I’ve always known I’m an introvert. I like to be alone. The idea of going to a cabin by myself for a long weekend, not uttering a single word, sounds like a dream. I’m not a shy or quiet person, but I do get energized by being alone. Even as a little child I liked to play alone, in my own little world in my head.
But I didn’t realize just how introverted I was until I met my husband.
He is NOT introverted.
The more parties, concerts, sports events, dinners with friends, and family gatherings we can go to, the better. For him. When I first met him I thought he just wanted to take me on a lot of dates, woo me, so to speak, and wanted to be around his people so they could get to know me as his girlfriend. Then I realized, nope, that’s actually just how he lived life. He loves to be around people, he is energized by people, he is often the life of the party, he doesn’t mind crowds (my personal hell) and just doesn’t seem to get emotionally exhausted from human beings like I do.
I know that sounds bad, but I do. I love people! Truly. But if I don’t have alone time, a space of my own, I literally feel like I’m suffocating. I feel sheer panic when I think about being stuck in a place with people for a long period of time and not being able to escape into solitary. I am not a great wife, friend, daughter, anything, when I don’t get alone time. I wish I could change it, but I’ve also learned I’m just created differently than him.
Throughout our marriage, I have come to learn just how different introverts and extroverts can be. I’ve also come to recognize that these fundamental differences tend to contribute to our marital conflicts.
Obviously this is not the case for every person in every marriage, but here are some things I have observed and learned about being an introvert married to an extrovert:
1. We process information and make decisions very differently. It drives me nuts when he thinks through decisions out loud. For example, every time he needs to book a trip for work, he verbalizes every pro and con, out loud, before he decides which flight to take. When I need to make a decision, I think it through and process it internally. Then I say it out loud. I have realized he actually does think clearer and process information better when he vocalizes thoughts. Processing externally is a must for him.
2. My husband loves group events. Not only that, he loves to invite groups of people from different walks of life to the same social gathering (even though they may not personally know each other). This is such a cool characteristic about him, he truly is great at connecting people. But can I just tell you how nervous and sweaty I get at these events? What if someone feels left out? What if one group of friends talks about the good ol’ college days and the other people can’t relate so they feel bored and end up wanting to leave? What if I can’t think of anything to talk to all these people about at the same time?! I absolutely would prefer to hang out with a couple of people at a time, to really get to dive in and focus just on them, rather than be in a large group of people. Although my husband also does well in small groups, he excels in large groups.
3. I am constantly feeling like the biggest party pooper EVER. No, I don’t want to go to a restaurant. Yes, I want to stay home and read again. No, a concert does not sound fun. Fine, I’ll go if you really want me to. I often beg my husband to go to events he’s interested in without me, and I am 100 percent okay with that. But then he will say, “No, I want to be with you so I will stay home.” (Insert rush of guilt.) I’m a lucky woman to have a husband who genuinely wants to be with me and wants me included in all parts of his life. But sometimes—OK a lot of the time—what he wants to do does not sound very appealing.
4. Our ideas of “fun” may look drastically different. I am very easily overwhelmed by stimuli, where he thrives in it. I like a quiet, calm atmosphere, he likes a louder, more upbeat atmosphere. How do you meet both people’s desires? It’s tricky.
5. He talks to everyone. Like, everyone. Strangers, in particular. Again, what a great quality! He takes the time to ask every restaurant server, every grocery checker, every human everywhere he can, how they are doing, if their day has been going well, if they have family, he makes jokes with them, etc. I truly admire this about him, but I’m often standing next to him thinking, does this person really want to talk? What if they just want to be left alone? Are you bothering them? He doesn’t care, he is just being his outgoing and friendly self.
6. Guilt seems to run rampant in my life. Not only am I a Debbie Downer, but I feel selfish. Why can’t I just suck it up and go do things with him? It would make him happy, and I want to make him happy, so why don’t I just do it? Why can’t I be more like him? Why can’t I like and enjoy what he does?
And also, why does being an introvert seem so much worse and less socially acceptable then being an extrovert in our culture?
This is a question I have been asking myself lately. Is it really bad to be an introvert? And I know the answer.
God made us different. It’s a beautiful thing. And I think it’s even more beautiful that two people who are so different can have a really great relationship . . . if they work at it.
If I was as extroverted as my husband, we would 1) be totally broke and 2) I’m not sure we would ever actually be able to complete a conversation. This is not to say two extroverts can’t have a great relationship, but it wouldn’t work for us.
If my husband was as introverted as me, we would probably have very few relationships and may end up on an A&E TV show as those people who live with a herd of animals and never leave their home.
There IS one thing I’ve noticed that is really surprising and awesome about being an introvert married to an extrovert. When I first got married I thought I would need all this alone time, just me time, without him, and need it often. But I have found that I’m able to get re-energized WITH him. He is an extension of me now. And my alone time can include him without feeling exhausted. Sure, being all by myself is still something I do and cherish, but he can be there too, if he wants.
It’s a good thing we are different. We level each other out.
But I can’t act like it’s always easy, either. So, what can a couple who is so different do in these situations?
I think we are both coming to terms with the fact that we are on opposite sides of the spectrum, and we don’t need to try to change each other. It always feels better when we focus on how our differences actually compliment each other, and how we can continue to love each other as we are. Also, creating boundaries to make each other feel comfortable is huge.
Marriage and love are a sacrifice. I believe we are called to step out of our comfort zone sometimes to make our spouse feel loved and to meet their needs.
So I try. He tries too. It’s all about compromise and really trying to hear the other person out. Do we really need to go to that event? OK, if it means a lot to you, I will go. Other times, he realizes I’m in a place where being social and going out will actually hurt, and he agrees to staying home (or goes by himself) and gives me time to re-energize. We switch on and off on whose plans we will follow on different nights, and it works. I think the answers lie in compromise and respect. They are essential, and they work.
Originally published on the author’s blog