Marriage Counsel

We were at dinner the other night with some friends. They were telling us that their INFP son is very unhappy in his marriage to an ESTJ woman. They said that their son feels disrespected and not listened to, while his wife thinks he is over-emotional and depressive. They said their son had talked to his wife numerous times about it but nothing was changing. Our friends asked me for some advice based on their types.  

I suggested that they advise their son to “talk ESTJ,” and I explained what that means…

  • Be direct and concrete. Instead of trying to change her feelings toward you, identify one or two behaviors that are causing you the most pain, and ask her if she would be willing to modify them. 
  • Let her know the tangible consequence of her behaviors, for example, the energy it drains from your work, partnering and parenting.   
  • To avoid defensive reactions, say you don’t want to hear her response just now, but set a date when you will talk about it again after she’s had time to process it.
  • Let her know that she can ask you to change one or two behaviors as well.
  • If she makes an effort to accommodate you, let her know when she’s being successful. She needs tangible proof of her accomplishments.
  • If this doesn’t work, look for a marriage counselor with a good reputation. ESTJs respect accredited authorities.


I was grateful to the type theory for allowing me to give suggestions to my friends, but on the way home, I had the feeling that my suggestions would not help. I’m not sure why - maybe it was the anxious look on my friends’ faces, but it didn’t sound like a marriage where changing a few behaviors would make much of a difference. It wasn’t just that they were opposite types, because those marriages can be happy and enriching. Rather, this sounded like a marriage where neither partner feels valued for their essential being… the qualities they love most about themselves. It sounded like the husband really resents her practical, take-charge personality and the wife can’t see the point of his harmony-seeking, reflective personality. 

I wished I could have given this couple the best advice I could offer, the advice that I didn’t get from books, but from hard-won experience. The advice I would have liked to give both the husband and wife is: if you find that your efforts to make things better aren’t making any difference, try to remember that life is abundant. It is full of people who will really enjoy your ST-ness or your NF-ness. When you do find someone like that, you will thrive like you never thought possible. You will probably have to go on a difficult journey first, to break off the old and find the new, but you can trust in life and its abundance. In the end you will look back and say, “Thank God (or thank life) that I did.” 

I’ve been in similar relationships, where in spite of our best efforts, we just didn’t “get” each other. I know how much it takes out of you. I also know how much it adds to your life when you find a partner that really loves you, not exactly the way you are, because we all have to adapt to others, but the way you most are.

 

Editor's note: CAPT offers a Type for Life guide for two people: Building Better Relationships. It includes a description of reported type preferences—for both of you, and an overview of how people of your types might relate to one another and live together.

 

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