By Dr. A.J. Drenth
Despite their status as Introverts and Thinkers, INTJs are as interested in relationships as most other personality types. In order to better understand how INTJs approach dating and romantic relationships, it is necessary to consider the potential impact and implications of their four primary personality functions (Ni, Te, Fi, Se).
Introverted Intuition in INTJ Love & Relationships
INTJs’ dominant function is Introverted Intuition (Ni). As I have previously explained, since Ni is a Perceiving function, INTJs are best understood as dominant Perceivers. Although not afraid to assert themselves via their auxiliary function, Extraverted Thinking (Te), the INTJ is naturally more passive, even somewhat phlegmatic in his or her presentation. More proactive types, such as ENTJs, might even consider the INTJ a bit lazy or apathetic. Of course, INTJs would be the first to tell you that how we define lazy is entirely relative. Because their first job is to function as Intuitive Perceivers rather than as Judgers or actors, operating in a passive mode of perception is actually the sort of “work” they are meant to be doing, work that can ultimately benefit society.
As INTJs intuitively form impressions about the world, they naturally want to express them via their auxiliary Te. And because INTJs often prefer expressing themselves orally rather than in writing, they seek out others interested in hearing their knowledge and insights (they resemble INFJs in this respect). In fact, one of the primary reasons INTJs seek relationships is to have someone to share ideas with. As David Keirsey put it, for INTJs, love often comes (and arguably should come) in the form of a “mindmate.”
Extraverted Thinking in INTJ Relationships
Unfortunately, finding a suitable mindmate is rarely an easy task for the INTJ. When it comes to forming and developing relationships, INTJs often have a few factors working against them. For one, they express themselves via their auxiliary Te rather than Fe. Consequently, like other TJ types, they can come across as blunt, mechanical, or lacking a certain degree of tact or social know-how. Their reputation as arrogant know-it-alls can also be attributed, in part, to misperceptions involving their Te.
While INFJs are strong in extraverting their judgments, INTJs can be even more so because they lack the peacemaking, people-pleasing, and socially sensitive elements of Fe. This is why INTJs are often perceived as “brutally honest,” a trait that can be off-putting and misunderstood by types preferring a softer or more sensitive approach.
INTJs may also be labeled as excessively stubborn or rigid, although this too relates to Te-related misunderstandings. As we’ve seen, INTJs are best viewed as dominant Perceivers, so while they may appear stubborn in a moment of judgment, their preferred state is one of inner openness. It is therefore important for partners to remember that INTJs’ first priority is accuracy of perception, so if the INTJ happens to be wrong, there is a good chance he will eventually come to recognize it.
In order to compensate for such misunderstandings, INTJs might reason that if they could only understand people better they could overcome their relational difficulties. This may inspire them to gather as many facts and self-help strategies as they can regarding human psychology and relationships. While there is certainly nothing wrong with doing so, it may not always remedy their predicament in the way they might expect. For one, INTJs with a history of relational difficulties can be prone to attribute those failures to psychological problems in their partners, thereby failing to see their own shortcomings. But the truth is that even if INTJs’ intentions and motives were entirely pure, they may still lack some of the necessary skills for effective functioning in relationships. While not necessarily their fault, this should comprise at least as much of their relational attention as trying to see and diagnose problems in their partners. To be fair, accurate self-evaluation can be a problem for all J-types, since their preferred mode of Judging (Fe or Te) is directed outwardly rather than inwardly. This is one reason why typology can be so useful for INTJs, as well as other types.
Introverted Feeling in INTJ Relationships
INTJs’ tertiary function is Introverted Feeling (Fi). One of the hallmarks of Fi is a desire to preserve and defend the uniqueness of the individual. This is why some INTJs (as well as IFPs) can seem fairly dismissive of or even hostile toward typology.
Related to a strong concern for the individual is the Fi desire to aid the weak, helpless, and marginalized of society. This is why IFPs, for instance, can often be found helping the homeless, working with children with special needs, protecting endangered species, etc. With that being said, it is important to remember that INTJs’ Fi is in the tertiary position, which means it’s fairly unconscious. Therefore, INTJs are generally less consciously concerned about Fi matters than FP types are.
One way in which Fi may influence INTJs’ relationships is by inspiring a sort of “savior complex” in the INTJ. We’ve already seen how, as J types, INTJs are prone to seeing and diagnosing problems outside themselves. Once we add Fi into the mix, it is not hard to see how INTJs might be attracted, even if unconsciously, to rescuing and fixing those who seem needy or helpless. The relationship then becomes a sort of psychotherapeutic forum, with the INTJ working to analyze, diagnose, and treat his wounded partner.
On a more positive note, Fi also contributes a strong sense of loyalty to one’s partner and offspring. It zeroes in on the unique features of the individual and grows deeply attached to those qualities. While INTJs may not experience the consistent strength of feeling that FP types do, they are nonetheless influenced by the less conscious workings of Fi, which helps inspire loyalty, love, and commitment.
Extraverted Sensing in INTJ Relationships
INTJs’ inferior function is Extraverted Sensing (Se). Despite its inferior position, Se can profoundly impact INTJ relationships. The reason for this, as I’ve described elsewhere, is the inferior function represents a sort of Holy Grail for psychological wholeness and individuation. This makes it a highly alluring function, powerful enough to inspire a fierce and protracted tug-of-war with the dominant function.
One of the most salient ways Se may impact INTJ relationships is concerns about money. Like INFJs, INTJs can have a love-hate relationship with money. They love it because it grants them access to life’s Se pleasures—fine meals, accommodations, automobiles, etc. Money also relates to status, another Se-related desire. When caught up in Se, INTJs may display similar desires as ESTPs with respect to wealth, status, and sensory stimulation.
The “hate” element of INTJs’ view of money is feeling they have to compromise their Ni interests or integrity in order to get it. They may, for instance, feel forced to perform unfulfilling work that fails to utilize their Ni-Te gifts. Or, they may struggle when the quality of a product or accuracy of information is compromised for the sake of marketability. INTJs also hate having to act before their intuition has prompted them to do so. All of this can make the work life of INTJs rather miserable as they struggle to find a compromise between their Ni and Se concerns. Even the idea of compromise can be loathsome to INTJs, since their idealism and perfectionism are so pronounced.
As is true for INFJs, the issue of perfectionism cannot be ignored in INTJ relationships. INJs’ perfectionism can be understood as stemming from their desire to see their Ni visions perfectly manifest in physical reality (Se). This perfectionism tends to be most acute when they attempt to directly control Se outcomes, such as when making art, performing, or obsessing over money or status. When functioning healthily in Ni, however, they rarely fall into the obsessive grip of perfectionism.
In sum, if both INTJs and their partner can understand the potential pitfalls of their respective inferior functions, they can proceed with greater awareness and understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
INTJ Compatibility with Other Personality Types
With Se as their inferior function, INTJs can be spellbound by the beauty or physical prowess of ESFPs and ISFPs. Psychologically speaking, SFPs embody INTJs’ less conscious Fi and Se functions, which as I’ve said, are integral to their quest for wholeness. With that said, pairing with an SFP rarely brings lasting satisfaction to INTJs, since, as introverts, their wholeness must come from the inside out, rather than vice-versa. In many cases, the INTJ will develop a similar same love-hate relationship with an SFP partner that he has with his own inferior function, making such pairings less than ideal for INTJs.
Typically, INTJs aren’t as drawn to SJs (ESFJs, ISFJs, ESTJs, ISTJs) as they can be to SPs. And because Si and Ni are often at odds with each other, SJs and NJs may find themselves having to “agree to disagree.” Therefore, longstanding SJ-NJ pairings are fairly uncommon.
Because NJ types are the rarest of all types, INTJs may enjoy few opportunities to pair with another NJ. However, in today’s Internet age, this is certainly more likely than it would have been in past. INTJs may also happen upon other NJs in their work settings, especially in scientific, academic, or tech-related fields. Of these types, pairing with ENTJs or another INTJ is probably their best bet. Overall, ENTJs may be somewhat preferable, bringing a degree of typological variety to the relationship. This pairing can enjoy great discussions and INTJs may appreciate ENTJs’ willingness to actively implement the INTJ’s insights and ideas. Moreover, neither type needs worry about accidentally hurting the other’s feelings through customary use of their Te. They can simply be themselves and feel comfortable employing their normal modes of communication. One potential drawback of this pairing is neither ENTJs nor INTJs are particularly good listeners. This could feasibly produce a situation in which the INTJ feels overrun or stifled by the more dominant ENTJ.
INTJs may not enjoy the same ease of relations with INFJs or ENFJs. Because NFJs use Fe rather than Te, their mode of communication, as well as their way of seeing and understanding the world, often diverges from the INTJ’s. And when this is combined with the natural power struggles of J pairings, such relationships may fail to get out of the starting gates.
NP types are another solid option for INTJs. Since they are more common than NJs, INTJs can encounter NPs nearly anywhere. In my view, INTJs can enjoy satisfying relationships with any NP type, with ENTPs, INTPs, ENFPs, or INFPs. However, of these, the INTJ-INFP pairing seems to be the most common. There are a few reasons for this.
One reason is that most INTJs are males and most NTPs are also males. Therefore, heterosexual INTJs may rarely only rarely encounter an available NTP female. If they are fortunate enough to meet, INTJs can enjoy great compatibility with either INTPs or ENTPs. Such pairings have a good balance of differences and similarities and, again, are less likely to struggle with issues pertaining to hurt feelings or emotional sensitivities.
Another reason INTJs commonly end up with INFPs is some ENFPs may seem too distracted or flighty for the INTJ. INTJs want a partner who can partake in lengthy and focused discussions. They can therefore grow frustrated if they feel their partner appears distracted or incapable of sustaining her focus. With that said, some ENFPs have greater powers of focus and can match up quite well with INTJs.
Finally and most importantly, INTJ-INFP relationships are common because these types complement each other so well. Both INTJs and INFPs enjoy abstract discussions, including potential ways of improving the world. INFPs are great listeners and enjoy taking in new ideas and information via their Ne. This complements INTJs’ love of dispensing information a la Te. Moreover, both types use the Fi-Te function pair, which can significantly improve communication and reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings. INFPs are less apt to be scared off by INTJs’ Te, since INFPs also use Te in their communication. For these reasons and more, this pairing seems to have unlimited potential for growth, depth, and intimacy.