By Dr. A.J. Drenth
According to The MBTI Manual, the INFJ is among the most highly dissatisfied personality types when it comes to romantic relationships. At first blush, we might be tempted to ascribe this to their perfectionism and, to some extent, this may be warranted. But according to type theory, we would expect INFJs perfectionistic hang-ups to relate more to Se matters (i.e., issues related to the inferior function, such as perfecting an artpiece) than those pertaining to relationships (Fe). How then, might we account for INFJ relationship dissatisfaction? Aren’t INFJs and ENFJs supposed to be masters of human dealings, interpersonal communication, etc.?
One potential key to this enigma is to consider NFJs’ general approach to other people and then to ask ourselves how this might precipitate challenges in their relationships. Specifically, I am referring to NFJs’ tendency to believe they know other people’s minds better than people know themselves. NFJs feel they have been endowed with unique powers to see through superficialities and apprehend others’ deeper motivations (and dysfunctions). Not only that, but NFJs’ readily and strongly extravert their evaluations and judgments a la Fe. As we will see, these tendencies may be difficult for NFJs’ partners to handle effectively, which may, in turn, foster dissatisfaction in INFJ and ENFJ relationships.
ENFJ & INFJ Judgments in Relationships
ENFJs and INFJs are strong personalities. Their Fe assertions can be direct, intense, and emotionally-charged. Such judgments, especially when unsolicited, are not always well received by others. They are typically better received in situations where people have voluntarily sought the NFJ’s advice (e.g., a counseling session) or when directed toward a broader audience (e.g., an NFJ pastor or speaker). With that said, it often feels unnatural, for NFJs to carefully censor or restrain their judgments, since this forces them into the uncomfortable position of handling their emotions and judgments inwardly, thereby functioning more like NFPs than NFJs.
One of the stickier contexts for NFJs to deliver their judgments is romantic relationships. In today’s world, relationships are assumed to be founded on equality, with both partners presumed equally capable of functioning healthily (or unhealthily) in the relationship. It is also assumed that both partners are equally capable of delivering and receiving reproach.
From the NFJ perspective, however, all persons are not endowed with an equal talent for effectively understanding and navigating relationships. And regardless of whether NFJs actually know more about their partners than their partners know about themselves, their mates will often come to resist or resent such assumptions. If NFJs seem to exhibit an air of superiority in this regard, their partners, rightly or not, may consider it a sign of arrogance or egotism.
Complicating matters further, NFJs can be prone to assuming that, because of their ability to read and interpret human behavior, they are to some degree beyond reproach. While good at delivering critiques and judgments, they may appear closed or hypersensitive as recipients.
While NFJs (especially those who are psychologically healthy) are often accurate in their Fe appraisals, they may be somewhat blind to the degree to which self-interest may diminish their ability to objectively evaluate their own relationships. When NFJs analyze other people’s relationships, especially in approved contexts like professional counseling, there is a greater likelihood of objectivity. In their own relationships, however, it seems more likely that their personal needs and fears, particularly those associated with the inferior function, could unwittingly diminish their objectivity. Is there any reason to believe that self-interest or self-preservation wouldn’t play an equally potent role, even if unconsciously, in NFJs’ psychology as it does in other types?
Teacher-Pupil Patterns in ENFJ & INFJ Relationships
Related to NFJs’ propensity to proffer judgments is their tendency to function as teachers or counselors in their relationships. INFJs and ENFJs love sharing their insights in order to help others grow and self-actualize. They relish having problems to solve and people to help. Consequently, their romantic relationships often take on the teacher-pupil (or parent-child) pattern. In fact, any relationship comprised of a J-type and P-type seems to carry this potential.
Teacher-pupil relationships may work okay for a while. NFJs can be passionate about helping an eager pupil grow and develop over time. Likewise, their pupil/partner may respect and admire them for their guidance and insights. The key question, of course, is what will become of the relationship when the pupil no longer wants or needs the NFJ’s guidance. If the relationship was founded and developed on a teacher-pupil platform, will it still be viable once the platform is removed?