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ISTPs are generally extremely capable individuals who are good at most things which interest them. They are usually bright, interesting, and exciting individuals with a lot to offer. They live almost entirely in the present moment, and usually do not make commitments beyond the immediate foreseeable future. An ISTP probably coined the phrase "nothing is unconditional". They strongly prefer to take things one day at a time, rather than make long-term commitments. If a relationship interests them and satisfies their needs, the ISTP will do their part on a daily basis to keep the relationship strong and healthy. If they lose interest in a relationship, their natural tendency will be to move on.
Each type has traits and behaviors that can strengthen their relationhips. Most ISTPs will exhibit the following strengths with regards to relationship issues.
The first step in overcoming our weaknesses is identifying them and recognizing them in our own behavior. Once we've done that, we begin to naturally correct our weaker behaviors in real-time. ISTPs may recognize some or all of the following behaviors that can negatively impact the health of their relationships.
"To love means to open ourselves to the negative as well as the positive - to grief, sorrow, and disappointment as well as to joy, fulfillment, and an intensity of consciousness we did not know was possible before." —Rollo May
ISTPs can be very intense and exciting individuals. Their strong Thinking preference makes them seem rather aloof and "hard to get". Their Sensing and Perceiving preferences make them sensual, earthy individuals. These attributes frequently make them attractive to the opposite sex. ISTPs live entirely in the current moment, which makes them especially interested in new sensations and experiences. They strongly dislike routine and strict schedules, and resist being controlled by others. They are fiercely independent and need their own space within a relationship. When involved in relationships which provide for their basic needs and which present them with new experiences, the ISTP will be happy to do what's necessary to keep the relationship alive and well. If a relationship becomes boring or oppressive to the ISTP, they will try to fix it, or move on. ISTPs take their commitments on a day-by-day basis. Even if they say "I do", it usually means "I do for now". They do not like to make lifelong commitments, although they may very well be involved in lifelong relationships which they have taken one day at a time.
Sexually, the ISTP approaches intimacy as a physical act rather than an expression of love and affection. They are earthy and sensual beings who enthusiastically experience sex with all five senses. They bring spontaneity, creativity, and enthusiasm into the bedroom, and enjoy new experiences. Since aesthetic beauty has such strong appeal to them, they appreciate the "setting", i.e. bedding, lingerie, cologne, etc.
ISTPs love to fix things, and may create problems in their personal relationships, just so that they can have the fun of fixing them.
ISTPs have a tendency to hold back their own views on things. They like to listen to other people's views, but are generally non-commital about expressing their own opinions, partly due to their lack of interest in things that don't directly effect them, but mostly because they don't feel any need to share their thoughts. The ISTP's decision making process is entirely internal, so they don't feel the need to share their opinions with others. When interacting with others, ISTPs are in "information gathering" mode, so they tend to ask questions rather than share views. ISTPs have a habit of evading answering questions by asking more questions. This can be frustrating to their partners, if they are after a direct answer. When it comes to intimate relationships, the ISTP has the further motivation of protecting themselves. Most ISTPs are afraid of having to deal with their deeper feelings. Since their Thinking preference dominates their personality, their Feeling side is their least developed (inferior) function. Consequently, ISTPs are usually quite vulnerable and perhaps weak when dealing with their feelings. Their habit of keeping part of themselves hidden may also serve the purpose of keeping a protective wall around their hearts.
Although the ISTP does not usually have a well-developed Feeling side, they frequently do have intense feelings for people. They can feel overpowering love for their partners, although they are likely not to express their emotions, or to express them inadequately or inappropriately if they do venture towards expression. However, unlike many of the other personality types, ISTPs feel strong affections one day at a time. One day, they may feel completely, intensely in love with their partner, and the next day they may be totally disinterested, or perhaps even ready to move on. This "live for the moment" type of approach is different from how most other types experience their feelings, and is difficult for many to understand. Consequently, the ISTP may be called "fickle" or "cold". In fact, they are not really fickle, and certainly not cold. They simply experience their lives on a moment by moment basis, and go along with it's natural flow. However, since most people need more commitment than can be offered when taking things day-by-day, the ISTP who wants to remain in a relationship will have to resolve themself towards being involved in a more traditional commitment. For most ISTPs, making a commitment to an intimate relationship will require an effort to stretch themselves outside of their comfort zones. However, those who do so will realize that they can enjoy the benefits of a strong, committed relationship and still live their lives in the present tense.
Although two well-developed individuals of any type can enjoy a healthy relationship, the ISTP's natural partner is the ESTJ, or the ENTJ. ISTP's dominant function of Introverted Thinking is best matched with a partner whose personality is dominated by Extraverted Thinking. The ISTP/ESTJ combination is ideal, because both types share the Sensing preference for perceiving the world, but ISTP/ENTJ is also a good combination. More on ISTP compatibility
"You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth...
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable." —Kahlil Gibran
ISTPs are flexible, laid-back, uncontrolling parents who like to take things as they come. Their dislike of being controlled or controlling others extends to their children as well, and they're consequently likely to give their kids a lot of breathing room and space for individual growth. However, when discipline is required, the ISTP will be able to administer it without too much difficulty. They may have difficulty mustering up the enthusiasm to discipline their kids, but once they get going they'll be effective.
ISTP parents are likely to maintain a distance between themselves and their children. They do not feel a tremendous need to pass on their values to their children, or to influence their decisions in life. They're likely to rely on their partners for creating a structured environment for their children to live within. ISTPs do not like to be directed or controlled, and are not likely to direct and control others - including their children. They're likely to be relatively uninvolved with the daily happenings of family life, without making a conscious effort to keep interested.
ISTPs will enjoy spending one-on-one time with their children pursuing outdoorsy activities, such as fishing, boating, hunting, etc. It is during these private moments that the ISTP will take the opportunity to get to know their children's perspectives, and to pass on the ISTP's interests and perspectives.
ISTPs have an enthusiastic, childlike approach to life that is attractive to others. As Introverted Thinkers, they also have some real substance to them which prevents them from being entirely frivolous and hedonic in their pursuits. They are laid-back and flexible, and generally accepting of a wide range of behavior. These attributes make them valued friends and confidantes.
ISTPs usually have a selection of friends who share their love of particular hobbies and pasttimes. They might have a friend who they ski with, and another who they shoot pool with, etc. They generally have no interest or patience with individuals who do not share their interests, and will spend little or no time with them. They may admire individuals with strong Feeling or Intuitive preference, but they don't really understand them and are unlikely to choose to be friends with them, unless they share a common interest or hobby. They enjoy spending time with Extraverts, whose enthusiastic, talkative natures are attractive to the more reserved ISTP, but they will eventually tire of their "bubbliness". The ISTP is able to get along well with people of any personality type, but is likely to value and bond only those with whom they have common interests.