I’ve always been a personality test junkie, or at least since taking my first “Who’s your celebrity BFF?” quiz in Seventeen during middle school. (It’s Reese Witherspoon, by the way, and I’m still waiting for my invitation to hang out…ahem…) The first, super-smooth pick up line I delivered to Science Guy was, “Have you heard of Enneagram personality theory?” and we spent the first few months of our relationship eagerly exploring the nuances of each other’s, uh, personalities. (This sentence both is and is not euphemismistic.)
For those who are less familiar with Myers-Briggs terminology, there are four functions of one’s personality, with two tendencies for each function, each denoted by a letter. Most people fall in the middle of the continuum between the two extremes. The first function deals with energy; Extroverts are energized by other people and Introverts are energized by being alone. The second function is perception and information-processing; Intuitives (N) look at the world through the lens of their thoughts and ideas while Sensing types focus on what external sensory information can tell them. The third function is judgment/decision-making; Thinkers act based on the logical consequences and Feelers act based on how their decisions will affect the people and relationships involved. The fourth function measures which of the previous two functions dominates your personality; Judging types like to decide and do while Perceiving types like to experience and be. (These are all generalizations based on my own understanding…read a more academic explanation here.)
I am an INFJ: introverted, intuitive, feeling, judging. This means that I love making plans but have trouble making them a reality, I need alone time but care a lot about making sure other people are happy, I have lots of thoughts and lots of feelings, and I like imagining new things but not actually eating or watching things I haven’t eaten or seen before. I am essentially a walking contradiction, which makes my life a string of elegant disasters of varying size and funness. I once dated an extreme ENTP and almost lost my mind. (Opposites may attract but they’re not always compatible, folks.) We liked each other a lot and boy, was he cute, but his extroversion was exhausting and I could not understand how he functioned without any planning or forethought *whatsoever.*
Science Guy is an INTJ, which I intuited approximately an hour into our first date, and our personalities complement each other pretty well. As I’s, we are both content to sit next to each other doing our own thing, check in when we feel like it, and occasionally pester each other with hypothetical questions. (“Would you blog for people or groups you fundamentally disagreed with? What about an alt-right group? WHAT ABOUT A PORN STAR WITH A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION?”) Fortunately and unsurprisingly, two intuitive parents managed to produce a child who was born with the ability to entertain himself. Science Guy provides a much-needed Thinking counterpoint when I start fretting about my actions (or thoughts…or emotions…) hurting the feelings of people who won’t actually care and I…have yet to get him to care about other people’s feelings besides mine and the baby’s, but that’s okay. (I’m kidding…mostly.) But I’m starting to suspect that my husband is a closet P, or at least less J than I am which obviously is just unacceptable. Because ever since Fire Monkey was born, what I previously saw as gentle non-conformity has degenerated into mild chaos. (To be fair, everything in our lives has degenerated into mild-to-moderate chaos, but I desperately want to impose order upon it while Science Guy refuses to fight it anymore.) He’s always been better able to enjoy the present moment than I, and that’s been a valuable lesson for me even as the lack of planning drives me ONLY A LITTLE BIT crazy. (I swear that marriage and motherhood have mellowed my J-ness…if you think I’m nuts now, you should have seen me four years ago.)
As nerdy as it sounds, understanding our personality types has actually gone a long way toward mitigating disagreements and misunderstandings in our marriage, and I try to take that into my relationships with others too. Rather than assuming the other person is wrong or malicious, we know that we see, experience and react to certain things in life differently. The key is being aware of and respecting those differences, trying to see things from the other person’s perspective, learning to compromise, and remembering that at the end of the day we have the same values and goals…some of us just go about attaining them
the wrong in a different way. Now excuse me while I go fill out the cleaning chart that no one is going to follow.