Type is a powerful tool. It can help us understand both ourselves and others in a meaningful and transformative way, so it’s natural to want to apply it to our relationships. However, as we humans are messy, breaking systems and misusing tools. It’s easy to overvalue or use type in an unhealthy way.
Romantic relationships are the main focus of this article, but if you’re reading with a friendship, family, professional, or community relationship in mind, we hope you’ll find some value here too.
What does it mean to misuse type in your relationship?
Just as a hammer can be used to build or destroy, type can become a double edged sword when we apply it to our relationships. The reasons for this are complex, as the best way of handling a situation can change based on the situation or context.
Simply put – what may be a compassionate way of approaching your partner in one moment could be destructive in another.
As we have a wide range of competing thoughts, feelings and motivations at any given time, it’s all too easy to trick ourselves into using type in a way that serves our ego instead of our relationship.
In this article we’ll highlight the three main ways type is misused in relationships, and share some introspective questions to ask yourself – so you can identify and avoid these common pitfalls.
Misuse #1 — Idealizing certain personality types or cognitive functions – and evaluating your partner or relationship based on this
A quality of type which makes it great for personal growth is that it’s a flat model. While each of the 16 types have their individual strengths and weaknesses, no one type is “better” than the other… right?
But, if you’ve been into type for a while, you can’t help but have noticed certain types are idealized or desired for their rarity. And when you add all of our other individual biases and preferences into the mix, it becomes tricky. Especially when we exist in a time period where there are dating apps seemingly tailored to our type preferences.
Idealizing your partner based on their type doesn’t always mean you’re coming from an unhealthy place though, as often we’re attracted to people of certain types because we see something in them we lack or would like to develop.
For example, if you’re in a relationship with an INTJ and you don’t have Perspectives (Introverted Intuition ) or Effectiveness (Extraverted Thinking) as a strength, you may admire them in a healthy way because they refine your ideas, help bring you some structure and put your plans into action.
The risk comes when you close yourself off to potential relationships with less idealized types, or you overvalue a potential or current partner, seeing them through rose-tinted glasses.
At best this could leave you disappointed, and at worst, you could end up gaslighting yourself into an unhealthy situation.
Plus, it’s not exactly a great experience from your partner’s perspective either. Imagine beginning a romantic relationship, only to wonder whether you’re being admired as an ideal you could never live up to.
Or, imagine being into type and longing to find a partner who shares your passion, only to find yourself at the bottom of the list of potential suitors – just because you have the wrong 4-letter code.
In a healthy relationship both you and your partner need to have the space to question or change your type, as your relationship and understanding of type grows.
It can be tricky to avoid using type in this way, especially if you know your partner’s type before you begin dating.
Reflection Moment – Ask yourself these two questions if you’re struggling with this issue:
“What do I admire about this person that has nothing to do with type?”
This can help avoid projecting type-based ideals onto your potential partner.
“What are the ways they are wonderfully imperfect and what are some areas I can help them grow?”
This can help give you a grounded, realistic appreciation of your partner, regardless of their type.
Misuse #2 — Overvaluing your type preferences to avoid growth and healthy communication
It can feel both validating and empowering when you discover your type. You realize that the thing you’ve been struggling with doesn’t make you less of a person, it’s just part of your natural wiring.
However, with this healthy amount of depersonalization comes the risk of doubling down on your preferences to avoid growth work – and our relationships can feel the effect of this.
Of course, type preferences exist for a reason. For example, if you’re an ISTP, it’s understandable that you probably won’t want to arrange a big vacation for your partner plus their friends and family, balancing everyone’s needs and making sure it all goes to plan.
But if you’re an ISTP and your partner wants you to find a way to communicate how you feel sometimes, it would be an unhealthy response would be to avoid trying just because you lead with the mental process Accuracy (Ti).
This can happen in reverse too, for example, if you’re an ESTJ in a relationship with an INFP, it could be very easy for you to take on the load of all of their responsibilities with the best of intentions.
However, in this example you could be denying them an opportunity to integrate their 3-Yr-Old Effectiveness (Extraverted Thinking).
Sometimes we can become overconfident in our Driver function. Because the system tells us this is a strength of ours we can become overconfident, and assume that we must be right when we’re using it.
For example, let’s suppose you’re an INTJ in a relationship with an ESFP. They might have an instinct about the right course of action to take towards a goal. If you can’t ‘measure their hunch’ and you disagree, you could accidentally undervalue their input.
Overvaluing and using type to avoid growth and communication in this way can result in the same arguments surfacing over and over again, or some challenges never being resolved, preventing you from growing together as a team.
Reflection Moment – Here are 2 questions to ask yourself if you think you might be overvaluing type in a situation with your partner:
“Am I still struggling to communicate and work through this issue after trying my best, or am I making excuses based on my type?”
“How can my partner and I work on this issue together, accounting for both of our strengths and weaknesses?”
Misuse #3 — Weaponizing your knowledge of personality type during arguments or times of frustration
Our knowledge of type can give us an edge over our partner when it comes to pinpointing their weak spots and identifying how these play out in our relationships. This tactical use of type can be great for overcoming challenges together and diffusing arguments.
But, when our ego becomes defensive we can use this knowledge in a way that makes our partner feel attacked and undermined.
For example, if you’re a feeler in a relationship with a thinker, you can use your knowledge of type to communicate in a direct, logical way that may benefit you both in that situation. However, it can quickly do damage if you’re not using it with positive intent.
That same thinker partner may express their feelings in a rare moment of emotional vulnerability during an argument. But if you’ve been frustrated with their inability to hold space for you in your emotional moments you may withhold support, logically attack what they’ve said, and use their preference for thinking as justification.
For example, if you’re using type to understand your partner and have taken time to learn their cognitive functions, but they’re not as interested in the system, it can be easy to take the moral high ground and feel like you’re the one doing all the work.
Closely related to this is “function blaming:” we call out their negative behaviors and blame it on their cognitive functions, while virtue signaling about how we use our own functions at the same time.
There is danger in weaponizing type, even if it feels justified in the moment. This behavior brings an undermining energy into the situation, putting strain on your relationship.
Reflection Moment – Here are 2 questions to help identify whether you’re weaponizing your knowledge of type:
Why are my reasons for applying type to this situation right now – what am I looking to achieve?
Am I using type in a fair and balanced way, for example, to highlight my own weaknesses and not just my partners?
How To Avoid Misusing Type In Your Relationship
Action #1 — Raise Awareness
Shining a light on the issue is a powerful first step. Awareness focuses your attention on opportunities and challenges as you navigate your relationship. It also helps you to identify your own internal struggles and motivations related to the issue. Find this part difficult? We’ve created the above questions as a tool to get you started.
Action #2 — Focus on your own personal growth
In our Personality Hacker Podcast Joel often Joel Mark Witt on the Personality Hacker podcast uses the metaphor “the rising tide raises all ships”. I believe this to be true in our romantic relationships too.
If you use personality type to work on becoming the best version of yourself and embody the changes you want to see, your partner can’t help but feel the benefits.
Action #3 — Use frameworks to create a map
As an individual, your personal growth can generate a surprising amount of positive change. But when you both bring this energy, fundamental shifts can occur.
Type gives you a framework for understanding each other, helping you pinpoint where you each need to grow.
In need of some guidance? Our Couples Mapping program is here to teach you how to create a map from this framework.
Couples Mapping charts out the course to help you to both feel understood and grow together in your relationship, to overcome challenges and develop deeper intimacy.
Ready to workshop your relationship challenges in real time?
Joel and Antonia are hosting a 3-Part LIVE virtual Mentorship Experience for Couples – discover more here to see if this could be what you need for your relationship.
What’s your experience with type and romantic relationships?
Is there another way you see type being misused (or used positively) in relationships that we’ve missed, or do you have a story to share? In the spirit of raising awareness, we’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Wishing you all the best in your relationships.