How to manage your online brand

Melissa broke up with her boyfriend. Thank god, because I never liked him. I have never liked any of her boyfriends, and the most unlikable of her boyfriends would say I’m overbearing and jealous. I would say I just have a good eye for men.

Here’s the summary of Melissa’s love life in twitter-short snippets.

  • College boyfriend who emerges semi-regularly to have insanely expensive dinners and violent sex that should only exist in the sophomoric porn videos he saw it in.
  • Tokyo boyfriend who I think was her boss. Not that women should not date their boss, but like most in this situation, Melissa got fired.
  • Farm visitor who I suspected right away to be a cad, but I thought maybe he could redesign my web site. I didn’t let him sleep in Melissa’s bedroom because what would I tell my kids? He agreed. Told Melissa he’d be back in a week. Then he was gone forever.
  • A guy in Austin who got her an engagement ring and then let his mother do the wedding planning. Also, he remodeled his house and put in cheap windows without asking Melissa first. I’m not sure which was worse, but in any case, Melissa left him.

But she needed someone to carry the big pieces of furniture out. So she asked his best friend to do the heavy lifting and when they got the sofa to her new apartment, they put it in the corner and made out on it.

I did not like this latest boyfriend. Though I tried to like him because I know that’s what good friends do when their friend is in a serious relationship. I told myself he’s a good guy. But then I’d realize that he’s more a good guy for someone who is not Melissa.

The details of how she finally saw that he was better for someone else are these: He is an ISTJ, so his interests are narrow, covering only those things he is an expert in. Melissa and I are interested in everything. We will make judgments based on nothing—we don’t care—we will still think we are right.

Melissa’s employee Dana should marry the ISTJ. Dana is an ENFJ and she needs someone who will make money so she can focus on being a great caretaker, and the ISTJ needs a good caretaker, and Melissa is a lot of things, but not that.

So Melissa dumped the ISTJ. And now she is worried that you will all think she’s a loser.

I told her she would look like a loser if everyone thought her life was perfect. Anyone can look pathetic and insecure trying to convey a perfect life. The rules of managing your personal brand are deeper than just be perfect and funny, which is why Melissa is so likable online.

Rule 1: The most attractive attribute of a personal brand is self-knowledge. So get some. 

While she was breaking up with the ISTJ, Melissa decided she wants kids.

Melissa has been absolutely 100% against having kids for the last ten years. She’d send me articles and tell me to write about them, but here’s what I know about women who choose not to have kids:

  • They are INFJs who always end up having kids in their 30s,
  • They had terrible childhoods and can’t imagine themselves as good parents with no good role model, which means they are not actually choosing not to have kids as much as they are choosing to continue to continue living their terrible childhood in adult life,
  • They are too picky about men (because of insecurities) and so they tell themselves they never found the right guy.
  • They think people who have kids are boring and conventional but people who worry about becoming boring are actually already boring and they will find this out  too late.

I’m stopping here but I could go on and on (and I’m sure I’ll argue with you in the comments) because what I want to say is that I always knew Melissa would want kids, eventually.

But Melissa deciding to want kids now is an emergency because Melissa is 30. And by now most of you know my mathematical thinking about babies. Her clock is ticking and men don’t like dating women with biological clocks that are ready to explode. It’s too much pressure—no wonder OK Cupid found that men want to date women who are 28.

Rule 2: Be strategic. It’s your life so don’t let it just happen.

I wanted to make a plan—a list of the attributes Melissa is looking for—which means we need a picture of the life she is trying to get.

Melissa resisted. She consulted the (mysteriously very talkative) INTJ group that goes along with the INTJ course. The group is extremely active (probably because INTJs think everyone is stupid except INTJs and they rarely find other INTJs). So of course they said I’m approaching dating like an ENTJ. “ENTJs are too goal-oriented,” they said.

WTF?? Is there another way to date? Is there another way to function when you are 30 and want kids? I wanted to know what the INTJs came up with—what is their non-goal-oriented dating plan?

Melissa wouldn’t tell me. But I was like, I don’t even care. Don’t call me with reports for any of your dates because it’s stupid. How do we know if they are good or bad dates if we don’t even know the KPIs?

We didn’t talk for a week while, presumably, she went on a million dates. Or emailed with a million people. I don’t even know what she was doing. But she called.

She found the guy.

I told her I had to go to the gym.

Rule 3: Surround yourself with people who make you better.

She made me talk to her at the gym.

He is an ENTP. Melissa brings this up early in our conversation because she knows a good way to keep me in the game is to tell me a personality type.

I am happy. Our favorite course was the one for ENTPs. They are fun and will talk about anything.

The good-friend worry I should have for her is about how ENTPs have a hard time working for people. But this guy somehow affords a three-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. So it’s a non-issue.

He is not Jewish but he has so many Jewish friends that he’s able to make references that Melissa—the most secular Jew in the world—does not understand. So she found a non-Jew more Jewish than her.

Melissa likes him so much that instead of doing incompetent, Asperger dating, she is calling neuro-typical friends to find out how to follow dating rules that regular people know instinctively.

She does not like the rules and largely ignores them, but she’s trying. That’s how I know he’s important to her.

Rule 4: Fail in public. A lot. That makes you real. 

He’s so important that she wants to edit this post about her finding him. She never cared enough to ask to edit other posts.

I tell her forget it.

I tell her she is lovable because she is vulnerable in public, and she keeps trying over and over again. People don’t want to be close to people who live in a perfect dreamland.

There are all these people writing about how they are not doing Instagram any more because it’s fake. Doing all the beautiful pictures makes them do fake things.

But why? You can be engaging and beautiful and yet still focus on the terribleness of life. Dorothea Lange. Walker Evans. People like grit. People like being scared for the subject. Even Georgia O’Keeffe had to paint flowers that made you scared they were about to have their period.

Rule 5: Let yourself grow and change—be a hypocrite. 

So this post is Melissa’s gorgeous life. It’s also Melissa’s brave life. She always thinks she’s going to get married with each new guy. But so far, she hasn’t. She was militant about not having children and now she’s not. And she was dying to grow her recruiting business and now she only wants to start a family.

We all change our minds. We all grow. The brand we should show online, where prospective mates can see, is of someone willing to change and grow and contradict ourselves. That’s the life worth living, a lifetime of learning and growth.



104 replies
  1. Wayne Smith
    Wayne Smith says:

    I took a long time to admit my own failures in my work and in my life but I’ve opened up about it on my blog this year. I’ve questioned what it will do to my online/offline reputation but I’ve decided that it’s just my story and because I failed in things doesn’t mean I’m any worse of a person because of it. At 36, I’ve finally learned that admitting defeat can allow you to learn and move on and grow from the experience.

  2. A.C.
    A.C. says:

    Could you post more info about INFJ women not wanting to have kids and then wanting to have kids. I’m an INFJ and 30, and don’t want kids but…what if I change my mind? And yes, I did have a difficult childhood.

    Love your posts!

    • Aya
      Aya says:

      I second this! I remember you once mentioning that INFJ woman are the most ambivalent about kids…. I am so curious and would like to hear more details!!!

      • colleen
        colleen says:

        INFJ here who had kids (28, 30)…had a semi-OK childhood with no role models…and just came to the conclusion that life is way more fun with kids, along with the work, and it’s OK to tell them Mom makes mistakes, or they grow up thinking Mom is invincible and the cycle starts all over again…don’t let the Myers Briggs hold you back from life.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        The superpower of the INFJ is they see the real truth of everyone. So INFJs can see where every parent is going wrong and where each child is annoying and INFJs think they don’t want any part of that.

        The problem is that INFJs get very very frustrated with the business world because it’s not grounded in values. And INFJs are actually excellent parents. So eventually INFJs realize that raising children is a good fit for them. But parents are never perfect – it’s a spectrum. And actually INFJs might be best suited of all types to be excellent parents.

        Each personality type has a most-common blind spot, and the blind spot for the INFJs is usually how children fit into their life.

        The course I did for INFJs focuses a lot on this topic and I really really recommend that you take the course if you’re an INFJ and you don’t want kids — the course will help you understand how you are thinking about kids and other aspects of the issue that you might not be considering.

        Here’s a link to the course:



        • A.C.
          A.C. says:

          THANK YOU. Makes a lot of sense.

          I do think I can see things more clearly than others, but I usually attribute that to being full of myself. I feel vindicated now :D

        • rachel
          rachel says:

          I’m a 35 year old INFJ with a shitty childhood who never wanted kids precisely because I saw how it shitty for parents/kids alike. I still don’t want kids, it still seems like a conventional and boring choice. I fit them into my life by being a highly engaged auntie.

        • Leonie
          Leonie says:

          Penelope you’ve peaked my curiosity so much!

          What is the INTP blind spot?

          A follow up post on this for all the types would be so interesting- but really, I’m just super curious to hear your take on the INTPs :-)

          • Elizabeth
            Elizabeth says:


            Lots of INTP friends. Your blind spot is your constant trying to make someone else make decisions for you. And one day, should you have kids, you will convince yourself that you’re just helping them grow up by making them make decisions for you too, but very likely you are putting too much on their shoulders too soon.
            In the end your child will forgive you, but hardly ever come to you for advice because it is always shredded by any treatment of reality.
            PS- your creator energy is amazing though! Your children will have absolutely excellent mementos of nostalgia.

        • liz olson
          liz olson says:

          penelope –

          read this comment and immediately (finally, actually) bought the INFJ course.

          the minute i saw the password for the videos, i knew it would be beyond good.

          literally life changing.

          ive always known i would eventually want a husband and kids, but have never been able to imagine how they would actually fit into my life. ive constantly wrestled with understanding how family would work with my insatiable need for alone time. this gave me a whole new way to look at all the pieces.

          thank you from the bottom of my 30 year old INFJ heart.

        • Hendo
          Hendo says:

          Oh god, I relate to this soo much. INFJ and I did not want kids at all when I was younger – I just couldn’t see how you could do it. Then I met someone I thought I could have kids with, and I was 27, and I decided I wanted to have kids. That relationship ended (thank god, he would actually have been a terrible partner and father), and now I’m 34 and with someone who I think would be a good father… but he’s an INFP who was also determined that he didn’t want to have kids, and it’s mainly because of shitty things that happened in his childhood. You were also absolutely right Penelope – I DO look around me and think… I can see what you’re doing that doesn’t work and how I’d do it differently… at all the people I know who have kids – it’s so easy when you don’t have your own. And I often find myself wondering, it can’t just be that I’m waiting for my partner – how did almost EVERYONE else manage to decide to have kids when they were so much younger? How does anyone get TIME to have kids before they are 34? Because I am waiting for my partner, but there honestly hasn’t really been time for us to get to kids either, we do so much stuff! Anyway 2016 is obviously my year to do the INFJ course! Thanks Penelope!

      • Kristen
        Kristen says:

        I’m very interested in this too, from the other side of the spectrum. I’m an INFJ and always wanted kids. It’s been my main goal since I can remember! So, it seems odd to me that INFJs are mostly ambivalent? Parenthood, especially homeschooling, seems to fit the INFJ persona, and books like MotherStyles say that INFJs are wonderful caretakers.

        • Kristen
          Kristen says:

          Oops, got trigger happy and wrote before scrolling down haha. Interesting info, Penelope! I think maybe it’s some INFJ pride going on for me… I agree with “seeing” how other parents are going wrong, but because I think I’m an insightful INFJ, I’ll do it differently. Oh the things we can say before becoming parents, huh? : )

          • Caitlin
            Caitlin says:

            I agree- I’m an INFJ who has been studying the science (art?) of being a good parent since I was 3. I’ve set up my life to that end, getting married to an INTJ out of college and having a baby early. I had a good childhood with an ISFJ mom, maybe that kept the angst away…?

        • Bernadette
          Bernadette says:

          I am an INFJ and I have always wanted kids as well! Then again, my friend who is also an INFJ is ambivalent/against them. I think it’s interesting how we are so divided on this, because it seems completely natural to me that I want kids since it aligns with my skill set.

          Also, go Melissa! I say her post on the INTJ group and I’m so happy she’s reached a resolution/moving forward.

      • Nia
        Nia says:

        Me too, I’d like to read more. INFJ! almost 30! always liked kids but not sure I want them for myself, currently happy to be the playful auntie to 5 girls but I think my mind might be changing…I’m getting a strong sense to ‘settle down’ and it’s like oh my days, real life! ESTJ in my life keeps reminding me of the fact that my clock is ticking, I find it threatening and he wants to date me :/ though I like a lot that ESTJs bring to the table.

  3. Mariana
    Mariana says:

    I remember Melissa was puzzled INTJ women would choose to have kids in the INTJ course! I am curious to know what made her change her mind…

  4. Marisa
    Marisa says:

    Good luck, Melissa! I didn’t meet my husband until I was 32, and at the time he lived on the other side of the Atlantic. Plus he was way younger. (Talk about improbable.) We took it slowly, married 5 years later, and I had my little boy at 39.

    Stats are fine when you need a rule of thumb, but it doesn’t sound like an emergency situation quite yet. You only need ONE good man for a husband, not the entire majority. And, after all, you already know you’re looking for someone special–not Joe Average.

    Penelope, I delight in your intentional, well-crafted ramblings. So glad you don’t adhere rigidly on the title-topic! Good food for thought, here.

  5. INTJ
    INTJ says:

    Yes yes yes you hit the nail on the head about INTJ women and kids. I am one, didn’t have kids till 36, and each of your bullets were straight on. Great job, PT!

  6. No Kids for Me
    No Kids for Me says:

    I thought INTJ women were the most likely to not want kids? I am 34 and do not want kids and meet none of your bullets. I had a great childhood, have been happily married for almost 12 years and do not see myself changing my mind. I’m married to an INTJ and don’t see him changing his mind either. While I do tend to think parents are boring because they tend to only want to talk about their kids, that’s certainly not why I don’t want them. I just don’t see any compelling reason to have them and like my life the way it is and don’t want to change that.

    • Krysten
      Krysten says:

      Same here. 31 year old INTJ with a lovely INFJ husband. He has a daughter from a previous marriage and is a great father, but neither of us is chomping at the bit to procreate together.

    • Amy
      Amy says:

      1000% agree. Am a single 40 y.o. INTJ, been in great relationships all my life, never wanted kids and never will. Beyond happy with my choice. None of the bullets apply. And know several other women in exact same situation.

    • Pirate Jo
      Pirate Jo says:

      45-year-old INTJ woman here, and I have never wanted kids either. I don’t fit any of those criteria, and those criteria are really weird anyway. The implication is that if you don’t want kids, there’s something “wrong” with you – you’re too picky, you’re living a miserable life, you’re boring, or else there’s nothing wrong with you in which case you end up changing your mind.

      The truth is, I just never saw having children as a given/default or as inevitable. That doesn’t seem to be the case for a lot of people – I think they must grow up always being told that they WILL have children someday, and then if they decide not to, it’s only after overcoming years of programming. So it’s sort of rebellious or a rejection of the way they were raised.

      But I wasn’t raised that way. My parents knew a number of adult couples who didn’t have kids, we had family members who didn’t have kids, and that was always presented as being every bit as normal and valid as choosing to become a parent. You could just do whatever you wanted, and having children never appealed to me, so I never had them. My family never pressured me, and for the most part no one else has, either. Oh, sure, you run into the occasional nitwit who says you aren’t a real woman until you’ve had babies, but whatever, there are always going to be a few people like that out walking around.

      A lot of people my age never had kids or wanted them – I’m surprised anyone even finds it odd anymore. I thought that went out several decades ago, along with trying to make left-handed kids into right-handed kids.

      I found the right guy nine years ago, and he wouldn’t have been the right guy if he had wanted kids.

      • Jennifa
        Jennifa says:

        Pirate Jo ! I have enjoyed your comments lo these many years and always thought you were a man!

        Well, cool, we are both married 45-year old women with no kids.

      • childfreeme
        childfreeme says:

        I came here to write all of this. 32, ENTJ, it simply never occurred to me that having kids was something I should do and any implication that there is something wrong with me is just completely incorrect.

    • Jill
      Jill says:

      I agree. I’m an INTJ woman and I’ve never wanted children. Here’s why: I would seriously resent my children. I have no patience with stupidity and irrational behaviour, and that’s all kids do all the time. I hate loudness and chaos, and that’s all kids are. I like the freedom to pursue my obsessions, which kids would limit. I want my freedom to be complete, total. This is not even to say I hate kids; I actually like them and they are charming and fun in many ways. I don’t think my life would be “ruined” exactly by kids, but I prefer my quiet apartment life. And I don’t think a child deserves a mother who already knows she’d be decidedly less than psyched about their existence.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yeah, I trust an INTJ who doesn’t want to have kids. I should have mentioned INTJ women as the exception.

      But most INTJs who fall into this category of not wanting kids are really interested in work. They are great at it and they like it.

      Melissa is great at it sometimes, but she’s been fired a lot, which is very rare for an INTJ, and she has a hard time staying motivated. So she’s sort of an Aspergery exception to the INTJ rule here.


      • No Kids for Me
        No Kids for Me says:

        Thank you for clarifying. What you said about work is true for me. I am one of those people who say they would still work of I won the lottery. I would just start my own company or something most likely.

      • Grace Lam
        Grace Lam says:

        Penelope, we were discussing social norms a few years ago and I remember you saying that Melissa was dealing with social pressure for not having kids in her twenties. And now she is dealing with a different kind of social pressure. In any case, I love how honest this post is, as always. Melissa is super brave.

    • Pat Sommer
      Pat Sommer says:

      Good parents are boring to their former circle. I know; I became boring: no, won’t stay out late, drop everything for coffee, take on exciting projects… Now I have a lovely circle of once-interesting HS Moms!

    • bea
      bea says:

      I am reading all of these comments from INTJs never wanting children and I very much relate. I’m an INTJ who never wanted children and who married a man who never wanted children. I defied technology and got pregnant anyway at age 35. I have a ‘tween daughter that I love dearly, but am still at a loss as to why so many people insist on having kids. I’ve known several friends who were so absolutely committed to the theory of parenthood, yet when they went on to have children they 1) try to get away from them every chance they get or 2) out and out ignore them a good deal of the time. There’s nothing more sad to me than a parent that clearly does not enjoy being a parent.

      What I’ve found is that I personally lose my tolerance for children under the age that my daughter is now. Every trip around the sun, I think “wow, this is a great age” and then have no interest in kids younger than that age ever again. I don’t really enjoy small children, even though I clearly remember being delighted by my daughter when she was small. I think it was because I had never had any interest in kids and was never around them, and not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised by the unexpected joy and amusement of it all. That said, I made damn well sure that I never defied technology again.

      I guess it’s fair to say that while I very much enjoy the practice of parenting my own particular child, I still don’t understand the mindset of people who approach having children as an ultimate objective in life. It’s just as foreign a concept to me now as it was before having my daughter.

      This comment thread has me thinking how wonderful (and probably hilarious) it would be if somebody started an INTJ parenting group. I would join that group, even though parenting groups as a whole bore the shit out of me. I can only imagine what such a group might look like/sound like to other, non-INTJ MB types.

  7. Kristina Owens
    Kristina Owens says:

    I’m jealous of Melissa! I want to be your best friend! Or maybe the three of us can be best friends? :)

    Oh P! Can you make a plan for my life? I’ll do anything you say. I’m a 27 year old INFP about to graduate my MFA program with no start on a career. I’ve been writing poems and waiting tables the past two years.

    My plan is to publish my manuscript and get a job teaching poetry at a college. But what I want more than anything is to meet someone who needs a caretaker because there’s nothing I love more than taking care and babies. Career goals bore me, raising a child and managing a home excites me. I’m picky about who I date not because I’m insecure but if I’m going to care for someone as much as I want to, I have to really like them.

    What’s the best match for an INFP? INFJ? I’m also hoping for someone who can ground me when I get to dreamy! Thanks for sharing this post and thanks to Melissa for being so open with your life!

    • Laura
      Laura says:

      I’m an INFP married to an ENTJ. It’s awesome. We are so different that we open up vast worlds for each other and are able to cover completely for the other person’s weaknesses.

      And the amazing thing about ENTJ’s is if you have a wild imagining ENTJs actually have the organisational ability, research skills and determination to make it come true.

      The other great thing about ENTJs is they are sooooo career focused that they love having a gentle caring companion to return home to at the end of the day. If I’ve been writing poems or gardening or playing violin all day that just delights my husband, whereas other “types” might get annoyed at the impracticality.

      Just one pointer though: don’t expect an ENTJ to fully engage with your art. They will appreciate it and listen when you talk about it but there probably won’t be that “cross inspiration” that INFPs often hope for in a mate.

      • cindy Allen
        cindy Allen says:

        Your description of your husband makes me wonder if my boyfriend is an ENTJ as well. You described our relationship perfectly. Our strengths and weaknesses are really well balanced. He actually cracked the combination lock on an old briefcase of mine by sitting down with the intention of testing every single number combination. It took him 10 minutes. I would have just used a hammer….or bought a new briefcase. It blew my mind that he was willing to patiently do that. His stability and consistency makes me feel very safe and secure.

  8. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I don’t think Melissa knows she wants kids. I think you know you want Melissa to have kids.

    The book All Joy and No Fun really clarified the “do I want kids?” decision for me. I landed on wanting kids.

  9. celeste
    celeste says:

    I am pretty equally split between an INFJ and an INTJ. I had children at age 36 and 42. I couldn’t even look at children until I was in my 30’s ( and I am the oldest of 9 children). Your article is very interesting on this, Penelope!

    • Angie
      Angie says:

      I am an INFJ/INTJ split also. I am 37 and have always been very ambivalent about kids. My partner is divorced with two kids and he doesn’t want more of them. At first I thought that was cool, but lately I’m worrying about it. How did you navigate the decision as an INFJ/INTJ split? I feel like I’m in a different camp/frame of mind every other day!

  10. ellen chamberlin
    ellen chamberlin says:

    what is the most common blind spot for ENFPs? do a post about each personality types blind spots. please!

  11. Morgan
    Morgan says:

    I was very adamant about never wanting kids even as child (INTJ), and now that that biological clock has started ticking at age 32, the only way I can imagine having kids is if I hired a nanny (as I had from ages 0-4) or had family around to help raise them.

  12. Amy
    Amy says:

    So as a female ENTP, should I look for a Melissa-like male INTJ?

    I’m 30 and have always wanted kids, but I read that ENTPs are one of the least social extroverts and would rather be alone than spend time with someone who bores them. This is 100% my problem. Should I just fight through it and go on a series of terribly boring dates anyway? Where do I find interesting people? Honestly, I don’t know how Melissa does it.

    Also, to be clear, I expect that the kids will be mostly boring to me, I’ve been mentally preparing for that for years. I’d rather my partner wasn’t, though.

    • Blandy
      Blandy says:

      ENTP with three adult children here. Small kids are boring; they are way more fun when they’re older and can communicate. But we all survived and I’m glad I had them! (If my 27 YO is reading this she has heard me say it before, and I love you! Mom : )

      • Amy
        Amy says:

        Hi Blandy! I remember you from the ENTP course! Yes, your experience is pretty much what I’m anticipating. I am excited about the prospect of adult children, so I’ll get through the beginning parts just fine. My main problem is finding a partner that keeps me interested, even for at least the first few dates. It just starts to feel like an obligation. Clearly my tolerance for boredom is low.

        • Taru
          Taru says:

          ENTP here! My husband is an INTJ and I have a 2 yr. old. I found that got along great with INTJs they cannot hurt my feelings (I have none) and I respect their intelligence and need, NEED, their ability to maintain an orderly life. My kid is definitely more interesting at age 2 then she was at age 1. I think once they start talking and walking they are like mini ENTPs. Full of wonder with short attention span.

        • Blandy
          Blandy says:

          Hi Amy, nice to hear from you! When my kids were young I didn’t know about how ENTPs parent (and how they feel about it) so I had an occasional flicker of guilt — just a flicker, I am an ENTP : ) — for not enjoying them more. However, an ENTP’s goal is to raise independent adults and tend to parent with the “benign neglect” model.

          I am happy to say we have three 20-somethings who know they are loved, and also learned to navigate the planet with confidence. Was it perfect parenting? Lord no, I can tell you a lot of stories, and we also won the genetic roulette with all three. But it seems it was good enough.

          • Joyce
            Joyce says:

            This is an awesome discussion! I’m a female INTJ married to a male ENTP, and you all have just summed up a substantial part of our parenting differences. We’ve tended to attribute them to male vs. female, but I can see now that there is a big element of personality there. Penelope, can spouses take the ENTP course? I need it. :D

  13. Sydney
    Sydney says:

    I stopped reading at the point where you categorized women who don’t want kids. I know that’s not the point of your post, but the part I find most puzzling. Many comments on that, so maybe I’m not alone.

    I wonder where you came up with that list. I know only a hand full of women who never wanted kids (which is different than never HAD kids), and none of them meet even one of your bullet points.

    I am an ESFJ, had a great childhood, have been with my husband (very happily) for 32 years. I’m 52 now and have never changed my mind on this. I retired at the age of 44 (my husband did at 40) and by most measures lead a boring life (which I love–part of the reason I didn’t want kids and wanted to retire young: to have an easy life. I love easy, but many would find that boring.)

    I never wanted kids in much the way that I’m an atheist. It’s not so much that I believe there is no god, just that I lack the belief in god. Similarly, it’s not that I didn’t want to have kids, it’s that I lacked the desire to have them. So there’s no answer to the question: “Why didn’t you want kids?” I think this is hard for most people who wanted kids to wrap their heads around.

    • Pirate Jo
      Pirate Jo says:

      I love that you don’t feel like you have to justify yourself to others. It truly doesn’t matter whether other people think your life is boring. It only matters what YOU think. Don’t want kids? Don’t have them. Want an easy life? Have one. When people judge you instead of attending to their OWN lives, what it really does is say something about them. If someone says your life is boring, what they are really saying is that their own life is boring.

      It’s funny that people will ask you why you didn’t want kids, as if there is any “why” to that. No, I didn’t want kids – that’s it. That’s the answer. There is no “why.” If you asked people why they wanted kids, I guarantee you 99% of the time the answer you would get would be, “I don’t know.” And they would find it offensive that you asked!

  14. Sydney
    Sydney says:

    Buy the way if “women who choose not to have kids” are “are INFJs who always end up having kids in their 30’s”, then those aren’t really “women who choose not to have kids.”

    You might need to find the pool of women who really chose not to have kids to study to see what their profiles really look like. Who knows, maybe they are ESFJ’s who had wonderful childhoods that are still married to their college sweethearts.

    • Caitlin
      Caitlin says:

      Isn’t that what you’re describing, though, Sydney? That you didn’t *choose* not to have kids, you just didn’t choose *to* have them…? I think that’s what P is saying about INFJs, that they’re the only ones who adamantly say that they’re not going to have kids, and then do.

      • Sydney
        Sydney says:

        Aaah, yes, I see what you are saying, that the INFJ’s are the ones who say they do not want kids then later have them. I understand your point.

        My problem is the statement, “here is what I know about women who choose not to have kids.” Women who say they do not want kids and then decide later to have them are not women that choose not to have kids. They are women who think they don’t want them but later decide to have them.

        Women who choose not to have kids are women that actually choose not to have them and then do NOT actually have them. The INFJ’s PT describes are not women that choose not to have kids. They are women that chose not to have kids YET. Big difference.

        • Caitlin
          Caitlin says:

          You raise interesting points. I wonder how much our experience of *choices* are defined by our MB type. As an INFJ, I experience everything as a choice because seeing and picking my future happens so naturally that I couldn’t imagine telling someone, “I never considered ____ very much, and so I didn’t do it.” But I can see how an SFJ might be more that way because they live far more in the present.

          • Sydney
            Sydney says:

            That is a really interesting observation and makes me think of one of my dear friends. She agonizes over decisions and has often made the observation that decisions seem so easy for me. She’s right, I just know, I never agonize over decisions, and I can’t think of even one that I have regretted. Maybe this has to do with our MB types–I’ll have to ask her which she is next time I see her.

  15. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    I am INFJ and always said I didn’t want to have kids. Then I got engaged at 35 and my husband –to-be suggested we start trying right away since we were older. Certain that it would take a long time to conceive and that I would have plenty of time to change my mind, I agreed. I even started reading about fertility treatments because I thought it would come to that. Lo, and behold I got pregnant on the first try and I was three months pregnant at our wedding. Needless to say, I am immensely glad that I thought that it would take a long time – otherwise I might have said no if seemed certain to occur. I guess what I am saying, is don’t discount being uncertain. Sometimes it can be your minds way of allowing you to choose what you really want deep down.

  16. Erin
    Erin says:

    INTJ woman here married to an ENTP. He’s tons of fun as long as you’re willing to manage everything, which you probably are, but mine is full of grandiose plans and not always great on the last 20% of follow-through. Something to be aware of; however, he’s great with the kids and they love him. He creates fun, which is not one of my INTJ strengths.

  17. Kate
    Kate says:

    I opened your blog today thinking “I wish she would offer some dating advice, not work advice.” And here you go….

    Thank you!

  18. Markola
    Markola says:

    I’m new to your blog and marvel that you can determine your friend’s boyfriends’ Meyers-Brigg score on sight. Hats off. I’m a guy and had to work with a coach, who is also good at this stuff, for a few months before she determined I am an INFP.

  19. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Always nice to read about Melissa.

    This reminds me of a friend with Aspergers who really wanted kids & a wife. So he dated alot and if he met someone promising would take them home to meet his overbearing & judgmental mother. His mother would easily see them off for the slightest infraction (like smoking). Eventually he did find someone his mother approved of, married her & they now have a child.

    So I have a theory that Melissa is doing this as well, sounding out for approval, not just Penelope but her whole community as well. In which case, I’ll say you can assess a man by his personality type, his job and his friends but if you want to know if he’s right for you that’s a different thing. Here’s some advice I came across recently. There is no such thing as the right man – the right man is a man who makes peace with your weaknesses before you do.

  20. Maya Sinha
    Maya Sinha says:

    I’m an INTP woman (divorced, two kids) who just got engaged to an ESFJ man. We think it’s funny that we don’t have a single Myers-Briggs trait in common. As he says: “Together, we make one whole person.”

    In the spirit of having a vulnerable and flawed (yet strangely lovable!) online brand, I’ve been chronicling our relationship on my blog for the past nine months, along with other subjects. Recently wrote our “engagement” post. That was fun.

    Best of luck to Melissa in her dating adventures. Keep the faith!

    • Catherine
      Catherine says:

      You don’t have one letter in common on the Myers-Brigg spectrums (I/E, N/S, F/T, J/P) but you actually share all the same cognitive functions but in reverse.

      INTPs’ strongest cognitive function is introverted thinking, followed by extraverted intuition, then introverted sensing and extraverted feeling (the inferior function).

      ESFJ’s strongest cognitive function is extraverted feeling, followed by introverted sensing, then extraverted intuition and finally introverted thinking.

      • Maya S
        Maya S says:

        Thanks for your comment, Catherine. I don’t know enough about Myers-Briggs to fully understand the dynamic, but we are very similar in values and overall approach to life. It is more a “likes attract” than “opposites attract” scenario, in support of your point.

    • Kristina
      Kristina says:

      Aww! Thanks for sharing that, Erin! It made me cry! :) I still don’t completely understand the hack. It also seems like timing and fate that her future husband showed up. That part seems completely out of our control.

      • Erin
        Erin says:

        Kristina – Sure enough, luck plays a factor in most things. :) I get really excited about this talk because we live in an age where the Internet is a powerful tool for connecting us to what we want, whether it’s a partner or a friendship or a business connection. But we have to learn how to use the tools available to us effectively. ^_^ I love her systematic approach to online dating websites, and how she essentially hones her brand to get what she wants. The principles she employs in this talk can be tweaked to apply to any site where we interact with people online. She doesn’t just float through the dating website. She uses it as s tool and hones her ability to wield it to get results. It makes me laugh, I’m so impressed by it!
        – Erin

        • Kristina
          Kristina says:

          You’re so right, Erin! That’s something I need to work on for sure! Career-wise and in social media world. I feel like I have a lot to offer as an employee and friend but I sure don’t market myself effectively. I’m getting better though! :) Systematic techniques and data aren’t strengths but lately I’m discovering that I’m pretty good at bothering people I love and admire. I’m sincere about it because I really, truly love and admire them. I reach out to people who I never expect to write me back and to my surprise, they often do! I’m gonna keep at this technique since its kind of working. But as Penelope says, once I get their attention I have to know how to ask the right questions. That’s tge hard part. Especially when I just want too say can we skip the questions, can I just be by you. Next to you. I guess you could say I’m on my way to being a professional creep. :) I’m ready to take it to the next level whatever that is. I need to learn systems.

  21. me
    me says:

    I’ve been on/off online dating for years & nothing’s worked out.

    The vast majority of my experience was a nice conversation over drinks & then no further contact (mutual/unspoken agreement). Small fraction of the time, I wouldve liked to have gone out again, but no dice; another small fraction, they wouldve liked to have gone out again , but I wasnt interested.

    So: how did Melissa find a great guy in only ONE week ?! Please share her secret …

    • Ruo
      Ruo says:

      You have to understand why the previous ones did not work out. I typed all the exes and the casual dates. And then realized there was one temperament of mb that I was not meeting. So I sort of chased down the first guy I met who was like that. And he had been great. The mb was a guideline to point me in the right direction and then effort to follow social dating rules was mostly me. Intp female dating istj male.

      Melissa must be incredibly focused and lucky . Chemistry and timing !

      • me
        me says:

        @Ruo: Hi & thanks for your interesting response.

        Can you explain a bit more re your experience — were you using online dating sites & if so, how did you know/discern your dates’ MB types ? What MB characteristic did you realize was missing, and how did you tell that your new ISTJ guy had it ?

        I’m ISFP & looking for a kindred spirit/best friend, but just havent found anyone like that.

        • Rayne of Terror
          Rayne of Terror says:

          I’m an ISFP and have been married to my INTP husband 14.5 years, together 20 years. So far, so good. He is much more introverted than I am which can be a sore point. It is very rare that he wants to have people over or go out. We have similar upbringings, blue collar, lower middle class, very smart mothers who mostly stayed home with kids, musicians, Midwestern.

        • ruo
          ruo says:

          @ me, i used eharmony.

          the ISTJ boyfriend had the same type of writing style on his dating profile as how he spoke in real life. And I liked that he was very stable and structured.. i.e. could run my personal life to make sure i eat, i pay my bills on time and i will always have clean socks to wear. i used to just buy like a wadload of clean clothes at every paycheque cuz i couldnt figure out when to do laundry.

          some of the other guys i met on eharmony… it was very clear when I met an ENTP, he was a teacher, lawyer, finance guy and on his way to unemployment to go from a cute blond to now having a spiky, badly self-razored haircut, and who gardens as his hobby after travelling around the world to teach ESL which he quit half way because he did not like kids. Our conversation was cerebrally enchanting yet totally annoying for a practical working relationship. He did not know to schedule dates on time. I didn’t want two incompetent people at getting things done, so I ended things with him. He was fun, good for debates. He debated about the merits of the America taxation system with me until he became technically flawed. I didn’t want to end up eating bagels with him for dinner as the main story the rest of my life.

          And then, there was an ISTP, who was into rock climbing. Fun guy. No sparks. We were both a little too quiet and a little too into our own thing to get a relationship happen. So, it was a no.

          And then I dated ESFP(J), ISFJ, INFJ boyfriends at various times of my life, and they were all feeler for me… I constantly got told that I was not considerate of their feelings and then I constantly wanted to die because nothing I did seemed good enough to make them feel better. The INFJ boyfriend was my favourite ex and he had so much emotional intelligence that he taught me to become a more balance INTP. We were always up all night talking.

          Now, back to this ISTJ, he lets me do my intp thing while he runs my personal life in the background. HA! and that’s what I need in a partner :) I know that know because I dated all the wrong people.

          I think when you are assessing a partner, focusing on his MB preferences relative to your own is most important than what his 4 letter are. As an ISFP, dating a thinker kind of guy will anchor your life. Don’t date another extreme P though… totally makes scheduling anything impossible and you will have to become the do-er for the two of you. If that thought doesn’t scare you, go for it. if it does, run away. P guys are always interesting to talk to, but terrible to live with.

          • Rayne of Terror
            Rayne of Terror says:

            We are both Ps and we certainly don’t schedule things the way our friends do, but we never miss bills and rarely miss getting the kids where they are supposed to be on time. At nearly 40 I have learned I have to schedule time with my college friends, so I make sure to make it happen a couple times a year. I chaff at scheduling weekend activities 4-6 months in advance, but that’s the way most of my friend’s worlds work and so I make due.

  22. sarah faulkner
    sarah faulkner says:

    Melissa- I think you are the only INTJ I am not close friends with in my life. :). Being an ENTP I always click great with an INTJ. In fact, everytime I move I manage to find another female INTJ to be friends.

  23. sarah faulkner
    sarah faulkner says:

    I am an ENTP and when I was looking for a husband I had two requirements, he had to have more feelings than me, and he had to not drive me nuts. I knew the kids would need more caring about their feelings than I can give. I also never wanted kids, but I wanted after meeting Andy because I knew he would fill in my ineptitude. And he does. Here is my marriage advice: marry someone who can be your best friend. No matter the personality type, if you can pal around and agree – go for it.

  24. harris497
    harris497 says:

    Everyone needs a friend who will tell it like it is – diplomatically but truthfully. Your main problem is that you have always been undiplomatic (personality trait) and it causes avoidable delays and problems.
    Let M find her way the way you found / are finding your way. It’s messy, frustrating, long-winded and messy… but it is worth it if you learn from the mistakes.

  25. M.E.
    M.E. says:

    Is anyone else in the situation of being in an age gap marriage? I’m a 36 year old woman and my husband is 53. We have been married a little over three years and this was a first marriage for both of us. I’m also an INFJ, but as for being one of those INFJ women who has kids in their 30s, I really have a feeling that won’t be me. First off, my husband won’t be around for as much of a potential child’s life. Second, I’m just not feeling like I have to have a baby yet and if I’m still not feeling it at 36, I’m doubtful that I will unless something drastically changes. I’m happy in my “boring” life. I don’t have a big career, more like a job I like and my husband and I like our routine. Also add in a 90 year old mother in law who needs a lot of our help and it’s hard finding space to fit in a child. I’m not about to have a baby just in case I might change my mind in the future. I wouldn’t want to do that to a child. I think if you’re not totally sure yet, don’t have a baby. I know that you’re never totally “ready” but I say definitely want to be a parent in the first place.

    As for an online brand, I don’t really have one or care. I’m not out there vying for some big career. I don’t pretend to have a perfect life on social media, but I’m not using it in hopes of furthering my career. It’s mostly for me to keep up with family and friends and just socialize. I don’t care to have “brand” per se, I’m just being me, boring life and all :-)

    • Andrea
      Andrea says:

      I don’t think you necessarily need to “feel” like you want kids. It’s hard to feel like you want something you really don’t know what it feels like. I heard someone once explain that having kids is like going to the moon – if you never go to the moon your life won’t be any the less for it, but if you do go to the moon, you won’t ever be able to imagine a life without that experience.

  26. Sacha Nitsetska
    Sacha Nitsetska says:

    I think a lot of people would be a lot happier if they made peace with change. Not just change of heart, of their own opinions, beliefs and body shapes, but also those of other people, their jobs and circumstances.

    I have always loved arguing with people who are capable of changing their opinions as a result of something you said, and think we should all strive for such acceptance of self and openness of mind.

    I just wonder… Do you think this kind of plasticity of mind is appreciated in corporate jobs? I was thinking of doing a post on this to expand on yours but not actually true if it would hold in a highly conservative environment.

    Great article Penelope, your writing always makes me think.

  27. Simone-INFP
    Simone-INFP says:

    Rats! As I started reading, I thought this was leading up to a branding online class! Hint, hint, hint… I know you did one wayyyyy back in the past, but think you do be due for a new one, since technology has changed with Snapchat, Instagram, etc… Plus, I just want to hear more from Melissa about the breakup (and no you’re definitely not a loser. Isn’t that what the 20’s are all about, figuring relationship/work shit out?)….

  28. Michele
    Michele says:

    I am an INTJ female. Had 2 kids at an early age (suprises), but before them I didn’t really even think about having children. Those two adult children are my most favorite people in my life. They are the spark to my flame: ENFJ and INF/TJ. My most cherished experiences in my life stem from those kids.

    Later on in life, I had huge issues finding the right person – seemed like I was always picking the ENFP or ENTP; they were just easy and funny to be around, but for many reasons not my style though. The ‘P’ was difficult b/c they couldn’t finish anything and that is something I love to do. GET SHIT DONE. I gave up looking and was doing my thing at my gym when a ESTJ (I call him a bad ‘S’ bc he is very close to an N), came over and started talking to me. I judged him for what he looked like (a big biker/wrestler – but was handsome) and thought to my self – NO THANKS, did that already. Not doing it again. But after weeks and weeks of workout conversations, I found that he was actually really intelligent. He was intriguing! We got married, have been together for 12 years and have 4 kids. INTJ’s should keep their eye’s open for the ES/NTJ’s. It is quite a powerful match.

    BTW, people keep mentioning that parents are boring and so are kids. If the parents are boring, then they were boring to start with. My conversations rarely start out and end with my kids. That kind of conversation means that a person just might have lost themselves. AND not all kids are wild brats. They have personality types too and some kids are actually interesting. I personally don’t like others kids very much…unless they like me then they are the best most intelligent kids I have ever met ;)

    I pretty much don’t like most people until I get to know them. Some of the INTJ’s posting sound like real turds too. Hey – your J is too strong – work on it!

  29. Michele
    Michele says:

    By the way – Go Melissa Go! You won’t be sorry if you find the right guy x (from one INTJ female to another).

  30. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    I really enjoyed this post. Loved the anti-social media part, especially bc I think it’s a growing trend. Social media is so exhausting and it’s really kind of boring. It’s very fake and I predict there will be an even bigger backlash to social media as a mass movement–the pendulum will swing the opposite way. And, I can’t wait!!! oh, and I’m a 30 yr old infj…craazzzy.
    Melissa, Take it slow. You have a lot going for you and you don’t need to rush things or settle. Never settle. Make sure he is the right one. You deserve the best.

  31. Cindy Allen
    Cindy Allen says:

    I was in my thirties and had been adamant about not having kids forever. I loved my life as it was. I think part of it was rebelliousness toward convention. When I was 30, I finally decided I should actually “decide” about the kid issue and not just let nature decide for me by getting too old…..

    What tipped the scales for me was imaging my life 20 years down the road. It made me realize that many of the people I loved in my life were far older, and would eventually die. The others, would be busy with their own families. Life wasn’t going to stay as it was. I decided I saw having my own family in my future.

    I had two boys, 19 and 21 now. I love being a mom so much it’s incomprehensible to me that I almost chose not to have them. Since then, I’ve used the, “20 years down the road” exercise when making decisions about my life. It’s a good exercise.

  32. Robert
    Robert says:

    Nice thoughts, especially the last one about being a “hypocrite”. One never stops growing intellectually. I have changed many of my thoughts and ideals through the years of my life, hopefully for the better. No shame in changing your mind and beliefs as long as it is rational not emotional.

    I wouldn’t call it hypocrisy though, which is something I strive not to fall into despite the fact that it is all around us.

  33. Laura L
    Laura L says:

    ENTP’s are the worst. No commitment, blase attitudes and they only care about themselves.

    But of course I am an ENFJ (and just recently broke up with an ENTP) so I am coming at this from a subjective place.

    I have learnt the hard way that if you are a high F, do not go out with a high T. They do not give a shit about your feelings & this will create a lot of conflict within a romantic relationship.

    Actually, an INTJ would do well with an ENTP, because neither care very much for other peoples feelings. So the odds are high that it will work out this time for Melissa.

    • bea
      bea says:

      See, I don’t think that us INTJ types don’t care about other people’s feelings, it’s just that some of us don’t necessarily prioritize feelings, rather we privilege logic and reason when approaching, well, everything. An INTJ may consider feelings as of lesser importance (or maybe even an impediment) than deduction/induction with respect to decision-making, communicating, problem-solving, etc, and this can come off as uncaring at best and uncaring, know-it-all jerk at worst.

      I am usually horrified when I realize (often too late) that I have unwittingly hurt somebody’s feelings. I am quick to apologize when it happens. Conversely, when somebody hurts my feelings, I examine it and usually decide that I must be missing something in the equation, blowing things out of proportion, or just basking in my annoyance when I should really just be getting on with things. I never even require an apology, or am not even sure I deserve one, which, again, can make me come off as uncaring and unfeeling.

      I think it comes down to the fact that maybe a lot of INTJs just don’t trust our own feelings or emotions, or “hearts,” as it were. So we have to go with what we do trust, which is our heads. It can be utterly exhausting and time consuming living like this. I cannot tell you how often I wish I could just make “gut decision.”

      I’m a high T married to a sky-high F and we complement each other well (me: INTJ; him: ENFP). It’s almost as if the combination creates one good, emotionally-competent, responsible grown up adult person between us. Personally speaking, I have had to learn to live with somebody who is almost exactly the opposite of me in every way. It’s made me a much better person. I think that’s why “Rule 3: Surround yourself with people who make you better” resonates most with me.

      All in all, I can’t help but think Melissa should look for an -NF.

      • Jennifer
        Jennifer says:

        I love this (said the INTJ). It’s so true. My dad in ENTJ; he always used to say, “I see you’re upset and understand why. But so what? You still have to get up in the morning, and go to school, and be a responsible human being.” It’s not that he didn’t care (or that I don’t care, when I say the same thing to my kids). It’s just … there’s nothing to be done about it, so set it aside.

  34. Catherine
    Catherine says:

    I would die if I had to get married to an xSTJ. Their routines and lack of willingness to embrace change or risks drive me crazy. My inability to pay attention to details or live in the present would infuriate them in return.

    The only ISTJ I’ve ever dated was so boring he put me to sleep. When we broke up he said I was too “out there” for him.

    I have close friends who are SJs, and they balance me out. But a romantic relationship would only spell disaster for us both.

  35. Erin
    Erin says:

    Choosing a partner based on Myers Briggs (or any personality type) is putting the cart before the horse. It’s not a question of “which type is a good fit for which.” Even Isabela Myers (INFP) married a seemingly incompatible type (ISTJ).

    The better question is: “if your type is X and your partner’s type is Y, then *how* do you make it work?”

    No pairing is impossible, based on letters alone, for the same reason that there is no “this type is an asshole” formula. We’re all capable of being different kinds of assholes.

    – Erin

  36. jack
    jack says:

    three things regarding infj that I didn’t notice in the comments:

    1. every career involves taking care of other people. It’s just a matter of finding one where your values are not compromised while performing your role.

    2. so many kids need help and attention and infj’s can assume those roles as well.

    3. pets are a suitable replacement for a self-aware infj who is sure not to have children.

    I’m not sure if I’m an E or an I. Penelope can clear that up. But I’ve experienced all of the above and it works. It takes time to figure it out, but with patience it works.

    Thanks P.

  37. Neil
    Neil says:

    What tools would you recommend to manage your personal social brand? I’m looking at managing profiles across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and of course a blog hosted on WordPress. Scheduling is an important factor, and also being able to aggregate mentions, replies, retweets, blog comments in one place.

  38. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Hi! I follow Rules 1, 3, and 5, but I don’t believe people are hypocrites just for changing their beliefs.

    As for Rule 2, I always think about the big picture, but I am not strategic. I always act to prevent and mitigate conflict because I hate conflict. Maybe that is strategic enough for an INFP like me.

    I have a blog, but it is not publicly known like yours. I write many times on my blog on how I have failed. So I follow Rule 4 except for being in public.

    I am also starting a new website and blog for a course on how to be a virtual professional, so these tips would come in handy. Thanks!

  39. Jen
    Jen says:

    I don’t know about all this personality stuff when it comes to kids. I used to want kids when I first got married and I was younger. But after my failed marriage, and a much needed confidence and independence boost, I’m finding it just doesn’t interest me at all. Not so much that I would never want kids in my life (I’m seeing someone who has two young children) but I just don’t personally want to go through the whole process. It’s one of those things that makes me go *ick* when I think about it. To each his own I say! :)

  40. Scritch
    Scritch says:

    I’m a Taurus born under the new moon, with a unrealised chakra.

    I didn’t want kids when I was 16 and I’m now over 30 and I still don’t.

    Can you tell me what that means? Should I meditate on that chakra? Eat more kale? What do the statistics say?

    (This was a great post though. I also enjoyed the one about J immensely)

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