INFJ vs. ESFJ
Hidey-ho, neighbors! I'm posting by the fire this evening, and it feels wonderful against the chill of the night. Hammered by Draco yesterday, we ended up with a half-inch of snow that came down horizontally due to the ferocious winds. Today roads were slick, the weather was clear but very cold, and it looks like we might have a white Christmas after all :-)
(Sidebar: Are we naming winter storms now? And seriously, who picked out Draco? Some meteorologist somewhere's been watching a little too much Harry Potter!)
Okay, so after the week I've had, my brain is pretty much in TGIF mode! Made it through requisite paperwork and e-mails, endless errands, and a few nearly-sleepless nights. On a positive note, I experienced some awesome creativity and vision, as well as a timely social connection, that have me fairly pumped and looking forward to a weekend of writing.
This week I've also been mulling over the INFJ/ESFJ connection. Unfortunately, I can't find any cool videos or articles that compare, contrast and draw conclusions--which sucks, because it's a lot easier to post when I can leverage off someone else's hard work! So I'm going to have to pull this together myself based on research, forums, and my own experience.
When I first discovered that my hubby was an ESFJ and Googled it up, I was a little dismayed to discover the general opinion that INFJ forum members seem to harbor. The typically warm, compassionate INFJ is often neither of these when venting about an ESFJ friend or significant other. The terms overbearing, smothering, and irritating kept rearing their ugly heads. I found this unusual, since I wouldn't describe my husband that way at all.
But this relationship is considered "illusionary" in that it starts out looking really great and ends up being too draining for the INFJ or not affirming enough for the ESFJ.
So let's take a look at the ESFJ personality type itself.
The ESFJ is commonly known as The Provider. They are kind, nurturing, dependable and love people. ESFJs are also warm, energetic and easy to talk with. They are giving and prone to selflessness and generosity. My hubby definitely has all of these qualities. Looking back, I think I was drawn to him because I don't possess them myself--at least not in large, extraverted quantities. I really enjoy his generosity and willingness to sacrifice for our family. And my introvert self appreciates his ability to talk easily with anyone! I can't begin to count the number of times I've depended on him to handle phone calls, door-to-door solicitors and various social encounters where I loathe the small talk necessary to get through the evening. He's also kind of goofy and has a slapstick-type sense of humor, which offsets my intense seriousness about life :-)
But in fairness, I do need to talk about why the INFJ might have some difficulty dealing with their ESFJ counterpart. First off, the ESFJ is extremely sensitive to criticism. As a blunt, straightforward INFJ, I've noticed my approach can come across as very harsh to my husband. What I consider practical logic can crush him in an instant. Because it's awkward for me to be anything other than my blunt self, I often end up in the position of having to "apologize" for my lack of sugarcoating. This tends to irritate me, because I don't feel like I should have to apologize for being myself--especially when he's the only person in my small circle that seems to be bothered by it.
ESFJs are also very emotional. This in itself isn't much of a problem. I'm very non-emotional, so we kind of balance each other out. But I've often accused him of overreacting to little things that seem to bother him more than anyone else in our household. He can go from mature-business-analyst to twelve-year-old-boy in the blink of an eye over something the rest of us consider trivial. And as an INFJ, I instantly shrink from emotional outbursts. It often upsets my husband that at the times he needs me the most, I am the least accessible. He actively seeks emotional connections, while I actively withdraw from many of the emotional circumstances that he uses to bring about those connections. For example, he seems to need lots of discussion and debate after a conflict or argument. It makes him feel better. I'd rather find closure and move on without endless conversation about it--because that endless chatter drains me. We try to compromise with this, but it's definitely an obstacle in our relationship.
Probably one of the biggest issues we have is control. ESFJs tend to want to control their environment with order and structure. They're not all that big on abstract, unstructured approaches. My husband likes structure and analysis, and he's very thorough and detailed. While I can appreciate this about him, it sometimes makes my creative, visionary side want to run away screaming. When I ask, "Honey, can we afford this?" all I really want is a yes/no response. What I get is a two-page spreadsheet with color-coded headings and bolded totals. And when I buy something, I choose it from an intuitive, sensory perspective without thinking too much about money. If it strikes me as authentic or pleases my Fe, I go for it. Hubby, on the other hand, is only looking at the price tag. This difference in our approach has been the source of many a conflict between us. He can't seem to understand why I do things a certain way when "his" way is much more efficient or sensible. Even if I agree his way is better, I still do things my own way because they are just "me"--and no matter how much we talk about it, he can't understand why I continue to choose mine over his.
In my forum-searching, I did come across an interesting thread about the female INFJ and male ESFJ being more compatible than the reverse. This made a certain kind of sense to me. The ESFJ has a lot of feminine traits...caring, nurturing, giving insane amounts of themselves over to ensure peace and stability. In a woman, I can see where this might be the antithesis of the INFJ preference in companionship. I'm sure I've run up against ESFJ females--and didn't know their personality type--but intuitively headed in the opposite direction anyway. Girly and emotional I am not. I like levelheaded women who can talk about deep, intellectual issues or speak with authority on interesting topics. My husband, while possessing the feminine traits of the Provider, still has the male traits of being authoritative and even-keeled. Perhaps a female INFJ (with a masculine approach) and a male ESJF (with a feminine approach) make for a well-balanced match?
One thing I need to mention here is that the MBTI is not a rock-solid indicator of success or failure in a relationship. Love and devotion go a long way toward making things work. My friend Wendy is an ESTP...but her husband is an INFJ. The Jungian experts would probably not predict a positive outcome for a match of this nature, but Wendy and her hubby are both devoted Christians who love God and each other. They've been together for many years and have learned to appreciate their differences and leverage their strengths. So just because you're pegged as a certain type doesn't mean an "opposing" type can't be pursued.
Something else I should mention is that my marriage endures a great deal of stress not typical in an ordinary relationship. Having a son with both Down syndrome and a wide range of autistic behaviors has put my husband and me through scenarios a normal couple would have to experience to believe. We've been married for ten years and have a blended family--but due to the high level of responsibility we must maintain, we really haven't had much opportunity to grow as individuals or as a couple. I am speaking in total honesty when I say that I'm a lot more withdrawn and detached than I should be, and it's mostly because I've built up several thick layers around my heart to protect it from stress and disillusionment. This makes me less effective at giving my husband the emotional connection he needs. Raising a dually-disabled child is hard, dang it. It can make or break a person, and it can make or break a relationship. You can dress it up or romanticize it all you want, but in the end, it is what it is.
Fortunately, my husband and I both believe in God and rely on Him for guidance and assistance in our approach to life, family and the make-or-break circumstances. Without Him, we might not have made it this far :-)
Lol, this post is more of a novella, and I still don't feel that I've covered all the nuances of a relationship between an INFJ and an ESFJ. I can speculate that it's easier if the INFJ is female and the ESFJ is male--but I can't offer proof. All I can conclude is that no, it's not considered ideal in Jungian circles and yes, it takes a lot of hard work and communication. My husband and I are living proof that you can at least make it for ten years!!
So now that I've rambled on and on here, how about you guys? Do you have experience with ESFJs that are similar to mine? Do my conclusions seem reasonable, or have I hit way outside the mark? ;-)
Hoping you're warm and toasty tonight...
Image Credit: Draco, Must Serve, ESFJ