3 Mistakes INTJs Make in Relationships (and How to Avoid Them!)
INTJs are a rare and intriguing personality type. They make up a mere 1.5% of the U.S. population and are known for their forward-thinking, logical nature. These insightful individuals have many gifts to bring to a relationship; they are usually very creative, honest, and competent. They are typically loyal and they will go to great lengths to take care of the people they love. But there are some unique struggles that they face in the world of dating and marriage. Let’s take a look at what those are (and how you can bypass them!)
Mistake #1 – Unrealistic Expectations
When I asked the INTJs on my email list what their biggest mistakes were in relationships, unrealistic expectations outranked the others by a landslide. “I tend to see what my partner could be rather than what they are, and then when they consistently don’t reach that potential, I get frustrated or maybe even leave.” These were the words of one INTJ who emailed me, and many more told of similar experiences. As intuitive-dominant personality types, INTJs tend to see where a relationship could go, or the capabilities an individual has and how those could be maximized. They can risk turning a person into an optimization project, trying to fix things about them, or having very little patience for those who have no desire to change. Wanting someone to be the best version of themselves isn’t a bad thing, but repeatedly being disappointed when people don’t meet an idealized image can be a warning sign.
“I struggle to stay positive in a relationship when I see tiny flaws in my partner. I was ready to leave the relationship (seeing it’s bound to fail) before she even had the chance to be fully committed to proving me wrong.”
– Anonymous INTJ
How to Avoid This Mistake:
#1 – Before you can appreciate someone for who they will be, you need to appreciate them for who they are right now. If you see your partner as a Pygmalion project, you might want to re-analyze your direction. Nobody wants to start a relationship feeling like a construction project. Learn to appreciate your partner’s strengths and gifts now, exactly where they are in the present moment. Honor their strengths, and be empathetic to their human weaknesses. Before you get serious in the relationship, ask your potential partner about their personal goals or where they’d like to be in five years. If you don’t see any desire on their part for the growth you have in mind, then you might want to re-think your expectations or your commitment level.
#2 – Be honest with yourself. Several INTJs told me that they are more aware of their partner’s imperfections than their own. “Nobody’s perfect” is an oft overused phrase, but try to examine where you’re at honestly. What are your weaknesses? Do you give up on a relationship the first time someone shows their human frailties? Every type has gifts and blind spots. For some personality types, it’s neediness or passive-aggression, for others it’s tactlessness or self-indulgence. Are you judging the weaknesses of your partner more harshly than you judge your own? It’s easy to have empathy for our imperfect tendencies, but it’s much harder to have understanding for weaknesses that we don’t relate to at all.
Mistake #2 – “Fixing” Instead of Affirming
INTJs tend to show love for their partners by giving them solutions, offering advice, or showing them the most logical way to get something done. While this is an amazing gift (and one that more people should appreciate), it can be met with less-than-enthusiastic responses. Some individuals want validation for their feelings and a compassionate and listening ear. Advice-giving can make them angry rather than comforted, which can be frustrating for INTJs because they see so many solutions just begging to be taken advantage of.
How to Avoid This Mistake:
I’m hesitant to call this a mistake simply because so many times the solutions that INTJs can provide are genuinely helpful. Yet there is a time to just listen and validate someone’s experience. The first thing to do when someone is expressing pain or emotion is to listen. Don’t form a conclusion or solution until you’ve heard them out completely. They may already know the answer and realize that it will cause more pain to use that solution than to avoid it. Emotional support may be the thing they want most. Sometimes people just want to bounce their emotions off of other people to find out whether they’re even valid.
It can be beneficial to have a conversation with your partner about the different ways you both like to receive support. Ask your partner what they want most when they come to someone with a problem. Do they want solutions and advice? Do they want a hug and a listening ear? Explain your ways of showing support. Explain that when you see someone struggling, you want to fix it for them; you want to give them solutions and pragmatic strategies. Tell them that sometimes it can be taken the wrong way, but it really is coming from a place of genuine concern.
Here are some simple tips for giving emotional support:
- Show respect for your partner’s experience.
- Listen attentively before offering advice.
- Express differences of opinion with kindness.
- Paraphrase what your partner has said to you. This lets them know you were listening and helps you to double-check that you’re on the right track.
- Validate their feelings, “That sounds really difficult,” “I don’t blame you for feeling that way,” “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
- Ask if they’d like to brainstorm some solutions or ways to fix the problem or if they just need to vent before entertaining solutions.
Mistake #3 – Inability to be Vulnerable
INTJs feel things deeply and are capable of great affection and loyalty. However, they aren’t always the most expressive types and can be hesitant to vocalize their feelings and emotions. They tend to see their actions as an expression of their love. They feel that if they’ve committed to a relationship that surely their feelings are self-evident. INTJs tend to ruminate on their feelings privately more than outwardly, and this can create confusion for more demonstrative partners. INTJs can also be overly-guarded, unwilling to admit mistakes or put themselves in a position where they might be rejected or feel ashamed.
How to Avoid this Mistake:
You’ll have no incentive to be vulnerable or open with your partner if you don’t see a good reason for it. The first thing to consider is WHY in the world you would want to be vulnerable in the first place! Gwendolyn Nelson-Terry, a licensed family therapist, says this about vulnerability:
“There is this idea that being vulnerable means opening ourselves up to attack. Within a relationship, though, it is necessary to be vulnerable in order to build intimacy with your partner. Being vulnerable in a relationship means allowing your partner to know you fully: your thoughts, feelings, challenges, weaknesses…..It’s important to be able to open up to our partners because in order to achieve intimacy our partners need to know all parts of who we are and accept all of those parts, the good and the bad. This is how true intimacy is achieved.”
Being vulnerable isn’t always easy, and you may need time to sort out how you feel about it. If your relationship doesn’t feel safe enough to be open, then you might want to talk to a friend or counselor first. If you’ve been hurt before and that’s causing you to be hesitant, then take small steps towards openness. You don’t have to deep-dive into vulnerability on the first date! Thinking about the possibility of being vulnerable and emotionally open is often the first step. Sometimes being vulnerable is as simple as expressing your true feelings rather than saying “I’m fine,” when someone asks you how you’re doing. Sometimes it’s as simple as verbally extrapolating an inner feeling of affection that may seem cheesy or goofy in your own eyes. Other times, expressing vulnerability can be easier in writing (especially for introverts like you!).
Summing It Up…
As an INTJ, you may or may not struggle with these three mistakes. Every individual has so many unique traits and experiences that set them apart. INTJs can be some of the most ingenious, devoted, deeply authentic partners out there. Your type is very rarely manipulative, cloying, or thoughtless. Recognize your abilities and strengths and keep an eye out for these potential stumbling blocks! If you’d like to learn more about your personality type (and how to make the most of it) explore the INTJ Owners Manual that Joel and Antonia have created!
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