Friday, December 21, 2012

INFJ vs. ESFJ

Source: www.weather.com
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.

ENFJs 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...


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12 comments:

  1. I actually don't think I know any male ESFJs, only female. I find that I have little patience for their outbursts, but that being said, I have never been close enough to one to try to understand them very well. I think the key to loving any personality type is understanding what makes them the way they are. My husband is an ISTJ, and every time I google our compatibly I tend to find a lot of negativity about that type which baffles me. I think INFJs are such chameleons though that there really is no one or two perfect matches. I wrote an article about general INFJ relationships, as the pairings fascinate me. I wrote it from a technical stand point though, so it doesn't really reflect my own experiences. I have not yet known of an INFJ in a relationship with an ESFJ though. I have heard of ENFP, INTJ, ENFJ, and INTP. I find each match so interesting! I hope you'll write more on this pairing in the future!

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    1. Tyke, I agree that understanding how someone ticks is crucial in making a relationship work. It allows two people to leverage their strengths and work through their weaknesses. And yes--we are definitely chameleons in that we intuitively slip into a role that best fits the other person. I guess the biggest problem I see would be the INFJ having to constantly play a role that suppresses their natural personality. Over the long haul, that might lead to problems.

      Personally, I find the best way to handle a relationship is to balance interaction with solitude. I've found that I can deal well with just about any personality type if I'm allowed enough alone time to recharge beforehand.

      I'll have to look up your article and give it a read. I love pointing to the research others have done! Looking back, I wish I'd have broken up the INFJ/ESFJ into a series instead of one long post. Have been short on time over the holidays and was scrambling to get something out here. (sigh) This blogging thing has been a huge learning experience, lol :-)

      Thanks for your comment!!

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  2. I'd love to read any future posts on the series if you do one ;-)

    Thanks for writing this post, Meridian, and sharing so honestly. There's the beautiful, the ugly, the triumphs, the cracks - and God binding it all together. The best thing!

    I have one ESFJ female friend, she is girly and emotional and other things that would usually have me running for the hills... however, for some reason, I really adore her. I like her sincerity, loyalty, care and the fact that she gets more excited about my birthday than I do, and sometimes I need that to stop me from getting too Scroogey!

    I am single now, but looking back on dating experiences I think about two in particular: an (I think) ESTJ, and a (definite) INFP. With the first everything was fun but missing so much depth - I marvelled at how we could send each other 9 paragraph emails which said, essentially, nothing worth saying (to me, at least). With the second, everything was art and poetry, but my J-ness constantly got in the way and missed logic, plans and being on Earth.

    All said and done, I can imagine being very happy with more than one type (probably would prefer an ENxx / INxx though)! And as you say, love, devotion + God = of utmost importance.

    Hope you had a good Christmas! Happy new year :-)

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    1. Sorry for the delay in replying, Mel! I loooooove the way you describe the ESFJ keeping you from being "Scroogey", lol - that is one thing my husband does for me. Caleb (my youngest son, who's also an INFJ) and I can be pretty serious and intense at times. But my husband and stepdaughter are both goofy and love to laugh, so they keep things light. Their delight over little things definitely makes me smile. It gets a little tough when I can't get away from them, though. Too much ESFJness sucks the life out of me, and I have to retreat to my room or get out of the house to recharge. Everything in moderation, right??

      Happy New Year to you as well, my friend!! :-)

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  3. Hi. I appreciate your post. I am trying to figure out how to support my ESFJ (female) friend after a 6-year break up with her boyfriend. So thank you. Also, I wanted to comment that your description for an ESFJ agrees quite well with my observations of my friend personality type as she is very caring and warm. However, you personal description of your type sounds more like my ISFJ friend than mine (INFJ). Do you know if you have a strong or weak N?

    Thanks again.

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  4. Thank you for the encouragement! My husband INFJ an I...ESFJ. We celebrated 10 years in May! :) We have struggle alot, the good times are really good and short-lived and the times are bad and seem to last forever! We also believe and love our God and His help and guidance has gotten this far and I pray we can get "it" right one day!

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  5. I've just discovered your blog and as an INFJ, I can't wait to peruse it. I'd like to share that I've just discovered that my young daughter is an ESFJ (as is my mother, whom she closely resembles in manner/character). If I was to come across either my mother or daughter as strangers, I would likely avoid them simply because they were so...MUCH. They have such big hearts/personalities/needs, you name it, it's big. And I waver between Extroverted and Introverted, and would be overwhelmed by them. As I'm 'forced' by familial relationships to be close to them, as I've figured out their personalities, I find that I'm completely charmed and captivated by them because they are so completely different from my personal experience of people. My INFJ son and I call my 9 year old daughter our 'social director' because she naturally talks to anyone and seems to instantly convert them to a friend. This simply doesn't happen for my son and I - we take forever to make friends! She creates situations in which I must talk to people and socialize, which is good for me. I can see that she loves people so much that she honestly doesn't understand when someone doesn't like her or is impartial to her. She will continue to be kind and social even with someone who is being mean and nasty to her - she simply doesn't understand it. She is also our official greeting card chooser. My son and I are good with a birthday card that says 'Happy birthday!'. My daughter searches for the three-page card filled with poetry that exactly expresses her feelings and thoughts for the birthday boy/girl (as does my mother). I am often surprised by my little one, but I try to take it all in stride and cherish her sparkle and uniqueness.

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  6. In many ways you described my relationship with my ESFJ dad (sans marriage aspects of course!)...he is so sensitive and gets hurt soooo easily by things I say in passing that weren't even meant to wound him!

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  7. My boyfriend is an ESFJ and I am an INFJ. I'm finding that our relationship is so much stronger than anyone I've ever been with. He is so supportive and nurturing to me and could be seen as emotionally more feminine than me, who tends to keep to myself with my emotions. He is a wonderful person and is a Children's Pastor and he fits in so easily with the kids he mentors. Being a Children's Pastor, he is quite goofy and can be childish but it helps me break out of my seriousness. Plus he knows when to be serious, so he can easily balance out the two. Overall, our relationship is pretty grounded and stable and communication comes easy to us because we both find each other easy to talk to. He is a gift from God and I really do love him without any reservation.

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  8. I'm an INFJ and my husband is a ENXJ. Some of this is so accurate. He is sensitive, always wants to hash out details and over analyzes all purchases. Very draining. On the other hand he thinks I'm not social and gets offended when Indon't want to hang out with his friend's or do certain social things. I'm also more ocd at home and he is rather dismissive of my efforts. He is nurturing and prone to outbursts if he feels hurt.

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  9. So, I an an ESFJ (female) with an INFJ husband. I can testify to the fact that the relationship is rocky at times, but I resent the illusory label of socionics here. We have been married for nearly ten years and have two children together and are still so in love and so happy! We struggle, but any marriage has struggles and we are generally happy at the end of the day. I really liked this post.

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  10. I am an INFJ female with an ESFJ husband, we have been married almost 6 years. He is wonderfully kind, loyal and hardworking man and a great provider. He is gone a lot at work so I am able to get the ample alone time that I need. I would say most of our struggles have had to do with how much we do social things with people, however open communication and comprimise have helped with this. Also, I long for deeper conversations, and sometimes he will indulge me but he doesn't always have to patience to sit and listen to my meanderings and sometimes seemingly "negative" attitude about life. He would also like me to be more "action-oriented" since I am stuck in my own head a lot, however when I do clean the house, run errands, etc. he is extremely appreciative about it. The times that we connect the best are when we are on vacation...away from the distractions of work, chores and people and we can really just focus and listen to each other. Reading about the MBTI together has actually helped a lot and increased our understanding and patience with each other. He keeps me grounded and takes wonderful care of me. He allows me to pursue whatever dreams or projects I want for the most part. I have never had such a strong magnetic attraction to anyone the way that I have with my husband. He also knows that he can vent and open up to me unlike anyone else.

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I appreciate honest comments and opinions, as long as they are polite. Any offensive, profane, or derogatory remarks will be removed. Thanks!