What I’m learning about myself and how I process life and emotions as an INFJ (Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging personality type) in a relationship with an ENFP (Extroverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving personality type). INFJ and ENFP relationship compatibility is considered one of the best combinations, but there can still be a learning curve with communication.
I’ve always had the ability to hyper focus, tune out what’s going on around me, and work on a project to completion. It’s easy for me to get lost in my own mental world. That comes in handy when you’re trying to run a business from home. It also can create some chaos because my kids could be trashing the house while I was hyper focused on a writing project. (I’m an Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging [INFJ] on the Meyers-Briggs Personality assessment.)
With any strength there is a corresponding weakness. With any upside there is a downside. I never fully realized how much my zoning out can be disconcerting to other people until recently. It can appear that I don’t care what someone has to say when in actuality, they just said something that so intrigued me, my mind hyperlinked off into another thought or memory and is now aggregating new data. Perhaps I look preoccupied with my phone in the middle of a conversation, but it’s only because what was said initiated a mini research project where I’m Googling something that would add depth or something interesting to the conversation.
In the past, my zoning out has created communication problems in my relationships with men. Some men are fine with my quiet nature because they’re introverts too. They do their own thing while I do mine. But non-communication leads to two people who grow apart, living in separate worlds. Other men couldn’t figure out how to connect with me beyond a certain point. They were able to elicit enough trust to make me feel comfortable talking with them, but they couldn’t follow or were uninterested in what I had to share.
As I’ve tried to be more open and mindful in relationships, I’ve discovered that I do not process the world like most other people. When I’m learning or observing something new, my new knowledge rarely comes in words. It comes in a knowing or a feeling. That knowledge and understanding must go through a series of filters before it becomes words.
Usually, by the time my thoughts or feelings become written or spoken words, they have become something insightful, profound or helpful to others. In fact, in most of my communications (especially in Church, or professionally), I have some sort of internal requirement: “What I say MUST be profound.” Otherwise I won’t release them to the world. But in the beginning of this learning process, my thoughts (and especially feelings) can be messy and chaotic if I try to articulate them too soon.
Because my initial thoughts-feelings are messy and chaotic, most people can’t or don’t care to follow them. Most men, in particular, tune me out. A former spouse (an ISFP on Meyers-Briggs) used to tell me: “Tell me about it when it works.” So my tendency is to clam up with men. I got the impression they wanted me to speak in succinct bullet points and keep it short, so I kept the messy stage of my ideas and feelings to myself (or perhaps ran them by a super-trusted female friend or my mom).
My fiancé (an Extroverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving [ENFP]) has struggled with my introversion at times. As an extrovert, his verbal and social interactions are the first line of processing for him. He processes new knowledge by talking about his thoughts, by telling stories or coming up with antidotes that “work.” On the other hand, I can easily take a road trip with him and zone out for 2-3 hours, not say much of anything, and I’m totally fine. I still feel completely connected to him. He, on the other hand, finds this behavior — especially the silence — perplexing and confusing. He wonders what’s really going on in my mind. It feels like a huge disconnect for him.
What I’ve come to understand is that he actually wants to hear the “messy” initial formulation stages. He enjoys hearing what I have to say … even the little things that other men have found boring. As a “Perceiver” he places high value on the process. He doesn’t need to wait “until it works.” He wants to know what I’m thinking about. This is such a foreign concept to me, that I’m still wrapping my mind around it.
While it’s always going to take some time for my mulling to become words (and he’s willing to allow me the space for this phase of my conceptualization process), he’d like to hear things in the early stages of when I do start finding the words.
Outside of my mother I can’t think of anyone who ever wanted to know my every little thought, my every little feeling. Even my best confidants have their own lives and don’t have time to be sitting around waiting for a word to spill from my lips, and I don’t expect them to.
But this man seems to thrive on everything I share with him. He reminds me of my mother, who always wanted to hear, and took great interest in, the smallest details of my life and my children’s lives. I never even expected I’d find a man who could love me like that.
Yet here I am, engaged to a man who wants to read what I write, listen to what I have to say – no matter how trivial or messy I think it may be. He wants to hold me and cry along with me when my heart is hurting or when I’m joyfully celebrating. He wants to feel and experience the full range of life with me.
It’s a wonderful thing, and it’s also something I have to wrap my heart and mind around. Yet, today it began to click for me how much he loves me when I could see the parallels between him and my mom in their level of interest in me. Once again, my mom has taught me how to not only love, but also to receive love… which for me, is the bigger challenge.