If you are an introvert, a new relationship with an extrovert can seem so exciting at first. Your extroverted partner knows so many people, is always suggesting adventures and seems at ease in any social situation. You find yourself going out, doing things and meeting people you would never have done. You feel a newfound sense of engagement with the external world.
If you are an extrovert, a new relationship with an introvert can be captivating. Your introverted partner listens so well. You find yourself taking time to reflect on your feelings and thoughts more than ever. You listen more. You feel a newfound sense of inner calm.
But when opposites attract, after the first blush wears off, sometimes disconcerting feelings and second thoughts can set in.
If you are like many introverts, after time an extrovert’s constant narration may become wearying. The social weekends may leave you drained. You tire of small talk with people you don’t know well. You long for quiet time. Just once you’d like to drive somewhere with your partner and not have to talk the whole car trip.
When relationship issues come up, you prefer to take time to think things through. But your extroverted partner wants to talk things through right now. The barrage of interacting can exhaust you. You may feel you are losing your connection with yourself. You wonder, does your partner really “get” you? You may wonder if your partner is too superficial. Or you may worry that your partner’s strong desires to be around other people in addition to you means she or he is losing interest in you.
Meanwhile, if you are the extrovert, your introverted partner’s style and pace may seem limiting. Her or his desire for quiet time can leave you feeling antsy, bored, even irritable. Your partner wants to leave parties just when the party seems to get going. You are left champing at the bit and feeling abandoned. Your need for engaging with others, a vital source of your energy, seems threatened.
You want to engage with the world but your introverted partner prefers to observe. You find it hard to understand how anyone could like so much quiet time. Being with an introvert begins to feel like a drag on your life. You wonder if your partner has sufficient breadth or interests. You may worry that your partner’s feelings about you have changed because she or he keeps needing so much alone time.
It is over?
Not necessarily. Many extrovert-introvert couples have happy and successful relationships. The key is to understand your partner’s introverted or extroverted nature.
Introverted does not necessarily mean shy, uncomfortable with emotions, timid or secretive. Similarly, extroverted doesn’t necessarily mean gregarious, shallow, loud or an open book.
Introverts tend to be motivated by internal pursuits and their inner lives. Extroverts tend to be motivated by interacting with other people or their external environment. Classically, introverts recharge their batteries from spending time alone. Extroverts are energized by spending time with others.
Stereotypes about extroverts and introverts abound, although many of the stereotypes do not stand up to research.
The stereotype of bookish, reclusive introverts is far too narrow. Many introverts may be quiet and reflective but are socially adept when they need to be. Many introverts may shun large gatherings but come out of their shell one on one or in small groups with close friends. Some introverts like to go to parties, though perhaps less often than their extroverted partners, and introverts will need time to recharge following a big party.
Another stereotype of introverts is that they are shy, even socially anxious, and avoid taking risks. In fact, some introverts can be shy or socially anxious. But so can some extroverts. There are many tales of actors who are 100 percent extroverted on stage but grow dreadfully shy and anxious when interacting with people in the rest of their lives.
In addition, while some introverts avoid novelty or risk, many introverts find plenty of ways to take emotional, intellectual or even physical risks and try novel experiences, though often in less obvious ways than many extroverts.
By the same token, the stereotype of the high-energy glad-handing extrovert is too limiting. Many extroverts are motivated by social connection and engaging with other people but they treasure quality connections, not just quantity. While some extroverts may be driven, engaging in nonstop social or career ventures, many extroverts are deeply motivated to achieve, accomplish, and reach lofty goals.
Studies have suggested that many introverts spend as much time with other people as extroverts and enjoy talking just as much as extroverts. The difference is in sensitivity to overstimulation.
Many introverts are sensitive to being overstimulated by large or loud gatherings or extended time around other people.
By comparison, many extroverts become bored or agitated if they spend too much time alone or not interacting with their environment.
In sum, both extroverts and introverts can become overly sensitive, though to different things. To make a successful relationship it helps to understand, appreciate and accept your differences.
Read Part Two of this blog: 15 ways extrovert-introvert couples can sweeten their relationship.
Copyright © Dan Neuharth PhD MFT
Couple on beach by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash
Rowdy crowd by by Jade Masri on Unsplash
Woman gazing at sea by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash
Couple reading in field by Photo by Ben White on Unsplash