As an introvert, should you be with an extrovert or with a fellow introvert? To answer that, ask yourself what you want to get out of the relationship. “Yes, birds of a feather flock together, and yes, opposites attract,” writes author and Psychology Today blogger Sophia Dembling in her new book, Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After.
Both temperaments bring their own benefits and challenges, so before you commit, consider these things:
Being With an Extrovert
You’ll have a built-in social circle. Sometimes introverts find it difficult to make friends, especially introverts who are uncomfortable in large groups or who struggle to overcome shyness or make small talk. Your extrovert is probably skilled at meeting and connecting with people, which means you’ll benefit, too.
Things will happen. Extroverts are action-oriented. They have ideas, energy, and a strong need to get out and be around people. Your extrovert will stir you from your cozy introvert cocoon at home and get you to experience life in a way you may never have experienced on your own.
You’ll complement each other. You’ll have a yin-yang thing. “An extrovert can get you out of the house for some outdoor fun, you can help the extrovert pause and notice how the trees look against the blue of the sky. An extrovert can get things out on the table for discussion, you can bring analysis and nuance to the discussion,” writes Dembling.
Your extrovert won’t be afraid of conflict. Extroverts excel at articulating their thoughts (sometimes, to the chagrin of introverts, every thought that crosses their mind, no matter how seemingly insignificant — a sort of running commentary on life). The good news is, with extroverts, there aren’t guessing games. They don’t expect their partner to read their mind, and they don’t bottle up thoughts and feelings, like introverts sometimes do. If your extrovert wants something or is upset, you’ll know.
“Extroverts are great at getting things out on the table, which means conflict gets handled,” Dembling tells I, D. “Of course, you will have to decide between whether you need time between an issue being raised and further discussion—some introverts appreciate an extrovert who drags things out of them, others appreciate an extroverted partner who gives them time to process an issue before further discussion. But it is generally a good thing to be with someone who is unafraid of conflict.”
You may have to work harder to have alone time. One of the biggest challenges is to balance your need for time alone with your extrovert’s innate need to socialize. “Sometimes it’s hard for extroverts to understand that you don’t need quiet time to get away from them, but because you need quiet time. It’s not personal,” says Dembling. Not getting enough solitude might cause tension in your relationship. You may suddenly find yourself feeling cranky and resentful toward your partner for no good reason. “Sometimes all it takes is an evening, a Saturday, even a few hours of solitude to recalibrate,” writes Dembling. “Having a room of your own can help, especially if you feel comfortable closing the door.”
You may have to speak up more. We introverts can be guilty sometimes of leaving others to guess what we want. “It’s important that introverts understand that it is our responsibility to articulate our needs,” Dembling says. “You need to speak up in a way that is clear and loving, and catch yourself if you find you’re being passive-aggressive.”
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Being With a Fellow Introvert
Your partner will “get” you. Of course, there will be things that you and your introverted partner don’t see eye-to-eye on, but for the most part, another introvert will more easily understand you and your needs. “Another introvert fully understands your need for quiet time to recharge and will likely join you in companionable silence—or not take it personally if you need alone time,” Dembling says.
No running commentary. The only running commentary will be in you and your introverted partner’s heads, respectively, and you don’t have to listen to that. Another introvert will understand that the two of you can feel close even in silence.
Your partner won’t pressure you to socialize. That means no obligation to go out on the town every Saturday night.
You’ll have a companion for quiet fun. “You are likely to enjoy similar activities, whether they’re long hikes, listening only to birds, long evenings on the couch with a book, or long weekends in the house binge-watching Game of Thrones,” Dembling says. It’s not that extroverts don’t enjoy these things, it’s that their appetite for these activities is quickly satisfied, and then they’re ready to get social.
You might become isolated. You and your introverted partner may want to go out, but neither of you has the drive or energy to plan an outing. One way to avoid this is to take turns “playing the extrovert”—one of you takes charge, plans the date, and motivates the other person to go. If there’s already someone at home, it’s easy to blow off friends and stay in. But be wary if you’re losing touch with your social circle. If nothing else, says Dembling, if the relationship goes south, you’ll want to have friends you can lean on. “And one introvert I spoke to for the book whose relationship had just ended badly pointed out that if she had brought him around her friends instead of keeping the relationship all introverted, her friends might have spotted the potential problems before she did and helped her see them before she was in too deep,” says Dembling.
You may have to work harder to spend time together. “The independence of introverts can backfire if you both become so independent that you start running on parallel tracks, spending much of your time pursuing individual interests and fun, and letting togetherness take a backseat,” writes Dembling.
Whether you commit to an introvert or extrovert, remember that to feel satisfied in a relationship, introverts need the same things that everybody needs: mutual respect, communication, and compromise, says Dembling.
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