Being Complete Opposites

26 May

A while ago I briefly posted about my husband and I taking the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.  Two weeks ago we got our results and a sheet that breaks down the joys and struggles of a couple with those two personality types.  What we discovered is that we are actually polar opposites.  We literally do not have one type in common.  I am an ISTJ (Introvert, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) and he is an ENFP (Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving).

If you aren’t familiar with the test or the concept, it uses 4 different scales to identify personality traits.  There are 16 different combinations of these 4 traits which form the basis for your overall personality.  The four different scales are (as broken down by about.com Psychology at http://psychology.about.com/od/psychologicaltesting/a/myers-briggs-type-indicator.htm):

  1. Extraversion (E) – Introversion (I): The extraversion-introversion dichotomy was first explored by Jung in his theory of personality types as a way to describe how people respond and interact with the world around them. While these terms are familiar to most people, the way in which they are used here differs somewhat from their popular usage.  Extroverts are “outward-turning” and tend to be action-oriented, enjoy more frequent social interaction and feel energized after spending time with other people. Introverts are “inward-turning” and tend to be thought-oriented, enjoy deep and meaningful social interactions and feel recharged after spending time alone. We all exhibit extraversion and introversion to some degree, but most of us tend have an overall preference for one or the other.
  2. Sensing (S) – Intuition (N): This scale involves looking at how people gather information from the world around them. Just like with extraversion and introversion, all people spend some time sensing and intuiting depending on the situation. According to the MBTI, people tend be dominant in one area or the other. People who prefer sensing tend to pay a great deal of attention to reality, particularly to what they can learn from their own senses. They tend to focus on facts and details and enjoy getting hands-on experience. Those who prefer intuition pay more attention to things like patterns and impressions. They enjoy thinking about possibilities, imagining the future and abstract theories.
  3. Thinking (T) – Feeling (F): This scale focuses on how people make decisions based on the information that they gathered from their sensing or intuition functions. People who prefer thinking place a greater emphasis on facts and objective data. They tend to be consistent, logical and impersonal when weighing a decision. Those to prefer feeling are more likely to consider people and emotions when arriving at a conclusion.
  4. Judging (J) – Perceiving (P): The final scale involves how people tend to deal with the outside world. Those who lean toward judging prefer structure and firm decisions. People who lean toward perceiving are more open, flexible and adaptable. These two tendencies interact with the other scales. Remember, all people at least spend some time extraverting. The judging-perceiving scale helps describe whether you extrovert when you are taking in new information  (sensing and intuition) or when you are making decisions (thinking and feeling).

Every person has some combination of those 4 scales.  Each combination has inherent value and its own set of positive attributes and challenges.  Here’s a quick summary of the our two personality types:

  • ISTJ (me) – People with an ISTJ personality type tend to be reserved, practical and quiet.  They enjoy order and organization in all areas of their lives including their home, work, family and projects.  Because of this need for order, they tend to do better in learning and work environments that have clearly defined schedules, clear-cut assignments and a strong focus on the task at hand.  ISTJs value loyalty in themselves and others, and place an emphasis on traditions.  ISTJs are both responsible and realistic.  They are able to ignore distractions in order to focus on the task at hand and are often described as dependable and trustworthy.  Some of the main characteristics of the ISTJ personality include:
    • Focused on details and facts
    • Realistic
    • Interested in the present more than the future
    • Observant, but slightly subjective
    • Interested in the internal world
    • Logical and practical
    • Orderly and organized
  • ENFP (him) – People with this type of personality are often described as enthusiastic, charismatic, and creative.  ENFPs are flexible and like to keep their options open.  They can be spontaneous and are highly adaptable to change. They also dislike routine and may have problems with disorganization and procrastination.  When making decisions, ENFPs place a greater value on feelings and values rather than on logic and objective criteria.  People with this personality type strongly dislike routine and prefer to focus on the future. While they are great at generating new ideas, they sometimes put off important tasks until the last minute. Dreaming up ideas but not seeing them through to completion is a common problem. ENFPs can also become easily distracted, particularly when they are working on something that seems boring or uninspiring.Some common ENFP characteristics include:
    • Warm and enthusiastic
    • Empathetic and caring
    • Strong people skills; relates well to others
    • Able to think abstractly and understand difficult, complex concepts
    • Needs approval from others
    • Disorganized
    • Strong communication skills
    • Fun and spontaneous
    • Highly creative

You can probably tell already just how completely different we are.  Now imagine making that work in a marriage.  It is hard work.  But it is also very rewarding.  We literally have the traits that the other lacks.  Here is a portion of what our marriage counselor gave us regarding a marriage between an ISTJ and an ENFP:

The Joys

Since ISTJs and ENFPs have no type preference in common, they often seem like polar opposites.  But many couples experience a strong attraction, as each has what the other lacks.  ISTJs are often attracted to ENFPs’ high energy, enthusiasm, optimism, and creativity.  ENFPs bring a fun and adventurous element to everyday living, often saying and doing things that are irreverent, clever, and original (very true).  ENFPs are often drawn to ISTJs’ steadiness, responsibility, and calm.  ISTJs have a focus and maturity that ENFPs long to have themselves, and ISTJs are generally down-to-earth, unflappable, and superdependable (also very true).

Because of these differences, ENFPs and ISTJs have a great opportunity to help each other grow and develop in important ways.  ISTJs help their partners focus more carefully on the facts, details, and individual steps of their projects so they make fewer mistakes.  ENFPs often credit their partners with helping them be more direct, assertive, and willing to confront conflicts head-on.  ENFPs also say that their ISTJ partners help them become more organized, accountable, and realistic (true again).  For their part, ENFPs often help their serious and hardworking partners relax, have fun, and take occasional risks (so incredibly dead-on).  ISTJs credit their partners with cultivating their gentler and more patient sides and with helping them be more flexible and open to new ideas.

The Frustrations

Their many differences give most ISTJ and ENFP couples sizable hurdles to clear on a daily basis, especially in the area of communication (okay, have these people been spying on us?!).  ISTJs crave structure and predictability in their daily lives and are more traditional than the nonconforming and lveral-minded ENFPs.  Whereas ISTJs are not bothered by, and are perhaps even stimulated by, the tug of a good argument, ENFPs generally avoid anything too contentious or confrontational (spot-on).  Otherwise, ENFPs typically like lots of stimulation and are always eager to meet new people and explore new areas of work and play.  Meanwhile, ISTJs are often exhausted by the high level of interaction their partners stir up and prefer to stick with established routines or to spend quiet time with their partners pursuing an interest they share (that is so me).

Generally, one of the most difficult challenges for this couple stems from their views of change.  ENFPs like and need to talk about limitless possibilities, and they love to think creatively.  Because most ISTJs find constant change unsettling and stressful, their natural reaction is to resist it.  ENFPs often feel that their enthusiasm for possibilities is being squelched by the realism of their ISTJ partners.  For their part, ISTJs find the endless chatter about things that might never actually happen and the repeated leaps in logic frustrating and even threatening to the calm they prefer (AMEN!).

During conflicts, ISTJs tend to withdraw into silence so they can carefully think through their positions, opinions, and feelings before sharing them.  By contrast, most ENFPs want to work things out spontaneously in an effort to reestablish harmony immediately (actually, these two sentences happen but in the exact reverse.  He is the one who withdraws into silence and needs time to think things out while I want to immediately talk through our various feelings).  The end result is that both partners feel misunderstood and unappreciated.  Rather than talking through issues with respect and compromise, couples tend to fall into a pattern of arguing and blaming, followed by periods of silence and distance (this part is the same).  To maintain trust and connection, it is imperative that ENFPs stay calm and focused and ISTJs commit to sharing their emotions while remaining open and supportive (again, we need to do that but in reverse).

So, now we know a little bit more about each other.  I feel like every day we are taking steps in the right direction to strengthen our marriage.  Each little step brings us closer to being able to live in peace and harmony together.  I know there will always be differences, and that’s one thing I really like about us.  We are able to force each other to grow and make changes.  Hopefully they can be positive ones.  My desire is that we will find ways to balance each other out, smooth away the rough edges, and still maintain our individuality and unique perspectives on life.  As just a little step in that direction, I asked my husband to help me pick out a good picture to add at the end of this blog.  Below is his choice.

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4 Responses to “Being Complete Opposites”

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    […] been a social butterfly.  My lack of popularity was also due to my introverted personality (See Being Complete Opposites), and the fact that I wore braces, thick glasses, and had a very unfortunate perm.  I was always […]

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    […] how frustrating it can be sometimes being with someone so different from you (see my post Being Complete Opposites).  It is also rewarding, though.  This song reminds me that there are some things that are an […]

  3. Being Independent « Being a Beautiful Mess - June 28, 2012

    […] and was the odd-man-out once I got into private and then public school.  I am an introvert (See Being Complete Opposites), so I’ve never been one to have an entire gaggle of friends hovering around me at all […]

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    […] a lot of intelligence.  He is the yin to my yang.  We are total opposites in many ways (see Being Complete Opposites), which means that he added a lot to my life.  He taught me the joys of being spontaneous, […]

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