By Dr. A.J. Drenth
INTPs, ENTPs, ISTPs, and ESTPs experience similar challenges in their relationships. Many of these challenges relate to the fact that their Feeling function, Extraverted Feeling (Fe), resides lower in their functional stack and is therefore more unconscious and childlike.
One effect of an inferior Fe is a tendency to fantasize about the ideal romance. Since Fe represents a sort of goal or endpoint of TPs’ type development, dreaming of ideal love can provide a “quick hit” of ephemeral bliss or wholeness. To further fuel these feelings, TPs may turn to musical ballads or romantic movies, which soothe and support their childlike ideals of the fairy tale romance.
While highly idealistic on the one hand, an inferior Fe can also produce ample doubt and cynicism toward relationships on the other. TPs with sufficient dating experience come to realize just how challenging relationships can be and may at some point come to doubt that they (or any prospective partner) have what it takes to sustain a deeply meaningful relationship. Since TPs, especially ITPs, are disposed to developing a bipolar, love-hate relationship with their Fe, they often exhibit the same bipolarism (i.e., idealism vs. nihilism/cynicism) toward their relationships. In many ways, the capacity for TPs to individuate and their ability to develop healthy, meaningful relationships runs along the same track.
In ENTP and INTP relationships, it is not only Fe that contributes to relational doubt, but also their Ne imagination. As with other things, Ne is adept at envisioning numerous ways in which the relationship could potentially fail. NTPs may worry, for instance, that it is only a matter of time before their partner will start trying to control or make excessive demands of them. INTPs, in particular, may be terrified of compromising their cherished independence and autonomy. Unfortunately, while their Fe, Ne, and Ti may contribute to a perfect brainstorm of fears and concerns, NTPs are often reluctant to reality test their hypotheses. Namely, they may fail to express their fears and concerns to their partners in order to determine whether they are well-founded. But why is this the case? Why are TPs reluctant to disclose their fears and concerns to their partner?
Reasons TPs Fail to Communicate in Relationships
One reason TPs may fail to communicate their thoughts in relationships is a concern for hurting their partner’s feelings. Considering their status as Thinking types, it may seem a bit strange that TPs be overly concerned about hurting others feelings. But there may actually be more going on here than meets the eye. In reality, TPs may be less worried about their partner’s feelings than they are their own discomfort with navigating emotional situations. Their real fear may involve feeling ill-equipped to effectively handle emotionally sensitive situations. Many TPs feel and act like children when it comes to dealing with emotional matters. Again, this can be attributed to the inferior development of their Fe.
Another reason TPs may fear expressing their relational concerns is the fear of saying something that will jeopardize the relationship (e.g., “If I tell her how I really feel, will she still love me or want to be with me?”). This fear is typically rooted in deeper fears, such as the fear of being alone, of being rejected or unlovable, or of being unneeded. Such fears are not entirely baseless in the sense that Fe is a real part of TPs’ functional stack; they do enjoy and benefit from love and relationships. But as we’ve seen, when it comes to Fe matters, it is easy for TPs to think in extremes and imagine the worst. So although they may be highly rational when it comes to T matters, their thinking can veer into the irrational when it comes relationships. Some TPs may even worry that each new relational problem or obstacle is irremediable and a likely portent of relational doom.
What are TPs Thinking? The Danger of Concealed Thoughts
When TPs conceal their concerns about their partner or about the state of the relationship, they do neither themselves nor the relationship any favors. Here are some examples of thoughts TPs may harbor and fail to share with their partners:
“There she goes being irrational again. Another emotional rant.”
“I’m really not interested in what she is saying right now, I wish I could escape and do something else.”
“She is so needy and demanding. I wish she would just leave me be for a while.”
Such thoughts involve judgments that can lead TPs to close themselves off to further information. For instance, by assuming that the display of strong emotions is irrational, they close themselves to the possibility that there may be a rational basis for the emotional response, even if they fail to see it upfront. By sticking to such judgments, they are really acting tyrannically and disrespectfully. They assume their subjective response is correct and their partner’s is inferior. In such instances, they are not really relating to their partner, but judging and demeaning them.
What is most curious is the fact that this process often occurs entirely internally, in the TPs’ mind. In the meantime, TPs may outwardly feign participation in the conversation in order to avoid escalating the conflict and to preserve their “nice guy” (or girl) persona. Unfortunately, many TPs fail to realize that what they are doing is really not nice at all. Rather, they are being passive-aggressive, controlling, and cowardly.
It can also be easy for TPs to consider their hidden thoughts benign, perhaps reasoning that some degree of secrecy and dissatisfaction is inevitable in any relationship. What they may not realize, however, is the degree to which their undisclosed thoughts serve as raw material for further relational breakdown. Such thoughts can lay the foundation for the construction of an alternate reality to which their partner has no access. As this alternate reality grows, it becomes increasingly difficult for TPs to truly love their partners or to perceive them fairly and accurately. Rather, they become increasingly dishonest, passive-aggressive, disinterested, and detached from the relationship. This also reinforces TPs’ love-hate relationship with their inferior Fe. They become more cynical toward love and perhaps even toward life.
If Fe represents open, honest, and effective interpersonal communication, it is unfortunate that TPs, who can be seen as striving to realize Fe in their lives, often undercut themselves by failing to be open and honest in their relationships. In short, they often idealize Fe while at the same time failing to exercise Fe principles in their actions. They may choose to be “nice,” which really is nice at all, rather than being honest. Like most folks, they are controlled by their fears, concerned that fully unveiling themselves is a sure road to rejection. But it is only through complete vulnerability that TPs will find the depth of love and acceptance they desire. Only an uncensored relationship will hold their interest and keep them from constantly retreating into their own minds.
As discussed in my recent post, Mature vs. Childish Relationships, real love, mature love, is built on reality rather than on illusions or ideals. Love must be founded on truth, even when it hurts. When partners are completely open and honest with each other, the roots of the relationship can extend ever deeper as problems, fears, and frustrations are successfully expressed, analyzed, and integrated.