INFPs need alone time
The Care and Feeding of INFPs, part 1
Give your INFP some alone time
INFPs need time to reset. We have this mental/emotional bookshelf where a book is an emotion or mindset. The acts of everyday living—going to work, interacting with people, striving towards goals, maintaining our lives—requires pulling a book off the bookshelf to access what we need to live in the day-to-day.
As we use those books, they pile up and as more things happen day after day, going through the piles to find the books we need takes longer and longer. Eventually, we have to take some alone time and put those books in our mental piles back onto the bookshelf. That’s what I mean by resetting.
Alone time doesn’t actually mean being hidden away from everybody. It means being away from those that requires us to pull stuff off the shelf which is usually people we care about. INFPs are being perfectly capable of being alone with people around, just not with people we know.
1. Lack of focus. INFPs are somewhat distracted anyway, but when we need time to reset, we can’t seem to concentrate on anything for any given length of time.
2. Irritability. We get short-tempered because when we don’t reset, everything becomes just another problem that needs a book from our shelf in order for us to solve it. And we can’t find that book because it’s in a pile somewhere.
3. Lack of communication. When we start answering emotionally complicated questions with single syllables, it’s time to leave us alone.
Basically, you need to create an environment where your INFP is only responsible for themselves. A loved one in the picture doesn’t work because if you’re around and the INFP cares for you then they’ll start thinking about how you’re feeling and how you’ll be reacting to their need to reset.
My wife is an INTJ and their reasons for alone time and symptoms are different than INFPs, but the treatment is the same. Usually, I take the kids to visit my parents for the entire day (6 or more hours). Or I send her out to the bookstore, coffee shop, shopping, etc. With kids, the INFP can’t be in the same proximity. It doesn’t work because with kids that close, you’re always a parent.
If you don’t have kids, go do something fun so your INFP doesn’t have to worry about you. Try to avoid doing anything that involves repeated vomiting which would require the INFP to hold your head at some later time. Also, avoid anything that requires the INFP to bail you out of jail. Just a tip.
Dec 23, 2009
Hi Corin – I like the metaphor of the bookshelf you’ve used here. The image of “mental clutter” really speaks to me. Being alone to reset and recharge is something I need to do often. Also, during these times, I need to be able to “move” freely, that is, no schedules or clocks, just meandering along at my own pace to my own drummer. 🙂
December 23rd, 2009 at 1:43 pm
I understand what you mean by “move freely”. It’s during my reset times that I get leftover stuff done. But this happens at my own pace and in whichever order I feel like it.
It’s the process of just doing things as I want them done without outside pressures crowding into my head that helps me reset.
Dec 25, 2009
Interesting thoughts… as always 😉
I could relate to the “symptoms” … I would personally add to the list general aloofness, boredom and slight anxiety…
Reading your blog has inspired me to start my own blog, I realized in the last comment I wrote here (which was too long) that I should give this a try… I still can’t get myself to get started with “writing” but I’ll get to it eventually…
Jan 26, 2010
“INFPs are being perfectly capable of being alone with people around, just not with people we know.”
Wow, now I know how to explain to my husband that the way I decompress best is to go sit in a bookstore cafe and read magazines. And why I hate sharing my cafe time WITH anyone. He has never understood how my “alone and quiet” time can happen in such a busy, noisy place and I never had a way to explain it before.
January 26th, 2010 at 5:42 pm
We don’t have any active relationships in a busy place among strangers. With people we know, that relationship is there and as INFPs immediately go into Extraverted Feeling mode which is completely opposite from our natural state of Introverted Feeling.
I’ll have to explain Cognitive Functions later in a post, but INFPs natural state is Introverted Feeling (Valuing and considering importance, beliefs, and worth ) which is energizing, but around people we have a relationship with, we go into the opposite mode Extroverted Feeling (Connecting and considering others and the group) which is draining.
February 2nd, 2010 at 8:35 pm
It damn sure is draining!
Sheesh, that explains why it wears me out so. I never understood that switching into extroversion thing you just described, but now I see why they can’t even be around. Anywhere near. LOL!
June 25th, 2012 at 8:33 pm
Wow! You’ve really helped shed light on this for me… Somehow, I’ve always felt it was hard to be in the same house as my hubby and be doing totally different things for an extended period of time. It’s OK for a while, after which I’ll feel like maybe we should be doing something together! So, I’m probably not allowing myself the full “recharge” time that I need. This past weekend, after much deliberating, I finally went off to a park by myself for the whole afternoon. It felt wonderful! You’re right about switching into Extroverted Feeling mode….and I never realized this was happening. Thanks. =)
To everyone else who is writing, it feels great to have an online community. I have quite a few INFP friends but we are scattered in different states.
June 30th, 2012 at 6:05 am
I know this post is from a couple of years ago, but I came across your blog yesterday. I’m a 60 year old, recently laid off from a job in the insurance field, looking for work and trying to figure myself out.
While out of work, I’m helping out family members with major life events (mother, daughter, son, sister, etc.), meanwhile having a hard time focusing on me. I like your simple explanation of IN vs EN functions and how that energizes versus drains.
Today I’m taking some alone time. Not going anywhere (although I wish I could be at the ocean) – just holed up in my home – by myself.
August 29th, 2014 at 8:06 pm
Wow! I finally feel not so alone in this. I struggle with using Fe when spending time with friends. However, I can become very talkative around strangers, and energised using my Fe there. Perhaps, my Fi is less active when I have the choice not to engage with people if I don’t want to. That relief of pressure brings a very pleasant feeling to me and I feel much warmer towards others.
July 10th, 2016 at 12:20 pm
i always thought i was bipolar because i know I’m a quiet shy person but when I’m around my friends, i go into an energized mode, laughing and cracking jokes and even saying hi to people i dont even know.
Thank you for this post.
Jan 26, 2010
My first reaction when you mentioned Extraverted Feeling (Fe) was to say to myself, “I never go into Fe mode, I use Extraverted Thinking (Te) mode” then I saw the part “but around people we have a relationship with…” and a light bulb went off.
An interesting anecdote that may be related, I tried to follow the advice I gleaned from the books “First Break All the Rules” and “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” that essentially said connecting with people at work is important. For me it was a horrible, horrible idea – one of the worst mistakes I’ve ever made. I need to keep “office” relationships in the Ne/Te realm – a safe distance away from my feelings. Oddly, people at work also perceived me as warmer/more fun BEFORE my emotions became engaged. Have you had any issues like this?
January 26th, 2010 at 9:18 pm
I handle work a little differently since my day job isn’t one of my Pillars (those are the areas in your life that hold up your identity – I haven’t written about those yet).
So since my Identity isn’t closely tied to my Role as programmer, I find it easy to take on behaviors that help in that Role. So basically, I behave like an INTJ. I pre-plan. I figure out what the “real” problem I’m trying to solve is, not the stated problem. I schedule tasks. I can only do it in bursts though.
I think it would be different if my job played a bigger role on how I defined myself. Take the New Personality Self-Portrait. If you’re high on the Conscientious, it usually means work is a Pillar.
May 14, 2010
I read this a few weeks ago, and I just read it again. I think I’m getting a better understanding of when and why my girlfriend decides to recharge. As a result, I’ve been gradually changing my behavior. I try not to “intrude” on her as much as I used to. For example, sometimes for some reason, she’d end up staring off into space or leaving the group she was in for no explanation, and I’d rile her up unwittingly by following her or making a call or a text. What ended up happening is that my call wouldn’t get picked up or I’d just get a single word text message back.
Now, I’m more likely to go “Hmm…I think I’ll hang out with S. for the next few hours.” I still have a ways to go, however. It’s not like I always know when she’s going to do that, and so I inadvertently mess up.
But that’s okay. It helps me learn. It helps her learn too, because having me in her life means that she’s getting a different understanding about how her behavior affects those around her. Now, knowing this and believing in it are different from how I feel about it. I still feel bad when I make a mistake, though I’m trying to get over that.
Aug 12, 2010
So true. And I love the metaphor of the bookshelf.
This comment may sound like I’m taking your metaphor too far, but I was wondering, do extroverts have mental bookshelves too? If they do, I must say they either know their books by heart, or they are very organized, and each time they use a book, they put it right back from where it came. Or else, they have no problem with having their books lying around in piles. And we introverts have bad memories and just let our books lie around till we get confused (at least that must be true for all introvert Ps).
In another post, you had written that how we do one thing is how we do everything. Looking around at my room, I can say that the way I use my mental bookshelf is exactly how I use my real bookshelves. I have a bad memory, so I have to pull out books all the time, and I hardly ever put them back, and one day I get so confused with all the mess that I have to take time off all household work to rearrange my bookshelves. I know I’m taking your metaphor too literally, but I couldn’t help but notice the striking similarity 🙂
August 12th, 2010 at 1:49 pm
It works the opposite for ENFPs. I have a good friend who’s an ENFP and when he’s alone, his head is just going a mile a minute. The external world around has an infinite possibilities and his head is imagining different combinations to see which one would be best. For him, being alone is like shopping at a bookstore with unlimited funds and he’s just pulling interesting books off the shelf. The shopping cart is getting heavier and heavier and he’s getting more tired.
Then when he’s finally out with someone. As he’s interacting, his brain is going, well I don’t really need this book, and this book was interesting at the time, but now that I’m actually here, I don’t really need this one either. So as he’s being social, he’s getting rid of books from his shopping cart. He’s lightening his mental load.
Now that’s how I’ve imagined it after talking with him about it. And that’s probably only applies to ENFPs. I would think for other extroverts the experience would be differently.
Aug 13, 2010
I totally agree d part u said “being parents, INFP cant be ur priority anymore n with kids this close, u’re alwiz a parent”
This is exactly what im goin thru, ever since giving birth to my son (now nearly 2 years), i hardly get my alone time EXCEPT when he is asleep but that too i have to sacrifice with doing unfinished house chores. My ENTJ husband is not really handy with kids OR the house chores so everything is always on me. I get very little help, let alone a ‘me’ time…..Ive to admit, i become all stress up almost everyday dealing with a toddler n not being able to reset…Before married, i get to reset by going to shopping malls n do window shopping (u r totally right when u say INFPs can be alone even in a busy & noisy environment as long as ppl around us r ppl we dont know). Shopping malls is usually where i hang out when i was a teen, i spend hours n hours there n rarely buy anything. But now, im deprived of all those reset time. I do wish that my husband is more handy with kids so that we can take turn to babysit…unfortunately…he’s not……
August 13th, 2010 at 4:14 pm
I need very little sleep so I get most of my alone time at night after the kids go to bed. I get up, go to work, go home spend time with my kids, spend time with my wife. But by 10pm, everyone is asleep. After 10pm, my time is mine.
August 14th, 2010 at 12:13 am
thats exactly what came to my mind when i was thinking of the solution today i.e reduce my sleep time, find alone time at night. But thats not easy either, handling a very active toddler during day time i need enough energy. FYI Corin,i used to work n my condition was better back then coz i manage to get my alone time at office,so i was stabil when ppl surround me at home.Now that im a housewife,there is no place i can resort to anymore,i have to face active-relationship 7am-11pm throughout the week. Oh im so sorry for letting this all out here,this is my first time opening up about this..
August 16th, 2010 at 7:02 am
I can totally relate to this. I need a lot of alone time to recharge my batteries. After having kids it’s a lot more difficult to find that time. Also, when there is opportunity, like after 10 pm, I would find myself too tired or unfocused to be able to use the alone time for something productive (I’d usually end up in front of the TV).
You could find some comfort in the fact that it gets better with time though. It takes a lot of energy to take care of a < 2 year old (as you know).
Don't get me wrong anyone, I love to spend time with my kids. It's just that the quality is a lot better the more energy you have.
Jennifer M Reply:
November 10th, 2010 at 6:38 pm
I can definitely relate to this too – even if I get home very late and have to work the next day, I always take time to watch a tv show or read some blogs – it’s just my “me” time that I need to recharge. If I go straight to bed I usually wake up cranky b/c I haven’t had any time to recharge emotionally.
Priya Florence Shah
Sep 10, 2010
Wow, this is amazing. Just sent it to me ISTJ hubby. I almost burned out trying to keep up with his stuff.
Jan 28, 2011
i totally agree. i’m a teenaged infp and there are many times when i feel the complete urge to shut down and reboot my system. i also feel that when i do this, people i’m close to can’t be around me. since i’m usually never alone in the house, i jump close my eyes and take a nap. when the telephone rings waking me up, i get very very aggitated.
i think i don’t want those close to me around when i reset because sometimes, i bawl out crying for no exact reason. i take in emotional stress daily and i never noticed until this Monday past how important it is for me to reset. towards the ending of a class, i had a breakdown. the class was watching a movie and somethin really disturbed me. before i got to class my brain was already loaded and the room was very hot. i felt naseous and couldn’t breathe so i went outside for some fresh air. when i leaned against the wall by the door, tears started coming out by themselves and i sat down and cried until class was over. whatever disturbed me in the movie must have reactivated the emotional stress i didn’t have time to dump.
i’m getting off topic. anyway, thank you for posting this. i’m actually reseting myself right now while i’m typing. i’m supposed to be doing homework but….i’ll get to finishing it eventually.
i love the blog by the way.
October 7th, 2013 at 6:26 am
I just came across your blog. it is great to reveal that I’m not crazy or strange or different! I told I wasn’t responsible enough, I still see myself as a bad person, because I want to be alone.. So it is called ‘to reset’. I didn’t even know why I need the time, just have to take it.
Kelly, since I read your post, I realised a lot. I behave the same as you; I cry for the same ‘reasons’ and can’t make myself stop the tears.. I want to be alone when I need it; I get so tired after school, after interacting with people.. I find it hard to concentrate:
1. ”Lack of focus. INFPs are somewhat distracted anyway, but when we need time to reset, we can’t seem to concentrate on anything for any given length of time.”
This produces big problems, because I can’t do my homework, study for an exam and right now I’m missing school, because I am sick and because I haven’t studied to be able to get an A.
Apr 29, 2011
I just printed this out and have left it in a place where my ESFJ husband can read it, I shall also be subtly pointing it out to him in the morning.
I work in a retail environment which means I’m required to interact with people all day long, as well as complete tasks to a deadline, as if that wasn’t draining enough!
He doesn’t understand and often accuses me of not listening to him when I’m trying to have my ‘alone time’ I don’t mean to snap at him but sometimes it’s the only way I can get the point across. He thinks I don’t care about his feelings or his day but that’s not true! I just need time to process my own day in my own time without interruption.
This is very informative, thank you! 😀
July 3rd, 2012 at 3:02 pm
I have an ESTJ at home. I totally understand where you are coming from!!
May 13, 2011
Your writing is awesome. I just love your blog!
May 20, 2011
Awesome! Makes me feel so good I’m not alone!
Oct 23, 2011
Do you think this applies to couples…i.e. INFP’s and their boyfriend/girfriend/spouse needing time together to recharge and process their relationship one on one? I am dating someone right now in college and am an INFP. I find that I get completely stressed out when I want to spend time with him and he brings friends along to hang out with us. I can’t talk about our relationship or anything deep at all. I kind of shut down in big groups, especially if we had something that we needed to talk about. Have you found that alone time with a spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend also important for INFP’s?
October 23rd, 2011 at 10:45 pm
There’s a difference between couple time and alone time. All couples need couple time, time together to learn about each other, to build their relationship and just to see if you can stand being together. I don’t think the amount of couple time is related to MBTI type though. There’s another book called The 5 Love Languages that defines 5 ways that people feel loved. And the idea is that we assume incorrectly that the way we feel loved is the way we should express love. The answer is to express love in a way that the person receiving that love will understand so you have to speak their language and they have to speak yours.
One of the five love languages is quality time. I’ve talked to various introverts from friends, family and acquaintances and I’ve never seen correlation between MBTI type and love language. It really has to do more with how we were raised by our parents.
Quality Time is #2 for me. It’s #3 for my wife who’s an INTJ. Because of that, we spend almost every night talking for at least 40 minutes. We’ve also been married 15 years and this communication is one of the reasons why we’ve lasted.
However, alone time is different. Alone time is time by yourself to recharge. My wife needs alone time but as an INTJ, she needs it for completely different reasons than I do. She gets her alone time when the kids are at school each day. Every few weeks, I take the kids down to my parents for the day so she can have the entire day to herself. I get my alone time from 9p-12a after the kids are put to bed. I write, clean and do personal development work.
Apr 21, 2012
Wow, thank you so much, I never understood why it was so hard to reset when close friends/family are nearby until reading this! I constantly feel the need to go and check up on them to make sure they are happy so I never get the chance to mull over whether my happiness/unhappiness has good reason. And your metaphor is beautiful, I often explain the putting the books back on the shelf as digesting the day, which has more to do with processing it all, and the bookshelf is more organizing once processed. I love it.
May 2, 2012
Yes I have been thinking about this recently, when I noticed that I have felt frustrated by not being able to feel ‘alone’ in the company of people I know. It makes every visit and interaction too intense, and it feels like people are always demanding of my focus and attention. I’ve been trying to learn how to just ‘hang out’ with people, or not talk, etc, yet be ‘in company’. Its nigh on impossible! (Except for people I don’t know where it it’s incredibly easy, as you say!) Interesting stuff.
Jul 2, 2012
I’m probably an extreme case of INFP because when I need time alone: I have to be ALONE. Like in a separate bedroom without interruptions, riding in the car by myself, walking by myself. For a couple of hours at least.
Do I have a problem? I love people but after about 8 hours of people, I need downtime, somewhere quiet without contact. I know it sounds very anti-social but I can’t seem to help it. If I don’t get my down time I tend to get unbearably irritated. To prevent someone from getting hurt by my attitude I tend to slip away for a couple of hours everyday. So far it’s working.
July 3rd, 2012 at 8:59 pm
@Thatgirl… It doesn’t sound like you’re an extreme case INFP at all! I also prefer to be alone to re-energize myself. Even if I look a stranger in the eye I feel that I should be interacting in some way, smiling or nodding in acknowledgment. I feel somewhat responsible for everyone’s feelings if I’m around them.. I have to intentionally look down or away or else I feel them tugging at my energy. I think it’s just being extra intuitive with thin boundaries. It helps me when I’m clear about my boundaries (first to myself and then to other people. ) I have to let my family know ” I’m taking some alone time now..” And just remind myself that my time alone is essential if I’m to have anything decent to give to any of my relationships (including smiles to strangers:) But–like you– it’s better if I’m out of the house, even if it’s just walking with headphones in. You’re not strange..This is just how INFPs get the energy that will enable them to enjoy interaction again later.
November 13th, 2020 at 6:09 am
As an infp I need a lot of time without any stimulation and sometimes when I’m worn out even noise or someone’s voice can irritate me
Oct 8, 2013
I’m an INTJ woman in love with a wonderful INFP man who did everything in his power to make me see how wonderful we could be as a couple, until he succeded…my heart has totally melted for him.
Now, one of the most wonderful aspects of this man is that he knows exactly what to do when I need my alone time, he has been so good in dealing with it, that I actually need very little now, I want him back, fast!
For the first time now, though, he is the one who has to deal with something that is bothering him very much and he is needing a lot of alone time…..it’s not about hours, it’s about days (hopefully not weeks or months!!).
I have no idea on how to behave: I noticed that if I disappear completely, he doesn’t get better and feels not cared about; on the other hand, when I tried to just distract him by going to a movie or being easy and funny around him, he participated, but the following day he was even more closed and distant (probably drawn up by the time spent together..).
I don’t want to lose him, I don’t want to bother him, I don’t want to violate his alone time… I would just want to do whatever he needs to have space by still feeling supported and loved.
You know how hard it is for an INTJ woman to understand this on her own, we don’t have your ability to read peoples’ hearts, we need directions, data, information….and we’ll do whatever it takes to improve, get better, nail it, as much as possible.
Can you give me any advice on how to do this?
Thank you very very much!!
October 8th, 2013 at 10:34 pm
I asked my wife for a reply since she’s had to put up with this for 17 years. This is her reply:
Being an INTJ woman married to an INFP man for 17 years, I heard my own voice in your email. I know exactly what you are talking about. My dear INFP hubby occasionally disappears into this cave for up to three months at a time. At first I took it personally, thinking he didn’t want to be with me or be a member of our family anymore. Now I know better. It sounds like this man loves you very much he just needs time. And YES, it can be months at a time. Try to see this as an opportunity to let him know how much you love him.
You can ask him what he needs from you while he works this “thing” out- but don’t push for an answer. He probably won’t know the answer and that’s ok because he will really appreciate you asking. I know that drives us INTJ’s crazy. We just want a clear answer, but he probably doesn’t know how to direct you. He just needs to know that you will still be there when he comes out of his funk. It is your job to be the rock right now. In my case, that means picking up the slack around the house and being the responsible parent to our kids. I don’t usually ask him to join me in any activities during this time, I may come up to him and give him a kiss to let him know I love him, but then I back off and leave him alone. The important thing is that he knows you’re not going to leave him when he gets weird.
At first I would get mad or impatient with him for being in this weird phase for such long periods. As INTJ women, we have many moods, but process them quickly. Our INFP men don’t work that way. But please know that he WILL come back to you when he is done being mopey. If you wait patiently and live with the ambiguity, I promise your amazing man will come back, and he will love you even more because you put up with him.
By the way, this isn’t easy. Even after 17 years, I still find myself getting agitated when he goes into this mood. I try my best to remember he will be back. The best thing is that even though his funk may last for months, his happy moods will also last for months at a time. I hope this is helpful.
October 9th, 2013 at 4:36 am
It’s amazing how INTJs understand each other!!!
(this answer is for your wife, of course…)
Thank you so very much, you have been perfectly clear and made me see things in the right perspective.
Not a long ago my INFP and I were talking about my alone time (I was actually thanking him for not making me feel a weirdo and for not pressuring me in getting out of it) and he suddenly told me that he too had experienced the need of alone time, but that his alone times had been much deeper and for much longer than mine and that he didn’t want anybody around, for real…he said he knew once in a while he would experience that again in the future and asked me if I thought I could put up with that, his exact words were “Would you be there for me when I’m done with it? Would you wait for me?”
Of course, my immediate INTJ idiot reaction was “If I’m not going to hear from you for a long time and if I don’t know what’s going on in your mind, I’m not going to stay, my purpose in life is keeping it positive and happy….I can’t do that in an ambiguous situation.”
So he thought about it for a second, looked at me with a sweet smile on his face and asked me again “You’d leave me, alright…but what if I came back to you, brand new, would you take me back?”
My reply has been “Of course Not. I’d never go back. I can love you forever, I can miss you forever, but I wouldn’t go back”.
He got quiet then and hasn’t talked about it ever since.
When I read your reply I felt stupid, I messed up, as usual, by being so INTJ-ishly strict and narrow minded!!!
You made very clear how important it is for them to make sure we are going to be there and love them no matter what, till they’re out.
Now that I’m in it, I know I don’t want to lose him.
I actually asked him how would he want me to support him, he doesn’t know, he just knows he loves me and doesn’t want to lose me, even if he doesn’t have the strenght to fight to keep me close to him right now.
Sure it’s all freaking me out and I don’t know if he’s going to get back as he used to be, but I love him, I really do.
(I’m sure I would freak out every single time this happened again…17 years like this??? He must be so worthed and you must be sooo much in love!!)
But, if that’s what he needs, that’s what he is going to get.
The one thing that reassures me, besides you supportive and inspiring words and the description Corin made of the “inside” feeling they have (keeping the loved ones away, somehow, not to be a burdain in their lives, while experiencing the down time), is that he still wants to see me everyday, he calls me everyday and he still lets me love him and take care of him, even if only for a few moments (instead of the whole day!) and even if his eyes are tired and sad and doesn’t smile that much anymore.
I’m trying to do my best to have my personal life full of activities, to laugh and be happy as usual and, at the same time, to be a little warmer than I usually am with him, so that he doesn’t feel his down moment is undermining our relationship….
I never did this for anyone else before, I usually quit….. I hope I’m going to be able to get through the entire process and see his bright side again, cause he’s worthed.
Thank you again for perfectly understanding my position and for being so useful and reassuring (you know love is our weakness, we freak out easily and run away fast!!)
I’ll treasure all your hints and I’ll try to keep them in mind all the time!
December 3rd, 2014 at 10:33 am
Thanks for the information. Im an INTJ woman with an INFP boyfriend and he’s been in his “me time bubble” after visiting his family. I wasn’t sure how long he would be there, but being an INTJ that’s worth finding out. Now I know what to expect. I actually did make him give me his love languages when we were just dating and it’s extremely helpful.
April 30th, 2016 at 5:47 am
Wow. THIS. This is what I have been looking for for the last year and half! I am a 32 year old, very Te heavy and quite extroverted ENFP. My boyfriend is a 28 year old, very private and introverted INFP. I am madly in love with him and became so very quickly as he is the only person that I know truly understands the depths of life in the same way I do… He’s the only one that I have ever felt sure is right for me. He finds meaning in EVERYTHING… I adore him for this (and many other reasons).
When he’s not stressed, he is sweet and affectionate and loving and attentive… but when he IS stressed, it’s like a switch gets flipped and suddenly I find myself completely locked out of his life for sometimes weeks at a time! He will just disappear for days at random! Ive tried to express to him that even just letting me know that he needs some time would be helpful, but I don’t think he realises WHAT he needs! He knows hes feeling stressed and yes… the one word responses come into play here.. and I guess Im going to take that as a hint now.
I try to ask him how I can be supportive but he often doesnt even respond to this! I end up just leaving him alone as he basically leaves me with no other option, all the while I am feeling frustrated and a bit resentful from the sudden disappearing act and lack of communication on his part… as well as feeling completely insecure “did I do something wrong? Is he having second thoughts?? Is he EVER coming back? Is this over?” These thoughts just go round and round in my head until at some point he comes back as if nothing happened and he’s sweet and involved again. It drives me mad! I feel that if he would just let me know what’s going on and maybe provide a word or two of reassurance that things are okay with us and it isnt about me or us at all, then that would help. But as you’ve said, he just CAN’T. It’s like he gets too many books all over the place and is in a whirlwind until he takes a lot of time to sort it all out.
I was feeling very upset because while he shuts ME out, he still manages to engage in social media, watch movies with his roommates, etc. There was one point where we went out with some friends.. he was already very stressed and exhausted but he came out with us. The entire time, he was charming with everyone there but me. He didnt even look me in the eyes once! But he had quite the chat with everyone else. I was livid. When we got home and got in bed.. I tried to cuddle with him but he seemed unresponsive.. so I turned over and to my surprise he turned with me and held me close to him. I was baffled. I immediately said “I don’t understand you. Do you care or not?? You’re confusing!”. He was caught completely off guard and got upset with me for thinking he didnt care. I talked to him about what happened that night, how he ignored me the entire night, just me, while engaging with everyone else. And he shouted out “I had to! I couldnt be rude! I didnt want to talk to ANYONE! I wanted to just go home and be alone! But I had to be social so as not to offend anyone. Of course I care about you! You wouldnt be here if I didnt care about you!”. I didn’t really understand how he could particularly shut me out and be so charming with everyone else! All of this is becoming so much more clear now with reading this blog post and the responses here about INFPs needing so much prolonged alone time (though not alone.. just not with close people). I have been feeling massively hurt by being the one that is getting locked out the most.. but maybe it’s because Im the one that makes him engage the most… because he cares more about me. Sounds so backwards to me.. but reading all of this made so much sense!
When we first started out, before all of the stress hit for him (He’s in school, working, and also doing internships/projects etc), he was attentive and caring… engaged in everything.. always giving long thoughtful responses.. he would tell me how much he liked listening to me talk etc. And now he barely engages, we never have long conversations, he shuts me out etc etc. But he has said repeatedly that this isn’t what he wants, that he is just a wreck right now and might be for a long period of time. I told him I could do this, that Id wait. But seeing him being friendly with others just not me and always locking me out for so long.. it hurt so badly I just felt I might not be able to do it anymore. But reading all of this.. I think this just saved my relationship. Thank you so much for this insight! Both from the blog and from the comments here about the amount of alone time etc. I was feeling like there was either something seriously wrong with me for being upset by this or that he just isn’t really into me or serious about us, but he’s said that he was.
Anyhow… thank you. Ive been dealing with this for sooooo long! Finally an answer to the confusing behavior! Invaluable information here.
August 9th, 2017 at 8:01 am
Kasia, you might never see this but thank you for that post. This is pretty much my scenario right now and it’s been a roller-coaster between me, myself and I.. You writing all this, describing the moments, naming the emotions.. Wondering if he’s EVER coming back. Watching him interact with others but not me. Plummeting into doubt and second guessing. “feeling massively hurt by being the one that is getting locked out the most”. Vascillating between being upset/frustrated/resentful to missing/hoping/believing. It’s just been madness. 2 months and counting. All his alone periods before this only lasted abt 2 weeks at most. This is my first “months long” stretch and the battle within me has been exhausting. I wasn’t sure if maybe I got it wrong and he’s actually given up on us without being able to tell me. But I feel better now after reading your post. So I’ll just believe and trust that everything will be okay. Thank you Kasia.
October 8th, 2013 at 10:43 pm
What I wanted to add is that the really tough life problems can’t be solved for the other person. Our life partners aren’t there to make us happy or feel fulfilled. We have to do it for ourselves. However, it’s really difficult to have the time and energy to figure out our individual answers when day-to-day life gets hard.
So I’ve always felt that that in relationship, it’s my job to make my wife’s life easier so she has the time and energy to solve her difficulties. And in turn she does the same for me. In real life, that means dishes, laundry and taking up the the slack whenever the other is going through their phase.
Also, there’s a lot of trust involved during this time. You have to trust that the other person will return to the relationship and be present when they’re ready.
October 9th, 2013 at 4:44 am
Thank you Corin, your point of view is really important to me, cause you can allow me to understand his mind process.
If you think that helping with daily chores can actually be useful, I’ll do it….he is currently concentrating all his energy into his work…I guess it helps him distracting and makes him feel his life is still busy and useful anyways.
TRUST is the key word, you’re right.
I’ll write it on a post-it and put it on the fridge…..as a daily reminder to my stupid INTJ-ish bullying attitude.
Thank you both!
May 31st, 2014 at 8:12 pm
I know this is an older post but Monica, you remind me so much of my INTJ partner. We have been together for 9 years and we are just learning about being an INFP, INTJ partnership. My INTJ partner can be so narrow-minded, robotic bully at the worst of times. His way, is the best way, lol.
I didn’t know until a few weeks ago why I had these habits of mine. I would find myself needing alone time, but sometimes I needed a lot of it and to get it I would stay up all night. It gave me time to put things back in order but it wasn’t like I was aware I was doing it. I just know I would feel right again and ready to take on life. My partner has a hard time with my strange habits. It’s like he is walking down a straight path that very few people take. It’s a precise road and he is always looking straight ahead. Few people know this road, expect for people like me, but as an INFP my path isn’t always the same. It’s like a winding road that meets up with him and then eventually my path turns right, while he still on the straight ahead path. He gets frustrated that I don’t stay on his road, but I cannot, while I get frustrated that he doesn’t come with me on my winding road that isn’t always clear exactly where it leads.
Luckily for us we has always found a way to stay together and I think that now we have better tools to stay together.
Feb 2, 2014
This has been so helpful to me. Hi, I am an ENFJ woman and have met (online) a wonderful INFP man. We’ve been talking and talking and emailing and texting so much since we met Dec 27, 2013. We’ve shared music and poetry, it’s been so very intense. I started making mistakes and he was getting frustrated. As of yesterday he told me he needs time…down time. I told him to take his time and that I’ll be here when he’s done. Last night I sat down to write him something when a poem just fell out of me. It was reassuring so I sent it to him late last night.
I guess my question is….should I totally let him be or can I send him a (HUG) on a text or a smily face…something to let him know I’m still here?
I know everything is knew and we experienced some really intense moments. Even though he’s told me he hasn’t seen anything beyond friendship yet. I am in it for the long haul and I want him to feel secure knowing I am here for him.
Thanks for any advice….I’m still new to all this TYPE stuff but so intrigued by my INFP. 🙂
February 3rd, 2014 at 10:28 am
Have you read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages? What are his top two love languages and what are your two top love languages? If his top two love languages are not Words of Affirmation then sending him a note isn’t going to mean as much.
Here’s my advice to you, not as a INFP but as someone who’s been married 17 years. Falling in love with someone and having a relationship are two different things. The day-to-day goes on for a very long time and creating a relationships that lasts is about resolving issues that will make a relationship end. The trick with relationships is not making relationships last; it’s keeping relationships from ending. All relationships end for the same reason: problems of a relationship are greater than the desire or the skill of people in the relationship to solve.
So far here are the three problems that I see you running into that have ended many relationship if they are not resolved.
1. He’s right and you’re wrong (” I started making mistakes and he was getting frustrated.”)
Relationships work because two people figure out how to work out value conflicts. If one person thinks the other person calls too much, that reflects values in each person. One person values more frequent communication than the other. It doesn’t make that person wrong. Maybe their love language is Words of Affirmation or Quality Time. The object is to resolve Love Language differences instead of one person being wrong and the other person being right. With one person being wrong and one person being right, the person who’s in the “wrong” has to change. That creates resentment over the years.
2. Not communicating boundaries. (“should I totally let him be or can I send him a (HUG) on a text or a smily face”)
That’s something you have to ask him. What are his boundaries? What are your boundaries? Negotiating boundaries is an important part of long-term relationships. You have to be able to discuss them without either person feeling defensive.
3. Projecting values. (“I told him to take his time and that I’ll be here when he’s done….something to let him know I’m still here”)
Does knowing that you’ll still be here something he values in a relationship? Or is that something you value and you want him to reciprocate if you do it? What if he doesn’t reciprocate? What if he doesn’t do anything that makes you feel he’ll be around for the long haul? How would that make you feel? People usually want to know the other person in the relationship is committed because they value security. If he doesn’t value security in a relationship then it’s not in his nature to ever let you know that he’s committed.
Differing value hierarchies is another problem that needs to be resolved. What are his demonstrated values (what he does not what he says)? What are your demonstrated values?
Creating lasting relationships has very little to do with personality types and everything to do with learning and being proficient with relationship skills.
February 3rd, 2014 at 4:32 pm
Thank you so much for this, it helps a lot. I actually ended it today with said INFP, something just wasn’t right. This info will definitely help me in the future. I recently took the test for the 5 love languages and I had 3 top languages, I guess that could make me seem a little needy. LOL
May 30, 2014
This is amazing. It describes my feelings exactly. Really made me feel not alien. Thanks.
May 31, 2014
My partner is an INTJ like your wife. We both love our alone time, but like you said, it’s for different reasons. My partner and I are just learning about all of this and it has given us great insight into who we are and our relationship. He has always struggled understanding where I come from and why I do the things I do. I am going to get him to read about dealing with an INFP.
Jun 18, 2014
Very nicely put. I know I am overwhelmed when I feel like I am stuck in mud trying to run a maraton. Your analogy with the books all over the place also describes it well, I imagine trying to find a book stepping and tripping on other disordered books, in-the- way book shelves and chairs scattered all over. Wanting to organise the books, but there isn’t enough time because the library is on fire and I can’t find the evacuation instructions.
Surprisingly what works the best for me is to get into body…either by someone elses touch or by activating my body via exercise or a long walk. This leaves me less power to run around in my mind because coordination and being aware of my environment takes effort.
My little girl has worked out that the best way to get momy to relax or out of the irritiability zone is to sit down and gently play with my hair at the back of my head. It just brings me back to center, woe is her if she makes a noise or sits too close to me so that I feel contricted. Then the best she can do is leave me alone.
Because I’m a single parent I don’t often have the luxury of being completely on my own so her calming tactics is the next best thing. Being in the company of someone without feeling like there is any demand on my attention. By her touch I know she is there and know she is fine so I can go into my own mind and recover.
Nice pages btw.
Jun 23, 2018
I am INFP, and seem to need more and more alone / reboot/ reset time. I can only seem to so much extroversion, get exhausted, and need a day or 2 to recover. My need for recovery is physical, mental and emotional – I seem to have turned into a mobile phone which loses its charge quickly, and needs a 24 hour recharge to take another call.
October 2nd, 2018 at 3:02 am
sounds like you are engaged in very tiring activities for INFPs, especially something that would require that you keep activating FE (external thinking) which is the INFP’s worst battery drain.
in my experience only a full reset can be fully revitalising. maybe you should consider it.