While two individuals of any type combination can make a relationship work or fail, research conducted on committed couples shows there is a definite trend in the personality types that are drawn to each other, and in the type combinations that last longest in a romantic partnership. At PersonalityPage, we call these types "natural partners."
Outside of natural partner pairings, it's especially important for an INTP to partner with someone who can respect their excitement for turning ideas into intellectual truths. The dominant Extraverted Feeling types ESFJ and ENFJ might find it difficult to understand or respect the INTP's disinterest in social norms, and the INTP may find it hard to understand the Extraverted Feeler's inability to think purely objectively. To a lesser degree, the dominant Introverted Feeling types (ISFP and INFP) might also present a challenge to the INTP, but Introverts can often respect the individual nature of each other's inner worlds, however different they may be. The shadow type for an INTP is ESFJ. This type pairing is typically challenging.
The Intuition/Sensing preference is a special case in relating—strongly expressed Intuitives relate better to other Intuitives, and strongly expressed Sensers related better to other Sensers. If the INTP has a strongly developed secondary function of Extraverted Intuition, they are likely to do better when paired with another Intuitive.
The Judging/Perceiving difference can cause conflict in any relationship, especially when one or both partners are dominant Extraverted Judgers, who are the most controlling of the types. The INTP is likely to resist being controlled, and not naturally protective of the feelings of others, so conflict will occur between an INTP and an Extraverted Judger who doesn't respect their need for autonomy. Sometimes this is acceptable to both parties.
How did we arrive at the conclusion that INTPs are the natural partners of ESTJs and ENTJs? Through empirical evidence, research, and a thorough understanding of the sixteen personality types and the personality functions that drive them.
In Jungian terms, personality "functions" refer to the four core traits: Intuition (N), Sensing (S), Feeling (F), and Thinking (T). The term "attitude" refers to the direction of the function, i.e. Introverted (I) or Extraverted (E). The INTP has a dominant function of Introverted Thinking, a secondary function of Extraverted Intuition, and a Perceiving orientation toward the external world.
Our natural attraction to people who share our dominant function, but who use it in a different direction works very well for us. We not only flip-flop the Introverted or Extraverted trait, but we also flip-flop the Judging or Perceiving trait. In this way, the partner that we choose for ourselves will have a very different approach to dealing with the world. If we are laid-back and indecisive, our partner will be structured and decisive. If we are reserved, our partner will be outgoing. Natural partners complement each other, and challenge each other in healthy ways. But for all of their apparent differences, natural partners share the same dominant function, which instills them with similar ideas about what's truly important in life. They will experience a feeling of being on the same level.
Of course there are many things that influence a relationship's success or failure, such as family background and intelligence. Recent research shows that the number one cause of long-term success for a couple is that they treat each other with respect and kindness.
Although we believe firmly that this model works well to help in finding and maintaining healthy relationships, it is important to remember that it's just a tool. We offer guidelines to help you understand the kinds of things that you value in a relationship, rather than guidelines that you need to follow strictly. It's important to remember that there's no such thing as an effortless romantic partnership. But undoubtedly, some are easier than others.