INTJ, INFP, INTP, INFJ Relationships, Compatibility, & the Inferior Function

By Dr. A.J. Drenth

Like other personality types, Intuitive Introverts can struggle with finding strong matches in their relationships, often wondering if true love and compatibility will ever find them. In this post, I will explore some key factors that contribute to the success (or breakdown) of INTJ, INTP,  INFP, and INFJ relationships.

Depending on their type, Intuitive Introverts will use different methods and standards for evaluating prospective partners. INTP and INTJ relationship-seekers might take a logical approach to finding love, listing the desired qualities of their imagined mate. INFs are likely to find such logical approaches distasteful or even laughable. INFJs lean heavily on their intuition for identifying potential love interests, while INFP relationship-seekers assess potential mates by way of their feelings and values. Despite such differences in approach, Intuitive Introverts are alike in their susceptibility to being tripped up by their inferior function. In order to understand what I mean by this, we will need to backtrack a bit first.

In my view, all types are best paired with mates who align with the needs and values of their dominant and/or auxiliary functions. I also believe that the approach used by an individual to assess potential mates should be rooted in the top two functions of his or her type. Take INTPs, for example. In accordance with their dominant (Ti) and auxiliary (Ne) functions, INTPs tend to value things such as ideas, theories, philosophizing, and intellectual discussions. These are also the sorts of things that INTPs will, and arguably should, consciously value in a partner. After all, if the INTP’s relationship does not stimulate his or her mind, what will hold the INTP’s interest in the long term? In sum, if consulting their Ti and Ne, INTPs are seeking what David Keirsey has dubbed a “mindmate.”

The Inferior Function as Mischief Maker

Unfortunately, what makes sense on paper (i.e., matchmaking according to the top two functions) does not always play out in the real world. The reason for this has much to do with the mischievous ways of the inferior function. The inferior function opposes the dominant function, is largely subconscious, and, in many ways, has its own agenda. Its needs and values oppose those of the dominant function, creating a psychological tug-of-war between the conscious (i.e., the dominant function) and subconscious (i.e., the inferior function) minds.

The influence of the inferior, which is particularly potent early in life, helps to explain why people often pair with their typological opposite. The experience of infatuation is often fueled by the inferior, which can  blind individuals to the fact that pairing with their opposite typically requires a sacrificing of some prominent needs and values of their top two functions. The insidious influence of the inferior may explain, at least in part, why those who marry before the age of 25 are far more likely to end up divorced.

Next, we will consider some specific ways in which the inferior function may influence mating behaviors in specific introverted personality types.

INTJ/INFJ Relationships

Extraverted Sensation (Se) is the inferior function of INFJs and INTJs. Like ESPs, for whom Se is the dominant function, INFJs and INTJs enjoy material comforts, novel sensations, and aesthetics. When it comes to relationships, INJs may be drawn, even unwittingly, to ESP types. Unlike many INJs, ESPs are not afraid of action, but can effortlessly navigate the extraverted world. ESPs can excel in sales or business and often display a high earning potential. This promise of financial security and material stability can be especially attractive to INFJs, who are often uncertain of their ability or desire to hack it in today’s fast-paced marketplace. With that said, because of their ready access to their subconscious by way of their Ni, INFJs are probably the least likely of all types to be chronically blinded by their inferior function. Sure, there will be periods when they succumb to Se indulgences, but they are less likely than other types to impulsively sign-up for a long-term relationship based on the infatuating influence of their inferior. Hence, it is important to differentiate the role of the inferior in INTJs and INFJs. For INTJs, the materialization of a successful relationship with another person seems a most difficult achievement. For INFJs, materialization of economic wealth found in the security of physical objects seems hardest to come by.

INTP/ISTP Relationships

Extraverted Feeling (Fe) is the inferior function of INTPs and ISTPs. Like EFJs, for whom Fe is dominant, INTPs and ISTPs seek harmony and good feelings in the environment. Like moths to a flame, ITPs are commonly drawn to the warmth and radiance of FJ types (INTJs, for whom Feeling is tertiary, may experience some of this as well). Because their Feeling is inferior, ITPs are highly prone to infatuation and can be quite naive when it comes to selecting a suitable long-term partner. The childlike nature of their Feeling is evident in ITPs’ frequent attraction to sappy and simplistic love songs, not to mention romantic comedies. It is therefore of great importance that INTPs and ISTPs be aware of the powerful influence of their inferior function in order to avoid making costly errors of judgment in selecting a mate (I plan to post on this soon).

INFP/ISFP Relationships

Extraverted Thinking (Te) is the inferior function of INFPs & ISTPs. Like ETJs, INFPs and ISFPs aspire to be strong, confident, and self-assured. For IFPs who fail to experience these qualities, pairing with an ETJ can seem quite appealing. INFPs and ISFPs alike can be drawn to the strength, logic, leadership, and commanding presence of ETJs. Unfortunately, IFPs who find themselves in an unhealthy relationship with a domineering ETJ can experience great difficulty in severing the relationship. The ETJ’s strength often seems insurmountable and a situation of long-term codependency ensues.

(This Personality Junkie post is continued on the next page.)