The Challenges of the Introvert-Extrovert Relationship (and How to Deal)
My extrovert husband and I had to learn to meet in the middle — I may go to karaoke with him, but he knows not to pass me the mic.
There is beauty in balance. When you look to nature, you can see how opposing forces are what drive change, growth, and transformation. Night covers day in order to give necessary respite to the weary. Heat warms frozen places to make them hospitable for life. There is an ebb and flow. And relationships are no exception.
So it almost feels part of the natural order of things that an introvert should find themselves romantically involved with an extrovert.
For introverts — at least ones like me — it’s easy to become inspired by the live-out-loud nature of an extrovert. From stupid jokes to off-key serenades, I found it easy to fall in love with my extrovert. He turned up the volume in my life and filled it with bold, bright, and ridiculous noise.
Unfortunately, introvert/extrovert relationships do not come with instructions. Everything about this journey has been “learn as you go.”
I married my extrovert, but even now, we sometimes struggle to understand each other. Although our words are the same, our languages and actions can seem foreign. But we try to follow some simple points of wisdom we’ve gathered through time and experience.
The Challenges of Being an Introvert in a Relationship With an Extrovert (and How to Deal)
1. Mind the communication gap — while you may want to be alone after a disagreement, your extrovert partner may want to talk things out.
Tempers flare, feelings arise, and great flurries of emotion can turn an ordinary evening in the kitchen into an epic battlefield. My extrovert husband has a tendency to brush off my concerns sometimes and I procrastinate (or come up with excuses) when he asks me to do something for him if it involves being around other people. He’s gotten upset because I refused to go to a bridal shower thrown for the fiance of his good friend. Hard pass!
So many nights have ended with my laser eyes burning holes in the back of his skull as he snored away peacefully and I was left to dwell upon whatever was eating away at my soul.
It isn’t that he hadn’t asked what was wrong — he did. Once, twice, maybe three times. After the third, “Nothing. Don’t worry about it,” he literally didn’t worry about it. The nerve, right?
It turns out that extroverts generally do not have the same tendency to marinate over the troubled events in question. Introverts are more apt to overthink and overanalyze every word, action, emotion, and emotion behind the action. But extroverts like to get it over with. When they think it’s over with, they’re done. Introverts are never truly done … until we say we’re done.
He and I are just wired differently. Because we feel on different levels, what is a big deal to me doesn’t always register with him. While he feels things on the surface, I go diving a bit deeper. (OK … a lot deeper.) For example, he doesn’t get why it bothers me when he talks over me in a conversation. As a soft-spoken introvert, this infuriates me because I’ve dealt with it all my life.
Unfortunately, we have not found a way to read each other’s minds (yet), so we have to meet in the middle. That usually involves — much to my dismay — talking about what is bothering me.
As an introvert, it feels unnatural to strike outward with my emotions. My go-to is retreating and withdrawing, clamming up and shutting down. This can be frustrating for an extrovert trying to maneuver the relationship minefield. If we do not communicate effectively, frustration builds.
Introverts have to talk it out sometimes, as much as it pains us. Alternatively, our extrovert counterparts have to actually stop talking and listen. The key to minding the communication gap is switching hats long enough so that each of you get a fair shot at understanding where the other is coming from.
As an introvert, replay the events in question as you experienced them — including what you felt — to your extrovert while they listen without interruption. That way, they can see the feelings behind your reason(s) for not wanting to say or do things their way. And, hopefully, this will lessen similar disagreements from happening in the future.
2. Honor the social compromise — decide how much socializing is too much for you and too little for your extrovert partner.
I find it hard to fathom that any social event is worth giving up my comfy spot on the couch, favorite pajamas, and new season of whatever show I’m looking forward to binging. I also do not have some burning desire to celebrate every holiday with multiple sets of families just because it’s what we’re “supposed” to do. There are some holidays I do not care to celebrate in large groups. (Like all of them.)
My husband, on the other hand, would gladly host every single one. If we are invited somewhere, there was a time my husband would automatically just say, “Yes.” He has learned. It usually takes days — if not weeks — of negotiating before we agree upon a social engagement, whether it’s his friend’s birthday or a Fourth of July BBQ. Sometimes we go, sometimes we don’t.
As an extrovert, socializing energizes him; he gains something from being with others. As an introvert, socializing drains me; I feel depleted and taxed — and I end up with an introvert hangover.
We have to decide what is worth it and what’s not. A football game? He can go solo. A wedding? Relative or friend? (And how much do I like the relative?) The criteria varies, but we have a formula that works for us. My advice? Decide how much socializing is too much for you and too little for your extrovert.
Sometimes spending time together on the “outside” could be enjoyable for both of us. Anything involving animals and nature is also a win for every member of our family. Fall is a great time of year, for instance, because we take our kids apple picking and to a pumpkin patch. These are activities that are independent to your group — you aren’t stuck with other people. I can breathe. The kids can run. My husband can eat apple cider donuts. It’s a win-win-win.
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3. Do not try to “convert” each other — you’re wired differently, so acceptance and compromise are key.
Going into any relationship with the intention to change the other person spells disaster.
Extroverts like to talk. They talk about sports, current events, hobbies, work, kids, home improvements, buried treasure, cookie recipes, ‘80s rock ballads … you name it. Anytime. Any place.
But this concept may seem foreign to an introvert like me who’d much rather poke their own eyes out then listen to some stranger or vague acquaintance talk about recaulking their bathtub. Just know that when you are with an extrovert, you will inevitably get pulled into random conversations with random people in random places about random things. Practice your best, “Oh my, look at the time! We’d better go!” expression — you’re gonna need it.
Some extroverts make the mistake of thinking an introvert is a shy extrovert who has yet to come out of their shell. They will throw you into situations where you feel put on the spot in order to help “break the ice.”
So, ahead of time, you must explain to your extrovert partner that if they pass the baton of conversation to you while in the presence of others — in hopes you will keep it twirling with small talk of one sort or another — help them understand you have no problem dropping that thing and watching it die. That awkward silence that makes an extrovert so uncomfortable? Ha! You live in that silence.
This also applies when trying to stifle the extrovert, which you will want to occasionally do. Because they talk. A lot. Instead of wishing they would be quiet, try listening to what they are talking about. (After all, we introverts are naturally great listeners!)
That said, it might be easy for an introvert to become embarrassed by their counterpart’s living-out-loud lifestyle. Keep in mind, there is a reason why extroverts tend to make friends easily. I have learned to let my social butterfly flutter without feeling the need to reign him in. I remind myself that he is not like me and I am not here to censor him. After all, his outgoingness is part of what made me notice him in the first place.
You want to be with each other as you are. Sure, the little traits and quirks get aggravating at times. My extrovert always wants to drag me out somewhere and never knows when to leave. This is where “the look” comes into play that says, “It is time to go in T-minus five minutes — or less.” Nonverbal communication may be foreign to the extrovert, but it’s essential to the relationship.
These days, if there is an event that means a lot to my extrovert, like his high school reunion, he’ll give me plenty of notice. This is our understanding. I need to mentally prepare. However, he knows that if I’m really not into the idea of going somewhere, forcing the issue will not work. He might get frustrated, but we talk it out and, ultimately, it ends with him respecting my limits. We all have limits.
So next time they start a random conversation with a stranger in line at the pharmacy, nod and smile, then read the back of a Nyquil bottle. Hopefully, your extrovert will know that if you are gracious enough to agree to attend a social gathering, they’ll keep the karaoke mic out of your general direction.
At the End of the Day, Introverts and Extroverts Complement Each Other
Although it seems counterproductive to share a life with someone who is so different, nobody ever said love had to make sense. In reality, turning each other’s world upside-down was easy.
In so many ways, introverts and extroverts complement each other. Introverts love deeply and truly. They bring genuine substance. Extroverts help keep the rhythm of life going. They brighten things up. We are forces of nature meant to work in tandem.
Respect each other and learn to compromise without diluting you or your extrovert’s personal essence. (And invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones.)