I (Was) Married to My Polar Opposite (ISTJ & ENFP)

24 Sep

Today I wanted to share one of my previous posts about how my husband and I are complete opposites.  I find it very interesting how complete opposites can be attracted to one another and then learn to live with their differences.   I always knew that my husband and I were opposites in many ways.  I never realized that we were complete and total opposites, at least psychologically, until we took the Myers-Briggs Test together and examined our results with our marriage counselor.  What follows is a summary of our different personality types and how they mesh in a relationship.  Things are difficult sometimes, but we are making it work!

A while ago I briefly posted about my husband and I taking the Myers-Briggs Personality Test (See Being Thankful).  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 liberal-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.

Update: My 2013 stats summary showed that this is still my most-read post. I thought I should provide an update in this post for those that come here just to read about how two opposite types in a marriage work out. I can’t speak for every “opposites attract” couple, but mine didn’t work out well at all. We are now divorced. Our Myers-Briggs types weren’t the main reason for the marriage failure (the near constant lies did that). I do think that our vast differences contributed to the breakdown and eventual decline of our relationship, though. It got tiring being the “responsible one,” always dealing with his unrealistic ideas, and being married to someone who was so deeply conflict avoidant and approval-seeking.

Let me add at this point that I have nothing against ENFP types. I just would never be in a romantic relationship with one again. We don’t see eye-to-eye. Every little thing was more of a struggle than it should have been. We hobbled along and tried to make it work for a while, but it was like having octagons for wheels instead of circles – jumpy, bumpy, and not quite right. It wasn’t good for him or for me. Growth is inevitable, and partners should challenge one another, but things shouldn’t be that difficult. That much change and compromise isn’t healthy for either partner. Common ground is vital.

I’m now in a very healthy relationship with someone who tests either ISTJ or ISFJ, depending on the test and the day. We aren’t carbon copies of each other by any stretch of the imagination, and we don’t have a conflict-free relationship. However, things just work so much more smoothly. We have similar goals, focus, thought-processes, ideas, and philosophies about what is important in life. We are on the same team, working toward the same things instead of in a constant tug-of-war. Most importantly, our communication is clear, calm, and conflicts are resolved quickly and with maturity. It makes a world of difference.

One other small note, I really hate that picture my ex-husband chose. It’s so cheesy. Horrible, just horrible. I hated it then, and I think I hate it even more now.

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54 Responses to “I (Was) Married to My Polar Opposite (ISTJ & ENFP)”

  1. Callie January 19, 2020 at 11:36 am #

    Hahaha I loved your comment about the picture at the end lol I’m also an ISTJ and thought the same thing. This is pretty accurate for my ENFP husband and I!

  2. Susan May 22, 2017 at 1:43 pm #

    Hi I really enjoyed reading your article. My husband and I are also Polar Opposites. We both took the test and I am an Infp and he is an ESTJ. Boy it is so hard to communicate and work on projects together haha this is definitely a learning experience and very educational.

  3. Suzy October 12, 2016 at 9:49 pm #


    Thanks for sharing. Do you two have children together? I am ENFP, and my boyfriend is ISTJ. It’s funny because he thinks I am
    Lying when I am not. We really do struggle to get along. I can’t call it quits yet bc we have a beautiful baby together. I am
    Hoping we can get along or at best be friends and amazing co-parents. I don’t think I can ever get what I want emotionally from him bc of his personally type. And what’s so funny is I LOVE the picture your husband picked.

    Thanks for sharing

    • beautifulmess7 October 13, 2016 at 10:48 am #

      Thankfully, we never had children together. I divorced my ex-husband years ago, and am now remarried to a man who I am much, much more compatible with. We just had a son together in June. Knowing how hard parenting is and how much you need to be on the same page, I’m grateful that I never had to navigate those waters with him. He was also a cheater and liar, though, which is a much bigger deal.

  4. Anonymous January 6, 2016 at 12:15 am #

    Haha that pictures is ridiculously cheesy XD As an INFP I would like to think we have better taste then that :p. But that picture screams ENFP. On a side note; I’ve always gotten a long really well with ISTJs; ESTJ’s not so much.

  5. Sara July 31, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    Carbon copy here. Husband ENFP and I’m an ISTJ. We also have the switch-up during arguments. He clams up and I talk…probably too much. The ENFP partner choosing silence makes a lot of sense when you take their bent towards conflict avoidance into account. I just want to bounce ideas and thoughts back and forth, but to him it feels like a verbal assault.

    We’ve been married for 12 years and we’re doing alright. It could be better but neither of us support the idea of divorce. I do think that over time we’ve both moved toward the center; toward each other and I think that’s the point of it all. We’re attracted to one another because there are traits we admire and, over time, with work and grace from each other, we grow. I hope the people who are married to their opposites and read this will find hope and persevere. The rewards are great.

  6. Aaron S. Mohammed May 30, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

    The part in her update about the picture her husband chose was funny to me because I’m an ENFP and think it was a great choice! Lol

  7. Natalie King January 2, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    I’m an ENFP with an ISTJ partner. We’ve been together for 10 years and have a 20 month old son together. We’ve tried and tried, but always just go around in circles. Sad to say, but I’ve lost my faith and feel this is the end for us. We’re too different and neither of us is happy.

  8. Balding chubby mess September 4, 2014 at 4:38 am #

    My wife and I sound EXACTLY the same as you and your first husband – she’s ISTJ and I’m ENFP. I even liked his picture! We’re in marriage counseling, again, after 20 years of marriage. I’m trying to figure out how to love my wife, but I’m so tired of being shot down, invalidated, scared of bringing up anything of importance because it’ll be a fight from word one… Does that sound like your 1st husband’s perspective? If it weren’t for the kids, I’d have given up on the vow 15 years ago. Oh, and the fact that she’s stuck by me like a trooper through two bouts of my cancer – which I don’t get, because I don’t think she even likes me. I know I owe her, but I am failing at making myself feel anything for her. Anyway, I don’t know if I’m sorry or relieved that you changed the title of your blog.

    • beautifulmess7 September 4, 2014 at 7:15 am #

      I’m not sure what his perspective was. Hopefully you aren’t exactly like him because he was a pathological liar and serial cheater. It sounds like you are just tired of the struggle. I get that. About her not even liking you… I can’t say one way or the other, but as an ISTJ she certainly feels responsible to be there for you and be your rock through hard times. That’s one of the things we do best. As for “owing her,” I think that’s the wrong mindset. You need to decide if you two can compromise and be happy together. If not, it it really has been all about the kids for both of you, then it’s likely that she will be as relieved as you are to end the marriage. ISTJs are loyal, and we don’t like change much, so it will be difficult for her. For me leaving that marriage and finding someone more compatible was the best thing I’ve done. But take that with a grain of salt since there were other factors involved. I’m not saying that an ISTJ / ENFP relationship can never work, but I do know it will never be easy.

      • Balding Chubby Mess January 2, 2015 at 4:31 pm #

        Thanks for the months-ago reply – in true ENFP form, I thought about replying back, and then forgot about it until Natalie posted just now. Update: we’re climbing back out of our hole, I think. I told my counselor what I wrote above, that I no longer know if I could feel anything for my wife. He said maybe try acting like I love her – do all the things someone who truly is in love would do. So, I’m giving it a shot. Things have been better – I hope we’re on the mend and not just in a happy lull. I’ve been intentionally noticing and acknowledging her contributions, sometimes to her, sometimes to her and the girls, and sometimes just to myself. It’s helping me refocus my filter of her behavior from boring and nagging to deliberate, conscientious, and loyal. Not sure if her filter of me being “reckless and irresponsible” is changing to “exciting and resourceful,” but I’m not nearly as ready to throw in the towel on this experiment as I was three months ago.
        I wanted to make sure you knew I haven’t cheated on my wife – I just read your “10 Reasons” blog. What you wrote is exactly the expectation we hold each other to and what we tell our teenage daughters: any signs of cheating, run away fast and don’t look back.
        Even so, I think I will require my daughters’ boyfriends to take personality tests if things look like they are getting serious. Then I could either give my blessing or tell them that they are facing a life of pain, misery, and regret at worst or, maybe more reasonably, a life of Sisyphean work at a happy relationship…

  9. thedude May 27, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

    ISTJs do not like arguments, they like everything to be in harmony.

    • Anonymous July 21, 2014 at 7:30 am #

      Funny you should say that since my wife is ISTJ, and she has admitted to starting arguments simply because she enjoys seeing me upset (ENFP).

      We are a weird mix. Because even though ISTJ’s are usually the mature, responsible, routine-handling types, I feel like most of this burden falls on me. From bills to chores around the house, to taxes and insurance (every drole detail that ENFPs hate), they fall on me. This combined with little emotional feedback is a little crippling. I hate giving up and really hope there is some amicable solution where we can both share responsibilities, but it seems bleak.

      I’m not trying to paint her a the villain and myself as the victim here. I’ve done my share of passive aggressive childness in response to what I’ve taken as constant criticism (probably not legit criticism sometimes, but we’re– ENFPs– not the best with it… not that I’m trying to make excuses, but it hasn’t helped either of us). She is incredibly dedicated to work and is committed to the relationship, I’m just looking for some support because at this point I feel like my tank is running on fumes. It would also be nice to leave the house and develop a small social circle too.

      So, I need to ask, was the MC worth it for anyone in here? Any advice would be much appreciated (criticize away if you want, but please give me solutions too). Thanks in advance.

      • beautifulmess7 July 21, 2014 at 8:21 am #

        That desire to have conflict or “discussions” just for the sake of arguing your point of view (or even just playing devil’s advocate) is one of the most frustrating, especially for ENFPs. It is a rush, a chance to flex your mental muscles, and an urge that is difficult (though not impossible) to quell. If she really just likes to see you upset that’s something else, but winning a mental challenge is very fulfilling for ISTJs. If she feels like you’re intelligence is inferior, she may go for the throat like a pit bull. That does not bode well for your relationship because once she loses respect for you it is hard to get back. On the other hand, she may not understand the deep impact it has on you. How effective have you been at articulating the way it makes you feel when you aren’t in the middle of one of those emotionally charged moments? Therapy can be helpful in that regard because you are in a neutral place with a neutral person and you’re both in the mind set to talk about it.

        The bills and responsibilities part of it may be more about traditional gender roles than personality type. I consider myself quite responsible and a bit of a control freak. I also believe that women can do as much as men and everyone has the right, regardless of gender, to pursue the type of life they want. I have nothing against stay at home Dads. However, I want a traditional family. I expect my husband to be in charge of the bills, to be dominant in bed, to be stable and responsible. I can be in charge, and I am at work, but I don’t want to be at home. In return, I do most of the chores, I take the lead on cooking most meals, I do the laundry, and I pamper him with plenty of compliments, manicures, grooming, and a full glass of beer or wine whenever he wants one. To get in that mindset I must respect him, though.

        If your wife doesn’t have that respect for you she likely won’t do those things that shower you with positive feedback. Instead, she will nitpick and poke and prod to try to get you to do things the way she wants. That’s a terrible trait of ISTJs who are unhappy in their relationships. It is something she will need to let go of. The control freak inside really wants to critique and force, even though that results in the exact opposite result with ENFPs. We ISTJs like to be challenged and called out. We respond well to tough love and bullet points of things we aren’t doing well. We might resist at first, but we will sit and think and ponder when given the opportunity to do so (in a conflict we will often stand our ground stubbornly and refuse to admit we are wrong, though).

        That’s why therapy can be very effective if your ISTJ is open to it. The ability to talk things out without it devolving into a conflict is important. ISTJs like to analyze. We like to examine things. We are resistant to change without a good reason, but when we have one we are quick and decisive, often turning on a dime without a problem once we have wrapped our minds around the reasons. I absolutely recommend therapy, especially if you can be open to criticism of your actions, too

  10. Gloriann November 27, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    Hi all. I am a ISTJ and my husband is an EFNP. We work beautiful together. Also neither of us is near the middle of the chart. We cannot be any more different. We work amazing together. We look at it as being the perfect compliment to each other. He dreams and I dig through his dreams and make them happen. Also I do it in a calm, well executed way. I love my lists and plans. I love his spontaneity and innovation. It’s amazing the things he can start. My only issue is I’m so introverted that people walk all over me. He has enough back bone so to speak for the both of us. Fortunately, he fights most of my battles. That’s my biggest weakness. I find that if we are united on something we are unstoppable. The key is to realize just how amazing the other personality are and as smite your spouse for literally, completing you. Good luck all, it’s quite the wild ride.

    • Anonymous January 15, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

      Does anyone think that it matters if the genders are opposite? I am the ENFP (wife) and my husband is an ISTJ. We get along but he can be very controlling and wants everything done his way all the time. Since I’m flexible it is usually fine but boy we have our fireworks. We have been married for 30 years and are very happy so I guess we’ve just figured it out. It hasn’t been easy though.We’ve had to go to counseling several times and it was very helpful.

      • Isabel April 1, 2014 at 4:03 am #

        my husband and I are the same types are you and your husband. Fortunately my husband is not too rigid. He is very patient. However we did go through a rough time in our marriage where things were not good between us. We, too, had some counselling. It is still difficult at times to understand the point one or the other is making. We have been married 30 years. I am fortunate to have a rather unselfish partner. However, my advice would be to think carefully before choosing a life partner that as different as we are from each other.

  11. G. Sabra Jr. September 13, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    You wrote: “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).”

    This apparent reversal I think has to do with gender and how men and women experience and deal with emotions in the moment. I’m pretty sure they’ve done studies that show men tend to emotionally shut down in arguments and stay stuck in that state longer than women. Women tend to be a lot more in-tune with their feelings and express them more immediately, so they can go from angry to forgiving to xyz feelings as they go about their daily lives while men tend to sort of stay stuck in a given emotional state throughout the day, relive the arguments in their heads, and express themselves later (or even days later) on when things have cooled down and their insides have sorted themselves out.

    Good post.

    • nkuce July 1, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

      I have to disagree here

      • beautifulmess7 July 1, 2014 at 6:46 pm #


  12. Karen August 27, 2013 at 2:46 am #

    It’s great to see there is another istj/enfp couple who is making it work!! Plus I find it a nice bonus that you are the istj, and female (same with my marriage). Sometimes I get frustrated by the same things (ranting and raving about how he wont settle for anything less than a our-car garage house while I freak out trying to find ways for that to really happen financially). Then I ask what he loves most about me, and he says, “you make decisions, you are usually right about them, and you keep me grounded.” I feel sometimes like the “man” in our relationship, just because I have to watch out for hurting is feelings. Anyway, I am glad to see it is working for you, and I really think that counseling helps a lot! At least the premarital counseling we did is still serving us well 4 years in.

    • beautifulmess7 August 27, 2013 at 6:57 am #

      Actually, it didn’t work for us, but other factors play more of a role. I will absolutely never willingly choose that combo again. I do NOT want to be the “man” of the relationship ever again!

      • Anonymous May 6, 2014 at 11:52 am #

        Hi there – thanks for your extremely interesting article. But very worrying to me as I’m a male ENFP engaged and shortly to be married to a female ISTJ. I took some of my organisational defects on board and worked hard enough at them that I became an officer in the Infantry of the Army – not an easy task – this training etc brought out in me a modicum of discipline, leadership, organisation, although I feel my DNA is very much ENFP traits. However, I’m capable of making sensible decisions and giving orders and direction – would that be likely to relieve an ISTJ female’s worrying about not having to be the man? We’ve had fairly tumultuous relationship to get us this far. However, we love spending time together. The problem generally is that she systematically works and worries herself to death. I sort of scrape her off the floor, recharge her etc. But rather than reciprocating with similar positivity she just continues to pick me up for small shortcomings – stuff like unwashed clothes left around etc which strikes me as ungrateful. For her part, it irritates her that I don’t play by the rules and take risks with things. Luckily we’re both quite analytical and generally communicate well so we have kind of defined our problems from the outset, which is a start. Was just wondering if you had any thoughts on how I could best go about ensuring things stay on a good keel between us? Very grateful for any advice you can spare.

        • beautifulmess7 May 6, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

          My “opposites” relationship did not end well – he is now my ex-husband, as the article update mentions. So, if I were you I might take my advice with a grain of salt since I wasn’t able to make it work. I will say that had more to do with the fact that he was a cheating narcissist than anything else. However, the personality differences were like sandpaper… They got to be very grating on my nerves.

          Based on what you have written, my advice would be to have a conversation about expectations for both of you. You each need to know the basic things that are important to your partner, talk about them, and come to an agreement. If you prefer to do things in an out of the box way, but they still get completed correctly in a reasonable timeframe then you may want to set those expectations from the start. Something like – “I’m going to do XYZ. It may be different than how you would approach it, but it will be done by ___, and I promise it will turn out well.” Then have her agree not to comment (or maybe not even look) until that date.

          I also have to say that you may think unwashed clothes left around is a small thing, but it sounds like it is a big deal to her. Having things in disarray for an ISTJ can be very distressing. If she already has demanding career or a tough day, seeing a disorganized mess can literally send her over the edge emotionally. It can be an overwhelming feeling of “this never ends” and “why can’t he just be a grown up and take care of basic things like his own laundry?” It puts her in the position of nagging to get her need for cleanliness and order met, which builds resentment and puts her in more of parental role than a partner role.

          The other thing I want to caution you about is using the term “ungrateful.” When I read that it rubbed me the wrong way immediately. Either you support her through her anxiety and pick her up after a hard day because you love her or because you are expecting something in return. If it is the former, then give your support and love without expecting that she give up something in return. If it is the latter, that is dangerous territory. If you start getting into score keeping and “I did X, so you should give me Y” it is an unhealthy dynamic. She will slip sometimes, and you will slip sometimes. That is the nature of being human. But thinking “You screwed up, so now I get MY chance to do something you don’t like” is not going to get you anywhere good.

        • jeninthekeys August 23, 2016 at 7:08 pm #

          I am an ENFP married to an ISTJ male for 17 years and I can never please him. It has been very difficult. I do not recommend it even on a good day;-) ….and that’s all I have to say about that!

          • Doug August 23, 2016 at 9:06 pm #

            Concur. ENFP military officer married to an ISTJ pharmacist for over 21 years. She says she likes me, and I think she means it when she says it. You know, a couple times a year after two glasses of wine. But normally, I never measure up to her standards every single day. I’m very happy with the kids we’ve raised, but I would rank our marriage as being very far from happy, and sadly, the kids know it. They vow never to get married. We try, but make no headway towards happiness. Don’t do it.

      • Olmed September 2, 2015 at 1:57 am #

        Thats very interesting. I been in army, skydiving, riding motorcycle and into sports. With my ex-istj (female) partner I ended up feeling needy and begging for affection. Trying to get her share more of feelings and enter into communication about troubles we never seemed to finish. I wanted to talk, she wanted to withdraw and put it behind without further discussion. I never before felt like the “female” in any other relationships but now found myself on the other side of the table. Funny thing is that initially I accused her of being the “emotional” one. She had endless good qualities (loyalty, strong moral, detail oriented) but it just took too much work and for an enfp the rational can never replace the emotional. I agree with you. Istj is a type I truly admire and wish it could work with, but it is just too much on the opposite poles and I would never freely choose that combo again. I wish her all the best, she is a great person.

  13. leanne356 November 17, 2012 at 8:48 am #

    Wow! I know this is one of your oldsr posts, (I don’t know if it’s annoying for bloggers when they have moved on to a new phase in their mind and someone (me) draws attention back to when you were feeling differently) if so, I’m sorry, I’m not sure of the etiquette of these things yet…

    Anyway, I read this today and just wanted to share that I am the exact same as you on the personality traits and my husband is the exact same as yours! Reading this was so insightful as it has put into words, how we connect, work together and fall apart… I’m going to bring this up with my councellor.

    I am also wondering ylu would mind giving me your views on the councelling front, I’m just not sure it’s work the money. I guess it’s because my husband and I talk very openly about things ourselves that I’m not really sure (after only 3 sessions) if the counselling is worth it, other than us giving ourselves that one focussed hour a week to talk about things.

    I’m really confused as to my husbands issues. And I feel the councellor is really focussing more on things like ‘how did that make you feel Leanne’ and ‘what can David do to help now’ than actually getting into the ‘why’ behind Davids actions…

    Davids actions also confuse me. He had (has) a similiar problem to your husband. I found out the year before I married him that he had been calling chatlines and looking at online porn etc to a shocking degree, spending about a quarter of his salary on it a month, this was over and above a very active and adventurous sex life with me. I didn’t, in my naivity, understand any of it. I equated those things (sex lines etc) with dirty old men who couldn’t get a woman… Anyway I thought it would just stop since I had found out and went ahead and married him… For the nxt four/five years the issue would come up again when I took a notion to check out his phone bills and online activity etc. The things I found were truly heartbreaking, messages to other women telling them how beautiful and sexy they were etc etc etc and how much he wanted them and everything else… Then he finally went to SAA, only 3 times, he said that was enough. He had truly been disgusted with himself and opened his eyes to how wrong the things were that he had been doing and that he didn’t want to luve like that with all the shame and embarressment etc. I believed him. And for about a year to a year and a half I had no issues with chatlines or indecent online activity to my knowledge, though I continued to check for things periodically, I never found anything.

    Then D-Day arrived on 21st October this year when I accidently found the secret prepaid mobile phone and found out he had actually met someone while on a night out back in March. I really couldn’t believe it. My worst fear had always been that he would end up meeting someone from a chatline or a wrbsite, in person and carry out all the sexual acts that they discussed with each other… But this was me finding out he had met someone on a regular night out and took her number to keep it going…

    The actual nature of the affair is strange to me. He met her on the night out then he met her 2 weeks later for another night out which was with other people as well. That is the extent to which he had physical contact with her. The rest was all text messages. I believe this about 99%. He said he couldn’t bring himself to go and meet her again but enjoyed the thrill of the dirty texts (which he could have had from me as I’m not adverse to this especially as he works awsy grom home mon-fri quite often). Overall, I am relieved and glad that there was no more physical interaction (he said he did not have sex with her (I believe this I guess about 99%) but he did kiss her). In tryinging to make sense of what he has done, I am thinking that although he has met her in a regular social setting, whefe could have had a full on physical affair with someone he had made a connection with, he ultimately led the situation with that woman to be like what he enjoyed before in the chatlines and websites where there was no direct/actual physical interaction, just the electronic interactions…

    I don’t know if I’m trying to rush things out at the counselling sessions, I don’t know why the counsellor is not probing more into the pattern/causes of Davids actions. I just want to dump it sll out and then start the fixing but the counsellor makes us take time over listening to everything each other say… He also said that I had come in (to session) like a whirlwind last Monday, I don’t know if I’m being too impatient…
    I’m sorry that I’ve written so much in your post, I really should find the courage to write my own blog.. I start writing and my thoughts start to focus and sometimes I find I am answering my own questions lol. I guess it just really helps me to interact with people who have similar situations…

    • leanne356 November 17, 2012 at 9:32 am #

      And now I have just taken the test again and I have come out out as an ENFJ!!! I feel like I don’t even know who I am now!!

      • beautifulmess7 November 17, 2012 at 9:46 am #

        It does give you lots of insights into yourself. It matters a lot how strong you are at each trait. You may be close to the middle in some, which means that characteristic may change or switch depending on the situation.

    • beautifulmess7 November 17, 2012 at 9:49 am #

      Please don’t apologize. I really like when people go back and find something useful in what I have written. I am also always happy to talk about anything. I’m an open book, although based on how things are going for me you probably want to take my advice with a grain of salt.

      My experience with marriage counseling is a mixed bag. I have found that the single most important thing is finding the right person who is a fit for your personality, your situation, and your desires going forward. We went through bad fits before finding a good one.

      You say that you & your husband communicate well. If that’s true, then you already have a leg up in recovery. Gently, I will challenge just how open and honest he is with you based on the small snippet of information you gave me, though. It seems he has been actively hiding things from you like a prepaid phone and another woman. I always thought my husband was honest with me, even after the lie discoveries, because he seemed so sincere. Sincerity can be faked, however.

      As for what I think the value of marriage counseling is – for me it is a few things. First of all, don’t overlook the importance of that designated time to talk about your relationship and feelings. I discovered that having a third party there kept me accountable and helped direct the conversation. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee your partner is being honest, too, as I discovered the hard way.

      The other thing is that a professional has the resources and insight readily available and can direct you to areas where you should put more focus. The testing, books, exercises, and other tools I got helped me understand myself and my marriage better.

      Another thing is that my therapist gave us “homework,” for lack of a better word. He told my husband the things he wanted to see him get more consistent at. He asked me to read books or articles and really think about my answer to some hard questions. He followed up to make sure important things didn’t fall by the wayside.

      The biggest benefit by far for me, though, is the way he was able to serve as a translator of sorts. As you noticed here, my husband and I think and act and process things completely differently. Our MC helped my husband understand why certain things are important to me. For example, he helped communicate why consistent recovery and at least weekly participation in SA is vital.

      Our MC validated my feelings and pointed out regularly that long term action means far more than cheap words. He helped finalize our boundary agreement and supported me when my husband breached it without making him feel like he was being attacked. He helped us see flaws in our communication patterns. Now he is helping me realize that I can only move forward, not go back.

      Therapy is only as effective as your counselor and the whole-hearted participation of both parties. If you have the wrong fit, it won’t work. If one party isn’t fully committed to change, it won’t work. There are some people and relationship that may not need or benefit from it at all. There isn’t a single right answer that fits everyone. If you find you aren’t getting results or benefits from that, try something else, change it up, and tailor your own plan.

      I will say that the “why” takes a long time, and it is something your husband probably needs his own intensive therapy to figure out and work through. I have heard more than once that marriage counseling with an active or unrecovered sex addict accomplishes nothing. It is like putting a band-aid on an infected shark bite. You have to clean the wound, treat the infection and deal with the immediate issues before you can start physical therapy or reconstructive surgery to make it look better. Stop the hemorrhaging first, find the source of the bleed, and focus there.

      What that may mean is it’s too early for marriage counseling. Right now your therapy is focused on managing the current crisis and making plans to get through things one day at a time. That’s about as in-depth as you can get before the “why” is discovered and addresses by your husband. Being a type A, take charge person, it was hard for me to realize just how much of this is completely out of my hands.

      Interacting with others in similar situations has given me a surprising amount of insight. Just writing out my thoughts and feelings does make the answer to whatever I’m going through more visible. Take things one day at a time, or even one minute at a time if you have to. Feel free to email me anytime, seriously. We need to stick together and help each other out. 🙂

      • leanne356 November 17, 2012 at 10:54 am #

        Thank you soooo much for taking the time out of your day to reply to me and for giving me the advice. I truly appreciate it and find it helpful. You are a very sensible young woman! Everything you have said makes sense to me.

        We are in a 6 weekly contract with this MC so I’ll try to be more direct in what I am looking to get out of it and see how it goes before signing into the next 6 weeks. I might suggest that David needs to work on his own issues and solving them before we
        can really solve our joint problems.

        You have definitly gave me some foid for thought. Thanks again for your help and I agree that we should stick together. Hopefully I will find the time and courage to write my own blog soon and perhaps be of some help to someone further down the line.

        I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend 🙂

        • i1043u August 9, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

          I’m an ENFP by a land slide, I grew up in a home of ISTJs and an ESTJ father… So how I happened is a mystery to me. The reason I’m posting on this blog is because I’m looking for some insight. I’ve been married to my beautiful ISTJ wife now for 2 years, we started or relationship like every fairy tale begins, sparks were flying but it quickly ended. I have been studying and researching communication and love languages, everything I can to help out with our marriage.
          I’ve been 2,000 miles away for about 4 months now for work so it’s been difficult trying to apply what I’ve learned.
          So my question for female ISTJs would be
          1) ideally what would you expect from a husband?
          2) how could he show you that he loves you?
          I realize this blog hasn’t been active lately but anything helps in my case, I’m very very desperate.

          • beautifulmess7 August 10, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

            Those are very broad questions. I’m not sure how to properly answer them, and I definitely don’t think my answer should be used to generalize for every ISTJ. In general, though what I expect from a husband is communication, honesty, and someone who will listen and process things with me in a realistic way.

            I want an equal partner, someone who is responsible but who can bring out my fun side. It doesn’t hurt to have someone who is extroverted to my introvert. However being with an ENFP is very challenging because you literally think and process things exactly the opposite of ISTJs. That means you will both have to take extra time to stop, breathe, and really try to see the other person’s perspective. Foster understanding. Patience is a must!

            How could he show me that he loves me? Ideally, for me, with his time and attention. That is more of a love languages question than a personality types question, though. I recommend you read the 5 Love Languages book or at least check out the website and the short quiz. My primary love language is quality time, followed by gifts and/or acts of service. The secondary ones for me are just an extension of the first… Having someone notice what I want and like and need shows me that they pay attention and that our time together is quality. That’s not a universally ISTJ thing, though.

            • Anonymous August 14, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

              Thank you for your suggestions! My wife and I recently took a love language test ( and we each have our copies of the book now! :-)) What surprised me was the fact that we already knew each other’s love language yet we were still trying to express our love how we wanted to be loved.
              My love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch, my wife’s are acts of service and gifts.
              I’m very excited yet nervous to be back with my wife again! Just anther week!

              • beautifulmess7 August 14, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

                It’s so funny that your love languages came out like that. It is almost exactly the same as my ex and I. His and yours are spot-on. If you throw quality time in there, I’m the same as your wife. Knowing your partner’s love language and being able to express your love for them in that language are two different things. It takes practice. You will automatically relate in your own love language and try to show love that way, even if it is nearly meaningless to your partner. I’m glad to hear that you’re working on things, though. Good luck!

  14. workspousestory November 14, 2012 at 4:24 am #

    Hi, I wonder where the description of ISTJ / ENFP is from? This is my marriage too (although I’m ENFP in this case) and would love to read more about it.

    • beautifulmess7 November 14, 2012 at 6:59 am #

      The therapist made us a copy from a book. I’m going to have to track it down, and I’ll let you know which one.

  15. Recovering Wayward September 25, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    There used to be places on the Web to take the MBTI free. I can’t seem to find them any more. If anyone has a link, let me know. My daughter wants to take it and I wouldn’t mind seeing if my score has changed (when i was younger, I was an ISTJ, but I’ve somehow morphed into an INTJ)

  16. Recovering Wayward September 25, 2012 at 7:11 am #

    Being an INTJ and being married to an ENFJ ….has its challenges. 🙂

    • beautifulmess7 September 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

      It definitely does. When you are married to someone who is very different personality-wise it goes deeper than you might initially think. Those types touch on all sorts of things – how we see the world, how we react to it, how we approach problems and solutions, and the list goes on. Being aware of those differences can also help a lot, though.

  17. Teatart September 25, 2012 at 3:50 am #

    We seem to be so similar that its quite scary really LOL! I absolutely love understanding the psychology behind personality types and relationships. We also did the Myers Briggs Personality Test: I am an Idealitist Healer and my husband is a Guardian Supervisor.

  18. rgonaut September 25, 2012 at 2:16 am #

    So please tell us your scores. I don’t think you are near the center from reading your blog but…

    • beautifulmess7 September 25, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

      I’ll have to see if we have how strong we are ont he scale somewhere. I know that I’m a fairly strong I, although I can “fake” E pretty convincingly. My husband’s E is close to the center.

      I can’t remember where we were on the spectrum for the S and N. My T is pretty darn strong. His F is also.

      My J is fairly close to the middle. His is, too. In fact, it was basically a tie between P and J for him, and he had to answer a few more questions and do a more in-depth rating to determine which he was closer to.

      • rgonaut September 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

        So sometimes you have to take this with a grain of salt. If you are both fairly near the center you may not have so much distance between you as you think. I wonder if people naturally move more toward the center as they age? or not? Actually, I can think of some friends that became more extreme in their personality traits as they aged….hmmm.

  19. Not Over It September 24, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    Hi Beautiful – you and your husband are exactly the same types as my husband and me, but in reverse. I am the ENFP. I used to teach this as part of an adult ed class I used to teach. It has helped a lot over the years.

    It’s important to consider that your type can actually change over time through the things you experience. It’s not all that common, but it does occur. And the optimum we hope to become is near the center in all traits.

    I am right on the borderline between P and J, and over the years have sometimes turned out J on the test. The work I do requires me to be J and so I am. But when stressed I will revert to a P way of dealing with it.

    A funny thing happened when I was first learning about Myers-Briggs. A friend was telling me about his “J-ness.” I listened intently and then, without thinking, asked, “So how does that apply to my P-ness?” I thought he was going to die laughing…

    Love & prayers,

    • ntbbaker1 June 1, 2016 at 2:59 pm #

      I’m 15 and I’m ISTJ and my girlfriend is ENSP. Communication is really the only key to success. Some days it’s harder than others but it’s worth it.

  20. rgonaut September 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

    Me too. I’m Intp and my wife is strongly esfj. The only thing however is that actually I’m only weakly intp. I’m near the center of the chart so really I’m not very distant from any of types. Still I think Intp fits with my personality. Just not strongly so and as I get older even less strongly than I used to be


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