ESFJ – ISFJ Relationships: Family First

ESFJ ISFJ Relationships: Claire and Andy walking on the beach holding hands

We explore an ESFJ – ISFJ relationship with Claire and Andy from the UK. Claire, an ESFJ who is 57, and Andy, an ISFJ

who is 62, have been married for over 30 year and have two daughters. In this interview, they talk about the challenges of spending nearly 16 years in a long-distance relationship, the importance of family and Andy’s obsession with deer.

How the ESFJ ISFJ relationship started

Claire (ESFJ) and Andy (ISFJ) got together 33 years ago on the ski slopes in Austria. They were both writing about the ski holiday for their respective newspapers and in the check-in queue at Gatwick, standing next to each other, they immediately clicked.

“We spent a lot of time together during the week-long holiday,” explains Andy. “I couldn’t ski and I thought to myself, I’d like to spend some time with her and wouldn’t it be amazing if I could have private ski lessons from her. And so we sort of peeled off from the main group quite a lot.”

Claire was only too happy to give Andy some ski tuition (although he is actually a better skier than her now, she regretfully admits).

They both agree that it was more than just friends from the get-go. Physical attraction played its part initially but for the relationship to develop there was more than that from day one.

“There’s no doubt that Claire was, and still is, very attractive,” says Andy. “But I felt she was great fun too. She’s always fun and I always remember when she laughed, she threw her head back and she sort of wrinkled her nose in a very cute way.”

Likewise, for Claire, the physical attraction was important but it was quickly over-taken by their deeper compatible personality traits.

“Physically, yes, he was very attractive. But the main thing was, he just made me laugh straight away and he has continued to do this ever since,” explains Claire.

The ESFJ – ISFJ dating phase

Never ones to hang around, their relationship moved on quickly after they realized they clicked.

We spent most of the holiday together,” says Claire. “But when we got back to London it was quite good for us to test whether we liked each other outside of a holiday situation, because sometimes that is an unreal start to a relationship.”

Andy was living with his girlfriend at the time so he moved out. He had nowhere to live, so he immediately moved in with Claire. This might seem reckless to some but both are strong believers of the saying: ‘when you know, you know’.

“The great thing about Andy is he does make very quick decisions and he makes very straightforward and honorable decisions,” says Claire. “I actually think that, from the time we met, there was no doubting that we would be together.”

Both personality types tend to be comfortable with commitment, so it’s not unusual for an ESFJ – ISFJ relationship to move forward relatively quickly.

Myers & Briggs personality types

Similar values and attitudes to life were a vital part of the attraction from the start and still are. Then discovering their personality types simply re-enforced that. It also allowed them to understand the downsides of each others personalities too.

“I think possibly it makes me more understanding of the things that I find a bit annoying about him,” says Claire.

“It’s a very short list that one,” jokes Andy. But on a more serious note he adds:

“I think we do definitely have certain similarities in terms of values and we definitely have differences. And hopefully in a sense we complement each other with different skills, non-skills and different approaches to life.”

Claire agrees that it is having the right mix of similarities and differences that can help make a relationship last.

“Knowing and understanding our personality types makes us realize that, for all the good bits, there are going to be some negatives and so we evaluate that a bit more,” says Claire.

Andy appreciates Claire’s sense of values, loyalty and honesty which is very much an ESFJ trait. “And I love that she is so protective, particularly about people she’s fond of,” says Andy. “She is a very good partner and she’s a particularly good mother. She just thinks of her children as the most important thing in her life and they are.”

Again, Claire goes back to their shared sense of values when it comes to what has kept them together for 33 years. “I like his loyalty. I trust his judgment. I’m interested to hear his opinion on things. And I not only love him, but I like him as a person,” she adds. Loyalty plays a major role in ESFJ – ISFJ relationships.

They both agree that working hard for a shared goal has been vital to them staying together. They also believe that having different interests is a necessary part of keeping a long-term relationship alive.

“I don’t think that is a bad thing because how are you supposed to stay together for 33 years if you live in each other’s pockets all the time,” says Claire. “We were pretty independent people when we met and we’re pretty independent people now and I think it has helped.”

ESFJ ISFJ Relationships: Aerial shot of people skiing

The ESFJ – ISFJ relationship challenges

Nevertheless, it has not all been plain sailing for over three decades. They also spent 17 years living apart for over half of every week, which undoubtedly tested their relationship.

“I am a journalist and, at one point, although the family home was in Cornwall, for 17 years I weekly commuted to London to work and that presented its challenges,” admits Andy.

Even though Claire worked as a freelance fashion stylist and journalist, she did spend more time in Cornwall with their children.

“It was really difficult, I mean that would put pressure on anyone’s relationship,” says Claire. “It was hard not to feel permanently resentful of Andy going out after work in London and me being at home so much more.”

However, they both agree, looking back, that it was healthy for their marriage.

“We still really like each other’s company and I am not sure everyone can say that after 33 years,” says Claire. “If I wasn’t married to Andy, I’d be really pleased if I sat next to him at a dinner party. He would be the person I would probably find most interesting in that room.”

Of course, like most realistic long-term relationships, there are some things they would change about each other.

Andy thinks Claire is too stubborn. Claire, while freely admitting that Andy’s typical ISFJ trait of loyalty is usually a good thing, she finds his adherence to it with his friends sometimes annoying.

“He will not let a friend down whatever happens, which is great if you’re the friend but not so good if you’re the wife!” she explains.

Andy is also, in true ISFJ mode, a bit too attached to routine. He freely admits that he’s not particularly spontaneous. A potential challenge in an ESFJ – ISFJ relationship is that it can be highly structured and lack spontaneity.

Relationship learnings

So what would they tell their younger selves looking back?

“There is a saying I love, which is: ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get’. That is absolutely true in life, whether it’s at a job or at a relationship,” says Andy. He also got through the 17 years of working away from home by compartmentalising work and home life.

“You somehow train yourself to do this but it’s not always that easy,” says Andy. “16 years apart is not ideal, but it’s a life choice. You either go away and work and earn a better salary and give your family a better life. Or you don’t.”

Looking back, Claire agrees there are lessons she could have learnt. “I would tell myself to try and see it more from the other person’s point of view, “ says Claire. “It is obviously so easy in hindsight but quite difficult when you’re in the midst of it.”

However, Claire now realizes that she was the lucky one, spending more time with their children while Andy worked in London. It just didn’t always feel like that at the time.

The importance of shared values

They agree that their shared goal of creating the best possible family life was an important factor in getting through tough times. “Every time that we had a challenge, ultimately, we reminded ourselves that we had two lovely children. That was what got us through it beyond everything else,” says Claire.

Andy believes their joint sense of fun is also hugely important in their relationship. Plus, they don’t take each other too seriously.

“Teamwork is a necessary part of a good relationship. If you lose that, sometimes you just have to work to get it back again because it’s worth sticking at most of the time,” says Claire.  “When you first meet, if it’s love at first sight or you click straight away, that love is usually worth fighting for.”

The ESFJ – ISFJ relationship is one where values are often highly aligned. Both personality types tend to prioritize their family and friends.

How to write your own love story

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You can listen to the full episode of our podcast on Personality Love LabSpotify and Apple Podcasts.

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