Idealists approach mating quite differently from the other three temperaments. In their own ways the other types tend to be realistic about mating, which is to say that Experiencers, Traditionalists, and Conceptualists assume that mates be fallible, and they will go along with a good deal of compromise in making their marriages work. Idealists, on the other hand, are singularly idealistic about choosing a mate, and most often take up the romantic task of seeking the perfect mate and the ideal relationship, what they call "love of their life" or their "one true love", joined with them in a match made in heaven and crating a love timeless and eternal. In other words, NF's are looking for more than life partners in their mates-they want soul partners, persons with whom they can bond in some special spiritual sense sharing their complex inner lives and communicating intimately about what most concerns them; their feelings and their causes, their romantic fantasies and their ethical dilemmas, their inner division, and their search for wholeness. Idealists firmly believe in such deep and meaningful relationships-they settle for nothing less-and in some cases they try to create them where they don't exist thus creating their Pygmalion Projects.
Yearning For Romance
The most important thing to remember about Idealists is this: one and all, they are incurable romantics. Each type has an abiding hunger, some restless longing that needs to be satisfied each and every day. Experiencers hunger for social impact, Traditionalists for belonging, Conceptualists for achievement. Idealists are not without these other yearnings, but they have much less hold on them than their hunger for romance. Romance-in the sense of idealized love-is not something that NF's can take or leave; it is vital to their growth and happiness, a nourishment they cannot live without, just as its opposite, the uninspiring, commonplace relationship, is flat and stale and lifeless.
In all areas of life, Idealists are concerned not so much with practical realities as with meaningful possibilities, with romantic ideals. But particularly in their love relationships, NF's have a keen appetite for romance-if any type can be said to be "in love with love," it is the NF. And yet, while they fall in love easily, Idealists have little interest in shallow or insignificant relationships. On the contrary, they want their relationships to be deep, meaningful, full of beauty, poetry, and sensitivity.
If their love life lacks romance, Idealists have been known to romanticize their relationships, infusing them with a glow of perfection that can rarely be sustained in the harsher light of reality. All too often the NF's fall into this pattern of romantic projection, accompanied by a considerable investment of effort and emotion, a Pygmalion Project ending in painful disillusionment.
This kind of sobering reality check confronts Idealists sooner or later in all of their romantic relationships, and how they deal with it-whether they choose to develop what they have, or move onto other dreams-determines to a great extent the course of their personal lives.
NF Idealist Courtship
The Idealists' desire that their relationships be deep and meaningful (that is, intense, enduring, and all-important in their lives) is very much in evidence in the way they go about dating. NFs do not usually choose to play the field to any great extent, but prefer to go out with one person at a time and to explore the potential for special closeness in each relationship. Never casual or occasional about dating, NFs typically look past surface relations to more deeply-felt connections, and they lose interest rather quickly with dates wihch center around social events and physical activities. Idealists can enjoy this skin-deep sort of date for a while, of course, but they usually try to find their own kind of enjoyment as the evening wears on. At parties, for example, NFs will often look for a quiet corner where they can talk with their date (or someone else) on a more personal, intimate level. And at amusement parks or sporting events, Idealists will eventually separate themselves mentally from the rides, the sights, and the action, and begin to observe people around them, wondering about their personalities and fantasizing about their personal lives.
Indeed (and this surprises Experiencers and Traditionalists), Idealists would usually rather talk with thier dates than do things or go places, although chatting about concrete, literal, or factual things doesn't particularly interest them either. Idealists want to talk about abstract matters-ideas, insights, personal philosophies, spiritual beliefs, dreams, goals, family relationships, altruistic causes, and the like-inwardly felt topics that break through social surfaces and connect two people heart to heart. NFs love to talk about movies or novels that have touched them deeply, but they don't want to describe the plot so much as to discuss what the story suggests between the lines, the aesthetic or moral issues involved, and how the characters' lives symbolize their own experience or the wider experience of mankind. And NF's talk enthusiastically about art, music, poetry, particularly about what a work of art signifies to them. The ability to communciate comfortably wiht their dates in this imaginative, meaningful way most often determines whether or not the Idealist can become serious in a given relationship.
Finding the rare person with whom they can share their inner world is difficult for Idealists, a painful process or trial and error, and often they vow not to date at all for periods of time rather than go through the search. For NFs, dating someone means more than physical fun or social experience; it is an opening of their heart and mind to the other person, in some cases a baring of their soul, and carries with it both promise and an expectation of deep regard and mutual understanding. And because they are offering so much of themselves to the other, and expecting so much in return, NFs are highly sensitive to rejection, and can be deeply hurt when spurned by antoher, or when having to break off a relationship themselves. The trauma of breaking up can be so difficult for Idealists that at times they will avoid getting involved with others for fear of things not working out. At the other extreme, they will remain in a relationship longer than they should be in it, just to put off the soul-hurting scene of rejection.
However, once the special person comes their way (the man or woman of their dreams), Idealists can be carried away with their feelings, and give almost all their attention to pursuing the relationship. For the NF, not just a compatible marriage but an all-consuming, undying passion is in the offing, and so the courtship becomes the center of his or her world. Just as do the possibilities in relationships that inspire them, and they see in each new relationship the potential for bringing them the perfect love that will fulfill them completely. Idealists have a flair for dramatizing their courtships, and they spare no effort or flight of imagination to win the heart of their loved one.
Idealist courtships are marked not only by romantic gestures, but also by the idealization of the relationship. In the early stages of romance, both NF males and females are likely to be blind to flaws in their beloved, and to beleive in the illusion that life together will proceed happily ever after. Idealists hold dear a compelling though often vague inner-vision of what thier ideal mate will be like, and they tend to project this vision of perfection into their all-too-human loved ones. Thus, at the slightest suggestion, NFs will see soulfulness and poetic sensitivity in the people they've fallen in love with-whether or not they are indeed soulful and poetic. At the same time, NFs believe that everyone has the potential for spiritual growth and in many cases they inted to use their love to develop this latent mystical side of their mates, a Pygmalion Project indeed.
Although many Idealists are reluctant to admit it, such romantic projection-and the subsequent disillusionment-are most often a problem in cases where there is a strong sexual attraction. Idealists can be deeply divided about their sexual feelings. On the one hand, they insist that sex must be an expression of love rather than lust. Even the word 'sex' seems a bit crude to the Idealist; 'love' puts the relationship on a higher plain. But make no mistake, for all their other-worldliness, NFs are intimate, warm, even passionate people who are highly responsive to physical beauty and to sexual attraction. Now the problem for Idealists is that, with thier rich fantasy lives, they tend to idealize physical beauty and to project their own poetic nature into the object of their sexual attraction. They also tend to romanticize sex as soulful communion. In other words, NFs tend to fall in love with a dream of beauty and passion, only to be rather painfully disillusioned by the flesh-and-blood imperfections, which they will eventually encounter in their loved ones. Many NFs are not fully prepared for the moment of truth when they come to see the imperfect reality of their lovers, and some relationships are unable to survive the truth. Fortunately, both male and femal Idealists have a capacity for deep affection anc caring over and above sexual expression, and out of this capacity can grow lasting, intimate relationships.
The Idealists, warm, generous, vivacious, soulful, personally conscientious, and interpersonally sensitive, are quite attractive to the other temperaments. Experiencers feel some kinship with the Idealists' romantic or poetic sense of life as a work of art, and can feel morally uplifted by the ethical dimension that NFs bring to their relationship. Traditionalists, on the other hand, feel secure with the Idealists powerful sense of life's moral seriousness, and can feel livened up a bit by the enthusiasm and creativity with which the NFs throw themselves into things. However, it is the Conceptualists who are the most attracted to the Idealists, for not only do both temperaments share the rare trait of abstract thought together, and thus the NTs finally have somebody interesting to talk with, but they truly admire the NFs emotional sparkle, and their personal warmth.
Idealist Married Life
Whatever the mix of personalities in their marriages, however, both male and female Idealists are likely to be a source of continuing love, support, and understanding to their spouses. In the affective areas Idealists are without equal, bringing to their marriages an extraordinary sensitivity to the moods and feelings of their mates, and an unsurpassed ability to communicate emotionally. Both NF females and males seem to have their antennae always alert to what others are feeling, especially when this involves hurt or conflict, and they characteristically respond to their mates with kindness, tenderness, and unconditional love. They are usually ready to lend sympathy to a mate when the outside world turns hostile, and are reluctant to use that moment to point out the errors of a mate's ways, something which the other three temperaments are more inclined to do.
Indeed, Idealists often are experts in the arts of appreciation, expcially in the area of personal qualities, and they are apt to be generous in expressing heartfelt approval of their loved ones. Possessing facility of language, NFs are able to communicate nuances of emotions that might not even be noticed by the other temperaments, and their private conversations are often liberally sprinkled with terms of endearment and with frequent, passionate expressions of love, both verbal and nonverbal-giving hugs and saying, "I love you" are often a natural part of the thier interaction with their mates and children. It is undoubtedly the Idealist who is the most loving, affectionate, and appreciative mate, and is unstinting in the expression of these emotions.
Perhaps Idealists are this sensitive to their mates because of their exceptional ability to introject or to empathize-to see the world through another's eyes. Of all the temperaments the NFs are the most empathic, having the ability to take into themselves another's mental state (both thoughts and feelings) so completely that the other feels totally understood and accepted. With their talent for indentifying with the other person, for slipping into another's skin, Idealists find that building close, loving, relationships is the most natural thing in the world. They are truly the masters of the art of intimacy.
And yet such emotional sensitivity (some would say hypersensitivity) can take its toll, and Idealists have been known to become upset when these affective ties begin to bind, as they do when the amount of emotional input from their mates becomes a psychological overload. NFs report that at times, they find their emotional circuits so overloaded with their own concerns that they cannot deal positively with the emotional experiences of others who are especially close to them, particularly when those experiences are negative or unhappy.
In addition, emotional dependence in a mate can really bother an Idealist, even though their own sensitivity sometimes encourages dependency. If their mates begin to seem weak and clinging-to appear to need more and more attention, more and more expressions of the NFs unusual appreciation, more and more signals of deep affection (for example, if two NFs were in the same relationship - both seeking deep affection) Idealists can become resentful of pressures to deliver what they had seemed to promise to their mates; the ideal love, complete understanding, and total acceptance. At this point NFs can turn irritable, insisting unexpectedly that their mates stop hanging on their approval and learn to stand on their own two feet. This shift in attitude is usually abrupt and the loved ones who heretofore believed that they were very special in the eyes of the Idealist now find themselves apparantly rejected. The Idealist does not mean to be unkind; he or she is simply disconnecting from a relationship which can no longer be handled. Of all the temperaments, this scenario is least likely to happen with an NT mate as they are usually more independent and appear to have an atypical aloofness regarding receiving appreciation from their mates, it isn't as important to them as it is other types.
The majority of Idealists find their greatest satisfaction in developing one special relationship, and they structure much of their lives around their homes and families. NFs are imaginative and creative around the house, their homes are usually filled with a great variety of music and art, along with cherished personal items, family photographs, spiritual icons-and everywhere books, not only books of philosophy and poetry, but books on religion and mysticism, personal growth, novels of all kinds, artistic hobbies, especially those that enhance the home, such as interior decorating, gourmet cooking, gardening (NFs love flowers), playing a musical instrument (piano, guitar, trumpet), and often they become quite accomplished in the activity. Idealists also develop other life-enhancing enthusiasms, nutrition, yoga, self-hypnosis, along with various other kinds of therapies, and will usually try to interest their spouses in their latest passion.
Idealists are generally skilled socially, and people usually feel wanted and well-hosted in their homes. Extraverted NFs are likely to be socially active, becoming involved (and hoping to involve their spouses) in a variety of cultural and personal development programs, such as great books courses, drama groups, and film societies, and they will also join discussion groups, taking up vital social issues and current trends in education, psychology, religion, literature, and so on. Intraverted NFs keep more to themselves and their immediate loved ones, and tend to make cave-like private spaces in their homes, where they read voraciously and contemplate the mysteries of life, although they will actively support the arts and humanities in their communities, attending concerts, plays, poetry readings, and other cultural events. Expressive or reserved, however, NFs are spontaneously thoughtful with their family members, usually remembering birthdays, anniversaries, and such without being prompted, or at most needing only a hint. If, in turn, their own special days are forgotten, Idealists can be deeply hurt, as deeply as they are appreciative when theirs are noticed.
Creative warm, loving relationships is indeed second nature to Idealists, and they weave their interpersonal spell in marriages with all the temperaments. Still, there can be trouble in paradise.
Idealists thoroughly enjoy their Experiencer mates' freedom and spontaneity in the real world, and they admire the ease with which SPs live artfully in the moment, so different from their own torn, conscience-stricken experience of life. Also the sensuality and sexual boldness of SP mates can intrigue NFs and fire their romantic imaginations. However, there is one potent seed of dissatisfaction in these NF-SP marriages, namely, the lack of interest that SPs have in tlaking of their inner lives. When an Idealist speaks of the "true self," of "transcendental meditation", or of "deep consciousness", their Experiencer mates do not really understand and cannot offer much enthusiasm or insight on such abstract topics. And sadly, it is from this seed that Pygmalion Projects grow in these relationships, as the Idealist partners try with all of their imaginative might to cultivate a heightened inner-awareness in their Experiencer SP mates.
With Traditionalist mates Idealists find a comfortable, reassuring stability and dependability in the home, traits which give the somewhat scattered NFs a feeling of solid earth beneath their feet. SJs also have a firmly fixed moral center-a sure sense of Right and Wrong-that Idealists, so often of two minds about moral issues, deeply respect. And Idealists and Traditionalists are both social cooperators, which defuses alot of conflict over following, or at least respecting, the rules and laws that govern everyday life. Yet here again Traditionalists have trouble sharing the rich inner lives of Idealists, and can disappoint their NF mates' deep longing for soulful bonding and romantic sexuality. The Traditionalist might listen dutifully to the Idealists flights of imagination, and might try to be more fanciful and passionate in order to please the NF, but sooner or later the SJ feels unappreciated and begin to resist the force of the NFs Pygmalion Project-and the result can be head-on battles.
Idealists have much less trouble with mates of their own temperament, and Idealists often get along exceptionally well with other Idealists. Two NFs can find deep-felt satisfaction in sharing each other's inner world and exploring each other's personal development, although if the pair are too much alike in their ethical concerns, or pursue the same spiritual goals for too long a time, they can become rather narrowly devoted to the pilgrim's journey and tire themselves out along the way. In addition, two empathic NFs can creat a wonderfully intimate bond for at time, but eventually such mutual introjection can also invade each partner's privacy-constantly getting into each other's skin can result in getting on each other's nerves.
The choice of a NT Conceptualist mate seems to hold the best promise of success for Idealists. But since the NTs are such a small percentage of the general population, it is often difficult for an Idealist to even find an NT. The basis of their successful compatibility is that NFs and NTs both live primarily in the world of abstract concepts-the world of theories and possibilities, of insights and symbols. After dating more down-to-earth, literal minded Experiencers and Traditionalists, and Idealist's first encounter with a Conceptualist can be a revelation, putting the NF in touch with a new and intriguing type of person, someone eager and able (like the NF) to dream the world, to build castles in the air, and to see far distances with the mind's eye. Also fascinating is the Conceptualists calmness and autonomy, two characteristics which give the NT a strength of character-a firm grasp of who they are-that the easily ruffled, soul-searching NF greatly admires, and would like to emulate.
These Idealist-Conceptualist relationships do not always remain harmonious, of course. Conflicts of NF emotional expressiveness against NT self-control, of NF intuition against NT logic, and of NF ethical or humanitarian concerns against NT technical pragmatics can prove challenging in even the best Idealist-Conceptualist relationships. Indeed, NFs often come to regard thier NT mates' resistance to expressing emotion (although INTP and ENTP do express their emotions more than the INTJ and ENTJ types), their seeming aloof rationality, and their preference for what works over what's right as barriers to be broken down, or at least chipped at with the Pygmalion's chisel. But while the sparks might fly-or maybe because of the sparks-Idealists take to Conceptualists as to no other temperament.