Talking to a couple of INFJ friends (as I usually do) and the conversation turned to why certain men in their lives have very few, if any, close friends… and in particular, male friends. This got me thinking of my own situation and although I would say I have many good friends… virtually all are online, INFJ and live many thousands of miles away. Closer to home I would say I have one male friend (ENTJ) who I’d consider a good friend and probably the only one who ‘gets’ me. But even then, we very rarely socialise outside of work environments or on weekends. Even family, as much as I love them, do have their own lives and a very different outlook and way of thinking that doesn’t harmonise with my own. So all in all I would say I would fall into the category of having no friends that I interact with or socialise with on a day-to-day basis. This Bank Holiday weekend being a perfect case in point, it was a weekend without the kids so I’ve been reading, writing, chatting online, training/running and went for a long hike over the local hills – all alone. And although it did feel relaxing, there is always a tinge of sadness of being unable to share the time and experiences with a close friend or partner.
So back to the question of why I don’t really have any friends IRL? I think it comes down to a few different points which I’ll delve into below…
1. Shying away from social interactions through my formative years
Friendships are developed during periods of high and repeated interaction. For example school, college, university and work are all periods when you interact consistently with the same people day in and day out, and without family commitments and priorities, these interactions have the time and scope to develop into lasting friendships. However, once I got into college and university I focused solely on my work and very rarely socialised (I think I recall one lunchtime excursion in the space of six years). This I put down simply due to my frustration of not being able to converse in noisy environments (because of being hard-of-hearing), but later I discovered it was also due to my introversion and feeling out of place (I have never been one for drinking which didn’t help). So through college and university, although I had many colleagues I interacted with, none developed into deep and lasting friendships that carried on into adulthood. This pattern carried across into work, and this is where the one and only lasting friendship which I referred to earlier was established. Over the period of the six years of education I did play a lot of golf and made many acquaintances through that, but because it was varied (never played with the same group each week) then the interaction wasn’t repeated and sustained.
2. Other priorities and commitments
Being a 40 year old father of two with work commitments and a need to get back on my feet financially, means there are very few opportunities to get out there and meet new people. I have a longing to travel, explore and experience… which is what I will do as soon as I’m financially comfortable to do so – but until then, it’s likely to be quite a lonely road ahead. Also, my colleagues and acquaintances are around the same age and as such, usually have families and commitments of their own – which is not conducive to developing new friendships.
3. Focus on quality over quantity
Being an introvert and needing solitude and alone time to recharge, I would much prefer to have one or two close friendships that I can focus all my energies on. I don’t like the idea of having many friends which I feel would dilute the depth of connection – to me that would feel superficial and inauthentic which doesn’t appeal at all. I want depth in all my relationships – both platonic and romantically. Plus trying to divide time up between so many friends would be draining and exhausting – as I want to do my best for everyone. This is probably why when I got into my one and only relationship, the one friendship I had ended up suffering. I became increasing focused on my partner and her family, which effectively became my friendship circle, although again, none of them really close. So when the relationship ended seven years later, that friendship circle disappeared (not through any bad feeling, just that it would be awkward to sustain given the situation).
Being alone again gave me time to revisit what I wanted and focus on my own needs and personal growth, something I couldn’t do in a relationship as I kind of got lost (putting others’ needs ahead of my own). This period of solitude which has lasted almost five years now, has given me much strength, self-awareness and has been an intense period of discovery and change. And this is perhaps why I am again, comfortable with being single and alone, because I have the ability to pursue my own dreams and ambitions without having to consider someone else. BUT… being INFJ, I will always have that inner voice, that craving to share the experiences with that special someone. Trying to solve that constant conflict and contradiction is going to be a difficult one, but interesting nevertheless.
4. Innate longing for a close friendship and romantic relationship
Rather than having any friends, for me the ultimate would be to have a friendship/romantic relationship in one package. Someone with the same outlook, ambitions and interests to share the journey through life with. Someone who will support me as much as I support her and someone who is not averse to growth and development for both of us. And of course, that mutual, passionate, animal attraction that causes us to want to rip each other’s clothes off on first sight. I know it may well be impossible to achieve but I’m an idealist and not willing to settle for anything less (which is pretty much why I still find myself single!). This is perhaps another reason I don’t seek male friendships, because I don’t want to detract from the possibility of finding a soulmate – although I do realise that in refraining from even attempting to forge new friendships I am perhaps restricting my chances of doing just that.
While this might seem a little too intense/co-dependent to some, the fact is that when my partner spends time with her own friends, I have the opportunity to do my own thing – pretty much as I do now. I have the freedom to recharge and explore my interests and at the same time I have a best friend/partner to come back to. That to me is the best of both worlds.
5. Active online social life
As mentioned before, many of my true friends are actually online, and although this may seem strange to many (some look at the online world or relationships as being a poor substitute to the real thing), I can safely say that my online friends know me far better and far more intimately than anyone ‘IRL’. Also online interaction is ideal for us introverts as it’s easier to switch off and recharge whenever you feel the need to. Friendships in real life are also often centred around activities and while this is all well and good, online is all about conversation and as such (for me at least) is much better at creating emotional connections. Plus we can often write our thoughts far better than we can verbalise them. Again though, it would be nice to replicate this in IRL or have an INFJ friend that was much closer to home.
6. Not having as much in common with other males
Even when in a relationship I tended to gravitate to conversations with the women in the family (and at work), as opposed to the males. Perhaps because deeper discussion seems rare with men and is more centred around work, football, making money, competition and the like. I think this is where the feminine side of my INFJ personality comes through and it’s perhaps why I relate to (and have more) INFJ female friends than than I do INFJ male ones. I think this is down to my fascination with relationship dynamics and how they all work, and the same is true for other INFJs. We want to get each other’s perspectives on relationships rather than from someone of the same sex (I’m speaking from my own heterosexual point of view) plus INFJs are typically one of the most gender fluid types meaning the men have feminine traits and the women, male – which again, could be why we tend to end up in friendships with the opposite sex.
INFJ – Universal Icon for the Strength in Sensitivity Typically INFJs of both genders have masculine and feminine traits, regardless of sexual orientation, that can account for relatively androgynous temperaments. Highly sensitive, INFJs are physically inclined to have a soft and traditionally feminine spirit, while mentally these idealists, activists, and protectors, who are dreamers and dooers, combat their physical femininity with a traditionally masculine edge. As extroverted feelers, who act to attain emotional satisfaction, INFJs are very much the universal icons for the strength in sensitivity. INFJ REFUGE