I've spent the better part of 20 years helping people understand who they are, where they fit in the world, and how they can develop the skills necessary to achieve their version of the good life.
Since starting this journey, I've had many people ask me about how our personalities affect our relationships. An interesting question I recently received on YouTube, spoke about Introvert Intuitor Feeler Perceiver (INFP) men and their reluctance to play the role of the "alpha" in relationships with more dominant women.
Despite some obvious stereotyping that won't ring true for everyone, many INFPs I've spoken to often do struggle with establishing authority in relationships. I'm writing this blog to share with you what I shared with my friend on YouTube. I hope it helps you move away from stereotypes and toward accepting and becoming happy with yourself just as you are.
As you read through my response to my friend on YouTube, please understand that this advice can apply to any personality type, not just INFPs. Enjoy!
Opposites Attract? Yes, But...
Carl Jung, the godfather of our current obsession with understanding personality types, once said that opposites not only attract but even fascinate each other. Today, Jung would probably say that people instinctively seek out their complements rather than their opposites. But why?
I believe our biology may be more to blame here than our psychology. It makes logical sense that our ancestors learned to survive by seeking out what Dr. Richard Dawkins calls an "evolutionarily stable strategy" (Get his book The Selfish Gene if you don't already have it). In this case, our predecessors survived by linking up with other people who were strong where they were weak.
In the modern world, it shouldn't take much imagination to assume that we would thus be attracted to people who complement our personalities.
I bring this up to show that it's totally normal for a more passive INFP man to seek out a more stereotypically dominant woman like an ESTJ. However, what makes a relationship work more than personality compatibility is shared values and beliefs between mates. Shared values are a must regardless of your personality similarities or differences.
So, don't be surprised if you are attracted to someone with a different temperament, just know that it's supporting one another's value system that will ultimately keep you living happily together.
The Man Of The House Myth
I've been happily married for almost 15 years at the time of this writing. I can tell you without any hesitation that every healthy and happy marriage I've seen does not have the proverbial "man of the house." In other words, in a healthy marriage, both mates share equal responsibility for making decisions and running the household. No one is the boss.
In the United States, the idea behind the "man of the house" is often improperly derived from misinterpreted biblical teaching. Men (and women) who believe in this model believe men should be the "head" of the house. This may be biblically accurate, but most people don't understand what "head" means. If you read the scripture closely, the "head" of a house is truly the servant of the household. The head must be willing to sacrifice of him or herself, even to the point of giving one's life.
You'll find this same understanding in military units. As a military commander, I was certainly charged with making decisions. But, I didn't make those decisions in a vacuum without the input of the people I led. More importantly, I took an oath to protect the men under my command, not to dominate them or boss them around. At the end of the day, it was my role to give my life for my people if the mission required it. My soldiers shared in that responsibility.
When both partners in a relationship approach leadership with this mentality, there is no alpha. There is no boss. There is no "man of the house." There remains only two people who have sworn to protect and enrich one-another's lives.
Learn To Love And Accept Yourself As You Are
I totally empathize with my friend who sent in the question we are addressing today. He's been taught all his life that he should be brave, tough and assertive because that's what men are.
I agree that men (and women) should have all of those qualities. The challenge with my friend is that he was never taught what those qualities actually look like when properly put to use.
Being brave is not just about being outgoing and taking social risks. Being assertive is not about being bossy. Being tough has less to do with physical presence and everything to do with adopting the mindset to endure hardship with gratitude and a positive outlook.
As an INFP, your nature may appear more passive if one only judges you on the surface. But make no mistake, your Introverted Feeling means you are driven by your values. You may not often raise your voice or speak up in social situations. But, if anyone were ever to infringe on your value system, I have no doubt that your courage and assertiveness would immediately be put into action.
The bottom line here is that you must, at all costs, avoid judging yourself by the misguided standards other people would use to judge you. Chances are, as an INFP, you are a truly empathetic person who would go out of your way to help someone in need. As a loud-mouthed, outwardly assertive, ENTJ warrior-type, I'd likely be honored to share your company on the battlefield.