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by Jacob O'Bryant


I don't take personality tests as gospel, but this section of my personality type description from made me laugh:

In romance, people with the INTJ personality type approach things the way they do with most situations: they compose a series of calculated actions with a predicted and desirable end goal – a healthy long-term relationship. ... INTJs ... break the dating process down into a series of measurable milestones, then proceed to execute the plan with clinical precision.

In a purely rational world, this is a fool-proof methodology – but in reality, it ignores significant details that INTJs are likely to dismiss prematurely, such as human nature. ... Needless to say, finding a compatible partner is the most significant challenge most INTJs will face in life.

In other news, I've been developing a new theoretical model for evaluating relationships. Even if relationships can't necessarily be reduced to logic, it's fun to try.

My new model is still in the hypothesis/figuring-it-out stage, but I have enough ideas so far that it's worth writing about at least. I've been prompted by two thoughts:

  1. potential mates should be evaluated based on chemistry, not lists of desired attributes.
  2. humans have four main dimensions: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.

The first point was recently emphasized by a couple from my ward, and it sounds true to me. I got the second idea from Stephen Covey (he writes about it in both "The 7 Habits" and "The 8th Habit") and from "The Power of Full Engagement."

My model is as follows. Consider two potential mates, Alice and Bob. To have a strong relationship, they must both be individually healthy in all four dimensions, then they must be united in all four dimensions. Compatibility means they have the potential to be united in all four dimensions, but achieving that unity will still require time and effort.

The individual-health-before-mutual-unity idea follows Covey's model where independence precedes interdependence.

I think what it means to be physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually healthy is clear enough. But how can we gauge unity in those areas (in terms of a pre-marital relationship)? I've thought of a few simple questions:

  • physical: how much are Alice and Bob attracted to each other?
  • intellectual: how well do they communicate? Are their conversations engaging for both parties?
  • emotional: how much do they enjoy being together? When apart, how much do they miss each other/look forward to being together again?
  • spiritual: how well matched are they in terms of maturity and life experience? How well do their core values and basic philosophies about life mesh?

My goal is that using this model will help to make decisions about whether or not to pursue a potential mate. I don't necessarily believe the model will help in knowing how to pursue a relationship, though. If Alice is a fellow INTJ and finds that she doesn't feel very emotionally attached to Bob, she may be tempted to plan activities that will help strengthen emotional unity. However, this probably falls in the realm of "overthinking it," and I think it promotes self-absorption—Alice is being overly concerned with her own thoughts and feelings when she should focus more on Bob's needs. Probably the best strategy is to not worry about it so much and be patient. But perhaps the model could be helpful in taking the relationship's pulse every now and then.

Published 14 Feb 2018

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