Your partner needs their introvert alone time just as much as you need your extrovert social time.
I am an extrovert. Always outgoing and social, I do not intend to be the life of the party or anything close to that. That is unlike some extroverts, who always want to be the funny one or the showoff of the group. Many extroverts, I must admit, are scary (at least to me). I have no problems with social interactions or taking the lead in work or play. Yet I still like quiet time, with my introvert wife or without. She, too, cherishes her alone time, as well as requires more of it.
Once upon a time, I thought people who did not say much were stuck-up, standoffish, or just shy — people who avoid small or large groups must just hate other people. Whether it’s a football game or family gathering, it didn’t matter. I’d heard of introverts and never had known one. (Or maybe I did and just did not know it.) Then I married one.
Marrying an Introvert: Finding My Perfect Match
Soon after we met, my now-wife — we’ll call her “H” — and I found that we were alike in several ways. We had the same sense of humor and liked the same shows on Netflix. We both loved ‘50s and ‘60s music. We complemented each other’s shortfalls; while I see the big picture, she is more detail-oriented.
In other ways, we differed. I noticed this most prominently whenever we had a social engagement. At first, I thought she was quiet around other people because something was wrong. Sometimes she seemed tired or would excuse herself to go and be alone for a while. After I asked her about it several times, she explained, “I’m good. I’m just having an introvert moment.”
Realizing I didn’t personally know many other introverts, she explained to me what it meant, both generally and for her. She told me that introverts need to recharge through solitude and doing what makes them expressive in their own way. I am a visual learner, so it fell on deaf ears. The proof was in the pudding: I realized I had the definition of introversion all wrong.
So, a new experience awaited me, and I observed how to help her (and help me) deal with the different aspects of life that some people might see as a hindrance in our relationship. Learning how to live and love each other is what matters, and you deal with situations as they arise. Over the course of time, and through observation and experience, I learned what it means to be an introvert. I learned how to deal with family, friends, shopping, going to the coffee shop, and alone time. And I also learned the sensitive nature of the introvert, as some are highly sensitive people, too.
If I can provide some tips to help navigate your relationship with your introverted partner, family member, or coworker, it would be a pleasure. Here are three primary things I’ve learned as an extrovert married to an introvert.
3 Things I’ve Learned as an Extrovert Married to an Introvert
1. You have to approach visiting in-laws (or other social events) with intention.
When my parents first met my wife, they just thought she was shy. When she chose not to attend a family party, the question came up, “Was it something we did?” Of course not. I explained that my wife is an introvert and that she needs more alone time and time to recharge than others. My stepmom understood; my father was a different story and I had to explain the concept to him more than once.
One day, he asked if I was sure that this was the woman for me. He noticed from the first day he met her that she was quiet. She made conversation by asking him questions, but preferred to let him do the talking. Once she started to get more used to my family, she felt less inclined to fill every silence. He held on to his question (about if she was the woman for me) until she missed a party on a Sunday. I said, “Absolutely! I married her!” (Meanwhile, she worried that they wouldn’t like her because of the way she is… but never fear, Bill is here!) I do not defend her acts or omissions to anyone, but gently explain, in the most objective fashion possible, that she is built differently and how. In short order, they now see that she is a quiet, loving, and caring woman who is just the same as them — though gets her energy from being alone vs. around others.
I find that people tend to rate others based on how they conduct their own life rather than taking each person as they are and learning how to work with that. That is the wrong answer. Many times, people ask “Where’s H?” when my wife doesn’t show up for a function. I then gently explain in the most succinct manner: “She’s an introvert. She needs the majority of evenings and weekends to recharge from work and school.” If they want a further summary, I am always happy to oblige. I’ve learned that it’s not about making people understand, but putting the information out there and letting them soften over time. I will go to social events alone and she doesn’t mind that, as she knows I live differently and need to socialize more often.
So, do not worry about your parents (or friends or others). They will come around. And if not, too bad.
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2. It’s okay to do some things apart… and others together.
When it comes time to go to the store, sometimes my wife and I go together and sometimes not. I always ask if she wants to go with me, and it depends on the day and the time of day. Later in the evening on weekdays tends to be better, because the stores are not so crowded. Sometimes, however, the time of day is unavoidable. In cases when the stores are crowded, I quickly move through the store with her to get in and get the hell out. We are not usually fast movers, but I can feel her sense of anxiety at the dynamics of the situation — the crowded aisles; other shoppers wanting to make idle chatter while waiting in line; the plethora of noises, scents, and products.
The same goes when it is time to get coffee or go out to eat. When my wife and I first met, we would go to a restaurant later in the evening or during off times when the restaurant was not so crowded. No biggie. When we go out for coffee, sometimes she wants to go in and sometimes not. I will take her order and return a few minutes later. We extroverts seem to radiate an energy that makes people want to talk to us. They notice us. Often, people try to make small talk with us in the parking lot and in the store. H, however, doesn’t like the attention or the feeling that she has to talk to people in order to be polite.
Despite our differences, there are many things we love to do together. We spent our first Valentine’s Day together at a Beatles tribute concert. We love to visit the antique store and sift through old magazines. When the weather is nice, we go to festivals and fairs, although I have learned to recognize when she is reaching her limit and wants to go home. Because we understand each other, there aren’t hurt feelings if I decide to spend the afternoon at my sister’s house, but H doesn’t feel up to it. She understands that I need my extrovert time as much as she needs her introvert time.
Do not push your introverted family member, coworker, or significant other to always go out with you. Many times, your introvert just needs alone time independent of the work environment or to recharge to get through the rest of the day — and you may not be in that equation. Give them the option to accept or decline, then move on with life and do not take it personally. Things are not always about you. Introverts do not necessarily need you as much as you need them for the moment. You may feel hurt or ignored, but that is not the case; you need to understand the introvert lifestyle as much as they understand yours.
3. Introverts need time to be creative.
My wife is not an “outdoors” kind of person. That certainly is not indicative of all introverts. She works from home and dislikes her job, but does it anyway. She also goes to school for an MFA in creative writing online (perfect for an introvert) and writes as a side gig. She needs her time to be creative and study in these manners, free from my interference.
I am not an attention hog, but when I am bored, my gums won’t stop flapping — to which she’ll politely tell me she has a deadline at school or is working on a side project. I realize that she is having her time and space to be creative, and I need to find something to keep busy, so I go outside and work. I take care of all the outside chores and help inside the house while she mainly remains indoors, which is fine. She needs time to play video games, write, read, and chill. Friday and Saturday are probably her favorite days of the week, because the work week is over and she can work on activities she likes. Sunday is probably the worst day, because she suffers from the “Sunday scaries,” dreading the upcoming work week. My wife might be sitting next to me, but not in the same room, and that is fine. I am fine with just sitting with her.
Just as you are creative in your own, extroverted way, introverts need to be creative as they see fit. They might be in the room, but not in your world at that moment. Give them space to do what they need to do, both physically and mentally. Be grateful that they are gracious enough to understand you are different from them and value time and space differently. Value each other for who you are rather than what the other can do for you.
However you see it, it is of no mitigating or aggravating consequence. Understanding the two lifestyles and bridging the gaps can make for a great relationship where you and your introverted partner find common ground and learn how to coexist, work together, and love each other. Do not worry about what other people think about your introvert/extrovert relationship, because it is what you two think that matters.