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Published on December 12, 2018

Practical Advice for Overcoming Problems in INFP Relationships

Practical Advice for Overcoming Problems in INFP Relationships

Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who you felt like was your complete opposite? I have. And it’s frustrating. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about!

Sometimes you just want to bash your head into a wall because you don’t understand why the person does what he/she does. And what happens as a result?

Conflict.

Despite what people think about conflict, it’s not inherently negative. While most people dislike it – and/or try to avoid it – how you deal with it is what will inevitably make or break a relationship.

One of the reasons we have so many problems in relationships is because of our differing personality types. One of the most popular personality tests is called the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Test. If you haven’t heard of it, 16personalities.com is a good reference to read up on it.

One of the sixteen personality types is the INFP. It stands for Introversion – Intuition – Feeling – Perception. As with any other kinds of personalities, people with this type have characteristics that can cause problems in relationships.

So, let’s take a look at some of them, and then figure out how to overcome them.

8 Potentially Problematic Characteristics of the INFP Personality Type

Before we talk about some of these seemingly negative personality traits, let me just say that INFPs also have some very redeeming qualities as well. However, that’s not what we’re here to talk about.

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So, let’s take a look into an INFPs mind and see how we can have successful relationships with them.

1. They can be procrastinators.

Yeah, I know. Most people are procrastinators at some time or another – especially when they don’t want to do something. However, INFPs tend to procrastinate a little more than most people. They don’t tend to be very good at regulating their time, so they tend to put things off longer than they should.

If you are the type of person who hates procrastination, then you just need to accept that it’s a reality for most INFPs. Perhaps you can gently remind them of the things that need to be done ahead of time.

Or, if you are in control of telling them when the “due date” is, you could simply tell them that it is a bit earlier than it really is.

2. They can be lazy.

“Lazy” tends to be a pejorative word. It’s fine when you’re lazy because you’re on vacation and laying on a beach all day long. But when it’s the weekend and some projects need to get done around the house, or you simply want to go out and have some fun, well, the INFP might not be on board with you.

I was married to an INFP for a while, and I used to joke that it was like pulling teeth trying to get him showered, off the couch, and out the door to do anything on the weekends.

But the key is to inspire them, encourage them, and plan things that will naturally interest them. If they feel pressured to do something, they might resist. So, refrain from name-calling or so-called nagging. Because it might get you the opposite result of what you want.

3. They like to isolate themselves.

Introverts tend to need a lot of alone time. That’s because that’s how they re-charge. Being around people for an extended period of time is draining to them. So, you can understand how an extrovert would be confused by this need, since they are the opposite. In fact, a lot of extroverts take it as a person insult if the introvert wants to spend “too much time” alone.

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If you are in introvert yourself, then this won’t be a problem for you. But for us extroverts, it does sometimes hurt our feelings. We think that if someone likes or loves us, then they should want to spend as much time as they can with us.

So, extroverts just need to accept that INFPs need a lot of alone time, but it’s not because of you. It’s simply who they are.

4. They like to be spontaneous.

Spontaneity can be either good or bad, depending on who you are and what someone is being spontaneous about. Some people, like me, hate spontaneity (unless someone surprises me with an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii and already cleared my schedule ahead of time!). To me, if someone won’t plan something with me ahead of time, I find it rude.

But INFPs don’t like to be boxed into a corner. They like to keep their options open. I know several INFPs, and almost none of them even keep a calendar (which blows my mind!).

So, if you are like me, just sit down with them and talk about your need to plan. Tell them that you understand their need to be spontaneous. And then ask that you both meet in the middle sometimes.

5. They can be quiet and reserved.

Not all introverts are quiet and reserved. However, as a whole, they do tend to be more reserved than extroverts. Again, if you are an introvert this might not bother you – you might even prefer it. But for extroverts, it might present some problems.

I know quite a few couples where one is an extrovert and one is an introvert. And they all have the same struggle. For example, the extroverts are usually the ones trying to coax the introverts into some sort of social situation. And usually, the introverts will at least resist going. And even if they do, they tend to be more quiet in these situations, which frustrates the extroverts. They wonder why the introvert just won’t talk more!

What they have to keep in mind is that the introverts aren’t doing it on purpose. That is simply their nature. Once you accept that, then their quiet nature is no longer a “problem.”

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6. They have an extreme dislike of conflict.

As I mentioned above, conflict isn’t always a bad thing. It’s inevitable in any relationship, and sometimes it can help you grow and understand each other better. If handled properly, the two of you can become closer than ever.

However, the INFP has an extreme dislike of conflict. For example, I once dated an INFP guy for two months who completely “ghosted” me. I thought we were having a great time, but one day, I just never heard from him again. Obviously, he didn’t want to face me to break up with me, so he just thought it would be easier to slink away into the night and hope I forget about him.

Being an extrovert, this was a problem for me. I value communication and being up-front about everything. But INFPs don’t. And that’s fine. But not everyone is compatible with an INFP (myself included).

For other personality types who might not be as bothered by this behavior, just keep reminding your INFP that conflict isn’t bad. It can actually be a quite productive way to grow your relationship.

7. They prefer to move at a slow pace.

If you are entering into a romantic relationship with an INFP, you might not know if he/she actually likes you or not.

Many extroverts, like myself, tend to dive head first into a relationship when we finally find someone we like. We throw all caution to the wind and pour our hearts and souls into the other person. And we make it obvious that we like them and want to move the relationship further.

That’s not how INFPs are. They like to take things slowly. They don’t open up very easily to other people, and therefore, it takes some time to get to know them. It has nothing to do with the other person, it’s just who they are.

If you’re like that too, then it won’t be a problem. But if you’re like me, it may be disappointing or confusing to you since that’s not typically how extroverts operate.

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8. They struggle with self-examination.

For some people, self-examination is just natural and normal. For others, like INFPs, it is not.

I have been with a couple of INFPs before, and whenever I asked them, “Why do you feel this way?” or “Why did you do this?” (in a non-accusatory way), I usually got the response, “I don’t know.” And I always thought to myself, “How can he not know?!? If he doesn’t know… then who does?!?”

I used to think they were just being difficult and didn’t want to tell me. And it took me a while to realize that they really didn’t know.

As difficult as it was for me to accept that someone could not know why they think or act the way they do, I just had to realize that’s just how some people are. And that’s okay. Pushing them to figure themselves out won’t work. Some people just aren’t very capable of it, and an INFP is one of them.

The Bottom Line

I don’t like to say that these 8 characteristics are inherently negative, because they aren’t. It’s all a matter of perspective. For every person who despises spontaneity, there’s another person who loves it. Some people love to socialize, and others don’t. It doesn’t make them “bad people.” It just makes them different.

So, the important thing to remember here – whether it’s about INFPs or any other personality type – is that you have two choices. First, either accept and love the person for who they are (because you will never change them). Or second, find someone else that you are more compatible with if these differences bring you that much angst.

We all need to learn to accept people who are different than us, and to work through problems that arise out of those differences. It’s definitely possible. And now you know a little more about the INFP personality and the potential problems that can come along with them, hopefully you can work through your issues a little bit better in the future.

More Resources About Personality Types

Featured photo credit: Jared Sluyter via unsplash.com

More by this author

Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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