I’m Sorry I Hurt You to Save Myself: What Sensitive Introverts Feel but Don’t Say

This article was originally published on BrendaKnowles.com. It is republished here with permission from the author.

He tentatively reaches across the bed with a warm gentle hand—and I recoil. I just need a few more delicious moments of morning mind. I need that gauzy, thought-weaving space of nourishing idea play where I breathe fully and smile involuntarily. I need that space where I belong solely to myself.

He rolls away, stares at the ceiling and blinks back rejection. With a sigh, he heaves himself out of bed and leaves me in my space.

I am so sorry. I can’t give to you right now. I’m so sorry.

The above scene is from the end of my marriage. I appear selfish and cold but what you don’t know is that at that point I was so raw and over-stimulated from years of exposing my introverted nature to the harried, competitive demands of externally-driven living that I couldn’t bear the softest touch of a lover’s hand. I spent my days tending to the intermittent needs of three children, a house with never-ending upkeep and the demands that come with integrating into a community (school, neighborhood, and social circles).

I couldn’t slow down, because no one else did. I had to thoroughly care for everyone and everything. I was desperate for permission to go internal; to slough off the scabs and injuries from unnatural striving and become smooth again.

Sorry I’m Not One of Those Moms Who Lives Solely for Her Children

It’s August and I’m awake at 7 a.m. on a Sunday in order to get writing time in. I should have until 9 before anyone needs me.

Knock, knock, knock.  It’s 8:20 and my daughter is outside my office door. She comes in and starts talking. My mind goes wild as it ping-pongs back and forth between her detailed description of a Disney tween show and the unfinished work that taunts me from my Mac Book.

I’ve spent every weekday this summer with the kids. We’ve traveled, lounged and co-existed for much of the summer. I adore these relationships but desperately need time for clear-headed dreaming. I need open and untamed blocks of time in order to think, create systems, and ponder my people (yes, a large part of solitude is spent thinking of others). It’s vital to me that the individuals in my life feel secure and cared for but I also have to preserve me.

Torn, always torn.

My boundaries are mushy. I feel I owe her my full attention but also have a deep desire to complete my work. I ask her to watch TV for a bit while I finish my writing. Her eyes well up, she nods silently and leaves.

I am sorry. Sorry I renew in concentration. Sorry I can’t recharge with you in the room, like you do with me.

The Receiving End of Introvert Rejection

He tells me he wants time alone, to create, explore, and thrive. At this point in his life, he can’t give back enough for a high quality committed relationship.

My ears ring, my eyes fill instantly, my heart aches deeply.

The introversion I know so well betrays me.

I go through all the emotions I imagine others who have been turned away by an introvert have felt: confusion, frustration, anger, disbelief, sadness, even loneliness.

If you loved me enough you wouldn’t want time away from me.

I can be quiet in your life, give you space. You won’t even know I’m here.

And yet… I get it. I know he needs that freedom.  He needs that space to return to himself. I know he is sorry for hurting me.

It is not in my nature to bloom within a greenhouse. I am a wildflower, a weed perhaps. I need open and untamed spaces to sprout. I need to ask the questions and think the thoughts that others overlook. —Dawna Markova

Have you begged for alone time lately? How do you ask for alone time without hurting someone’s feelings?

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Read this: Why Do Sensitive Introverts Withdraw?

Brenda Knowles is best known for her blog, Space2live. She is the creator, writer and personal coach of BrendaKnowles.com. She loves to coach and empower introverts and highly sensitive people as they go through transitions and navigate relationships. She believes in the importance of slowing down, paying attention, being curious, extolling empathy and evolving personally. She is a Myers-Briggs practitioner and trained in family mediation. Contact her through brendaknowles.com or at space2live@yahoo.com.