INTPs in Love

A caveat.  Isabel Myers (INFP) married a man named Chief, an ISTJ and a good man.  They were happy together, but according to Isabel's own type theory they weren't predicted to be perfect for each other.  Later on, Myers said that if she had known about type theory, she probably wouldn't have married Chief.  Hm!  There is a lesson to be learned here: type is not everything, nor should it be the decisive factor in choosing your lifemate.  Take it from the founder of type herself.

Then too, the connections between type, attraction, love and marriage haven't been well studied yet.  (The question is more complicated than you'd think.)  You can read about this question and the problems with answering it here.

The Rational Temperament and Love

Do opposites attract?  Tieger and Barron-Tieger (2000) found that Rational-Rational pairings have an average satisfaction rate of 59%.  But in fact, Rational-Idealist pairings have an even higher satisfaction rate, namely 65%.  (Note that this was the Rational rating for the pairing; Idealists rated the pairing at 64%). 

What about the other temperaments?  Guardians with a Rational spouse tended to have a 62% satisfaction rate, whereas Rationals with a Guardian spouse reported a 52% satisfaction rate.  

As for the SPs, Artisans with Rational spouses tended to have a 73% satisfaction rate, while Rationals with Artisan spouses tended to have only a 54% satisfaction rate.  

So are you confused yet?  Let’s summarize.

  • Rationals were 65% satisfied with Idealists.
  • Rationals were 59% satisfied with Rationals.  
  • Rationals were 54% satisfied with Artisans.
  • Rationals were 52% satisfied with Guardians.

But satisfaction between the temperaments was not equal.  In fact, all the other temperaments rated the Rationals higher than the Rationals rated them (see below).  Tieger and Barron-Tieger suggested that NTs may rate their partners lower than average since they tend to be the most critical temperament and set particularly high standards.  This would tend to depress Rational scores more than would be reflected in reality.  

Seen from a reverse perspective, here is how Rationals are viewed by the other temperaments:

  • Artisans are most satisfied with Rationals (73%)
  • Idealists are second most satisfied with Rationals (64%)
  • Guardians are third most satisfied with Rationals (62%)
  • Rationals are fourth most satisfied with Rationals (59%)

Isn’t this a fascinating mess of information?  Let’s put it into context.  Green = Guardian, Blue = Idealist, Purple = Artisan, and Teal = Rational. 

  • SJ x SJ    79%
  • NF x NF    73%
  • SP x NT    73%
  • SJ x SP    71%
  • NT x NF    65%
  • NF x NT    64%
  • SP x SJ    63%
  • SJ x NT    62%
  • SP x SP    59%
  • NT x NT    59%
  • SJ x NF    58%
  • NT x SP    54%
  • SP x NF    54%
  • NT x SJ    52%
  • NF x SP    51%
  • NF x SJ    46%

Now, it is a mistake to generalize by temperament--it’s frequent that types will go counter-temperament, and temperament is not the definitive factor in explaining type-based behavior most of the time (CITE)--but since we don’t have anything better to go on...

Ever since Keirsey, an INTP himself, published Please Understand Me II in 1998, it has generally been accepted that the Idealists are the best partners for the Rationals.  This appears to be true--at least from the Rational point of view.  The Idealists, however, actually tend to be more satisfied with other Idealists, having a satisfaction rate of 73%.  

But Rationals are the second favorite choice for the Idealists.  Indeed, NF-NT and NT-NF satisfaction rates fell within 1 percentage point of each other--a very equal evaluation indeed.  And if we accept the fact that Rationals tend to be overcritical and depress their perceived satisfaction, it may be that Rationals actually like Idealists even more.  

This equality is in stark contrast to the SP-NT and NT-SP pairing.  It appears that Artisans are delighted with Rationals, but Rationals are ambivalent about Artisans and Sensors in general.  The Guardians for their part are simply not that satisfied with either Rationals or Idealists, but really go for other Sensors.  

It would seem that for Rationals, the Idealists generally make the most satisfying temperament pairing.  This is a generalization that may or may not apply to all Rational types. 

One further thing that should be noted here is that the Rationals reported a narrow range of satisfaction compared to other types.

  • Rationals: 52% - 65%  (13 percentage points of difference)
  • Idealists: 46% - 73%  (27 percentage points of difference)
  • Artisans: 52% - 73%  (21 percentage points of difference)
  • Guardians: 58% to 79%  (21 percentage points of difference)

Compared to other types, the Rationals don’t seem to have much to lose if they make a random choice.

What is the Best INTP Pairing?

Wish I knew.  The best we can say at this point is that one study found that male INTPs were more likely than most to marry female INTPs (Marioles, Strickert, & Hammer, 1996). 

But is that the same thing as the best match?  Ah, there's the kicker.  Back to theoryville...

Keirsey (an INTP himself) speculated that the best match for the INTP is the ENFJ Teacher.  Originally, he and Bates (1984) believed that ESFJ Providers would also be a good match, but in Please Understand Me II he modified this view to indicate that sharing the same Intutition/Sensing orientation is important in a relationship.  In Portraits of Temperament, Keirsey further suggested that STJs and STPs would not be able to "appreciate or encourage the unique traits of the Engineer [NTP]" as a mate.  The Idealists, by contrast, would be able to appreciate and admire the NTP Engineer's ingenuity. 

ENFJs are known for their ability to bring out the hidden gifts and talents in those around them; another naming system calls them the "Givers" because they invest so much time in others.  Keirsey believed that the ENFJs would be intrigued by the chance to bring out the gifts and talents of their INTP mate, and that Idealists in general would form a "cheering section" for them.  ENFJs tend to view their Rational mates as their rock or a pillar of strength, a calm refuge from their sometimes stressful world of emotions.  They also admire the strong principles of NTs.  Keirsey suggested that INTPs would be intrigued by the endless mystery presented by the (totally alien, yet extremely attractive) soul of their NF mate--an unsolvable problem to beguil them all their life.  INTPs appreciate the warmth and caring that NFs bring to a relationship.  The author, an INTP herself, was stunned to realize that the only two people she had ever considered as potential matrimonial material (one being a fictional character) were both probable ENFJs.  Perhaps this is merely a coincidence, but it seems worth further investigation. 

Keirsey (1998) notes that the NTPs do not expend much effort to seek out a partner; it would just require too much time and effort for too little a chance of return.  For this reason some NTPs may simply settle down with the first person who appreciates them, without trying for anything better.  I suspect that there may also be a certain element of fear operating here, i.e. “What if no one ever wants me again?”  This fits in with the Keirsey's description of the NTP as despairing of finding someone who fits their unique personality.

Actually, INTPs don't have any problems getting married.  In fact, one study found that they are more likely to get married than almost every single other introverted type (Otis & Louks, 1997).  If you have ever worried about being alone and unloved forever because you are an INTP, you can probably stop now.  Being "different" won't prevent you from getting married.  Unfortunately, it may result in you getting married more times than every other introverted type (Otis & Louks, 1997).

As you might guess from that particular fact, INTPs can have problems after the honeymoon.  Marioles et al. found that partners of INTP males had the lowest marital satisfaction of all types.  Nor do INTPs themselves seem satisfied; another study found that INTPs have the fourth lowest satisfaction with their marriage/intimate relationship. (Myers, McCaulley, Quenk & Hammer, 1998).  (This isn't as bad as it sounds though; Intuitives were generally less satisfied than Sensors, and INTPs were quite close to the midrange values for Intuitive satisfaction.  However, INTPs were the least satisfied of the Rationals.  Note also that some NFs were far less satisfied.)  According to Marioles et al.'s study, in only about 1/3 of INTP marriages were both partners satisfied.  Also, INTP males were the type/gender combination most likely to be satisfied with their marriage while having a partner who is dissatisfied (this phenomenon did not hold true for INTP females).  Female INTPs tended to be married the fewest number of years of all types (add source). 

Clearly some extra care should be taken to monitor the quality of one's relationship.  Many people obviously find the INTP personality intriguing and attractive--if not, INTPs wouldn't be getting married in droves, would they?--but after the marriage expectations seem to shift. 

Kroeger and Thuesen (1996) noted that INTPs have significant difficulty ending relationships, but if they do decide to end a relationship, "hell would freeze over" before the INTP will take back their ex.  Those breaking up with an INTP should be aware that it may be hard, if not impossible, to get them back.  Kroeger and Thuesen also noted that INTPs may be somewhat inconsistent in their preparations for events like anniversaries or birthday parties.  I.e., they may put things off until the last minute and end up snatching a gift from the Walmart jewelry department on the way home.  It doesn't mean that the INTP doesn't care, but rather that there were too many great ideas floating around in their head, and the time drifted by until they were shocked to discover that there was no time left.  At this point the purchase of a gift becomes an emergency rather than the thoughtful expression the somewhat embarrassed INTP had originally intended. 

Tieger and Barron-Tieger (2000) suggest that because INTPs are so private, they may not express their feelings or thoughts enough to satisfy their more expressive mates.  (This is true of all Rationals, but particularly the INTs.)  Though the INTP views a relationship as a "forever" commitment (Kroeger & Thuesen, 1996) and therefore tends to assume that their feelings must be implicitly obvious since they choose to remain with their beloved, the INTP's spouse may mistakenly interpret silence as lack of affection (Tieger & Barron-Tieger, 2000).  Adding to this is the fact that the NTs as a group tend to be highly focused on the problems they are currently working on, and are simultaneously disinterested in daily domestic matters (Keirsey, 1998).  Keirsey suggests that although the NTs may need reminders to pay attention to their relationships and family life, the NT's spouse may not be willing to give such reminders, reasoning to themselves, "It isn't real love if it is given under duress."  The Rationals then continue obliviously on with their projects, and cannot understand when their spouses finally tell them they are cold or uncaring.  "How can they think I don't love them?" the Rational wonders incredulously.  "Isn't it obvious?"

Relationship Values

Tieger and Barron-Tieger (2000) ranked the relationship values of each type, both what the type saw as important and what they did not see as important.  For the INTPs, the self-reported characteristics that were seen as most important included "Mutual commitment," "Fidelity," "Mutual support," "Being listened to," "Humor," "Intellectual stimulation" and "Companionship."  The less important characteristics were "Financial security," "Shared religious beliefs," "Spiritual connection," "Security," and "Similar parenting styles."

So what can we say here?  Although INTPs probably have lower relational needs than most, they may run into trouble if they assume that other types share the same low needs for communication, emotional expression, etc.  (This assumes that you haven't married another INTP, which seems to be a popular route for males.)  The question then is, what does your partner expect from a relationship, and how can you make the necessary adjustments to keep your marriage healthy and happy? 

If you want to approach this problem from a type perspective, I recommend the following books:

  • 16 Ways to Love Your Lover by Kroeger and Thuesen - This honest book uses type to explain in great detail why your spouse is so annoying, and why you yourself are so annoying to your spouse.  If you're having marital issues, this is the book I recommend.  $1 used. 
  • Just Your Type: Create the Relationship You've Always Wanted Using the Secrets of Personality Type by Tieger and Barron-Tieger - Contains descriptions of every possible pairing, i.e. INTP x ISFJ, INTP x ESFP, INTP x ENFP.  If you're curious to explore a specific relationship, this book will do give you the information you need.  $5 used. 
  • Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey - An INTP himself, Keirsey has some excellent insights into the problems faced by Rationals in marriages.  $4 used.

Knowledge of how to satisfy your spouse is cheap enough.  You don't have to change who you are, but a few compromises to meet your partner midway could be a valuable investment.  What have you got to lose?