Myers-Briggs types have much to tell us about ourselves and other people. Our MBTI type reflects our preferences for crowded parties or small gathering, describes how we connect with other people, shows us how we naturally respond to stress, and gives us a picture of our innate strengths and weaknesses. Another thing it’s often used for is trying to predict what type of person we’ll be attracted to, and most compatible with, in a romantic sense. Unfortunately, MBTI only gives part of the picture in this regard.
Types in Love
Use of the MBTI for romance is subject to much debate. Isabel Myer wrote in Gifts Differing, chapter 11, that “it seems only reasonable that the greater mutual understanding between couples with more likeness than difference should lead, on the whole, to greater mutual attraction and esteem.” This was supported by her study of 375 married couples who were most frequently “alike on three of their four preferences rather than on only two, as would be expected by chance.” However, Isabel Myer was an INFP woman happily married to an ISTJ man. According to her own personality theory, they “shouldn’t” have gotten along, especially since she thought that shared S-N preferences were the most important for predicting a couple’s happiness together and understanding of each other. Obviously type isn’t the only important ingredient for happiness.
David Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me II agrees with Myer on the importance of S-N pairings, saying that his SP Artisan types are most compatible with SJ Guardians, and that NF Idealists are most compatible with NT rationals. His ideal pairing is someone who shares your S-N preference and is your opposite in the other three preferences. For example, he would pair an INFJ with an ENTP.
Continuing with INFJs as our example, these theories have influenced many INFJ profiles online. Jennifer Soldner’s Guide To INFJ Relationships lists ENFP, ENTP, INTJ and INFJ as the best matches for an INFJ. The worst matches are ESFP, ESTP, ESTJ, and ENTJ (note that this last one contradicts Keirsey’s rule for pairing NF and NT types). For the most part, these suggestions seem logical at first, much like Isabel Myer said when theorizing that people will get along best if they are similar. It doesn’t explain, however, why one study found that INFJs were most likely to marry either INFJs or ESTPs, or why Myers herself was happy married to someone so dissimilar in terms of type. Clearly there’s something else going on here.
The “Something Else”
Even with their generalizations about which types get along most easily together, both Isabel Myers and David Keirsey admit there are other very important ingredients to a lasting romantic relationship.
Individual relationships defy generalizations, and it should be stressed that two well-adjusted people of any two temperaments can find ways of making their marriage work for them.” (Keirsey)
“Understanding, appreciation, and respect make a lifelong marriage possible and good. Similarity of type is not important, except as it leads to these three. Without them, people fall in love and out of love again; with them, a man and woman will become increasingly valuable to each other and know that they are contributing to each other’s lives.” (Myers)
A mutual willingness to work together and actively build-up the relationships is more important than compatible MBTI types. One aspect of this is understanding the other person and learning how to love them. Becoming familiar with their Myers-Briggs type will help tremendously, but it’s not enough by itself. You also benefit from an understanding of Love Languages.
The five love languages theory was first published in 1995 by Gary Chapman, a relationship counselor and pastor. He says every person has a “language” that they use to communicate and receive love, either Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, or Physical Touch. Everyone has one primary love language, and you might have a secondary love language as well. If someone’s partner is not speaking their love language, they will not feel loved. There’s a test on Chapman’s website if you don’t know what your love language is and want to find out.
Layering Love Languages
In theory, any MBTI type can be combined with any one of the five love languages. I’m guessing, however, that there are some love languages that are more likely for certain MBTI types. Let’s take a quick look at the characteristics for the four type groups as related to different love languages.
SP types are typically concerned with outward, concrete ways of viewing the world, and focus on the here and now. Keirsey describes their preferred role in a romantic relationship as “playmate.” I could see SP types being particularly inclined toward Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, or Physical Touch as a primary love language. These all involve doing something for or with the loved one, which would appeal strongly to SP types.
Duty-fulfilling SJ types tend to play what Keirsey described as a “helpmate” role in relationships. They are stable, traditional, and thoroughly dependable people. SJ types might be most in tune with Acts of Service, Quality Time or Words of Affirmation as a love language. These love languages visibly or verbally confirm that a SJ’s loved ones appreciate their constant reliability.
NF types are idealistic, enjoy abstract thought, and are natural romantics. Keirsey described their role in a romantic relationship as “soulmate.” They search for deep, genuine connections. Quality Time and Words of Affirmation seem like the most likely love languages, though Physical Touch and Acts of Service are also good possibilities. The key for NF types is genuine depth in a relationship, so they are inclined towards a language that increases emotional intimacy.
The NT types are highly intellectual, and Keirsey described their relationship role as “mindmate.” They are logical, abstract, and have little tolerance for the superficial. Words of Affirmation and Quality Time seem like the most likely love languages for an NT type, but after reading two different forum topics on MBTI types and love languages (one on Typology Central and one on Personality Cafe) I learned many NTs favor Physical Touch as well. My personal theory is that NT types view Service and/or Gifts with suspicion, wondering what the other person wants from them, while the others seem more genuine.
What about you? What are your Myers-Briggs type and love language(s)? Do you see a connection between the two? Share in the comments!