The 4 Myers Briggs Indicators That You Could Be Susceptible To Toxic Relationships, Plus What to Do If You’re In One
What exactly is a toxic relationship? When some think of the word, “toxic,” they may think of Erin Brockovich battling poisonous water. Or they think of mold. They think E. coli. Maybe even carbon monoxide.
Some people consider the word, “relationship,” they often associate it with love, trust, respect, and friendship. Think of those who will do anything for you. Not the fake social media relationships. The genuine ones. Like the grandparents who have been married for 69 years, and still hold hands.
It seems very counterintuitive then, that “toxic” and “relationship” should be together in the same sentence. Ever.
“A toxic relationship is any relationship that is unfavorable to you or others,” according to Asa Don Brown, Ph.D. A toxic relationship does not have to only show itself through physical abuse, for example. For a relationship to be considered toxic and unhealthy, many researchers agree with Brown who asserts that “Toxic relationships lack the expression of approval or emotional support.”
Toxicity in relationships, like how mold develops, is not often easy to detect. In relationships, the gradual toxic growth includes a combination of poisonous properties, such as condemnation, criticism, blame, shame, and disrespect, to name a few.
Mold usually begins in crevices and cracks; dark places. Hidden places. At first, sometimes for many months or years, it goes unnoticed.
Emotional toxins begin just as gradually, originating in the unconscious or subconscious of human minds and hearts. There, emotional mold sets up shop, with the bold intention to grow and spread. Those in a relationship with a narcissist may discover that their emotional toxins have not only been hidden by their partner, they are also told that they are responsible for “creating the mold.”
Some personalities have difficulty seeing the warning signs in their own toxic relationships, whether they are in the beginning stages of a toxic relationship, or already knee-deep in one.
The most common behaviors in a toxic relationship include one or both parties who behave passive-aggressively, someone who uses caustic remarks and sarcasm to tear the other person down, one or both who stonewall (they avoid trying to resolve conflict), someone who is on one end or the other of the Narcissism Spectrum Scale (according to the model created by Craig Malkin, Ph.D.), and someone who exhibits traits of a personality disorder—(Borderline, Antisocial Personality Disorder, or Avoidant/Anxious, to name a few.)
Understanding personality preferences from Myers Briggs can shine a huge spotlight on those shadowy corners of the heart and mind and give people the perspective they need to examine themselves and their relationships.
Based on Carl Jung’s theory of personality type, Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, applied Jung’s findings of personality type to people around them. In developing the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the mother-daughter team believed that understanding one’s personality type, (and those of others) was essential to appreciate differences.
Myers Briggs suggests that all people have a “core” or “heart” preference which are indicated by the middle two letters in the four-letter MBTI type.
Of the MBTI’s 16 personality type preferences, there are 4 types who are vulnerable to the trappings of a toxic relationship. And they all have the same core or heart tendencies in common.
A toxic relationship needs two combined ingredients to thrive—vulnerability and dominance. These two counterparts—one vulnerable and one dominant—make an unhealthy toxic recipe.
Based on MBTI personality types, we’ve coined the vulnerable party in the toxic relationship, “the Loyalist.” We call the dominant party in the toxic relationship, “the Strategist.” They both need each other to “grow the mold” or keep the toxic relationship going.
These are the “Loyalist” Myers Briggs types we’ve discovered:
These four types share the same heart preferences of Sensing and Feeling. The “Sensors” take in information through their five senses and the “Feelers” make decisions with their heart.
The Sensors and Feelers are described as friendly, conscientious, warm-hearted, and accepting. Their loyalty to their partner is unwavering—and is their true blind spot.
The Strategist can be considered to be an:
These four types share their heart preferences of Intuition and Thinking. The “Intuitives” combined with the “Thinkers” display similar characteristics, such as the ability to analyze, use logic, see patterns, and be resourceful.
The Sensor-Feeler is often swept up in the Strategist’s charm, illusion, and initial focus. This takes the form of gift-giving, constant texting or calls, fun dates, and a fairly quick turnaround to establish a committed relationship.
The Strategist sometimes behaves like a predator who studies and analyzes the Sensor-Feeler- “Loyalist.” There is usually a hidden agenda for the Strategist. Whether it’s sex, money, the thrill or endorphin hit of dominance, or a beard—(some in-the-closet-gay people will often seek a “cover” for their own unaccepted sexuality)—the Strategist may calculate a detailed game plan before they even meet the Loyalist.
In that game plan, the Strategist becomes a magician when the Sensor-Feeler has an inkling that something isn’t quite right. The crafty Strategist uses flashy tactics to distract their Loyalist’s momentary fuzzy doubt.
“Look over here!” The Strategist metaphorically shouts as they take their Loyalist on a spur-of-the-moment weekend getaway to the beach. The Sensor-Feeler has no time to even begin to examine their weaker-developed functions of intuition and thinking.
This toxic relationship merry-go-round of continual manipulation by the intuitive-thinking Strategist is always three steps ahead of the blindly-trusting Loyalist.
The Strategist comes in first place for the art of discernment, while the Loyalist doesn’t even get an honorable mention.
The Sensing Feeling dichotomies don’t see red flags, and if they do, the Strategist is right there, schmoozing it away with doubletalk, charm, and even directed shame on the Loyalist who takes everything the Strategist says as truth.
The uber-sensitive Sensors take all facts and sprinkle them with warmth; even if the facts are not really facts, because the information is from their partner whom they trust.
In our counseling, we often hear frustrated clients ask: “How come I didn’t see this? I believed everything my partner said, including that it was my fault for the thunderstorm that spoiled our family outing.”
If the Loyalist has been blamed and made to feel bad, they immediately search for something to make it better, without pausing to question whether they were responsible for the transgression.
Because Sensor-Feelers have a clear preference for sensing and feeling, their less dominant tendencies for intuition and thinking don’t show up when needed. This dynamic wreaks havoc on them as they have underdeveloped intuition and thinking, the functions that account for how they take in information and how they make decisions.
So adept at people pleasing, the Sensor-Feeler takes all information given to them at face value. They take words and actions on blind faith, easily accept fault even though not culpable, and work quickly to right the stated wrongdoing.
Lest you freak out, this does not mean doomsday for these personality types. Here are 7 tips for the Sensing-Feeling Loyalist who may find themselves in toxic relationships:
- Turn Your Gut Wrench into a Gut-Check. If you think you’re in this toxic relationship dynamic where you are the Feeler, do a gut check and get some intel on your own intuition. The gut check is the Feeler’s #1 best asset. Pausing for a gut check is a matter of deliberately analyzing the data you’re receiving by engaging the Intuition and Feeling functions.
- Do you hear what I hear? Pause to ask yourself, “Does what I’m hearing make sense?” Ideally, if you’re on the phone, you should close your eyes. No outside stimulations or distractions should interfere with your taking in information. If you’re face-to-face with your partner, look just beyond the top of their head to a neutral (think, bland) spot on the wall. And always your gut check is your BFF, because you can look down and feel your way to checking in with your thoughts and feelings.
- A Sight for Sore Eyes. Face-to-face interaction is wonderful for the Sensor-Feeler if the Sensor Feeler is not experiencing a clash of positive and negative emotions. When you no longer have a tsunami of sensations coming at you when you are face-to-face with your partner, you can temporarily close off the other senses that create information overload and emotional imbalance. Do this by text or email communication so that your eyes can take in the information at leisure and on your terms.
- A bad taste in your mouth. Seriously. Have you ever had a meal with your partner and the food doesn’t taste right? It could very well be that your taste buds are trying to cue you that your relationship is not healthy. Or the Sensor-Feeler has no appetite and immediately dismisses it as something totally unrelated to their partner who, with snarky comments and criticism, has been chipping away at their confidence and empowerment.
- The nose knows. If the Sensor-Feeler finds their nasal airways blocked or suffer more than usual because of allergens, take pause. Be a Labrador. Your nose is trying to alert you to sniff out a toxic relationship. Conversely, if you find that you are super sensitive to, or aware of, smells—especially bad ones—take this as a sign that something is fishy in your relationship.
- Look, but don’t touch. When the Sensor-Feeler Loyalist approaches the Intuitive Thinker Strategist to communicate a concern—even a mild one—no physical touch should occur during that moment of tension or conflict. If the Strategist rubs the back, neck, shoulder or even holds the hand of the Loyalist while they are expressing a concern they have with the relationship, it could very well be a sign that the Strategist is in the process of hijacking the Loyalist’s message. Conversely, the Strategist might be unconsciously projecting their conflict discomfort onto the Loyalist, and desire physical touch as a soothing calm for the discomfort the Strategist feels. Either way, the Loyalist feels disempowered to his/her own needs at that moment. We suggest that if physical touch is desired, that the Sensor-Feeler initiate it.
- Become Myers Briggs savvy. Understanding your Myers Briggs personality and that of your partner is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your SO. Whether your preferences are introverted or extroverted, sensing or intuition, feeling or thinking, judging or perceiving, having the Myers Briggs indicators is a powerful tool to better communication and empowerment.
Now that you have an understanding of what Myers Briggs types are susceptible to a toxic relationship, there are steps you can take. Don’t let a toxic relationship ruin your life. We’re here to help if you need a way out or just want further clarity.
Poppy and Geoff Spencer, M.S., CPC, are certified counselors, nationally syndicated writers, relationship and parenting experts, dually certified in Myers Briggs (personality), “Millennial Translators,” national speakers, authors of a #1 Bestseller, One Billion Seconds: There’s Still time to Discover Love and Podcast hosts. Poppy and Geoff are a highly-credentialed husband and wife team, interviewed on such outlets as NBC, ABC, CBS, Your Tango, Bustle, and Popsugar.