Relationships can bring out the best and worst in each personality type. As human beings, we fall in love and tend to show an idealized version of ourselves to our partners. Later on, as life normalizes and the sparks die down, we may find less pleasing aspects of our personality revealing themselves. Relationships provide immense opportunities for personal growth and self-awareness – they reveal some of our greatest strengths and most embarrassing weaknesses. Each Myers-Briggs personality type has some unique gifts to bring to a relationship. ENFJs, the type we’ll be discussing today, are known for their empathy, insightfulness, and strong leadership skills. These types are often called the “Givers,” and it’s really not hard to see why. But what mistakes do these types tend to make in relationships? What weaknesses can trip them up? That’s what we’ll be looking at today, as well as some ways to avoid these ENFJ relationship mistakes. Keep in mind, not every ENFJ will struggle with all three of these mistakes. There are a lot of variations within a type. But chances are if you’re an ENFJ, you’ve encountered one of these struggles at least once in a relationship.
#1 – Losing Yourself in the Relationship
ENFJs feel a strong sense of devotion to their partners. In relationships, it is common for ENFJs to become so fixated on their partner’s needs, desires, and problems, that they lose sight of themselves in the process. According to type expert Paul D. Tiger, founder of The New England Type Institute, ENFJs can wear themselves out trying to satisfy the people closest to them.
“Since harmony is so important to them (ENFJs) and being helpful is central to their natures, they often put their partners’ and families’ needs before their own. Ultimately, this can lead them to feeling unappreciated and exhausted.” – Paul D. Tieger, Just Your Type: Create the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted Using the Secrets of Personality Type
ENFJs are extremely tuned in to their partner’s emotional and physical needs. Why? Part of this has to do with their mental wiring. If you’re familiar with Personality Hacker’s car model you’ll remember that each of us has a “Driver” process. This process is our greatest natural talent and what gets us into a state of flow. For ENFJs, this “Driver” role is filled by a mental process called Extraverted Feeling, or “Harmony.” Harmony is the part of us that determines whether other people are getting their needs met. Harmony users are aware of group dynamics and how to organize situations so that people will get along and be happy. There’s much more to harmony than this, but this aspect can occasionally get ENFJs in trouble! While it’s vital for people in relationships to be giving and compassionate, ENFJs can overdo it and put themselves last in the process. Later on, this can lead to resentment, frustration, and burnout.
How to Avoid This Mistake:
Because ENFJs are wired to pick up on the feelings and emotions of the people around them, it’s important for them to get some time alone. It may seem counterintuitive, especially at the beginning of a relationship, but getting time away from a partner can be a very healthy thing for ENFJs. During alone time, ENFJs are able to tap into their own feelings, desires, perspectives, and long-term goals. They will naturally be more analytical about a relationship, where it’s going, and the long-term implications of decisions they’re making currently.
Another good thing for ENFJs to do is to remember their own hobbies and interests. If you enjoy reading poetry and your partner balks at the idea, don’t stop doing it! If you like Chinese food and your partner prefers burgers, don’t cater completely to their needs. Sure, making some compromises here and there can be good (don’t serenade your partner with poetry as he’s trying to study for a final), but don’t give up who you are. It’s healthy to have hobbies outside of each other as well as diverse tastes and interests.
Mistake #2 – Indirectness
As social chameleons, ENFJs can keep parts of themselves hidden in relationships. While at first glance they may appear open, exuberant, and revealing, they can be surprisingly private about some of their deeper hurts and struggles. If they feel like discussing their problems might disrupt harmony or cause others discomfort they can keep their true feelings to themselves. This isn’t to say that ENFJs aren’t expressive or authentic. They have very clear values and enjoy expressing their emotions and feelings readily on many occasions, but they struggle to do so when there’s a risk of conflict or hurt involved. They often need a lot of time to process hurts and decide whether their feelings even “make sense.” They may enlist the help of an uninvolved friend before they confront a partner about a problem, hoping to get clarity on whether or not their issue is worth bringing up. While being careful about the feelings of others is important in a relationship, ENFJs can take it too far and fail to bring up issues as they happen. Later on, this can lead to an explosion as built-up resentment, anger, and stifled emotions bubble over the surface. This can cause greater problems than would have resulted if they’d brought up each issue more immediately.
How to Avoid this Mistake:
Being direct can feel scary at first. It can feel like a risk; a risk of rejection or hurt for you or your partner. Hurt is one of the last things that ENFJs want to cause anyone to experience, especially someone they love. So let’s take a look at why it’s important to be direct:
- Directness makes you more honest in an immediate sense.
- Directness (done well) demonstrates respect for yourself and others.
- Directness saves yourself time and energy.
- Directness promotes intimacy.
Now by being direct, I’m not suggesting you tell your partner that their recent breakout makes you queasy. I’m asking you to stand up for yourself (and them) when it’s important to. Here are a few things to keep in mind that can help with being direct.
- Before speaking, ask yourself these questions first, “Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true?” This will help you to center yourself and remember what’s really important. Sometimes telling the blatant truth is the kindest thing to do for someone. If your partner is an alcoholic and you never say a word about it, that isn’t kindness. It’s important to remember that being kind isn’t always about making someone “feel good.”
- When you’re being direct, speak in terms of “I” rather than “you.” “You” sounds accusatory and naturally puts a partner on the defensive. Saying, “I feel hurt when you don’t spend time with me on your days off,” promotes discussion better than, “You never spend time with me on your days off!”
- Avoid using words like “always” and “never” as they are often generalizations and will make you appear less reasonable and more accusatory.
- Give yourself a priority in your life by saying “no” to things you don’t want to do or aren’t comfortable with.
Mistake #3 – Pushing too Hard
ENFJs see unique potential in the people around them and are gifted at propelling people towards that potential. However, sometimes this can come across as controlling or meddling to their partners or friends. As intuitives, ENFJs are always looking forward; “You could accomplish this someday!” “What are your goals for tomorrow?” “We have the potential to be ___.” All this looking towards tomorrow can make ENFJs unsatisfied with today. It can also leave partners’ feeling like they are never enough right now in the current moment. They may feel that they are always being “encouraged” to grow, change, develop, strive, or improve. While ENFJs rarely mean to make their partners feel less-than enough, their vision for the future can seem like a tall order for their loved ones. Wanting to improve is a good thing. Everyone should desire to improve. But having overly-idealistic standards or being so wrapped up in future potentialities that you miss what’s here now can be damaging.
How to Avoid this Mistake:
Pause for a moment several times a day and consider the positive things your partner has done for you or others. Acknowledge those things to them. This will make your partner feel loved and you will also feel happier the more you notice those positive qualities. Spending time in recreational activities with your partner is also a good way to stay present. Taking a walk, going to a new restaurant, playing a game, all these kinds of active experiences help you to stay zoned in on what’s happening in the present moment. Finally, learn about your partner’s personality type! If you’re an ENFJ and you’re dating, for example, an ISTP, chances are you’re going to confuse each other many times. These types are more present-focused while you are more future-focused. These types are more spontaneous while you are more planned. These types are more self-contained while you are more other-oriented. Knowing your partner’s personality type can help you to appreciate their strengths rather than worry about their weaknesses or the ways in which you both are different. It can also help you to communicate in a way that will be more readily accepted by them. Your partner can take the personality test here at Personality Hacker, and you can learn more about their type through listening to Joel and Antonia’s podcasts.
Summing It Up…
As an ENFJ you have many incredible gifts to bring to a relationship. You inspire people, motivate them, and can reach levels of understanding and empathy that are mind-blowing to many. You may not struggle with every single one of these mistakes. Perhaps you’ve developed and matured to a point where these issues are a thing of the past! But if you have grappled with these weaknesses, don’t be disillusioned. None of these things are deal-breakers and none of them make you any less valuable as a person. Each personality type has its own set of struggles and weaknesses in a relationship. Focus on your strengths and be mindful of these potential pitfalls. Bring your ENFJ superpowers to the forefront of your relationships and you’ll be more satisfied and at peace. You can find out more about your personality type here or by taking Joel and Antonia’s ENFJ personality course!