When it comes to relationships, ISTPs have some intriguing qualities that may seem paradoxical to other types. On one hand, they are extremely independent – yet on the other, they are deeply loyal once they enter into a commitment. They come across as the quintessential “lone wolves”, yet many ISTPs prefer long-term relationships because the drama and shallow nature of short-term relationships hold very little interest.
After speaking with dozens of ISTPs about their relationship needs/likes/desires, I decided to write this article for anyone out there looking for some pointers!
What Are ISTPs Like in a Relationship?
ISTPs tend to be very autonomous individuals, but that doesn’t mean they crave a life of singleness. They love meaningful, satisfying relationships as much as the next person. That said, they need freedom in their relationships and the chance to have space and time to themselves. Being able to explore the world around them while seeking out understanding and truth is essential. They enjoy having thought-provoking conversations with their partners, and they love being able to show their love through action and physical affection. But they can feel a little uneasy when it comes to verbally sharing all their emotions and feelings. In fact, they can feel a bit trapped when their partner wants to talk to them about their feelings alone. They may worry that they have done something “wrong” and it can be difficult for them to tap into their emotions to be able to verbalize them. Instead, they are more likely to show they care by helping out with a practical task or helping you find mental clarity over an issue that’s been bothering you.
When it comes to lifestyle, ISTPs are flexible and spontaneous individuals. They’re not likely to have a complex, long-term plan for their relationship and they’re also unlikely to plan out all your time. One of the ways they show they care is by giving freedom and respect to their partners. This means not interfering, bogging them down with texts, or planning out every single moment of the day. They’re much more likely to live according to the moment and find opportunities for romance or connection as the timing seems right. This could look like texting you on a Wednesday morning and asking you if you’d like to join them for donuts and a hike! It could also look like giving you space and time to yourself on a weekend if they know you’re someone who tends to get exhausted from social interaction during the week.
10 Things ISTPs Look For in a Relationship
#1 – Honesty
I think most people value honesty a great deal regardless of type, but this ranked especially high for ISTPs. As dominant Introverted Thinking types, ISTPs value accuracy and truth to a degree that surpasses many other types. Phoniness, manipulation, secretiveness, and two-faced behavior is like a slap in the face to their Introverted Thinking function.
#2 – Independence
ISTPs need their space and autonomy. This doesn’t mean they don’t want a relationship or a commitment – it simply means that they need to get plenty of their own alone time within that relationship. Over-scheduling their time, pressuring them to talk about their feelings too often, or barging in on their personal space can make them feel overwhelmed and stressed.
“In a relationship, if I’m given autonomy and freedom, I’ll be very happy and committed.”
– Jake Williams, an ISTP
#3 – Loyalty
ISTPs are extremely loyal once they settle on a relationship – while they may have a reputation for being “bad boys/girls” they actually take the welfare of their loved ones quite seriously and are usually disinterested in meaningless romances. Dedication in a partner ranked very highly to all the ISTPs I spoke with.
#4 – Understanding
Many of the ISTPs I spoke with had struggled with being misunderstood in relationships. Because ISTPs have inferior Extraverted Feeling (Fe), they can have difficulty expressing their emotions regularly. As a result, many partners have misunderstood or underestimated their feelings for them. ISTPs tend to be private and reserved, but this certainly doesn’t mean they don’t have very deep feelings. They are more likely to show their love through action rather than words.
#5 – A Sense of Humor
ISTPs are instantly turned off by people who take themselves (or life) too seriously. They want someone who can laugh with them, and see the humor in everyday situations. ISTPs usually have a good sense of humor and they enjoy when this is appreciated by their partner.
#6 – A Sense of Adventure
ISTPs enjoy new and varied experiences. They tend to enjoy playing games, traveling, building or crafting, or challenging themselves in a recreational pursuit. They dislike a lot of repetition in a relationship and enjoy a partner who’s up for new and exciting experiences.
#7 – Affection
While ISTPs may seem private and reserved, they tend to be very affectionate people. In fact, according to this survey, ISTPs showed a strong preference for “physical affection” as their love language. As Se-users, ISTPs tend to be highly kinesthetic and physical people. They frequently mentioned that they were more affectionate than their partners and that they really liked long hugs, massages, or just cuddling as a way to feel loved.
#8 – Warmth
ISTPs really appreciate people who exude warmth and compassion. This may have something to do with their inferior Extraverted Feeling (Fe) function. People with inferior Fe can feel a pull towards those with dominant or auxiliary Fe. This is partially because the inferior function is one that we feel a natural imbalance of in our own lives and we can often feel a sense of balance or completeness when we’re with someone who shows proficiency with that function. As an MBTI® practitioner I see ISTP/FJ relationships more than any other ISTP relationship pairing. ISTPs often appreciate the friendliness, warmth, and attentiveness that these types provide.
#9 – Respect
Everyone wants respect in a relationship, but ISTPs, in particular, found this very important. This really goes hand in hand with loyalty and honesty. If you want to show an ISTP respect, be loyal to them, tell them the truth, and respect their independence and autonomy.
#10 – One-On-One Time
ISTPs aren’t usually fond of huge social engagements. They would rather spend one-on-one time with their partner than go to a big party or club. Carving out some special, dedicated time for your ISTP partner on a regular basis will assure them that you care, that you’re making time for them, and it gives them the opportunity to bond with you in a deeper and more meaningful way.
Find out more about your personality type in our eBook, Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type.’
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