Four-plus years into our relationship, my boyfriend, Denis, and I finally got the official stamp of approval we never wanted. After hearing about it at work, Denis suggested we take a personality test inspired by the traditional Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Turns out, according to our respective "types" — INTJ, or "The Architect," for me, and ISFP, or "The Adventurer," for Denis — we're romantically compatible. While Denis took this as a funny little coincidence, I rolled my eyes so hard that not even Liz Lemon could match my disdain. What a bunch of pseudo-scientific silliness, I thought.
For the record, I like "personality type" stuff — the fact that bae and I are astrologically compatible tickles me to no end. But there's something about the MBTI that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe it's because it limits people to only one of 16 personality types (whereas, in astrology, you aren't confined to a single group). Or maybe it's because thousands of companies use the test to determine how they recruit, train and organize employees. That's like a manager making final decisions based on how many earth signs they have on their team.
Considering my many reservations about the MBTI and similar quizzes, I refused to strongly identify with my type, let alone look to it as justification for my LTR. And, according to Matt Lundquist, LCSW, a psychotherapist and couples therapist, there's no compelling reason why I should do either of those things.
"I always get nervous when people look at a test like this and then define themselves by its results," Lundquist says. He adds that personality type quizzes can help people apply order to their lives and relationships, and even allow company managers or advertisers to organize people by their problem-solving skills and communication style.
"Can there be utility in placing people into categories in order to predict certain results? Sure," Lundquist says. "As a guide for individuals? There are many consulting firms that would argue otherwise, but I'm skeptical."
Simply put, the categories that the MBTI offers are way too general to predict the actions of one specific person. For example, I share my type with Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber. It hopefully doesn't need to be said, but he and I don't have much else in common. MBTI results just aren't very personal, so putting your type in your dating profile, for instance, might tell others you're more extroverted than introverted. But it won't give them a better idea of your relationship goals or how you like to spend your time.
If anything, learning about your personality type can confirm ideas you already have about yourself. That absolutely was the case when Denis and I took the test. True to his type, Denis is quiet, down-to-earth, and very kind. And, like Kaczynski and my other fellow INTJs, I'm curious, introverted, and — if you haven't guessed by now — kind of judgy. Our results aren't completely wrong, but relying on such generic descriptors to measure our compatibility seems foolish. Besides, Denis and I already knew all that about each other, plus a whole lot more. So if our MBTI results had implied our relationship was doomed, I wouldn't have cared.
"People are capable of extending themselves beyond the limits such tests might predict," Lundquist says. In other words, even if you identify with your type, you're so much more than its pat definition. Lundquist adds that it's ultimately harmless to play around with MBTI quizzes, but you should never hold yourself or anyone else to the results.
In my case, that means I can't expect Denis to always listen to my never-ending problems just because he's a warm, open-minded ISFP — but I can expect him to do that because he loves me and stuff.