TypeTalk Question of the Week

Answered March 30, 2014

Dear Brenda,

I am a 35 year old woman with a decent career that I like for the most part, and some good friends and hobbies. I'm in good shape and am reasonably attractive, I think. I'm an ENTP although at times I've waivered between the E and I. Recently I ended a two year relationship with a man who I think is an ENTJ and it has really put me into a downward spin. I really thought we would get married and build a family together, but he says he's not ready for a commitment, and that it's him, not me. Prior to this relationship, I was involved with an ESFP for 1.5 years, before that I was with an engineer (INFJ?) for about a year. All of these relationships have ended because the guy couldn't make a long-term commitment to me. I would really like to settle down and have a couple of kids, and am wondering if it will ever happen. Is it just me, or am I picking the wrong men? At this point I am feeling my biological clock ticking away, and I want to stop wasting time with the wrong men. I'm not sure I have the energy to go through another break up.

My question is this: is there some way to tell, by type, which men are most likely to want long-term commitment? And are there types that have a problem with commitment?

Thanks in advance for your help,
Sara in Denver

Dear Sara,

First of all, congratulations on having so many things going well in your life! You like your career, you have friends and hobbies and seem to keep yourself in decent shape. When we are down in the dumps it's hard to find joy in anything, but these are real achievements that many people break their backs trying to get to. Don't forget to take pleasure in your achievements; you have earned the right!

I'm sorry that you've crashed into so many commitment-phobes in your search for a partner. As a fellow Coloradan who has spent a fair amount of time single, I can attest to the presence of lots of "boys who want to play" here. But as I'm sure you've noticed, there are also plenty of families around, many of them with intact father figures. So yeah, there is truth to the idea that some men want to commit to a mature relationship and are willing to take on the responsibilities that go along with it, while others seem to need to keep themselves free to bag the next peak, or to chase the deepest snow on the steepest mountain, or to focus on their career, or to pursue whatever challenge they worship. It's worthwhile to figure out how to spot these creatures, and how to stay the hell away from them.

As much as I dislike putting people into nicely labeled boxes, there are some generalizations we can make about the correlation between Type and likelihood to commit. Sensing Perceivers in general (and especially the Extraverted ones) have a reputation for shying away from commitment. From my perspective there's definitely some truth there. SPs live in the current moment and look at commitment differently. I'm not sure they really grasp the idea of "for ever and ever" and their commitments are based on their feelings or desires in the current moment. When it comes to marriage, I'm guessing lots of SPs in modern times are comforted by the divorce rate. But they can be wonderful partners if they can get to the point of commitment, and if they are comfortable with approaching "long term" as a series of short-term commitments that need to be renewed periodically. Realistically, I've found there are some who get there in a real way, some who fake it, and some who just don't.

On the other end of the spectrum, Sensing Judgers seem to be built for commitment; their need for security and respect for social customs lend them the noble quality of wanting commitments and following through on them when they've got them. Usually. There are some SJ bad boys out there (some of every type, most likely).

But as interesting as it is to look at each type's likelihood to commit, I really want to talk about the other side of the coin. What are you, dear Sara, doing to sabotage what you think you want in life? How do you approach relationships and commitment? Because at the end of the day, any predictions about what other people think and do is guesswork, and even if our guesses are super educated, they won't work all of the time. You might choose to get involved with an ISTJ because he's likely to be reliable and committed to you, only to find your particular ISTJ has decided he won't get married until he's fifty or some crazy thing. And attraction can't really be regulated to a system anyway. I personally have been involved with types I didn't really want to have anything to do with, but there I was, up to my neck in it... The point is that we can only truly understand and control ourselves, right? Right.

So what is your deal, Sara? What is your form of self-sabotage? Alas, I can't say exactly, because you are a random, faceless person to me. But I would guess that you are stuck in a rut with the type of men you choose to date. Are you open to dating someone who is different from your norm? Oftentimes women who date men who won't commit date them because they are interesting and exciting, and they have grown used to that edgy feeling of strong attraction, and aren't willing to seriously entertain going out with anyone who doesn't leave their panties in a twist. The truth is, the level of attractive excitment surrounding a man is a better indication of his likelihood to commit than his actual personality type. Someone once said to me "a man is as faithful as his options" and that has always stuck with me. There is an unfortunate truth there. The combination of testosterone and killer looks or personality or money will often make Johnny a Bad Boy. If you, Sara, are one of the women trapped in this "bad boy" cycle you must ask yourself what it is that you really want? The man who is ready to commit is not the same man who want to whisk you off to Vail for a weekend of skinny skiing.

In my own life I have had my share of soul-wrenching troubles wrought upon me by men who are superficially extremely interesting and attractive, but who turned out to be either unable to commit or else they were happy to commit but were complete assholes. It was only when I was willing to look closely at men who didn't have the obvious bling about them that I found a truly good and interesting man who is interested and capable of commitment.

The other common method of self-sabotage for people seeking relationships, and especially for Extraverts and women, is to be too eager, too invested, in the relationship. The heart is a lonely hunter, and sometimes a desperate one. Carl Jung stated that everyone craves a deep, intimate connection with another person, and certainly we see evidence of this desire everywhere. But no part of us is so vulnerable and needy as that little piece deep inside ourselves that wants to be loved. It is an unfortunate irony that giving a lot of weight to this desire makes us undesirable. Because just as we want to be loved and seen, so does the object of our affection, who is just as vulnerable and needy deep down as we are, and just as afraid to expose their vulnerabilities. Anything that engenders deep discomfort (like intense neediness, say) is not going to cause those protective walls to come down. So take care to be your own person, and take some of the weight off any potential partner by loving yourself! Doing so is your best chance of freeing him up to love you as well.

All the best,

Brenda (ENFP)

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