The Introvert-Extrovert Relationship Dynamic

17 07 2017

You already have some sense of what it means to be an introvert or an extrovert. If someone appears outgoing, loquacious, and charming, they are clearly an extrovert, right? While the quiet, thoughtful, reserved person in the corner is the introvert, who prefers one-on-one encounters, of course. If you are making assumptions based on this outward appearance, you may be getting it all wrong. This is why I often get mislabeled an extrovert.

My definition is quite simple. When you go out in a large crowd of people for an hour or two, or entertain a small group of friends for an evening, how do you feel afterward? I’m not asking if you enjoyed yourself- hopefully that answer is always yes! But do you feel satiated, maybe a little drained, and ready for some alone time to recover from being “on”? This makes you an introvert.

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If you’re like my wife, however, you come home invigorated, excited, and pulsing with

energy! “What’s next?!?” is likely running through your brain, and you need time to let your brain finish mapping all the new connections you made in the evening’s many conversations. That makes you an extrovert! (Bethany is an extrovert times 10.)

Being in a relationship with a large discrepancy in your introvert/extrovert status can be challenging. Believe it or not, it is doable, and can be quite enjoyable! The key is recognizing that it’s difficult for BOTH people, at first. You will need to do a little legwork if you want this to be enjoyable.

You need to first understand your own emotional and physical needs, and learn how to effectively communicate your needs, while also listening to the other person’s (sometimes foreign-sounding) perspective. Living a happy life requires balancing the energy. After all, you likely love the person you’re with BECAUSE they balance you out. So in order to preserve this complimentary relationship, you must learn how to respect the Yin to your Yang.

Be aware that, like almost everything in life, there is a broad spectrum between introversion and extroversion. It’s not one or the other. You may find that some of these feel more or less relevant to you individually, because your personality is defined by far more than this one aspect.

Ambivert_personality_continuum_scale

 

The Extrovert

For the extrovert, she may feel like she has to compromise to stay in with her partner when she’d rather go out. She may feel torn between fulfilling her own needs for social interaction, and allowing the introvert to have enough down time. She might also feel like it is her role, as the extrovert, to be the social planner, to enrich the introvert’s life with as much fun as possible!

What you need to know about yourself

You’re often the life of the party, telling stories that make people laugh, and planning the next get-together at the end of the evening. People often assume that you have thousands of friends, and are way too busy to hang out with them one-on-one, so they never ask. You may spend so much time in group settings that you don’t feel like you have many really close friends, even though any one of your circle would jump at a chance to help you.

Even though you crave that social interaction, it is also important to allow yourself time to sit quietly and reflect internally. It doesn’t take much down time for you to balance out all your social time.¬†Force your monkey mind to slow down, and instead of thinking about “what’s next?” relive the great experiences you recently had. What part of your week was your favorite? Why? It may feel forced at first, but doing this for just 30-60 minutes at the end of your week will help you to appreciate all the wonderful things you experienced even more, and enable you to recognize what truly makes you the happiest, so you can be more selective in the future.

Going out may be critical to your mental health. Even though you might feel guilty about indulging in too many activities, these are an important part of feeding your soul. That doesn’t mean that you can’t make adjustments. Tight budget? Invite friends to meet you for a picnic instead of dropping $20 on dinner out. It’s the social aspect you crave, and that can take many different forms. You need other people because they elevate your own energy level, allowing you to feel happier and be more productive.

When my wife and I went through a tight financial period, we slashed our budget for dining out. She worked from home, so she lost her only lifeline to the rest of the world. We quickly realized that this was affecting her mental state significantly, and came up with a compromise. Instead of us both going out with friends for dinner twice a week, she became a regular at the local coffee shop, allowing her to fulfill her social needs by herself, on a much smaller budget. I don’t drink coffee, and I don’t usually have time to go there on weekdays, so I’m not missing out either. And coffee is cheaper than a therapist. Win-win!

Let your partner know what your needs are, and don’t be afraid to take care of yourself independently. Find group activities that you know they have no interest in, and make connections that allow you to interact with others, without taking away from activities you enjoy doing together.

What you need to know about your beloved introvert

Your introverted partner would do anything to make you happy. Your energetic personality gives them joy, and elevates them, much in the same way you feel energized by larger groups of friends. They may push their own limits, going out frequently, choosing to spend what little down time they do have with you, instead of spending much-needed time alone. When they do this for too long, they become run-down, exhausted (and maybe cranky).

introvert timeEncourage them to have their alone time. It may mean that they go for a walk by themselves, or work in the yard, or simply lay down on the couch while you’re in the other room working on something else. Their need to be alone is not a rejection of you. You need to have a clear conversation and tell them (repeatedly) that it’s okay for them to ask to stay home while you go out and take care of your own social needs.

While you may want to verbalize everything, introverts often enjoy silence. At some point, your chatter (directed at no one but yourself) becomes mental clutter. Every time you say something, their brain wants to be attentive and alert, and it take mental energy for them to listen to you, even when you’re just muttering to yourself, “Was that David who just walked past? Nope, nope, just someone who looks similar.” If you can cut back on verbalizing things that are not intended for them to respond to, it helps them to relax.

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The Introvert

Sometimes people mistakenly think that you don’t value their friendship, or don’t want to spend time with them. You frequently don’t respond to invites for events until the day of, because you never know if you’ll have enough energy to go out. You usually have a good time when you do venture out, but you know that you need to be in the right mindset to enjoy yourself.

You feel pressure by others to join them. “Come on, it’ll be fun!” they try to persuade you. It probably will be, but, much like going out and over indulging on drinks, you don’t want to regret it the next day. When you’re already at your threshold for social interaction, if you push yourself further, you will feel utterly exhausted and unproductive the next day. You sometimes feel like a bad friend for skipping out on so many things, and fear that eventually you might stop getting invited.

14322695_1256787684403853_1054437703607303099_nYou need to understand the physical way that social interactions affect you. Listen to your body. It’s perfectly okay to take your down time. You need significantly more down time than extroverts. This doesn’t mean you must be anti-social, but you can learn to create a safe space for interacting on your own terms. While a party where you only know one person might make you cringe, you can focus on spending quality time with the friends you already have. Did you skip out on your friend’s birthday party? Follow up the next day and invite them to join you for a nice walk to catch up! Instead of waiting for group invitations you don’t want, be proactive at inviting one or two friends for something more your speed.

While it’s important to know what your body needs, you can choose to strengthen and train your social skills. If you know that your introversion may be limiting you- from either making new friends, or learning something new, or networking and advancing your career- it’s up to you to decide whether its worth it to sacrifice a little bit of your down time, temporarily, for the sake of reaching that goal. I’m not going to say that it’s easy to learn to feign extroversion, but over 10 years, I have reached a point where I’m commonly mistaken for an extrovert. It’s helped me to grow professionally and personally, and it was worth the small sacrifice, in my case.

You don’t have to play by extrovert rules, just observe what they do and put your own twist on it. I loathe small talk, so when I had to network in my mid-twenties, I came up with lists of quirky, interesting facts, about either myself or the world, that empowered me to steer conversations into an area where I felt more control. And it worked.

What you need to know about your beloved extrovert

You admire them for their ability to be effortlessly charming and outgoing. Their confidence may boost your own, allowing you to be a bit more comfortable putting yourself out there. You should be careful not to become reliant on them for that, or risk falling into a dependent relationship.

13507146_10210053131315044_8251726965732768012_nJust because they like to go out and talk to everybody, does not mean that they think less of you. They need this social interaction just as much as you need your alone time. Don’t take it personally, and do not use their extroversion against them in disagreements. Most importantly, you need to have trust in your relationship. If you find yourself getting nervous that they are going out because you’re not good enough, then you need to turn your focus inward. Until you see and appreciate your inherent value as a person, and love yourself independently, you will continue to struggle to give your extrovert the trust and freedom they need to go out without you.

While you spend much more time structuring thoughts in side your head, extroverts often verbalize way more, and it is often more for themselves than for you. You want to be a good listener, which can make it hard to tune them out when they are not talking with/at you. This will be hard for extroverts to understand, since they may not even realize they are talking out loud. Let them know why this can be mentally exhausting for you, or remove yourself from the situation if you find it too stressful to filter them out.

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The Sweet Spot

YinYang

At its best, you will find that there is a delightful balance between the two of you, where the introvert feels more confident and enjoys more social interactions, and the extrovert learns to find peace in stillness, to reflect and grow individually. We all need a balance of this yin and yang, even if the balance is heavier on one side or the other for different people.

Find the things about your partner that you admire because they are things you aren’t so good at. Ask them to help teach you how to enjoy those things, so that you can grow as an individual. Allow them the freedom and trust to take care of themselves, without jealousy or resentment.

Always, ALWAYS put yourself first. You cannot be a good partner if you are not balanced internally. Your own well being is key to a successful relationship.

 

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