She was the one at the party hanging back from the crowd, but she wasn’t doing nothing. From the look in her eyes, you could tell she was watching the scene and not missing a thing. When you talked to her, she didn’t bore you with superficial chatter about her weekend — she actually had something meaningful to say.
Or maybe he was the quiet guy in the cubicle next to you. You almost always had to start the conversation, but when you did, it was worth it. He was witty and smart — a little unconventional — and you knew right away there was something different about this one.
However you met your introvert, one thing’s for sure: His or her quiet charm drew you in, and now you’re here to stay. Maybe you’re an extrovert who relishes your introverted partner’s depth and ability to listen, or maybe you’re an introvert yourself who finds quiet companionship with your like-minded lover. Whether you’ve been with your introvert for one week or one decade, here are 12 things you should know about being in a relationship with an introvert:
1. We take things slowly. If extroverts are the hares, then introverts are the tortoises. Introverts tend to open up to new people more slowly than extroverts. We may be slower to make a move, like asking you out or getting physical. Also, we may be slower to reach relationship milestones, like saying “I love you” for the first time or proposing. That’s because we like to think things through and carefully consider all aspects of a situation before we make a decision. We need time to process our experiences and reflect. Relationships are no exception.
2. We may have trouble talking about ourselves. Seriously. If we’re on a date with you, especially a first or second date, we may stutter and fumble for words when you ask us about ourselves. Introverts are like onions — our personality has many layers, and it takes a while to discover them all, especially the hidden layers closest to the core. We’re private and we won’t reveal the most personal parts of us until we fully trust you. Give us time.
3. We flirt differently. Think subtle moves, not bold. A sly smile. A gaze that lingers. Listening intensely and asking thoughtful questions. Revealing our secret inner world to you. What we probably won’t do: aggressively hit on you or make overtly sexual remarks.
4. Introverts don’t like being the center of attention. It’s probably not a good idea to propose live on a Jumbotron during the big game or ask the servers to sing “Happy Birthday” to us in a crowded restaurant. You may look around only to find your introvert hiding under their seat!
5. Want to truly connect with us? Talk about ideas. There will always be some level of small talk in a relationship: “How was your day?” or “How are you?” But introverts tire quickly of mundane chitchat. We truly feel connected to others when we can talk about big ideas or other meaningful topics. Try asking your introvert some deeper questions: What in your life are you most proud of? Do you have a dream or goal that you’ve never shared or thought was possible? Have you ever read a book that changed you? Your introvert will likely light up at the chance to talk about something meaningful.
6. We won’t go to every single party, happy hour, or family get-together. If you’re an extrovert who loves a party, this is something you’ll have to accept and respect about us, because it’s probably not something that will change. Of course, as a partner who cares about you, we will go to some social events — but we may want to leave early because we’re “peopled” out. Remember, large crowds, busy environments, and socializing drain us because we have a less active dopamine reward system than extroverts. Look for ways to compromise.
7. We may be sensitive to conflict. In fact, many introverts struggle to meet conflict head-on, because arguing can be overstimulating and stressful. We may bottle up our feelings and revert to people-pleasing behaviors to avoid disagreements, or we may shut down when an argument does erupt. Tread gently. Some introverts find it helpful to write about their feelings or to step away from the conflict for a bit to process things. Don’t take it personally if we need a brief time-out.
8. We think. A lot. We practically live inside our heads — and we get lost in there sometimes! If we go quiet on you, don’t assume that we’re mad at you or feeling depressed. We may be just thinking.
9. A busy schedule with no downtime will poison us. A weekend full of activities is what dopamine-loving extroverts crave, but for introverts, it can be too much. Our internal resources get depleted, and we feel the need to retreat alone to a quiet space to recharge. Sometimes we’ll want to be completely alone, while other times, we may enjoy having you join us in quiet solidarity.
10. Know that introversion and extroversion aren’t all-or-nothing traits. In other words, most people don’t fit perfectly into one category or the other. Just like extroverts can have their quiet moments, introverts can also enjoy socializing. It’s really just a matter of dosage. So don’t intentionally leave your introvert at home while you go to gatherings because you think they won’t enjoy them. Likewise, don’t be surprised if your introvert wants to go out or host a party. Introverts get lonely, too.
11. We want quality time with you. This means time with you and you only — no friends, family members, or kids around for a while. We may be quiet in groups, but we can be masterful at connecting one-on-one. We’ll use this time to try to reconnect with you authentically. “When an introvert cares about someone, she also wants contact, not so much to keep up with the events of the other person’s life, but to keep up with what’s inside: the evolution of ideas, values, thoughts, and feelings,” writes Laurie Helgoe in Introvert Power.
12. Although we may not be the best at expressing it, we love you deeply. “Introverts treasure the close relationships they have stretched so much to make,” writes Adam S. McHugh in Introverts in the Church.
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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an Introvert
Learn more: The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World, by Jenn Granneman