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  1. #1
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    Default Help me understand and respect my ISFJ mate?

    I'm an INFJ married to a wonderful ISFJ. We're new parents and this is really highlighting our tempermental differences in a way that worries me, but I am sure there are solutions. It's probably not surprising that my parenting style emphasizes attachment, and my partner has a more behaviorist bent. (Example: I'd like to let our son work on his own timetable learning to sleep through the night, securely knowing we are there for him, partner wants to train him through controlled crying, which is the conventional norm in the US, to ensure his independence.) My partner is also moody, including bursts of anger (I really do think there are anger management issues lurking but maybe y'all can help me understand this in a new way), whereas I'm vigilant about preserving a more serene attitude around our son.

    Of course I'm full of conviction that my feelings about how best to parent are right, and I read and research constantly. Partner does not wish to do this sort of reading (I can respect that), considers any developmental psych stuff hogwash (this makes me nervous) and prefers to make decisions in the moment and based on what peers appear to be doing.

    End of the day, I can't control the moodiness but I do tend to "win" on decisions like sleep-training and discipline -- until my partner just snaps and does something totally contrary. That's devastating for me.

    Here is the thing, I don't want to "win" -- I want to persuade. And I also want to really understand and evaluate the other perspective to see whether perhaps I ought to be more flexible on my opinions. (Really.) I want an equal, respectful and loving partnership and I want us to be wonderful parents to our son.

    Any advice?

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    I don't know how old the baby is, but hormones and sleep deprivation can cause some pretty wild mood swings. It takes awhile to kind of settle into the whole thing. Different people are going to cope with the sudden onset of incredible responsibility in different ways and generally, harmony between the parents is more important to the specific parenting approach. If the baby's basic physical needs are being met and s/he is loved, it's a big start in the right direction. You can work on the details as you go.

    I suggest two things: patience and compromise.
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
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    Quote Originally Posted by crandolph View Post
    I'm an INFJ married to a wonderful ISFJ. We're new parents and this is really highlighting our tempermental differences in a way that worries me, but I am sure there are solutions. It's probably not surprising that my parenting style emphasizes attachment, and my partner has a more behaviorist bent. (Example: I'd like to let our son work on his own timetable learning to sleep through the night, securely knowing we are there for him, partner wants to train him through controlled crying, which is the conventional norm in the US, to ensure his independence.) My partner is also moody, including bursts of anger (I really do think there are anger management issues lurking but maybe y'all can help me understand this in a new way), whereas I'm vigilant about preserving a more serene attitude around our son.
    Congratulations on your new baby.

    It's too bad they don't come with a help manual, isn't it? Life would be a little easier. Of course, even while there are general things that seem to be effective, each child is unique and often the plan needs a lot of tweaking as you go for each one.

    It doesn't sound like atypical ISFJ behavior. You are competing with her inner map of how "parenting is supposed to be done." That's what's tried-and-true to her, and all of your suggestions -- based as they are on theory and reading -- are just speculation to her at some level, not yet validated to her.

    One thing to remember is that you are both the parents. I know that you feel your way is 'right' -- but you have only the same amount of rights to make decisions as she does and vice versa. You have to accommodate her approach just as you are asking her to accommodate yours... even if you don't like it. It is becoming apparent to you that just having her do it your way is not effective long-term because resentment builds in her... and this is bad for you as parents AND as spouses. So you should be prepared to flex, even if you think your way is best.

    If you want to persuade her, she needs to see tangible results of your proposed methods. Theory does not cut it, she needs to see that it works... with people she respects or trusts. You have to appeal to the people SHE considers authoritative.

    Also, I don't know how the "care arrangements" work out, but if your plan places more stress on her than hers does on her (i.e., she's paying more emotionally or more of her time/energy than you are by following your plan), this will build resentment as well. Your plans for the perfect parent have to take her needs into consideration; ISFJs are notorious for trying to please others while internally feeling lots of resentment if they feel their partner is not caring for them in turn.

    fwiw, we did wean our first child to sleep independently within six weeks, getting him onto a routine. It was helpful to us as parents just to get everything done, and we are not aware of any damage that was done to him; he trusts us, feels secure, and is a kind and compassionate child for being such a thinker type. Another child might have reacted poorly to our choice, but he did well... as far as we can tell without a "control child" to compare him to. Yes, perhaps the early behavior sets precedents, but do not ignore the ability you have as parents to interact constantly with your child and adjust as you go...the things that seem so large at the beginning really are not, because you're constantly investing and tweaking and making up for any deficiencies that appear if you err.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Congratulations on your new baby.

    It's too bad they don't come with a help manual, isn't it? Life would be a little easier. Of course, even while there are general things that seem to be effective, each child is unique and often the plan needs a lot of tweaking as you go for each one.

    It doesn't sound like atypical ISFJ behavior. You are competing with her inner map of how "parenting is supposed to be done." That's what's tried-and-true to her, and all of your suggestions -- based as they are on theory and reading -- are just speculation to her at some level, not yet validated to her.

    One thing to remember is that you are both the parents. I know that you feel your way is 'right' -- but you have only the same amount of rights to make decisions as she does and vice versa. You have to accommodate her approach just as you are asking her to accommodate yours... even if you don't like it. It is becoming apparent to you that just having her do it your way is not effective long-term because resentment builds in her... and this is bad for you as parents AND as spouses. So you should be prepared to flex, even if you think your way is best.
    If you want to persuade her, she needs to see tangible results of your proposed methods. Theory does not cut it, she needs to see that it works... with people she respects or trusts. You have to appeal to the people SHE considers authoritative.

    Also, I don't know how the "care arrangements" work out, but if your plan places more stress on her than hers does on her (i.e., she's paying more emotionally or more of her time/energy than you are by following your plan), this will build resentment as well. Your plans for the perfect parent have to take her needs into consideration; ISFJs are notorious for trying to please others while internally feeling lots of resentment if they feel their partner is not caring for them in turn.

    fwiw, we did wean our first child to sleep independently within six weeks, getting him onto a routine. It was helpful to us as parents just to get everything done, and we are not aware of any damage that was done to him; he trusts us, feels secure, and is a kind and compassionate child for being such a thinker type. Another child might have reacted poorly to our choice, but he did well... as far as we can tell without a "control child" to compare him to. Yes, perhaps the early behavior sets precedents, but do not ignore the ability you have as parents to interact constantly with your child and adjust as you go...the things that seem so large at the beginning really are not, because you're constantly investing and tweaking and making up for any deficiencies that appear if you err.
    Ah, this is helpful and does make sense. I do think my parenting style is probably more demanding emotionally and physically than more conventional U.S. parenting so the resentment builds -- probably contributing to the moody/angry stuff too. In terms of trying to be more flexible, the dynamic is interesting -- when I offer that we ought to go ahead and take partner's approach on something it devolves into a battle of the martyrs. Maybe my offers don't come across as genuine? I really really do want my partner's needs met, but then my suggestion that I'll be flexible probably sounds like "I am willing to elevate your needs above my philosophical beliefs" which is then met with resistance (understandably).

    Also, how the hell do you get an ISFJ to open up about their needs without feeling like a total pest? I try to make it as safe as possible to be open and truthful but something I'm doing that I haven't been able to pinpoint yet is shutting things down. I think the fact I'm in constant problem-solving mode may get annoying (which seems weird because I'd think an SJ would appreciate a solution orientation). What might I be missing.

    Yeah we are both still sleep-deprived and both work outside the home which adds stress but we are at least beyond that first "baby bootcamp" period -- our son is 9 months.

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    Quote Originally Posted by crandolph View Post
    ... Maybe my offers don't come across as genuine?
    That one really rang true -- ISFJs are true "show me the money" people. N types find it easier to visualize another's proposal and imagine the value of it (enough to trust the visualization!) up front. ISFJs really do like to see it played out in real life, with all the details dealt with, before they commit to change the inner map they have been following.

    They aren't really being stubborn, I see it as diligence and responsibility most of the time. They just want to make sure the new direction is not just whimsy or "guesswork," especially where children are concerned.

    Also, how the hell do you get an ISFJ to open up about their needs without feeling like a total pest?
    Sigh, oh, that's a tough one. I think ISFJs can easily get into a position where they aren't even sure what their needs are until they're not being met and they realize they are angry. Once they have their process figured out, or their responsibilities, they consider themselves capable of meeting them come hell or high water... partly because they push aside their own needs out of their sense of responsibility.

    I try to make it as safe as possible to be open and truthful but something I'm doing that I haven't been able to pinpoint yet is shutting things down. I think the fact I'm in constant problem-solving mode may get annoying (which seems weird because I'd think an SJ would appreciate a solution orientation). What might I be missing.
    That's hard to tell without details. Female ISFJs seem to have a push/pull tendency. They don't like to beg or demand things of others (and thus can come across very independent and capable), and sometimes they even reject help when it's offered; but they also can feel hurt, abandoned, or angry if no help is offered. They'll even push back in what seems to be an unconscious "test" of whether or not you are sincere in your love and desire to help.

    The first months are hard on the relationship, because all the time you used to have together is now dedicated to the baby. Do you have scheduled "alone time" -- just the two of you? Part of her resistance or resentment could simply be because she's losing a sense of your love for her. If you don't have scheduled time for each other yet, just to talk and do something together (just be together), then she might not feel appreciated or desirable. She might act like she's all "responsibility" and might seem to push "alone time" away in her drive to get things done and care for the baby and household; but being loved and being with people she loves, one on one, is a big deal.

    So if she feels good about the "two of you," this will definitely filter over positively into her reaction to your ideas about parenting. And if she feels bad about "you two," then that resistance will build.

    Yeah we are both still sleep-deprived and both work outside the home which adds stress but we are at least beyond that first "baby bootcamp" period -- our son is 9 months.
    Oh good, I'm glad you've made it this far... and your child is still alive, too, so that means you're doing something right.

    I bet it's getting to be a lot of fun now. When they can move/walk under their own power, and when they start to really talk -- those are two of the most exciting times.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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    Quote Originally Posted by crandolph View Post
    Also, how the hell do you get an ISFJ to open up about their needs without feeling like a total pest? I try to make it as safe as possible to be open and truthful but something I'm doing that I haven't been able to pinpoint yet is shutting things down. I think the fact I'm in constant problem-solving mode may get annoying (which seems weird because I'd think an SJ would appreciate a solution orientation). What might I be missing.
    I'm noticing things in your post like "pest," "shutting down," and "I'm in constant problem-solving mode." So maybe your pestering is causing your wife to react with a J-style shutdown and "distancing"?

    When two Js live together, one will often turn into a fake P or they may alternate playing off P vs. J. (Same with two Ps living together--one will often become more J relative to the other).

    So if you're acting P-ish, pestering her, getting needy, and trying to penetrate past her personal boundaries, then you may be experiencing what us Ps get when we try to intrude on a J's personal space--barriers being thrown up and a "distancing" until your neediness subsides and the J feels safe enough to dismantle the barriers.

    You may just need to give her more space and let her reveal herself at her own time and in her own way. Concentrate on noticing and "reading" her signals when and as she chooses to send them out, rather than trying to force the issue by asking that she open up to you according to your schedule and format.

    Just guessing here, by the way. I'm just surmising based on my experience of typical P vs J behavior (as opposed to any special insight concerning ISFJs in particular).

    [Edit:] Oops! Jennifer beat me to it, and she has much better personal knowledge of ISFJ spouses and child-rearing.

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    I struggle with something similar in that sometimes my husband and I are not on the same page about something. He doesn't like to read. I have to get the information to him in a way he will respect and receive or else, we'll just keep butting heads.

    I had a best friend who is ISFJ. She was incredibly stubborn and immovable on certain things. Once she was convinced of something, I don't think dynamite would move it. However, everything was always all about feelings for her. So if you can make your case using feelings as the be all and end all reasoning, perhaps that would help.

    One time we were doing historical research together, looking at old photos, when suddenly I noticed the details of one building in one photo looked exactly like the details of the other building in the other photo. So I told her, 'hey these are the same building.' She adamantly, stubbornly, for several minutes, refused to believe me. She REFUSED to even look at the pictures or entertain the thought that what she had previously believed, was wrong. (She had 'previously stored information' in her head that conflicted.)

    So finally I had an apparent brainstorm. I said, 'okay, how about if you look at the pictures and prove me wrong?' She was willing to do that, and once she studied the pictures, she realized they were the same building, and she was able to adjust her thinking to the new information.

    I had to be careful not to have an 'I told you so' attitude though because that makes it harder for a person to admit they're wrong - and anyway, we all make mistakes, right?

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    Quote Originally Posted by FineLine View Post
    [Edit:] Oops! Jennifer beat me to it, and she has much better personal knowledge of ISFJ spouses and child-rearing.
    I certainly don't have the corner on the market here, and you always offer an interesting spin on things that turns the conversation in a new direction. A multiple approach to the situation might strike on something that will work for them.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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    Couple quick clarifications -- I'm the mom, partner is the dad (I know I should have corrected this immediately but I think I was finding it interesting that the flip assumption was made). I don't think the gender reversal changes any of Jennifer's analysis though, it all seems spot on. I'm going to start taking some more concrete steps, "just do it" on some of the sleep training instead of talking about it for example, and asking the nanny in advance to babysit one evening and plan another date with my husband (we had one recently when my parents were in town and could watch the bear and it was a breath of fresh air).

    As for pestering.....I'm borderline J and my husband is a moderate/strong J so the P/J analysis makes sense. God it is hard to just sit back and trust that he'll eventually share what is going on in that head! (Particularly when there are all those physical manifestations of distress that my strong N picks up on all the time and wants to fix.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by crandolph View Post
    Couple quick clarifications -- I'm the mom, partner is the dad (I know I should have corrected this immediately but I think I was finding it interesting that the flip assumption was made). I don't think the gender reversal changes any of Jennifer's analysis though, it all seems spot on.
    Oh, snap! Very nice, that's funnier than you know!

    I'd love to hear how any of these ideas play out and see if gender does impact type expression/expectations. (Especially in ISFJ males vs females. Because ISFJ seems to align with feminine western values, and I am interested how the masculine filters through those.)
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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