Last week, I wrote about some of the ways introverts can build community. This week, I want to focus on how introverts can operate in relationships with people who are more extroverted. While it can be a challenge to mesh two different personality types, it’s not without some bonuses.
My husband is more extroverted than me. He is one of those masters of small talk and can strike up a conversation with anyone. We’ve made quick trips to the store only to spend an hour talking to someone we just met. It always ends with him still engaged in conversation and my standing there tapping my foot because I was ready to leave half an hour ago.
So, how do we make it work?
1. Compromise. Any good relationship requires two people to compromise for the good of the other. Sometimes Josh cuts conversations short because he knows I’m tired of socializing, and sometimes I let his conversations go longer when I see it benefits him. Other times, I interject and say we need to go.
When he has work parties, we attend, but we never stay the entire time. We either show up a little later or leave a little early. To be polite, we use non-verbal cues. He says I have “a look” that lets him know I’m ready to go. He has a look he gives back that says he acknowledges my request to leave.
2. Be considerate. Josh is considerate of my need for space. Before we arrive at an event, he’ll ask me for a timeline and when I think we should leave. Like I wrote last week, it helps to plan ahead. Because I no longer drive to events myself, Josh and I plan ahead together instead.
I’m also considerate of his need to socialize. I go to his work parties even though I don’t like being in a room with a bunch of people I don’t know, and I let him Skype for a few hours with friends. If I’m involved in the socializing and need some alone time, I excuse myself and let him keep talking. As with my shopping example, I’ll go browse the aisles while I’m waiting for him to finish. Or if we’re on Skype at home, I’ll leave the room when I get tired and go do something else.
3. Learn to let others into your alone space. Being married is far different from dating in that when I need alone time, I can’t just say goodbye to Josh and go home. Instead, my home is with him. As someone who appreciates space, it was an adjustment always having someone around.
As an introvert, I had to learn to be alone with someone else. When I come home from work, I’m usually tired and don’t want to socialize much. Josh quickly learned that I don’t unwind by participating in small talk. Instead, when I need to recharge, we watch a movie or a favorite TV show. Or I work on homework while he catches up on work in the same room.
It can be a challenge, but introverts can benefit from being around extroverts and vice versa. Extroverts can learn to be comfortable being alone for a period of time and appreciate quiet time more than they normally would.
Being married to an extrovert has made me more social. I’m more interested in community than I used to be and bolder in seeking it out. I’ve always said that I wanted to create a home environment that is open and welcoming, and that would be hard to do if I’d married someone as introverted as me.
I’ve gotten better at approaching people and more comfortable with small talk. I’ve grown in my social skills at a comfortable pace while still remaining true to myself and my introvert qualities.
If you’re an introvert, what have been your experiences dating extroverts? How do you handle friendships with people who fall under that personality type?