As dreamers who often have a habit of idealizing those we love and seeing the good in people, it is very easy for us to end up in relationships that are unhealthy, even abusive, especially if we struggle, as many INFPs do, with low self-esteem. This issue is often compounded if one grew up in an abusive home environment with an abusive opposite-sex parent, forming a blueprint in our minds for what to expect in a relationship. If the only man you ever loved treated you as a punching bag, or something to be discarded or neglected, then it is very easy to fall into the trap of believing that is what you deserve. In the past, I found myself attracted to someone who was cold and selfish; and the more badly he treated me, or the more he ignored me, the more I loved him, because he resembled my father. Not a healthy mindset, to say the least. Here, then, as some traits to keep in mind if you’re an INFP looking for a partner so you don’t settle for less than what you deserve.
We’re often soft, sensitive and shy creatures, whether male or female, which means that in a romantic relationship, our partners need to be kind people. In fact, for INFPs, the kinder the man or woman, the better. Considering our uncanny ability to see into and understand people, determining whether someone is kind or not should not prove a problem. Signs of kindness include treating the downtrodden nicely, going out of their way to help the disadvantaged, their general treatment of other human beings, and the degree of their love for children and animals (again, the higher, the better). For an INFP, to be in a relationship with an unkind person is suicide. It is the emotional equivalent of walking through a barren wasteland dotted with bones and swirling with vultures or falling asleep next to a monster each and every night. If he or she is a kind person, then he or she will treat you kindly, and a loving, kind environment is one an INFP will warm to like a flower towards the sun.
This is a pitfall many INFPs are liable to fall into, which is to put up with a little bit of selfishness in our partner. As we are generally very selfless people ourselves, we don’t require much in a relationship except love and affection. High-maintenance is certainly not a word I would describe us; we are very free-spirited. While this is all well and good, it means that we might end up with people who are miserly, cheap or tight-wads, without realising these are signs of selfishness and a lack of love for you and an overabundance of love for money or security. After all, if your partner doesn’t give you anything for your birthday, or for Christmas, or for your anniversary, or even flowers on Valentine’s Day, our minds are often good at rationalizing such incidents. Maybe he was busy. Well, I don’t really need anything at the moment. Besides, if I don’t get presents, then it means I’m not supporting capitalism. It’s the thought that counts, not the gift—or lack thereof.
This is a situation where our selflessness and creativity can work against us. Love can be expressed in many forms, and one of the ways to express love is through giving. Gifts don’t need to be wildly extravagant, or even expensive—a good book, for instance, is a present many INFPs would appreciate—but if there is a complete lack of gifts, a complete absence of generosity in any form, where you feel like you are not being taken care of or cherished, then such a partnership should be abandoned, immediately. And as much as we hate extravagance and capitalism, a thoughtful, little gift, like a necklace with a tiny silver charm dangling from it, can, when we wear it, make our heart glow for months.
- Physical affectionate.
No—I am not talking about sex, though I am sure for many couples that is a good way to show love. No, instead what I am referring to, when I speak of physical affection, is the stuff of romantic comedies: cuddles and kisses on the cheek, surprise hugs from the back. INFPs, by nature, are very loving and warm people (though sometimes this warmth is buried beneath layers of cynicism and hurt built up over the years that can only be chipped away by the right person). If the man or woman you are interested is not physically affectionate, and instead cold or distant, or adverse to kissing on the mouth or on the cheek, or generally someone who doesn’t even like hugs, my suggestion is to flee as fast as possible in the opposite direction, for that way lies only misery.
- Gives you priority in his or her life.
Again, this goes back to our selfless, giving and accommodating natures. While it is perfectly fine for your partner’s career to take a precedence—for many INFPs, our work, such as saving the world one animal or person at a time, is our biggest priority—if you begin to drop any further down the totem pole of his or her concerns then perhaps the relationship isn’t one you’re meant to be in. Determining whether you are a priority in someone’s life is harder than finding out whether they are kind or generous because it is an arena where excuses are easily made. He didn’t call, or text you, or reply to your texts? Perhaps he was busy. Or maybe, when he returns from work and goes straight to his room to play games on the computer or read without kissing or greeting you, he’s just recuperating from a hard work day. That money he spent on himself for the latest set of headphones when he forgot your birthday is just something he needs for work, a job-related, necessary purchase. His lack of compliments just shows how comfortable he is with you now that the two of you have moved in together. He doesn’t have the time to call you during his lunch break, not when he has to juggle such a hectic schedule.
No. Don’t make excuses for someone who doesn’t make you one of his or her top priorities when you deserve to be taken care of and looked after by the one you love. Imagine someone you dearly love—how would you treat them? Then compare that treatment with the treatment you are receiving from your beloved, and if the former is significantly nicer and more pleasant than the other—well, you know what to do.
- Respects you.
In life, or, more accurately, in this world, INFPs, unless they’re highly esteemed individuals in their field, often find it very hard, as sensitive, introverted and scatterbrained people, to gain people’s respect, or even their attention. Generally, we just hide in the shadows and corners, nose buried in books, thinking our silent and complex thoughts as the world bustles and rushes past us, loud and irritating. This, then, is why it is very important, especially for INFPs, to have partners who respect them, who don’t think they’re poetry is silly, or their quirky and meaningful insights pointless. Sylvia Plath’s partner, Ted, I think his name was, in her memoir, described poetry as “so much dust”–that, my friends, is not a way to gain an INFP’s favour. If you’re partner doesn’t respect your kindness, sensitivity, imagination, love for literature and quirky intelligence, or even outright scorns the things you love, you’re better off cuddling up to some books in a library.
- Is even-tempered.
Emotions like anger or hate corrode INFPs the way acid does iron. To put it plainly, we are not good with conflict or hostility; it is actually very frightening, painful and disturbing for to witness, let alone experiences ourselves or be on the receiving end of it. Bad tempers, like good wine, often do tend to mellow over time, but you should not base a relationship on hopes for improvement. It’s like living for fairies and wishes. Much as we like fairies and wishes, they will never exist except inside your head. So if your partner, or the person you’re interested in, is an angry, aggressive sort of person, even if they do have a heart of gold underneath their rough exterior, it’s best to stay away and find someone less emotionally volatile (after all, we tend to have more than enough emotions for two people).