn’t look to it as the sole determinant of compatibility.
If you’re an INFJ who finds yourself attracted to an ISTP, don’t let your conflicting types hold you back. If you’re an INTP falling in love with an ESFJ, don’t force yourself to abandon the budding relationship. It’s only a train wreck if you allow it to become one. It’s only a failed relationship if you both decide to stop putting in the work.
By all means, look for a partner you’re compatible with. But allow that compatibility to emerge naturally. Let it develop as it may. Bring MBTI types into the mix only as a measure of understanding one another better and growing together as a couple.
Don’t use the MBTI to toss potential partners out the door.
Because you might accidentally toss out the person who could have made you happy for the rest of your life.