Featured image by picturepurrfect685 on Flickr
Ah, the joys of that first getting-to-know-you period! I received an email recently that reminded me of my dating days. The person was an ENFP (an Extraverted, flexible green), dating an ISTJ (an Introverted, structured gold), and wondering how to make a relationship work between two opposite personality types.
I’m a definite ENFP and my husband is a definite ISTJ. So far, through definite ups and downs (and many “relationship building” discussions), we’ve been married almost 9 years. I didn’t know much at all about personality type when we met, and those insights sure would have been helpful! Here are the tips I gave the person who emailed me, based on personality knowledge and my own experience. I’ve tried to make these as gender-neutral as possible, but sometimes my own experience reflects my own female ENFP and male ISTJ situation:
1) ISTJs tend to take care of business first, and play later (if they can fit it in).
Golds thrive on responsibility and duty. The biggest complement you can pay them is to tell them they are reliable, dependable, capable, and solid. Show appreciation when s/he does things you enjoy that fall into this category. When he calls when he says he will, when she takes a chaotic situation and uses cool reason to turn it into an organized pattern, when he shows you that you can count on him no matter what. Appreciation is something we all enjoy, and complementing natural traits reassures the person that you see and like the “real” him or her.
2) ISTJs tend to, by nature, be wary and suspicious of all things new.
This applies especially when the new thing is not reliable, dependable, capable or solid, as in the case of an ENFP personality type. 🙂 Give your Gold Beaver time to get to know you slowly. Be yourself, but show that as an ENFP you are – at best – consistently inconsistent. Rushing things will put your beloved off. This type of person is a slow burner, not a heat-of-the-moment person. Capitalize on your warm, nurturing side and your sunny disposition.
3) Your natural ENFP traits attract this type like a bee to honey (to a point).
Your enthusiastic, playful, impetuous, gregarious nature is attractive to an ISTJ because it offers an optimistic and joyful influence. However, s/he can only take so much of this for so long before it crosses into annoyance or unreliability. This type is more Eeyore, yours is more Tigger (more about personality types and Winnie the Pooh characters here). Go have fun with your other Tigger and Piglet friends and don’t expect him to tag along. Everyone needs an outlet for their true nature, and your sweetie will appreciate the quiet time alone to sort out his or her own thoughts. You will tend to want to make this person the center of your world. Try hard not to.
4) Give this person the space to grow toward you.
It is human nature to fill a vacuum. Have you ever tried to not say anything while you count to 10 during a meeting? If you do this during the whole meeting, you might never get a chance to speak at all! Just as it is normal to fill a conversational void, it is normal to try to fill a void in presence.
Hang back just a little. Give your partner space. Your ISTJ will grow toward you, but it will be at a slower pace than you want. Show this person you are independent and can get along just fine without him or her, but still appreciate and enjoy their company. DON’T try to manipulate a commitment to you faster, because it will backfire. No jealousy plays, no silent treatment, no games. Those techniques don’t draw this type in, they push this type away. Just live your own life with your own friends and taking care of your own responsibilities. ISTJ types appreciate confident partners who have it all together and can stand on their own two feet.
5) ISTJ’s need to be needed.
This type gets a kick out of “rescuing” someone, especially when that person is self-sufficient and the “rescue” is low-key. When you talk about your life and she gives wise counsel, voice your appreciation of her objective, reasonable, time-tested advice as something you never would have thought of yourself. When he helps you work through a problem, tell him that you appreciate him partnering with you because his input helps you built to a more complete solution. Tell her that your differences really complement one another (because they do!) and you should partner together more often.
I hope some of these suggestions help. I met my hubby at a time when he was going through some major life changes – a move to a completely new city on the other side of the US without any family or friends to support him. Though we connected like lightning right off the bat, it took lots of patience and maturity on my end for 3-4 months before he was truly committed. As he put it, “It takes me a while to build confidence in someone, but once I’m there I give my heart completely.” We were married a year after the first day we met. Your mileage will vary. 🙂
The trick is to give this person the room to grow in affection for you. Be a touch less eager, a tad less available, a sliver more involved in your own life than you normally are. Give him a chance to grow toward you by moving away just a little. Your person might be an ISTJ, but s/he is a human first.
Have you dated someone who is your personality type opposite? What was your experience like? Share your story in the comments!