Written by Caitlin Hawekotte
Since I was a teenager, I have known I am a textbook ENFP—idealistic, romantic, and a bit of an over-thinker (though I don’t love that term). My husband, however, didn’t take a personality assessment until we were about five years into our marriage.
As it turns out, he is a textbook ISTP—practical, independent, and unafraid of taking risks.
When I first learned this, I was certain we must be doomed. And the more I focused on our differences as negatives, the more distance I felt between us. He felt it, too.
And yet, just this past week, we happily celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary. While I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when things shifted for us and brought us back closer together, I can share with you the lessons we’ve learned that have played a huge role in doing so. I hope they help you as much as they did me.
1. There Is No Perfect Type for Us…
When I was becoming a certified practitioner of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, our instructor told us, “The two types that work best together in a relationship are two people of any type who are both willing to communicate with one another and learn to understand and appreciate their similarities and differences.”
Though I repeat that sentiment to everyone who asks me about which type they would be most compatible with, I must admit it took me quite a while to believe it myself.
At first, discovering my husband’s personality type only seemed to validate all the things we had worried might be “wrong” with our relationship. However, the more we read about our types, the more we realized that we now had a common language to explain our inner workings to one another. Our focus was no longer on whether we were each the perfect type for one another but rather our mutual dedication and willingness to understand each other better.
2. ...But Knowing Our Types Can Help
In his interview with Heidi Priebe in the Soul Bootcamp for ENFPs, author and researcher Dario Nardi shares that he once had a student who studied people’s levels of happiness and length of romantic relationships along with their personality types. He said, “She found the ones who had more satisfying relationships more often were the ones who knew themselves better.”
In my experience, I have found this to be true.
For example, my husband’s auxiliary function is extraverted sensing, so he loves physically engaging with the world around him. My dominant function is extraverted intuition, so I love talking about new ideas and possibilities with other people.
Now that we know that, he can say things to me like, “I really want to hear your new idea but want to be fully present while you share it. Do you mind if we sit down to discuss it after my morning hike?” Instead of feeling like he doesn’t care to hear what I have to say, I feel assured that he is trying his best to accommodate both of our needs.
As we become more familiar with ourselves and fluent in expressing our needs, an increase in our ability to listen to and empathize with others as they do the same seems to naturally follow.
3. Differences Can Make Us Stronger
One thing I’ve learned about ENFPs over the years is that we have a soft spot for exciting challenges. So while the idea of dating someone who is a mirror image of ourselves may sometimes seem easier, it’s not necessarily a foolproof recipe for happiness. Likewise, being very different from one’s partner does not necessarily equate to being sentenced to a life of tension and strife.
My husband may get joy out of rock climbing and pushing his body to its limits, while I live for connective conversations with friends over coffee, but I love this now! It gives us so much to talk about and learn from each other.
We ENFPs love learning so much that being with a partner whose very being challenges us in healthy ways can offer us endless opportunities for the kind of growth and discovery we naturally crave.
4. Making a Commitment Opens New Doors
Being the people- and possibilities-focused bunch that we are, making a commitment, on the face of it, might look like closing doors to new people and paths for our lives. However, it also opens others that we never would’ve known existed if we hadn’t embarked down that path.
I have always lived more in my head, analyzing and writing about people and relationships. But because of my husband, I’ve done things like hike the beautiful red rocks of Sedona and learned that I’m actually kind of decent at water skiing. I’ve overcome my fears, stepped outside of my comfort zone, and truly engaged with the physical world around me. And an added bonus is that it’s all given me so much more to write about!
As journalist and author Mignon McLaughlin once said, “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” I can truly say that my husband and I have continuously challenged each other to evolve and grow into different people. As an ENFP in a committed relationship, I must say that almost nothing is more exciting than waiting to see which new version of each other we will fall in love with next.
5. The Grass Is Greener—Where You Water It
ENFPs can struggle from time to time with the temptation to believe that the grass really is greener on the other side. But as my experience has taught me, sometimes it’s simply that the grass is just greener wherever you water it.
A few years into our marriage, I caught myself spending a lot of time looking longingly at other people’s relationships. I would see images of couples on social media having fun on vacation or read their loving notes to one another in their comments sections, and I wondered why that wasn’t us.
Well, part of the reason that wasn’t us was because my husband has never had a social media account in his life (I told you—textbook ISTP). But when I shared my concerns with him, we also discovered that a big reason those things weren’t our reality was because we weren’t intentionally putting in the work to make them so.
Over time, as we started to plan trips to look forward to together and have conversations about how we could better support one another, we started living in a shared reality that was much more happy and fulfilling than the separate ones we’d been inhabiting before.
One thing about us ENFPs is that when our hearts are invested in something, we give it our all. We water it; we cultivate it. And while a relationship may not always thrive as we hope it will, the only way it will ever have a fighting chance at making it is if we first take the chance at investing ourselves into it.
In the Soul Bootcamp for ENFPs, there’s a lesson in which Heidi challenges participants to ask themselves, “What was I missing out on while I was busy fantasizing?”
Sadly, I think I may have missed out on a whole heck of a lot of good stuff in the first few years of my marriage while I was busy fantasizing about things like my husband and I having more hobbies and interests in common. (Though I’m grateful to have had the experiences that taught me what I’m sharing with you!)
Now that it’s been 10 years since I said “I do” for the first of many times, I believe that what a marriage requires most from us is a childlike sense of wonder as we learn about ourselves and another person we love deeply, a desire to never stop growing, a love of creative problem solving, and a lot of championing our loved one along their journey as they do the same for us.
So, as it turns out, ENFPs absolutely have the tools and potential to build a thriving relationship with someone who is equally invested in it with them. And while being married is most definitely not a prerequisite for happiness or necessarily the best choice for everyone, it’s also not something that we need to avoid out of fear that we aren’t cut out for it—because nothing could be further from the truth.
Caitlin is an MBTI® Certified Practitioner and Gallup®-Certified Strengths Coach who co-facilitates group coaching calls within the ENFP and INFP Soul Bootcamp Courses. Using her educational background in psychology, counseling, and leadership development, her mission in life is to help people understand themselves and others more fully. She also loves traveling, learning French, and solving genealogical mysteries. She is an ENFP who lives with her ISTP husband and their son, whose personality she loves getting to know more each day!
Caitlin also hosts a podcast titled LIFE with an ENFP, which will launch in December 2020. To connect with Caitlin and sign up for podcast updates, visit www.caitlinhawekotte.com