INFJs are outwardly warm and engaging. Due to their extraversion of Feeling (Fe), they can readily ingratiate themselves to others. And while forming quick friendships and extensive connections may be the goal for some extraverts, for INFJs, this is not the point at all. Rather, INFJs seek high quality, in-depth relationships. In their friends, as well as their romantic partners, they seek intelligence (both intellectual and emotional), honesty, openness, and authenticity. Their ideal partner would take seriously the issue of personal growth and development—moral, spiritual, emotional, and psychological.
Despite their status as introverts, there is little INFJs value more than quality conversation. They relish the chance to share their wisdom, theories, and insights. Unfortunately, they often find that most people (especially S types) fail to fully comprehend or appreciate their theories and insights. This can leave INFJs feeling like there is no ready outlet for their wisdom and that no one really understands their essential worth or value. So if and when they happen upon a likeminded individual, one who values and eagerly partakes in the INFJs’ inner life, it can feel like a godsend. The title of David Keirsey’s book, Please Understand Me, aptly expresses what INFJs seek in relationships.
Misunderstandings in INFJ Relationships & Dating
INFJs commonly report feeling misunderstood. Considering their status as the rarest of all personality types, this comes as little surprise. There are numerous misunderstandings about INFJs that could potentially hamper their dating and relational success.
A common assumption among males is that all females have similar perspectives on romance. This is particularly off the mark with respect to female INFJs. “Canned romance,” such as receiving the same bouquet of flowers every year come Valentine’s day, is apt to mean little to INFJs, who are quick to differentiate the “real and authentic” from the “fake and contrived.” For INFJs, romance is cultivated on a daily basis through open communication and authentic action. What is done on special occasions is merely icing on the cake. Take away the cake, however, and the icing is meaningless.
Another common misunderstanding is that INFJs are controlling or closed-minded. This typically stems from INFJs’ tendency to extravert Judging (Fe). But as I’ve described elsehwhere, IJs are often better understood as Perceivers because their dominant function (e.g., Ni) is a Perceiving function. In actuality, INFJs, especially those further along in their type development, are surprisingly adaptable and open-minded. While rarely wearing their openness on their sleeves, as ENFPs are wont to do, INFJs can be surprisingly open to unique or less conventional relational practices.
Nor is it the case that INFJs are overly controlling, or even want to be in control, in their relationships. As dominant Perceivers, they are generally healthiest when they allow life to come to them. Many INFJs have discovered that if they take it upon themselves to act and directly control outcomes, bad results often ensue. For INFJs, “action” can be understood as a direct employment of their inferior function (Se). And as I’ve discussed elsewhere, overt or direct employment of the inferior often produces undesirable outcomes. All of this is to say that the optimal role of INFJs in a relationship is generally a more receptive one, using their Ni and Fe to understand and interpret the world rather than trying to control it.
Another misconception about INFJs is that they are emotionally “needy.” This likely stems from the fact that INFJs extravert and readily express their emotions a la Fe. INFJs differ from the cultural norm in this respect, as the emotionally-restrained presentation of Fi predominates among American females. But just because INFJs are quicker to express their emotions does not make them any needier than FP types. In fact, since most men use Fe rather Fi (at least in the U.S.), they might appreciate the fact that, when paired with an INFJ, they needn’t guess about what their partner is feeling.
Yet another misunderstanding is the claim that INFJs “read into things that are not there” or “make mountains out of molehills.” Such accusations can be troubling for INFJs, since reading into things a la their Ni is what they are born to do. In most cases, such accusations derive not from any wrongdoing on the part of the INFJ, but from the assumptions or ego sensitivities of their partners. For instance, by saying things like “Are you okay?” or “You don’t seem yourself today” INFJs are trying to gather more information in order to better understand their partner. Unfortunately, their partner may interpret these as judgments or critiques, inciting a defensive response. If such exchanges were to occur regularly and without rectification, the INFJ might begin to introvert her feelings and doubt her own intuition, a sure recipe for personal and relational disaster.
The Inferior Function in INFJ Dating & Relationships
No relationship can be optimally navigated without an adequate understanding of each partner’s “weak spots.” While the shadow functions (functions 5-8) could certainly qualify as weak areas, they tend to be less problematic because they are not as attractive or enticing as the inferior function. The inferior is problematic because it is both attractive and underdeveloped. It is like a child who desperately wants to get behind the wheel of a car because driving looks like so much fun.
Therefore, it is critical that INFJs and their partners work to understand the nature of and challenges associated with the INFJ’s inferior function, Extraverted Sensing (Se). Having already enumerated the nature of their Se in my INFJ profile, our focus here will entail facets of their Se that are particularly relevant to their functioning in relationships.
(This Personality Junkie post is continued on the next page.)