When you need to make a decision, do you value logic most, or is your primary consideration the effect on the people involved? In other words, are you a thinker or a feeler?
This month, for Wifey Wednesdays, I’m having a ton of fun looking at personality differences, using the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator). The MBTI figures out people’s personalities based on four different scales. I explained how MBTI and marriage work in the big picture in our first post in the series, and then we looked at the introvert/extrovert distinction and the big picture/detail person distinction. Today we’re going to tackle the T/F scale–thinkers vs. feelers.
What is the T/F Scale in the MBTI?
Of the four MBTI scales, this is probably the one that is most easily understood. Are you a Spock or are you a Deanna Troy (for all of you Star Trek fans!) In Just Your Type, the book that we’ve been using to understand all the different personality types, the difference is described this way:
Both Thinking and Feeling are rational decision-making processes. It’s not that Thinkers have no feelings or that Feelers are incapable of being logical. But when faced with a decision, Thinkers tend to step back, look at the situation objectively, and decide based on impersonal analysis. In contrast, Feelers tend to step forward and decide based on their personal values, how they feel about the issue, and how others are likely to feel about them.
This dimension is usually thought of in terms of gender differences (it’s assumed that men are thinkers while women are feelers)–but it’s actually a personality difference. The authors explain:
Although the American population is about evenly divided between Thinkers and Feelers, it appears that about 65 percent of Thinkers are men and about 65 percent of Feelers are women, so natural differences between Thinkers and Feelers are exacerbated by the fact that they are often different genders.
Many gender differences books are written with men seen as Thinkers and Women are Feelers. If that’s your marriage, you likely love most of those books! But if it’s not, you may find those books don’t seem to apply to you, and wonder what’s wrong with you. The authors say, “Male Feelers and female Thinkers often feel that they are out of sync with the world — that they are somehow different from the way they should be.” It’s likely because it’s not a gender difference thing–it’s a personality thing.
As a woman who is a Thinker, I found this insight interesting:
But interestingly, Thinking women may receive an unintended benefit. Many Thinking girls grow up to have much more access to their Feeling sides, which means greater balance and greater competence.
On the other hand, Feeling men often feel like they really don’t fit, because they go against the stereotype. And if you’re a thinking woman married to a feeling man, you may start to see your husband as weak. Don’t. See him as someone who can more easily live out the love of Jesus and who cares about people’s hearts. That can be a great strength, especially in a man!
MBTI and Marriage: When Thinkers Marry Feelers
I think the T/F distinction can potentially be a minefield! I even find this with my relationship with Katie (who is totally an F). Thinkers, you see, tend to enjoy debates. Because we’re interested in finding the objective, logical, correct conclusion, we can discuss things that are highly emotional in a way that can sound rather hard-hearted. And we enjoy just tossing ideas around. A Feeler, on the other hand, might be aghast at some of the things that Thinkers say, because they sound so mean.
And when a Feeler is upset, they don’t want a debate. They want to be understood. If conflict is portrayed as one person having to win and one person having to lose, then Feelers will naturally shy away from conflict (which isn’t healthy for a relationship, either). Incidentally, this is why one of the “thoughts” in my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change a Marriage is all about how we need to get away from this Win/Lose mentality with conflict!
What is 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage About?
Here’s where problems come in resolving conflict:
Because Feelers are so sensitive to others, they will often go out of their way to avoid hurting people’s feelings. This means they are usually very tactful and diplomatic, but it also means they can be less than 100 percent honest. They know what other people want to hear, so they may tell little white lies or be insincere in their compliments. Thinkers, however, place a high value on honesty and directness. As a result, they are more likely to offend someone unintentionally. What they see as being frank and forthright, others may perceive as being blunt and insensitive.
The main thing to remember about this difference is this:
When Feelers are confused or upset, they want their partners to listen supportively and compassionately. Thinkers tend to want constructive advice about how to fix the problem.
So in a conflict, step outside your comfort zone and give your spouse what they most need!
I just discovered that Keith is a Feeler!
Keith and I took the MBTI test in our premarital counseling, when Keith was in medical school. He came off as an ESTJ, with a slight thinking preference. I always assumed he was a thinker.
But earlier this month, at a big family function, Rebecca and I were talking to my niece and my sister-in-law about it, and were reading all the descriptions for the different types, and we both realized that ESFJ fits Keith to a T (pardon the pun). He scored as a T in med school because that’s how he was functioning at the time, but he really is an F.
And most of our arguments do revolve around Keith feeling as if I don’t care enough about him, and me feeling like he isn’t willing to take a stand when it’s necessary because it’s the right thing to do (I value being right; he values everyone getting along). It’s actually a big relief to know that this is one of our differences–and it also points to the fact that when we’re in false or strange environments (like med school) we can train ourselves to act in ways that are counter to our natural tendencies. So our test results can change over time!
I explained all of this in detail in my Friday newsletter a few weeks ago, and if you’re not signed up for my emails yet, you should be! You’ll get more behind the scenes info, and extra stuff that’s not on the blog.
When Two Thinkers Marry
Rebecca and Connor are both Thinking-types, so I’m letting her take this one. Rebecca says:
One of the things I didn’t understand about marrying a fellow Thinker is that even though we’re both Ts, we were horrible at resolving conflict. And that’s because even though we both like to approach conflict from a Thinking perspective, many times conflict isn’t actually about something logical. So our approach just doesn’t work.
Instead, when we fight, we’ve learned to acknowledge that it’s often an emotional need that has been missed or unmet. The conflict doesn’t always need a logical resolution; it sometimes needs comfort, reassurance, and a hug. The fight isn’t actually about him leaving a coffee cup beside the sink instead of in the dishwasher, so logical problem solving about how he can be more tidy isn’t going to help anything. We’re two Thinking-types that have had to learn how to approach conflicts like Feelers. And that was hard to learn.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that your’e “above” those emotional needs that are typically attributed to Feelers–we all have them, and often your logical approach to conflict with coworkers, friends, or family won’t work when it comes to conflict with your spouse because the nature of the relationship is so different.
When Two Feelers Marry
Because Feelers don’t like to upset others, they may be reticent to bring up problems in the marriage, not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s important, then, that they learn that bringing up a problem does not mean that you are rejecting a person, but rather that you genuinely want to make the marriage better.
Also, two Feelers need to be very wary of their potential propensity to be taken advantage of by other family members. Setting firm boundaries for children, that you talk about and agree upon, will be key, since Feelers tend to find exceptions to every rule when a child is upset. Learning to navigate difficult in-law relationships is also a challenge when both are Feelers, and this may be when a small group or a close group of friends and mentors can prove especially helpful.
So now we’ve tackled the T/F scale. Next week we’ll turn to our last scale, P/J, which helps us understand how we approach daily life.
Where are YOU, my readers, on the Thinking/Feeling scale?
In my Friday newsletters, I asked all through the month of July questions about personality types. We found that 55% of marriages are thinkers married to feelers (I’m still surprised I’m in that camp!) Rebecca and Connor are among the 35% of you who are both thinkers, and there’s a final 9% who are both feelers.
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Let me know in the comments: are you a thinker or a feeler? Do you match the usual gender roles, or not? How does that affect your marriage?
And if you want to learn more, check out Just Your Type!
Posts in the MBTI Marriage Series:
MBTI and Marriage: An Overview
MBTI and Marriage: The Extrovert/Introvert Scale
MBTI and Marriage: The Intuition/Sensing Scale
MBTI and Marriage: The Thinking/Feeling Scale (this one!)
MBTI and Marriage: The Judging/Perceiving Scale (coming soon)