When I was 16, my first and only kiss was with a boy who lived in a different state. I admit I initially enjoyed the unwonted attention, but looking back, I knew something didn’t jive. I was nervous, awkward, and unsure, and he — in his cocky, teenage boy self — just seemed content that a girl let him kiss her. Needless to say, our “love affair” came to an abrupt halt two weeks later when I went home and he said something uncomfortably risqué to me over the phone.
While there were plenty of crushes, my feelings were rarely (if ever) reciprocated. Maybe you can relate. I don’t believe I was ever the type of girl guys showed interest in. In school, I was the reject; the quiet, shy, weird kid who either hung out with other weird kids or sat alone in a corner reading. I developed rather quickly, as well, which made me fodder for bullies and added to my heightened body insecurities and reclusiveness.
Although I’ve since learned there are plenty of reasons to celebrate being an introvert, when I was younger, it certainly seemed to hold me back in the love department.
Today, I admit that I am 30 years old and have never been in a real relationship. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this fact per se, as there are plenty of introverts who simply prefer to do life on their own terms.
Nevertheless, I personally crave a romantic companion — but there are a few things I wish my future partner knew in advance about dating an introvert like me.
A Letter to My Future Partner
1. I’m only interested in a serious, long-term, committed relationship.
I can’t speak for every introvert, as I’m sure there are some who don’t mind casual flings or one-night stands; but I desire a long-term, serious relationship. Perhaps my longing for a stable relationship stems from knowing it takes time for me to open myself up to others, or simply wanting someone by my side — a life-long soulmate — to help me feel braver while navigating the world. Either way, that means casual or serial daters need not apply.
It’s perfectly fine if you’re someone who prefers playing the field and isn’t open to being in a committed relationship, but I’d rather be made aware of that from the get-go because we won’t be a good match otherwise. I don’t expect to discuss marriage and kids on a first date, nor do we need to do so months in. However, I desire a life partner, and I would prefer to be with someone who’s seeking one as well.
Perhaps I read too many fairy tales and romance novels, but as an introvert, I’ve spent ample time in my singledom considering my future and what or who will make me happy. I’ve imagined a particular future for myself — a “tomorrow” I believe looks pretty awesome — and should you want to share it with me, I’ll fit you into the vision I’ve created for myself.
Join the introvert revolution. One email, every Friday. The best introvert articles. Subscribe here.
2. Give me time to show you the real me.
When I had my first kiss at 16, my gut immediately told me it wasn’t going to work out between me and my two-week “boyfriend.” Granted, we were quite young then and had little concept of what it meant to be in a relationship, let alone one that was long distance. I no longer resent him for his teenagerish comment, but at the time, it was enough to cause me to shut down and end things quickly. The worst part was, I couldn’t express to him how his comments made me feel out of fear of confrontation or humiliation of being too prudish.
It takes a lot for a private and reserved introvert like me to open up to someone and be vulnerable, so I ask that you be patient and give me time and space to show you my most authentic self. The truth is, I want to show you the real me, and I know that if you respect me as a person and try not to minimize my feelings, there is much I can offer you in return — deep and philosophical conversation, a sense of humor, encouragement, friendship, and my whole heart.
I know that being an introvert makes me different from my extroverted counterparts, and my need to feel safe, valued, and respected is a top priority. I need to know that I’ll be accepted despite being quirky, awkward, and a bit off-center. I need to know that you won’t make a mad dash in the opposite direction once I open myself up to you. I want you to know that I hurt and embarrass easily. It goes without saying, but I’m still working through my insecurities, and I hope you’ll create a safe space with me to do so.
3. There’s a lot going on in my head, so I’ll need your support.
Like many people, one of my biggest fears is being rejected. This has caused me to approach family, friendships, and acquaintances with caution. I also have a lot of anxiety, particularly when it comes to big life changes and socializing with people I don’t know. If you’re an introvert like me, maybe you’ll understand where I’m coming from… or, if you’re an extrovert, maybe you won’t. Either way, I ask that you take some time to listen to what I’m saying, even when I’m not inclined to talking.
It’s rare that I’m a conversation-starter, and because I’m not always forthcoming with my thoughts or feelings, perhaps you can pick up on the gestural cues I’m exhibiting. Are my hands shaking? I’m nervous. Am I starting to look faint? I’m probably overstimulated or stressed. Do I stutter when I speak? Do I make myself small? Am I withdrawn? I guarantee you there is a lot going on in my head at all times, and I’ll be looking to you for balance and support.
Our communication should never be one-sided, though, and just because I’m an introvert doesn’t mean I’m mute. Be open and honest with me because I love listening, advising, and discussing interesting topics in return. In fact, I’m more apt to be candid while in meaningful conversation with you where we can discuss who you are and the life events that shaped you.
It’s in those moments I’m reminded that I’m not alone in my worries and uncertainties, and that I somehow fit into the aspirations and goals you have for yourself as well. The harder we work to build mutual trust and communication, the more likely our relationship will endure long-term.
4. Give me space whether we’re together or apart.
Like all introverts, I enjoy my alone time to relax, recharge, and reflect. In fact, if I’m feeling overstimulated, it will be absolutely necessary for me to have some space. I relish quiet activities, such as reading, writing, painting, cooking, or just sitting on my couch snuggled under a blanket with my fur baby.
But alone time could mean snuggling on the couch under a blanket with you, too. If we can relax together without the presence of others or find a common quiet activity to share, I would have no problem letting you be a part of my much needed “space.” It’s when I feel bogged down from socializing and overstimulation of activity that I tend to become aloof and uncommunicative.
And even if I do desire time with me and me alone, please don’t be offended or try to make me feel guilty for it. Just allow me an hour or two to recharge privately. It will only strengthen our relationship and enable me to be more present, open, and adventurous with you.
5. I’d like to know what you see in me.
Sadly, I have picked myself apart and criticized every little detail. I’ve been looked at strangely, told I’m weird, and have felt out of place time and time again. I’ve focused on my faults and allowed my introversion to hold me back from the things I really want. So, what is it that you see in me? Why do you want me when no one has desired me before?
I don’t inquire because I’m needy or want to put you on the spot, but because I’m learning to like the woman I am, too. My opinion of myself is warped, but as we, a team, begin to break down the walls I’ve built, I want to know that you really see me, that you’ve thought long and hard about my qualities, and perhaps you have a greater understanding of me than I have of myself.
Of course, you may be similar to me — introverted, possibly socially anxious — in which case, we can work through our struggles together. I’ve always been hyper-aware of my surroundings and observant of others, and I’m going to take plenty of notice of your talents, strengths, and interests. I’m also going to make myself aware of the things you don’t like or that make you uneasy so we can learn to commingle well and continue to grow as a unit.
It is my hope that no matter how similar or different our personalities are, that I am with someone who accepts me and loves me for who I am — and that you let me love you back tenfold. Of course, I’m not one to make the first move, and if you come on too strong, I’ll likely back away. Approach me as a friend instead and let romance evolve naturally between us. Dating an introvert doesn’t have to be difficult or scary, and now that you know me a little better, perhaps you’ll take a chance on me.