Personality Type Compatibility in Relationships

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Harness Your Differences for a Stronger Relationship

Mother nature is no dummy. 

She knows, for example, that if we chose our mates by soberly assessing their personality traits, comparing them to our own, then calculating whether or not they’re a compatible match for us, the human population would have dwindled beneath the replacement threshold several thousand years ago. 

Luckily for us all, that isn’t how people evaluate a love interest. You focus on their dimples, their shoulders, or the funny voice they make when they’re impersonating their dog. Questions about long-term compatibility are a problem for another day, for the newly smitten. 

Until the honeymoon period fades. Then, you begin to see the person in front of you more clearly, and to question whether nice shoulders can outweigh their bewildering approach to personal finance, or housekeeping, or their relationship with their mother. You begin to wish the dog would just shut up. 

At this stage, many couples arrive in marriage counseling or couples therapy, at war with each other and harboring doubts that they’re fundamentally compatible. If basic things are feeling hard, are they in the right relationship? Is their partner really “The One?”

Sometimes, the answer is no. But much more often, the couple is as “right” for each other as anyone else, and the discomfort they’re feeling is the seed of growth. They have woken up from the fever dream of infatuation and arrived on the threshold of a stronger, deeper, and more functional partnership — and they can move into it together by learning to accept their differences and harness the unique strengths they each bring to the table. 

In this article, I’m going to tell you how to do that. You’ll learn what really makes a couple compatible, and how you can use your differences to build a stronger relationship. I’ve also recorded an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast on this topic. You can tune in on this page, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. 

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Personality Type Compatibility in Relationships

Too often, we think about compatibility in relationships in terms of “sameness.” But the strongest relationships are between people who know how to make good use of their complementary differences, which admittedly is easier said than done. Couples who have major irreconcilable differences often get caught up in power struggles over whose way of being is “right.” One partner is messy, the other is a neat freak. One is a saver, the other is a spender. One wants to party every weekend, the other wants to merge with the sofa. The question becomes, who will get their way? 

But rather than getting locked into neverending conflict about who needs to change, they could learn to appreciate each other and allow themselves to be pulled slightly toward the center, and become a more well-rounded unit as a result. 

This would ultimately be good for the relationship, and for both of the people in it; we get into trouble when we go to the extremes of our personalities. Partnering with someone who is different from you will tamp down your excesses, and help you lead a more balanced, happy, healthy life

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Shared Interests vs. Compatibility

People who are dating often search for someone who shares a lot of their interests. This makes sense — having things in common gives you something to talk about, and something to do together. But liking dogs, or tennis, or beach vacations is not actually a signal that you’re compatible on a deep level. Neither are similar political or religious views. These labels can be points of connection, but they don’t actually tell us much about who a person is at their core. 

Our interests and worldviews change over time, while our deeper personality traits remain relatively stable. Fifteen years from now, it won’t matter whether your partner still enjoys rock climbing, but it will matter how well they attune to other people’s feelings, or follow through on what they say they’re going to do, or consider the long-term impacts of their actions. 

Focus on deeper personality traits while you’re dating, and you’re more likely to find a match that fits you where it matters most. 

What Personality Types are Compatible? 

If you’re wondering which personality types make a good match, you may be disappointed to learn that there’s no definitive answer. Compatibility is more about what you do in your relationship, and less about who you are. 

If you can accept, appreciate, and grow into your differences, you can create a compatible pairing with your partner. 

Here are a few examples:  

Introverts and Extroverts

When an introvert and an extrovert get together, it can be rough. An extremely extroverted partner will want to spend every evening out with a crowd, while an extremely introverted partner will look for any excuse to stay home. They can get pretty frustrated with each other, and they may even call it quits in the relationship over this difference. 

But something beautiful happens when an introvert and an extrovert allow themselves to grow toward each other. 

The extrovert, who may be used to distributing their energy among a large number of people they don’t know very well, will be forced to go deeper into the pool of a single relationship. They’ll become more introspective, and have a greater tolerance for calm. Their capacity for emotional intimacy will expand. 

Meanwhile, the introvert will be forced out of their comfort zone from time to time. They’ll go to parties that they would have skipped if it wasn’t for their partner, and over time, they’ll feel more at-ease socially. Their number of friends and acquaintances will grow, and their life will be richer for it. 

Spending vs. Saving

We all carry different attitudes about money into our relationships, and many marriages have fallen apart over financial problems

But when a spender partners up with a saver, it doesn’t have to be a disaster. The thrifty partner can learn to loosen up a bit and enjoy the money they work so hard to earn. The spender can adopt some of their partner’s healthy financial habits, like keeping a budget and putting money away for retirement. 

As long as they are having open, honest, ongoing conversations about money and the role it’s playing in their relationship, they can find a middle ground that allows them both to live more prosperous lives than they otherwise would. 

Compatible Parenting

It’s hard for one person to fulfill every need that children have. When you partner with someone who has a different parenting style than you, that can help your children get everything they need — if you and your partner can avoid tearing each other apart over your differences. 

For example, kids need structure, rules, and consequences, but they also need grace, patience, and freedom. When someone who leans more authoritative in their parenting style partners with someone who leans more permissive, they can make decisions together about when to use each approach, and give their kids a more well-rounded upbringing as a result. 

Many couples find this hard, but working with a parenting coach can help you and your partner learn to appreciate that both styles have merit, and that allowing yourselves to be pulled toward each other is in your children’s best interest. Going to either extreme would be a mistake, but helping each other find a healthy balance can be an incredible gift to your children. 

Personality Type Compatibility: Ps Vs. Js

A major difference that couples run into is one that you likely would never consider at the start of a relationship. That’s the difference between “perceivers” and “judgers” (aka Ps and Js) on the Meyers-Briggs personality inventory. 

A perceiver is a go-with-the-flow type, who likes to remain open to new information and experiences, and doesn’t enjoy closing off options or making definitive plans. Ps tend to be very rooted in the present moment, which helps them be flexible, adaptable, and spontaneous. They have a deep appreciation for complexity, and they don’t feel a need to categorize things in black-and-white terms. They may have trouble with commitment and planning for the future. 

The term “judgers” here is not a synonym for judgmental. Instead, Js are people who like order and the feeling that things are settled and decided. They like to categorize the external world and make firm plans for the future, which gives them a sense of control. They can sometimes be all-or-nothing thinkers, and they can experience a lot of distress when things are up in the air or don’t go as planned. 

Both of these types exist on a spectrum. Everyone does some “perceiving” and some “judging” every day. But when someone with a strong P orientation partners with someone with a strong J orientation (which often happens — they both see in each other a way of being that they’d like to embody), power struggles can result. 

The J will try to impose more order and structure over their shared life than the P is comfortable with. They may plan a vacation six months in advance, and then feel frustrated when their P partner tries to radically revise those plans 48 hours before the plane boards (after giving it zero thought up until that moment). The P will wish their partner could relax and stop being so uptight, and they may feel a bit infantilized, as if they have a manager rather than a partner. 

But, if they can learn to understand, accept, and leverage each other’s unique strengths for the benefit of the relationship, Ps and Js can make an incredibly compatible pairing. For example, Js can run the family calendar, and create a structure in their shared life that the P would never have on their own. Meanwhile, Ps can use their go-with-the-flow superpower to adeptly handle all of the unexpected curveballs that life throws at them. Ran out of ice in the middle of the dinner party? No problem. Just found out your kid needs an owl costume for the school play…tomorrow? P will grab their glue gun and some feathers and handle it, without a lot of stress. 

And being around someone with an easygoing inner narrative can offer huge benefits to a J. We attune to our partners not only emotionally but also physiologically. Being around a calm person can literally slow your breathing and your heart rate, which can counteract the negative health impacts of a J’s stress

Compatible Personality Types

If you’re looking for someone you’ll be compatible with, or questioning whether you and your partner are really a good fit, remember that compatibility isn’t about how alike you are. By embracing the strengths that come along with your partner’s unique personality (and your own), you can create a well-rounded unit together that helps you take on the world.

Show Notes

[1:03] How to Know if You Are Compatible in a Relationship

  • Couples often think differences create relationship problems. However, compatibility isn’t about being alike.
  • A healthy relationship is about appreciating your partner for who they are and what they bring to the table, not about finding someone who is exactly like you.

[6:48] What Makes a Compatible Relationship

  • Anxiety over compatibility can last until marriage.
  • When you’re dating or in the early stages of a relationship, it’s easy to get a false sense of security because you have common interests and worldviews with your partner.
  • These initial similarities can change over time in a long-term relationship, so focus on deeper connections rather than labels. 

[14:07] Compatibility of Personality Types

  • Instead of focusing solely on your relationship’s similarities, look for complementary differences.
  • The introversion/extraversion continuum is one example of a compatible pairing. 

[23:41] Myers-Briggs Personality Compatibility

  • Perceivers and Judgers on the Myers-Brigg Personality Test can create a compatible pairing. 
  • They can balance each other out and bring out the best in each other.
  • It’s not about forcing or changing your partner to be more like you; it’s about putting your strength into the relationship so that both parties benefit.

[49:36] Resolving Conflicts in Your Relationship

  • If you’re having trouble resolving compatibility issues and recognizing differences on your own, consult a licensed marriage counselor or therapist or even a relationship coach who specializes in the subject.
  • A counselor, therapist, or coach can provide a safe environment for you to discuss your relationship’s problems without getting into an argument.

Music in this episode is by Night Beats with their song “Right-Wrong”. You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to if further questions are prompted.

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Personality Type Compatibility in Relationships

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Free, Expert Advice — For You.

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Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to the Love, Happiness and Success podcast. On today’s show, we’re talking about personality types and compatibility in relationships, and why true compatibility might mean something different than you have been conditioned to believe that it does. We’re going to be talking about how to create harmony, alignment, and appreciation in your relationships, not in spite of your differences, but because of them. 

I’m so pleased to introduce you to my new favorite band. I cannot get enough of Night Beats. This song, Right / Wrong, I chose because it relates to our topic about compatibility, but they have so much good stuff. Check them out: They have upcoming tour dates, albums, all kinds of good stuff—Night Beats. 

So let’s talk about personality type compatibility in relationships and why it is so important to address this topic directly before it starts to cause trouble in your relationship. When couples start to run into trouble, or if relationships feel difficult, many people are quick to go to the idea that it is a problem having to do with compatibility.

“If we were more alike, if we were more on the same page, if we had a more similar worldview, our relationship would feel easier.” Sometimes that’s true, right? Some chasms are wider than others. But at the same time, having a healthy relationship is not about finding somebody who’s just like you. It’s about knowing how to build bridges to the center and how to appreciate the partner that you have for who and what they are.

It is also true that compatibility, again, is not about sameness. It is about happy and beneficial differences. Believe it or not, the strongest relationships are often not between two people who are very similar. It’s people who have compatible strengths, different strengths. 

Maybe you’re good at one thing, your partner is good at another, and between the two of you, if you appreciate each other and make space for each other’s differences, you can bring out the best in both of you to create a really amazing partnership.

That’s what we’re going to be talking about on today’s show, not just about compatibility, although we’ll be talking about that as well. But how you can really understand some of these relationship differences and harness them for a stronger and more satisfying partnership. 

Thank you very much for listening today. I’m Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. If you are a longtime listener of the show, you’ll know that I’m often tackling tough relationship questions on this podcast. I’m a marriage and family therapist, among other things, and so I really love creating podcasts that offer hopefully helpful relationship advice, so that you can cultivate healthier and stronger relationships in your life.

I often invite listeners to ask me questions about their relationship issues or things that they’d like a little bit of insight into. Thank you, first of all, if you’re one of the many who’s gotten in touch lately, through Facebook, Instagram: @drlisamariebobby. You can track me down on my website, Send an email. We still do that: if you want to reach out directly. 

But so many of the times when I get these relationship questions, particularly when people have been struggling for a while in their relationship, it really starts to boil down to, “Are we fundamentally compatible? What’s happening right now, Dr. Lisa, does not feel good. I feel like the way we are interacting with each other currently is not sustainable for me or for us.”

Often it is, “Can I get my partner to change? Can I change enough in order to be a good partner for them? Because it seems like they want something or somebody so different than who I fundamentally am.” While, certainly, a lot of what we do in high-quality, evidence-based couples counseling, marriage counseling is exploring opportunities to modify the way you’re doing things in order to get better results in your relationship.

Over the years, I have been humbled so many times because, often, the best and most successful marriage counseling, and couples therapy, and relationship coaching outcomes are not necessarily around getting either person to be substantially different. Yes, we can absolutely use skills and strategies in order to help each other feel more love and respect—very worth doing.

But when relationships truly and fundamentally change, when the relationship changes, it’s often much less about either person changing in terms of who they are and how they operate. The fundamental change truly often comes from helping people understand and appreciate their complementary strengths. So that what had been a point of annoyance or conflict in a relationship doesn’t necessarily change what was happening.

But the way that people view it and experience it and respond to it, is transformed into being a positive thing that is valued, as opposed to a negative thing that we’re going to have fights about. This often requires diving into different aspects of compatibility—fundamental compatibility—to understand how people can almost, like, create puzzle pieces that fit together beautifully and kind of become a harmonious whole, as opposed to being in a wrestling match around whose way is right, and who should be more like who and less like the other. 

That’s what we’re gonna dive into today. First of all, I always find it so interesting, the degree to which I think people will look for signs of compatibility in quite honestly the wrong places, right? I mean, and I know that we’re all vulnerable to doing this. But there’s, like, astrology or personality quizzes or palm readers, like all kinds of things. I think good and no judgment about people who are trying to seek kind of confirmation in those areas.

I think that’s just the simple fact that they are, speaks to this real anxiety that we so often have around, “Is this person the one? Is this the right person for me?” Certainly, this is very present for people who might be dating or an early stage relationships trying to evaluate a new partner. But I have to tell you, this anxiety also comes up again, further down the line, after people are partnered, after they’re married, right?

Maybe things aren’t as blissful and easy as they were in the early days. It turns into, “Oh, no. Why doesn’t this feel difficult? Is this something that can be resolved? Because it feels like we’re just in this gridlock; feels like we just totally want different things.” Again, it can easily transform into this very, very real anxiety around, “Maybe we’re just not right for each other. Maybe we’re too different. Maybe we’re too far apart in terms of the things that we want in life.”

That can be true. I have certainly encountered couples who are on very different ends of the spectrum in terms of their values and their life goals. That again, there’s always a middle path. I mean, almost always, you can’t have one baby, or I mean, point five babies, right? You have to, it’s either, It’s a binary kind of thing. 

But with pretty much everything else, when there is the desire to help your partner feel loved and appreciated and understood and that their needs and values are important to you, too, there are always things that you can do to create that shared meaning and shared value in the center. 

It starts by understanding people’s differences as strengths. That’s what I think of when I think of compatibility. Again, people can get into labels as indicators of compatibility, right? Similar interests, we like the same music, we enjoy doing the same things for fun, we agree politically, maybe with the same religion, etc. It’s so interesting, too. 

While some of those things can broadly be indicators of, like, wide ranging values, for example, people with a similar religious orientation may have some values in common, but what is so interesting to me is that when you dig beneath the surface of even things like religion, politics, different orientations to things, similar interests, there is such a wide variety of difference kind of underneath those big categories. It’s really not even helpful, in my opinion, to look at some of those “similarities” as points of connection, especially in relationships.

I’ll just share that as a tip for people who might be dating. It’s really easy to go through a dating profile and see if that person checks your boxes, right? Maybe they mentioned they are a dog person and not a cat person, and you think, “Check you there.” They mentioned a particular political affiliation or philosophy or a religion. It’s very easy to assume that if this person is mentioning those things that are important to you, “Well, then that must be that we have many similarities in these areas.”

What that does is that if you are looking for people who are mentioning these things specifically, and kind of making the assumption that there is compatibility and common values because of those labels. Sometimes it’s true, certainly. But you may also find that when you dig under the surface, you’re actually interacting with somebody who is quite different from you in pretty fundamental ways. 

You may have missed the opportunity to connect with somebody who is really much more compatible with you, even if their labels may be different, right?  The things that make people truly compatible are often more around personality, and kind of cognitive orientations, believe it or not. Because here’s the other thing, when you get stuck on labels, and I think this is very true for people in long-term relationships. 

I mean, even I’m an example, right? When my husband and I first got married so long ago, we had these things in common. We were compatible, and it was shared interests and worldviews and all these things. I feel that we’re still very compatible, but it has been interesting as an observer in my own life, as well as a marriage counselor and other people’s lives that it’s the things that we want to hang our hats on at an earlier stage of our lifewe get our 20sthat can be very, very different and change so much over the span of decades. 

Again, not get too caught up in these superficial trappings of what you think it means to be compatible, because you might find, well, newsflash, you will find that if you’re in a long-term relationship that lasts more than, gosh, five years, much less a decade or two, that you are going to be living with somebody who is very, very different than the person you originally connected with or got married to. 

The points of connection and your relationship will also have evolved, but that your ideas about compatibility need to go much deeper. For example, when my husband and I connected, he was super into snowboarding, and so we would go snowboarding together. That was, like, something that we really enjoyed. I still enjoy going snowboarding. Now, sometimes I have to do that with other people because he’s not as into it anymore, and it’s fine.

He’s just—his interests have evolved. He’s into other things. But if I was making a—sticking a claim on the fact that we were both outdoor enthusiasts and had shared interests in terms of what we do for fun, that starts to wear thin by about year 15. So just keep that in mind. Then, what is real compatibility then, right?

If we’re thinking about things that are points of compatibility for people, we need, again, to move away from similarities and more to complementary differences. A great example of this that I think we can all relate to some degree is the concept of introversion and extraversion, right? 

We all fall somewhere on that spectrum. I’m a solid center introvert, right? What that means is that I come to limits when it comes to spending time around other humans, and I need to go read a book or sit by myself and not talk to people. 

People who have a high extraversion tendency really feel energized when they are around other people. They like talking to people. They like bopping around and doing things, and they have an active social life. A point of contention for many a couple has been relative to that introversion/extroversion kind of continuum.

The extrovert is like, “Why are you so boring? Let’s go do something. Hey, these people want us to come over and visit, let’s go.” And the introverted partner is like, “Oh, please. That sounds like the third ring of hell, alright?” Just doesn’t enjoy social situations in the same way. Of course, you can see how this could, like, easily disintegrate into conflicts between a couple, right? 

Where people are criticizing each other and making value statements around whose way of being is right and all of this. But when you can actually have productive conversations where each person is supported and talking about what it means to them, either to have deeper, fewer more intimate connections and more solitude to have a relationship with yourself, right? Versus an extroverted orientation, which is social. 

It’s connections; it’s talking to people; it’s being with people. When people are assisted and really understanding those points of view, and respecting them, and seeing the value in each of them, what can begin to happen is that a couple can start to build a relationship that takes the best of, and is kind of intentionally building a life together that incorporates the best of both worlds, and moves into a space where they are now allowing themselves to be grown by each other. 

For example, somebody with fairly strong extroverted tendencies tends—and this is a generalization—but they tend to have to enjoy many relationships. They like chatting people up and telling anecdotes and stories and laughing and small talk and all that. The risk there—while it’s fun, and they know a lot of people and everybody’s buddy—the risk is ultimately having shallower, less intimate relationships. That starts to feel hollow for people after a while. 

For an introvert to partner with an extrovert, it creates balance in that relationship where the introverted partner is creating kind of a reason to not do quite as much. “Actually, let’s stay home. Let’s talk to each other rather than go to a party with 27 other people, half of whom we don’t even like that much.” Right?

The introverted partner’s kind of drawing a naturally extroverted person kind of deeper into the pool of emotional intimacy, connection, deeper conversations that are not just satisfying and helpful for the introverted partner, but really allow that extroverted partner the opportunity to have some quiet time, reflect on how they feel, invest in more emotionally intimate relationships with fewer people than they might naturally do on their own. 

By being able to view it this way, an extroverted partner can over time come to really value the impact that their more introverted partner has on their life instead of struggling against it. Like, “Let me tell you about all the reasons why you’re wrong.” It’s like, “You know what, this is helping me actually grow in ways that I wouldn’t have grown had I not had you in my life.”

Of course, the opposite is very much true for an introverted partner to be with somebody who is more extroverted on that spectrum, they’re going more places than they probably would; they’re talking to more people; they’re making more friends; and they will also benefit because of it. A hardcore introvert has lots of reasons to not want to do stuff, and to want to stay home and actually,”No, I don’t feel like going and talking to people.”

While there can be a lot of benefit in that: solitude, reflection, quiet time, we also know that people tend to, over a lifespan, ultimately be healthier and happier when they have a strong community support system. When you are partnered with somebody who helps you get out the door and go talk to other humans, you will benefit because of having that energy in your life. You have somebody helping pull you towards the center when it comes to that. It’s really positive. 

Yes, you might still be at the party talking to one person for 45 minutes. But that is a person that you probably wouldn’t have talked to at all, had your extroverted partner not, basically, kidnapped you and pushed you in the car and driven you to the party. It’s really about understanding how those things can go together and appreciating them—appreciating the energy that we wouldn’t have in our life. 

Otherwise, same is very true of pretty much anything that a couple can become polarized around. Spending versus saving is something that we’ve talked about on the show in the past—topics of money and marriage, and financial counseling for couples. When people are kind of bringing each other to the center, that’s usually a positive thing. When people get in trouble with pretty much everything is when they tend to take it to extremes.

They go to the far end of the spectrum on one side or the other. That is where weird things start to happen is when we overdo it. When you are partnering with somebody who’s kind of bringing you back to the center, or helping you create balance around whatever that thing is that you may become naturally sort of polarized towards, ultimately, that’s going to be a positive thing, because it’s going to help you grow if you allow it.

It is very easy to turn this into conflict and fights with your partner and try to drag them back over to your side. But I have infrequently seen value around doing so if it is something that is fundamentally positive, positive energy in life. Parenting, that’s something that certainly exists on a continuum. Again, the spectrum, the far ends, is no good in either direction.

You can certainly be checked out and permissive to the point where it is really bordering on neglect and indulgence. That is not good for children. Kids need to have warm, loving relationships with parents and also some expectations that they can rise to meet, right? Being too far on the anything goes or certainly neglectful end of the spectrum isn’t good for anyone. 

But on the other end of this to have an authoritarian kind of home, where it’s all about the rules. “You will do what I say,” and structure, and law and order. Everything is micromanaged to the point where children aren’t allowed to grow or make mistakes or, God forbid, experience unconditional love, even if they do—aren’t performing perfectly. Like, that’s not good for anybody either. 

Again, it’s so easy for parents to fight tooth and nail about how we’re treating the children and whose way is right, “You’re too permissive,” and, “You’re too harsh.” Again, to be able to recognize the value that each partner is bringing to the situation and how we use those differences to create balance for our children, for our family. Yes, they do need warmth and nurturance and compassion and understanding. 

They also do need some boundaries, some guidance, some consequences if they’re really getting too far out of line, so that we can guide them and teach them and help them develop their own sense of right and wrong and competence in the safe space of our family, as opposed to figuring all this crap out for the first time once they stumble out the door and into college, assuming that they get into college if they’ve been raised in an exceptionally permissive home. 

Anyway, all good things. I did also want to talk about another area of compatibility in relationships that I don’t think is discussed often and not—enough, rather. I think that it can, more than almost anything else I’ve seen, create very real relationship issues if people don’t understand the reason for these differences. That is related to something that I call Ps versus Js. 

If I were to give any one of you a Myers-Briggs Personality Test, which is kind of the pop psych version of this, there are a number of different qualities that are kind of measured on a continuum. But I feel like one of the most important, with the exception of introversion and extraversion, in terms of the dimensions that it assesses, is one around a perceiver versus a judger. Other personality assessments attempt to measure this in different ways. 

If you look at the Big Five, like, psychological assessments, there’s conscientiousness sort of continuum, and I think perceivers versus judges on the Myers-Briggs kind of taps into it. But speaking broadly, people who are high on the perceiving end of the continuum, they are open; they’re flexible; they don’t really have the high need to have things settled and decided. They can go with the flow; they can be spontaneous; they can be adaptable. 

On the other side of that, people with a very strong and perceiver orientation, can sometimes feel a little anxious or uncomfortable about being locked in to like really firm plans. Because in their mind is like, “Well, what? I don’t know how I’m gonna feel three weeks from now. You want me to commit to that.” So committing can be a deal. Making plans can be a deal, and they have a much more kind of, “Let’s see how I feel today,” kind of orientation to life. 

This can be a really positive thing in terms of psychological flexibility, adaptability. Again, they’re resilient; they’re responsive; and it’s whatever’s happening in the moment. That’s usually okay, and if it’s not okay, we’ll deal with it when we need to deal with it. It’s a very kind of present moment, flexible, open orientation. I think that sometimes it shows up in a number of different situations. Certainly, planning in advance can come up for people with a perceiving orientation. 

But there’s also actually a high degree of psychological flexibility with this personality orientation, in that people with a high perceiver orientation have a deep appreciation for the fact that there is very seldom black and white answers to things. There is instead, many, many, many shades of gray. That everything complex in this world is multidimensional. It has many different facets. 

Different things can be true that are in complete opposition, but they’re also still true depending on your viewpoint, right? When it comes to a perceiving orientation to the world, this flexibility can extend into open-mindedness, tolerance, being able to see things from multiple points of view, being able to hold sort of mutually exclusive ideas in your mind at the same time, and that maybe several things are all true, and really not having to not feeling a need to kind of categorize and like, “This is the answer.”

It’s just not something that people with a high P orientation have. In contrast, on the other end of the spectrum, is what the Myers-Briggs refers to as a judger orientation, not in the sense of judgmental, but I think in the sense of, like, decisiveness. Again, you can find this on the conscientiousness scale of the Big Five. These are people who are very thoughtful. They plan things in advance. They tend to appreciate order in their lives—routines can be important. 

They have their vacation plans locked in six months from now, if they’re on the high side. They, psychologically and mentally, really want to know what is going to happen next. Even if it’s not making a plan, like a plan to do something, “We have scheduled the hotel,” it’s really thinking a lot about the future, and possible problems and actions they can take now to create good outcomes for themselves in the future.

This is a very positive thing, conscientious, thoughtful, thinking about things in advance is often useful. They will often have long-range plans that can turn into things like saving money, or you’re working towards long-term goals, which is very positive. Though psychologically speaking, and this can also be very positive, but psychologically speaking, people with a high judger orientation, they tend to categorize different things. 

They compartmentalize things. They sort of evaluate it, and like, they will often have a strong sense around what is good and what is valued. What is something to strive for versus something that goes in a different category. “This is something negative. This is something I want to stay away from.” It can in extreme versions kind of lead to this black white worldview. It can turn into some all-or-nothing thinking. 

Like, if somebody does this thing, they’re more likely to globally kind of have a negative impression of them, as opposed to the idea that it can be a fundamentally decent human. Why has this person engaged in a behavior as opposed to, like, focusing on the behavior itself, and kind of turning it into a right/wrong, good/bad, black/white kind of generalization stance. 

There are always—there’s always a spectrum. Some people are more towards the high side of this continuum than others. I think most of us are probably somewhere in the middle, but we tend to trend in one direction or the other. It is really important to be aware of this difference, in particular, when it comes to personality compatibility in relationships.

Because, remember, at the beginning of our conversation, where we were talking about how those broad kind of labels can create a false feeling of security. Sometimes, when people are like, “Oh, we’re the same political orientation or the same religious orientation. We both like dogs.” You can find card-carrying Ps and Js under the big top of any of these things. 

What happens to couples and relationships is that they can look at the big picture stuff—our values, the things we want out of life are generally in alignment—and miss the fact that they may have very real and pronounced differences in this P versus J continuum, in terms of their personality, in terms of their psychological flexibility, versus a tendency towards rigidity. 

In the way they orient themselves to the world in terms of how much they need to think in advance and have things decided, versus how much they value openness and spontaneity and flexibility. I cannot tell you how many couples I have sat with in my years as a marriage counselor, who have gotten into very, very nasty and angry, truly like, power struggles around who is right and who is wrong when it comes to this orientation in particular. 

You can apply this difference to literally everything that you can think about in a relationship, from the way we parent to the way we handle money to the way we do things with our social lives with our work to housekeeping. The J wants a plan; wants to know that things are going to be done. If they’re not done, and when we’re breaking the plan, it causes a great deal of anxiety and stress. 

The person on the other side of that is like, “Why is this such a big deal? Why do we have to know what we’re doing two weeks from now? Why can’t we wake up on Saturday morning and decide then?” Right? And have much less rigidity around things being done a certain way or planning in advance. 

I really, really wanted to talk about this because many times when couples come into marriage counseling and they’re all twitterpated about “our compatibility,” it is ultimately about this difference, “We’re just fundamentally incompatible. We just see the world so differently. Our way of being is so opposite.” Right? 

What happens is that they cannot see how to possibly come back to the center. Because here’s the secret: they both are so, so firmly convinced that their way of being is the right way of being, and if only their partner was more like them, then, we would be so much happier. So the work here is not getting either of you to change.

It is not getting the perceiver to be more planning and think putting things in boxes, because, like, even if you did make plans cognitively, that’s just not who you are. It isn’t who you’ll ever be. It’s not you, right? 

Then, on the other side, for the person who has that more of a judger orientation, you might want to go with the flow and be spontaneous and sort of be open-ended and flexible and see all the gray and the light and dark and all things, and naturally it is just it goes against your grain to be that way. Your brain doesn’t work that way. 

When you try to make your brain work that way, and it often creates a lot of anxiety and tension for you. It doesn’t feel liberating. It doesn’t feel relaxed. It feels stressful. We don’t want to put you in a situation where you are stressed and unhappy either. 

What can happen and here that is so, so beautiful is to be able to unpack these differences with your partner in a series of honest and authentic and emotionally safe and emotionally intimate conversations, where you’re each able to make space for each other’s truth without getting reactive; without getting triggered; and give each other time and space to be talking about what feels real and true for you. 

It is difficult sometimes to get on your partner’s side of the table and really view the world through their eyes. But so many magical things can happen in a relationship where you’re able to do that. Couples who are able to successfully do this work together, are not going to change each other. 

There may be some points of compromise, for example, to be able to say, “I know that my partner gets stressed when we don’t have the summer camp thing all dialed in. It’s March because they’re worried about what are we going to be doing with the kids in July. Okay.” It may be that you have to participate in more of those conversations in advance than you would naturally want to, and that’s a growth moment for you. 

On the other side, there can certainly be opportunities for people that are hardcore Js to be able to be more spontaneous, to be flexible, to have open-ended plans, and experience the fact that it usually is okay, even if it turns out to be different than what you thought it was going to be. It’s alright, you still had a nice time. That can be a really positive and important growth moment for you, too. 

If you let your P partner take you by the hand into an uncertain reality and experience the fact that it all is okay, generally speaking, in the end, so those are both wonderful. But the real strength of these relationships is by allowing each other the opportunity to actualize these strengths in the partnership, and for the benefit of the partnership in a way that really helps both of you. 

For example, sometimes people who have a strong J orientation can feel a lot of stress and anxiety. They feel like they have to have things settled. They need to have plans. They need to know what’s happening. Things have to feel under control—”These are the right ways to do things.” If this isn’t happening, and then that can feel very uncomfortable for them. 

So where a P partner can really be so helpful to you, and really such a gift—such a gift—is the, I think, level of emotional connection that a P partner can offer you is different than you might have if you are partnered with somebody who was a lot more like you in that J end of the continuum. 

Because the P person isn’t going to try to fix you. They’re not going to rush to solve the problems and say, “Okay. Here’s what we’re going to do instead.” That P will have a lot more tolerance for the emotional ambiguity, the shades of gray, the fact that you can have feelings that they’re like, “Yeah, I can understand how you would feel that way. It’s different from how I feel, but I understand what you’re saying.” Right?

Also, I think, to be able to—because Ps are usually much calmer in terms of that stress and anxiety level than the Js are. The other thing that happens in intimate relationships between two partners is also the same thing that you see happening with parents and very young children, is that we actually, believe it or not, borrow each other’s nervous systems. 

I know that sounds crazy, but when you are physically in proximity of somebody whose heart rate is lower than yours; who is relaxed physiologically; who’s breathing slowly; that they’re okay, you will automatically attune to their physiological state. That is just a biological process. It’s not something that we make happen. 

Why this can be so good for a J partner is that your natural tendency is to get really wound up and like, “Oh, This. This. This,” and like thinking all these things out to the future, and to be partnered with a J or P, rather, who’s like, “It’s alright. It’s gonna be alright, and it doesn’t actually matter. It’s gonna be alright either way.” 

Not only can hearing that, their inner voice, their inner narrative sometimes help calm you down, and get you out of that, like, need to the future orientation that can create so much anxiety. But even just physiologically, to be in the presence of somebody who’s much more relaxed than you; are able to go with the flow, it kind of rubs off on you. It’s a positive thing to move a little bit more towards the center. 

Yes, you will still want to make plans. You will still want to make lists. You will still want to know what’s happening. But to be partnered with a P and allowing them to have some influence in your life, and to help you calm down, we’ll help you stay more in the center of flexibility. You’ll be probably more emotionally okay as a result. 

On the other side of this P person, I mean, it can be easy to get annoyed with the J trying to—chasing you around with a calendar, and “What are we going to do?” And wanting you to participate in decision-making and list-making and the doing of the things and all of that. Even though it is not your natural tendency, I think it would be difficult to argue with the idea that to have some of that kind of planning and thoughtfulness in your life is generally a positive thing.

Yes, it is good to be flexible and to be spontaneous and to see many options and to keep your mind open. Nobody is arguing with that. But when it comes to actually getting things done, at some point, somebody does need to make a decision, and then do something most of the time in order to actualize that good intention. 

What can happen with P people who are just sort of living free, is that because you don’t plan in advance, you actually can’t go camping because you can’t get a camping reservation. By the time you get around to signing your kids up for the summer camp, “Oh, they’re actually all closed,” and now they’re on a waiting list. You miss opportunities. If you don’t make plans, you don’t do things that you would have wanted to do, right? 

Showing up at a place and being like, “Oh, if only I had thought to bring this piece of equipment,” or, “You know what, we could have done this thing.” To really allow your J partner to initiate conversations around, “What are we going to do?”—making plans, making decisions, talking through things, and to be able to evaluate pros and cons. 

Even though it might not feel natural to you to say, “All things considered, this is probably the best direction for us.” You might be willing to stay in that middle space forever. But to practice being able to make a decision, and then turn that decision into a series of actions that lead to your desired outcome at some point in the future is a very positive and useful life skill. 

That may not be totally natural; it may not be totally comfortable, but to be partnered with a J who wants to do that is going to help you come into the center, and your life will benefit for it. Some of these are conversations and things that you can do together and kind of allowing yourselves to be pulled towards the center by each other, right? Allowing influence from your partner. 

But this can also be a really beautiful thing where you make space in your life for each person to almost have, like, spheres of responsibility that are in alignment with their core strengths. While a J partner might really want to have a series of discussions, where we talk about the pros and cons, what we’re doing this summer, and making all the plans and like, “Okay, you do this, and I’m going to do that. We’re going to stuff up the calendar,” like want to have unity in that area.

What may actually be true and more functional for a couple with a J and if P is for the J person to go ahead, and maybe the P can have some input to the degree that they’re comfortable. But if it’s also true that a P doesn’t really have that strong of opinions around what they do or where they end up or where they do it. J you can go ahead and make those decisions for the both of you and tell your partner what time to show up and what to wear. 

They’ll be there, and it’s all going to be alright. Yeah. To have that liberty, that freedom to go ahead and do the things that you want to do. If it is an understanding with your partner, that is kind of your superpower in this relationship, and if they’re not participating actively in that with you, they are essentially giving consent for “Okay, I might end up in the middle of Nevada and all right.”

On the other side of this, I think that the P partner can really shine when it comes to dealing with unexpected things. A J person often kind of freezes or feels very anxious or can get very upset when things don’t go according to plan. Where a P person shines is being able to show up in the moment no matter what’s happening, and be able to deal with it without having to think about it in advance. 

With being able to stay relatively calm, and usually in those moments, being able to make excellent decisions. Because they are able to act in the moment quickly without having to think about it for three days, right? Like, “Here’s what we need to do, and I’m going to do it.” While the future planning and taking actions for future events aren’t as natural or easy for Ps, they’re incredibly flexible and effective and take fast action in the moment, and it is a gift. 

For a J person to be able to really appreciate this innate wisdom and the ability to kind of just do things on the fly and have things work out with a P; to be partnered with a P can help you just withstand the ups and downs of life and not have to feel like you need to control everything in advance. Because, usually, you don’t. 

For the P person, for your domain of responsibility to be kind of the catcher for all the things that come up in the moment that maybe nobody anticipated, but that have to be dealt with, you can change on the fly. It’s no big deal either way. If that’s kind of your job in the relationship is the flexible person who does whatever needs to be done in the moment, “Oh, we have a flat tire. I’ll take care of it.”

“Oh, the kids need to be picked up early. Oh, we’re out of milk,” whatever it is, to have gratitude and appreciation for your ability to do that, and typically stay calm in the process. When that gift is recognized as the strength it is, is just so hugely important. I know, over the last couple of years, everything created—related, rather, I should say, to the whole COVID pandemic experience, it was awful. I mean, who’s kidding for many of us. 

But I tell you what, P people who had more of a P orientation and who are able to kind of “Welp, okay. I guess everything shut down, and we’re gonna stay in our house for the next two months or whatever,” were typically able to stay much calmer and just kind of, like, ride the waves emotionally of who and what we needed to be in those moments. 

Whereas people who had a real need to, like, know what was going to happen next and to have these things worked out had a ton of anxiety because so much of it was unknown. People who were in relationships, where they had a recognition and appreciation for their compatible strengths, their complementary strengths, and were able to kind of lean on each other, to bring that those strengths to the table in different ways, were the ones who really, really prospered and got through it. 

Okay. You can do this, too. I hope that this discussion has helped you maybe think about some things in your relationship that you had been feeling annoyed about or even worried about. Like, “Are we really compatible?” to be able to think about these things in some different ways. I hope that you heard some things in here that maybe made you think about your partner’s orientation a little bit differently, and maybe a little bit more compassionately. 

I know that there are so many other points of potential conflict in a relationship besides the ones that I discussed today. Those points of conflict, if we kind of look at them, any of those things that people fight about are essentially a continuum. There is a polarization of one person is on this side, the other person is on that side—they want things to be their own way. That is why oftentimes, the conflict happens in the center is an effort to get somebody to change and be more like me. 

But when you can really crack into these things under the surface, to understand who your partner is, what they’re trying to do, the things that are important to them, more often than not, it really does make sense if you can stay calm and listen and appreciate the strengths and the values that your partner is sharing. 

I will say it can be difficult to do this if you have been in a gridlock situation where you’re fighting about the right way to be for a while, and particularly if it’s created a lot of negative emotions between you, there has been judgment or units turning into a negative story about who the other person is. It can be very easy to fall into an unproductive conflict that just disintegrates into who’s right and who’s wrong, right? We’ve all been there. I’ve done it too. 

If it is so hard to get on your partner’s side of the table, and really, genuinely try to understand what their strengths are in relation to yours, so the idea, “you have strengths, these strengths are different than mine. Because of that we’re fighting.”

If you can’t do that in your living room, that might be a really good opportunity to take this in front of a good couples counselor, marriage counselor, or I say this with a caveat, a relationship coach who has a legitimate background in couples and family therapy. Most don’t, like most therapists. 

But somebody who is able to essentially sit down with the both of you, and help hold the container, so that it is an emotionally safe conversation, you will not turn into fighting with each other about who’s right and who’s wrong. 

A really skilled counselor, I have to say, their strength is being able to see the noble intentions of each person, and to be able to see the underlying needs and strengths of each person, and almost be able to decode or translate them for each other.

That when you’re sitting with a really skilled couples counselor, they’re essentially modeling for you how to understand your partner in a more compassionate, and honestly, more productive way. So it stops turning into a fight about introverts and extroverts, and, “I want to go out, and you never want to go out,” and whose way of being is better, into a much deeper and more helpful conversation that allows you to understand each other. 

That gives you the opportunity to begin building bridges to the center, allowing yourselves each to take influence and grow and benefit because of that growth, but also making space for your partner to be more of what they are, as opposed to less of what they are—finding opportunities in your shared life together to unleash their superpowers on certain domains of your shared life for the benefit of both of you and for your family.

This may be a different conversation than the one that you were expecting when you first signed up to listen to a podcast about personality type compatibility in relationships. But I think it is the real one. I think that it’s—to me, it’s also a much more hopeful one, right? 

Because if we move away from this idea that certain personality types are just compatible and some aren’t, it gives you a lot more opportunity for movement and for relationship repair than just deciding that you’re too far apart. For two people who are both willing to grow and evolve and move towards the center and appreciate different strengths, there’s always opportunity for growth and healing. I hope that message resonated. 

Thank you so much for spending this time with me today on the podcast. It’s always a pleasure to visit with you and I will be back in touch with you next week with more love, happiness and success advice in your ear. In the meantime, please enjoy more Night Beats — I hope you check out their music, and spend the rest of your day listening to it. That is what I’m going to be doing. I’ll see you guys next time.

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