INTP vs. INTJ: living in the moment

This is the beginning of an ongoing series on the differences between INTJs and INTPs, as I observe them in my husband and myself. I used to think these two types were very similar, but being married to an INTJ has quelled that misconception. Of course there are many obvious differences between P’s and J’s—P’s like spontaneity, J’s are planful; J’s are organized, P’s are scattered; P’s are indecisive, J’s like to reach a quick conclusion. But as I continue to learn more about myself and my husband, there are many interesting differences between us that are unexpectedly influenced by our Myers-Briggs types.

My husband and I often talk about what our lives were like before we met and how they have changed since. I think that I was happier as a single person than he was, but since we’ve been together, he is happier than I am when we’re apart. (Our relationship was long-distance from the beginning, and our marriage is still quasi-long-distance thanks to his job.) This has to do with our ability to live in the moment, and whether our minds are naturally oriented to the present or the future.

As a P, I am able to live in the present really well because I’m constantly taking in information about present experiences and processing them. While I was single in the years between college and meeting my husband, I filled my life with activities and experiences that I enjoyed doing alone. My future was open, and even though I wanted to fall in love and have a family, I knew there was a possibility that might never happen, and I was okay with it because I was happy.

My husband’s mind-space is always in the future because as a J, he loves to make plans. It was always his goal to have a family, and many of his other plans and decisions in life depended on it. Without that piece of the puzzle, he wasn’t able to proceed with other plans, and he wasn’t able to enjoy the present when the future was unknown.

When we’re apart during the week, he doesn’t feel very lonely because the big picture is still present to him. Having our family motivates him and gives him the sense of purpose that he needs, whereas I am more prone to forgetting things that are not present. I enjoy the “now” of being with my family more than our future plans.

The future is much more tangible to my husband than it is to me. As long as the future looks bright, he is able to be happy even if the present is dull. If the future is bad or unknown, he can’t enjoy the present even if it’s good. I am the opposite; I can live in the moment and enjoy the present no matter what the future looks like, but if the present moment is crappy, it affects me a lot even if the big picture looks bright.

Do your thoughts live mostly in the present or the future (or the past)? What’s your Myers-Briggs type?

6 thoughts on “INTP vs. INTJ: living in the moment

  1. I’m 22 years old, female, and INTP. I often feel most natural living in the present and it seems to me a bother to spend time worrying and planning my future when it is always subject to change. I am surrounded by J-types as friends and family, so I often feel some pressure as a young adult to be thinking ahead and making decisions, so this really causes me to take notice of the stark contrast between J and P in this sense. My youngest sister is an INTJ and while we have similar interests in books, film and conversation topics, she is only satisfied with them if they are a useful asset to her future.

    When it comes to books and/or films, do you enjoy watching anything at all and living in the present, or do you view them only if they continue to influence you as a person or provoke future thought? In this way, I am interested predominantly in reading and/or interpreting books and film specifically for the purpose of adding deeper understanding to my future self. This “plan” of sorts causes me to feel excitement at the prospect understanding as much as I possibly can of the universe and brings out some motivation within me to accomplish more and plan ahead slightly. Is this something you’ve experienced? Is it possible that an INTP’s insatiable thirst for accumulating and building knowledge can be compared to an INTJ’s drive to apply knowledge?

    1. You’re absolutely right that INTPs like to gather knowledge and INTJs like to apply knowledge. As an INTP, reading helps me gather a lot of information that may (incidentally) help me formulate future plans, but I don’t read for that purpose, if that makes sense. My husband on the other hand, prefers to read practical things like books about investing. It still provokes deep thought, but he’s only interested in knowledge that can be applied to future plans. Even if we watch the same movie or read the same book, we talk about it in completely different ways because our personalities cause us to focus on different aspects of it.

      I think this distinction of reading for entertainment vs. reading to provoke future knowledge is an S/N one. When it comes to books and films, S’s are more likely to read/watch things for entertainment and appreciate something that is well-written, has a good storyline, interesting cinematography, etc. Whereas N’s look beyond the surface of the story and try to plumb for deeper meaning that will inspire further contemplation.

  2. I’m an INTJ, and I definitely identify with your husband’s perspective. Being uncertain about the future drives me crazy, and I sometimes envy the ability of P’s to enjoy the present without needing closure all the time.

  3. I’m an INTJ. My natural tendency is to live in the future. However quite a while now I have been able to live in the present and still be a big picture person.

    How do I do this?

    I create a timeblock for reflection and planning. ( At times, things I plan for drive people insane)
    I map out activities that help me ensure that the big picture is in grasp. In fact I measure the results

    But after that is done, I trust the process. I try to dumb down the J and experience life as is NOW.

    And then I redo it next week

    I’m sure you can figure out a similar( INTP style) way of experiencing/ perceiving things

    You may start by reading Gregory Nicholas Malouf’s Thoughtless series

    Not sure if this was helpful, but I had to share:)

  4. @kshitij That is helpful and interesting. I am an intp and really vacillate between p and j, but have found it helpful at time to do exactly what you’re talking about. I.e. make a weekly schedule and to do list and then essentially ‘wing it’ to see what gets done within this rough plan, then take a stab at it again next week. The only trouble with this system is that several rough weeks go by and i was never in the mood to fill out some urgent government paperwork or call the doctor’s office about some pressing medical results. A week goes by and i find myself making excuses to the person on the phone…”oh, i was out of town for the past month…cough” (embarrassed because nothing else accounts for that level of negligence, but still terribly self righteous because most of this bureaucracy is unwarranted and inefficient and the offensive misuse of my time it demands instills a sense of passive-aggressive obstinance, as absurd as it is to feel that way). Then i reason that this sense of entitlement to buck the system that i act and indeed profit within, in lieu of lacking the resourcefulness to escape it completely, is really quite spoiled and arrogant behavior, and that it would behoove me to toughen up a bit and just do it before anything else.
    But it always slides back into the same behavior pattern under perceived duress.

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