When considering a mate, are you attracted to people with opposite personality traits or one that is similar to your own? The answer is probably “both.”
There are always exceptions to the rule, but observations show that people marry others that have a similar personality temperament to their own. So for example, people with the preferences of Sensing-Percieving (SP) in the Myers-Briggs nomenclature typically marry other people that also have the SP preferences. The same goes for people with the Sensing-Judging (SJ) preferences, who also typically end up marrying other SJ types.
That is in keeping with one of my laws of personality (temperament theory) that says that “likes attract.” The reason is that the temperaments define a person’s “values.” People want to be around others that have similar guiding principles. If you value, for example, authenticity, you want to be married to another person that also values that concept.
The Opposing Traits of Feeling vs Thinking
But here is where it gets interesting. While we all want to be around people with similar values to our own, when it comes to mate selection and the Myers-Briggs personality system, people tend to marry people with an opposite preference for either Thinking or Feeling.
What this means is that people with the Thinking preference (the “T” in their Myers-Briggs typology) typically marry those with the opposite trait: the Feeling (F) preference. This is particularly true for those people with the SP and SJ temperaments (I call them the Warriors and the Logisticals).
Why would this be? The standard answer from researchers is that the healthiest children are born to people where there is genetic diversity.
“Children obviously share genes from both parents and so may get the best of both worlds when it comes to a merging of two opposing immune systems.” (source link)
That sounds good, but it doesn’t quite jive with other research that shows that the hormone Testosterone is attributed to people with a healthy immune system. If you want the healthiest children, it makes more sense for people to consistently choose the masculine trait when selecting a mate.
Keep in mind, as we have discussed previously on this web site, high levels of Testosterone is associated with the Thinking trait in the Myers-Briggs System. Therefore, if it comes to having healthy children, it would make more sense for everyone to be more attracted to those people with the “Thinking” preference. But this is not the case, as people seem attracted to their opposite.
But all that is probably not even worth taking seriously from an evolutionary standpoint because in the past, mate selection was not by mutual agreement of the man and the women. Marriages were either arranged or were a result of conflict between clans. In reality, personally choosing a mate is a relatively modern construct. So choosing a mate for genetic diversity is most likely a myth.
So why in our current modern age do people prefer to choose a mate that has the opposite preference in the Thinking and Feeling dichotomy? My theory is that it has to do with “protection of the family.”
Protection of the Family
There are two types of protection that a family needs, and this is consistent with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The first need is for “physical” protection. A couple and their children have to have their physical needs met. This is optimized by having one parent of the Thinking preference because it involves logic and some aggressiveness (Testosterone is also linked to aggression). Someone has to go out on a daily basis and slay the dragon.
At the same time, a family unit has to have their emotional needs protected too. Since we are all human, we have emotional needs — even those of us that have the thinking preference. And emotions make us fragile creatures – and that is where the Feeling preference comes in. The Feeling preference is directly linked to Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.), where a person can empathize with another person and comfort them when they are down. This is also needed in a family unit, especially when children are part of the equation.
Why? Because in the past, the life expectancy of humans was quite low. The death rate of infants and children was very high. And when the death of a child happens, even those people with the Thinking preference feel deep loss and sadness. And that parent needs to be picked up and having someone with a Feeling preference can help the family unit cope and get back to the business of rearing the remaining children. I think that when loss of children is a fairly common occurrence, a family that has a diverse ways of processing grief is better able to carry on.
The Less Common “Personality” Situation
Where it gets interesting is with the other two personality temperaments where there is a clash between values and the thinking/feeling dichotomy. Here we’re talking about both the Strategists (NT) and the Morale Officers (NF).
Like everyone else, their primary internal values drive them to find a mate within their own temperament. So an NT will seek out another NT because they have similar values. The same goes for the people with the NF preferences.
But now, there isn’t an opposite feeling/thinker dichotomy within their temperament. So for example, the NF can’t find a person with the opposite polarity to their feeling preference that has the same values that they do. By definition, that person would not have a NF temperament.
So which takes priority? That is why it is an interesting dilemma. The NF loves the logic of the the NT, but their guiding principles are different. They have to settle for something that isn’t as perfect a match as the SJ’s and the SP’s have when choosing a mate.
The other issue for them is that both NT’s and NF’s make up a lower percentage of the population. It is a smaller pond from which to fish, so to speak. So they meet fewer people in their temperament to choose from. But it is fairly common where an NT male and an NF female do marry.
Whom Are Life’s Winners and Losers?
Which types seem to have the most choices of mates?
On the male side, it is the SP (Warrior temperament) that seems to have the most choices. For one thing, they are the most handsome (exuding high levels of sex appeal) of all the males in the population. And their tendency to be athletic typically means that they are in the best physical condition too. Because of this, they seem to have a wide selection of women that find them attractive.
In the female category, the winners are the SJ women (Logisticals). They seem to be compatible with almost any other personality type because of their mother hen instincts (providing resources for their family). Because of this, their marriage rate is the highest among all four temperaments. Who do they marry most? They typically marry SJ males, which is to be expected as it falls into the temperament rule of “likes-attract-likes.”
But it is also very common that Logistical women marry SP (Warrior) males as well. My father and mother were the SP/SJ combination. I also have three sisters (SJ’s) in my family that married Warrior husbands. A famous couple in this category is Hillary (ESFJ) and Bill (ESFP) Clinton. It seems to be a good combination because the Warrior husband is grounded by the Logistical wife.
While that is very common, the opposite gender situation where the SJ male is married to an SP female is from my observations extremely rare. The Warrior women are similar to Warrior men in that they want excitement, and are very sexually alluring. And as natural fighters, they feel that they are more than capable of taking care of themselves and therefore they also feel they don’t need to rely on a man for support. Because of this, they have their pick of mates, and they exercise it by choosing among the hottest looking men.
On the other hand, Logistical men are by definition are those that are typically grounded in tradition. Most people would consider SJ males to be boring. Additionally, they don’t exude the sexual appeal because their faces are more stoic and serious looking. And finally, they have the fat gene. None of these traits are appealing to the Warrior female.
I’m always interested when I do see a Warrior female married to a Logistical male. One such couple is Donald (ESTJ) and Melania (ISFP) Trump. What many people suggest was that the allure for her was a billion-dollar reason. That would make her a gold-digger, which is what people label others that seek out wealth through marriage. I think it is the Warrior’s value of seeking power. Donald had a massive amount of power, even before he became President. He made even the most powerful Warriors look weak.
If SP males marry both SP and SJ women, it would seem there wouldn’t be enough them around to for all the SP women. But the reason it seems to work out is that the divorce rate is high when SP’s are married to each other. In modern society, the Warrior male has been married multiple times. So while the supply of SP males may be insufficient, the break-up rate allows them to couple with more SP women.
For the SJ males, one might argue that there shouldn’t be enough SJ females in the pool of potential partners because those women are also marrying SP males. But I think the reason that there seem to be enough SJ females in the population is that the birth rate for females does out-number males. Nature seems to have worked out a solution on its own.
The least likely temperaments to find a mate, based on these conditions, is the female NT’s, and the male NF’s. I wish I had better news for them, but finding a mate with similar values is difficult.
What about your observations? I’d love to hear what you think of this, and any good examples you might have that I could include in my ongoing research. Please leave a comment below.