Zaron: Do you think extroverts have a lot of blind spots about how others respond to them? Like, even though, we’re paying attention to the external world, do we often miss what you, or any other introvert, would consider obvious signs that idk, you’re like over it, and you want to go home or need to be by yourself, or recharge, or whatever it is you need to do? Like, do you ever feel badly when an extrovert fails to see it and asks “why are you going home all of a sudden?” Or have you learned to ways to communicate your needs to extroverted partners/friends?
Ella: I think part of the biggest thing introverts and extroverts need to hash out when they date each other is that these things aren’t implied, even though you think they are. We’re naturally on two different wavelengths and would even assume that the other SHOULD know this about us without so much as telling them — a perfect example is that when we decided on this, I had to tell you outright that I consider myself an introvert (though I understand why people might perceive otherwise), and you’re very much an extrovert. A lot of my exes have classified me as an extrovert, too, so I’m used to having to correct people and bring them back down. It’s especially weird when that’s an extra hurdle of “No, actually, I’m not wired like you, so please stop assuming that I’m gung-ho for agreeing to every adventure you have planned.” (Maybe extroverts are quick to see themselves in everyone else, and introverts are like, nah, we’re alllllll different? I don’t know.) It’s tough to tell an extrovert that you want to leave the party early, and sometimes you feel a little guilty for throwing a wrench into the flow of their night, but they can also continue to party on without you if they want to. Sometimes it’s a matter of just excusing yourself from the crowd politely — especially so your significant other isn’t left making excuses for you, which I imagine is a total buzzkill.
Ella: What’s the hardest part of beginning to date an introvert? Is it a struggle to get to know them or do you ever feel like you have to temper yourself for the other person?
Zaron: For me, and I think this would be true of most extroverts, it can feel difficult to get to know an introvert because of the invisible boundaries. It’s the speed and silences that are the most confusing in the beginning stages of dating. It’s hard to know how to move as slowly and carefully as some introverts prefer. Although, with communication it can work well. Of course an extrovert would say “we just need to talk about it.” But the communication doesn’t have to be exclusively verbal. Once a boundary has been established, then just a word, a look, an emoji can convey all the communication necessary. The thing is, I do feel that I have to temper myself so that my curiosity doesn’t become a negative. Like, if I’m confused about something, or if I want to know something, or I just think of a funny thought I often just blurt out a question or send a message. And to an introvert’s way of thinking, as far as I understand it, I ought to pause to think “is this an answer that they want to give at this specific moment in time?” and “hey, remember they wanted to be alone.” Like, I move too fast to check context sometimes. And that causes problems.
It also leads in to your question of speed. Okay — to make sense of our differences I use really simple metaphors. Introverts are cats. Extroverts are puppies.
Those are two very different frequencies of energy and expectations of comfort. Like a puppy, I have a terrible sense of “how long it’s been.” Once a moment is gone, it feels, to me, like the same as last year. Which is great for sports, but terrible in relationships.
For instance, if a woman tells me she needs some time to relax, or she wants to chill for a few days, or she needs to be by herself for awhile. Those are all the same measure of time for me. “Not now.” Like, I’m so “in the moment” that I can drive a woman crazy because I come back an hour later, a day later, or send them a message asking how it’s going being by herself. (I’m also a bit of an idiot.) That’s how hard it is for me, and it’s all because I have no sense of time.
I’m an extreme extrovert with the timeframe of an extreme athlete. But what’s weird is, I love to be alone, to read for hours, to go surfing by myself almost every time I go out. Like, I get alone time, and downtime, I just don’t know how to anticipate or track it for someone else. But I find that if an introvert can be super clear with me, it helps. But that’s asking a lot, for someone to make up for my lack of any sense of time. But practically speaking, like in order to make it work, it helps a ton. The difference between the phrase “call me Wednesday” instead of “call me later” has saved relationships in the earliest stages. Just one word. But huge for me. I sound like an idiot. Heh. But it really matters to me because, I’m drawn to introverts. And so, I have to learn to temper myself because my enthusiasm for them can be overwhelming and frustrating. You know how it is though — those times when you’re “alone together” are some of the best moments in a relationship that I’ve enjoyed.
Zaron: What’s the hardest part of opening up to an extrovert, who so clearly wants to know more, or asks questions to the point it feels interrogatory? Do you feel rushed? Or prodded?
Ella: Sometimes it feels a little rushed, because as an introvert, I value my secrets, and I value the people I share these parts of me with. A broader example that doesn’t really have to do with dating (but often does) is in my tattoos, which are all deeply personal to me, and sometimes somebody will ask what they mean. If I’m not at my most comfortable with someone, or if I don’t want to suddenly make the situation take on a much darker tone, I’ll try to only give a little info — not too much so that I feel encroached upon, but just enough so that they feel like I’ve given AN answer — but I always feel really rude when I do it. Like, they’re trying to get to know me, they’re taking an interest in me, and I should give them a more elaborate answer than, “Oh, it’s the coordinates of the Hollywood Sign,” because that always leads to the follow up of “Why?” But if you give me a little time, and give me space to tell you, I’ll be much more open in saying, “When I was little, I used to go up to the Hollywood Sign all the time, even though it’s off limits and we were never supposed to be up there.” That’s a deeply personal part of my childhood, and a lot of extroverts might not understand why giving up that information is a lot harder for me to do. (Even now it’s weird saying it.)
And the entire point in the game with a relationship IS to get to know someone, so that’s why it often feels like you wind up being a lot more selective when it comes to the people you date. Like unless the clicking is there and you immediately feel comfortable telling them all this stuff, like this is a kindred spirit you can dish your soul to already, it’s going to be an uphill scramble and you have to wonder if it’s worth it. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it feels like wasted time. That’s the gamble of dating, I guess. Being an introvert just kind of sets you up for calculating those risks a little differently.
Ella: Do you think there’s any pros or cons to dating someone of the opposite personality spectrum than you? Would it be easier if you just dated another extrovert, or are there drawbacks there, too?
Zaron: There are a ton of pros. I would say, as many as, if not more than, the cons. For instance, introverts savor life. As an extrovert we move through life, and we savor it, but I would say that I noticed from my times with introverts their is a joy to be found in their slowness. Like, I always love how long they take to do things. That sounds like I’m teasing you guys. But I do. I love how you guys will ensure your comfort. I enjoy comfort, but I don’t build it into my life nearly enough. All my introvert friends are like vacations from my rhythms and choices. Because, and this is how I see it but I would guess this is true for many extroverts, you guys show me things I would never consider. And I like to think, I do likewise. I think we balance each other.
Right now, I’m learning to cook. And it’s fun. It was getting bad. Like, for a period of years I made maybe two meals a week. I went out to eat for all my meals. That was cool, whatever. But now, I want to cook. And that same curiosity that made me try a restaurant, makes me want to try recipes. I think from dating introverts they seem to benefit from my rampant curiosity in the world around me. That’s not to say you guy don’t try new restaurants but I’ve noticed my introvert friends have the best book and album recs while my extrovert friends have the best restaurant, gallery, travel recs. They know going out and introverts know staying in. Your comfort game is strong. Their entertainment game’s the same. That’s why, from my favorite couples, they’re always an extrovert and an introvert.
I think the dynamic keeps things interesting in a way that I appreciate. I like to cover spectrums, I don’t like when my friends are too much like me, and in a romantic partner I like when they share with me parts of the world I would never know, and when they ask me to move and think and feel in ways that I wouldn’t. It always makes me a better, deeper, more fulfilled person. And I like to offer a woman the same. I like to see her mouth gape with wonder, or spread wide in a grin at something she would never have been interested in seeing or doing
Nothing against extroverts, but in some ways it feels like you’re dating your sister. You know what I mean? Like, it’s too familiar. And for me, it gets boring. It is easier, in some regards, to date an extrovert. But easy is not a huge motivation for me. I guess I like challenges. I don’t dig conflict, but I do love the song that emerges when you rub catgut against horsehair, you know what I mean?
Zaron: I kinda wanna ask you the same question … so I will. To you, what are the pros or cons to dating someone of the opposite personality spectrum than you? Would it be easier if you just dated another introvert, or are there drawbacks there, too?
Ella: I think it’s helpful sometimes to date someone who’s on the opposite spectrum because they pull you out of yourself. Whenever I date introverts, we wind up spending the night in and watching Netflix — which is GREAT, don’t get me wrong — or if we go to a party together, we’ll be the couple in the corner in their own little world. But I also get why being That Couple is annoying to everyone else, and sometimes it’s helpful to have someone grab your hand and get you on the dance floor. It’s the same reason why it’s helpful to have friends who are on different areas of the spectrum as you.
But again, I’m a little more outgoing (which is similar but not the same as being extroverted) in terms of the introverts of the world, so a lot of the time, I’m pretty self-sustaining. It’s just a matter that being one of the “in-betweeners” means that I have to explain to an extrovert why I can only make myself go halfway out on the ledge of being all out there (like, if I can give the first 50%, an extrovert might not understand why won’t I go whole hog) or to another introvert why sometimes I need to let my outgoing tendencies have their moment, too. (Maybe then, the solution is to find another outgoing introvert, but then I feel like I wouldn’t be challenged in my relationship, and I like that so really, the grass is always greener, it’s sixes, etc.)
Ella: Do you think being an extrovert helps you or hinders you in dating? Why?
Zaron: At first, it’s a huge advantage. I will talk to anyone. I will chat up that stinkface grandma sitting alone at a wedding reception. It’s odd, because I’m very shy. But I know how to be social. It’s something all extroverts know how to do to, more or less. You just throw yourself into a social moment. You don’t stay rooted inside yourself, and instead you float on the stream of interactions.
In dating, this is particularly handy. Like, I will initiate. My introvert friends ALWAYS say they wish they could pull girls the way I do when we go out. But to me, it’s just that I talk to them. And they don’t. But then, later on, what was once charming can become problematic. For instance, I’ll want to go out and have no idea that it’s been two or three days in a row. Then she doesn’t want to have to “defend” her desire to stay in. But I would be down to kick it and watch movies, it’s just not what I think of as a default. So, if I text with plans it’s going to be to do something. Unless, I know she wants to stay in that night and then I’m gonna text and ask what treat can I bring. I don’t like how there is often a defensiveness. I can see how it would build up, but, honestly, I don’t really care if she wants to stay in, but then, if it’s not my idea, I run the risk that she think she’s making me do “her thing.” But, like I said, I love the “alone together” time and movie cuddling. I don’t see that as “her thing.” And going out as “my thing.” It sounds cheesy but “my thing” is I want to spend time with her. Like, you might hear, “I don’t want you to come over if you don’t want to be here,” or “No, go do your thing–” I don’t like the assumption of people’s “things.”
And then, if you do have a confusion over plans, I sometimes feel like I’m stuck having to respect an introvert’s boundaries. Like, you can’t disagree too many times in a row or it seems like they feel they’re in conflict; whereas I feel like I was trying to say I want to come over and bring you ice cream and we can watch a movie but it all dissolves in a confusion of “things.” Sometimes assumptions and defensiveness can hinder communication. And then, with dating other extroverts, it’s like trying to keep two five-year olds together at Disneyland. That’s get exhausting for everyone involved.
Zaron: How do you communicate your interest when dating? Do you get frustrated if your signs of affection are overlooked or misunderstood? And are you quick to give up if it feels frustrating?
Ella: I’ve actually learned that sometimes I have to play my introversion as … I don’t want to say as some sort of reward, but like, I’m really cautious to put myself out there, so when I do, it’s like, “Congrats! You made it through!” But of course, a lot of people think getting to know someone is just par for the course in dating, and not a milestone specific to introverts. I also am really bad at reading other people’s cues when they don’t match up to my own — I guess it’s the part of me that goes inward and compares everything to my personal struggles, or draws from my personal experiences to base my conclusions — and so even when an extrovert just tells me flat out that they like me, I’m like “Wait…. what are you saying because… that… doesn’t compute…?” Also, sometimes I feel like people understand that because the introversion is there, they need to give me extra space, and so I’m the one always initiating everything. And sometimes that is just exhausting, and I don’t want to have to be the one to bring up The Talk every time. (Like, it’s been Every. Time.) Sometimes my tokens of affection are just wanting to talk to you, not these grand sweeping gestures. I know that’s a common-place thing, but that’s why texting back within a logical enough timespan is helpful when you date an introvert.
Ella: Is there anything you think introverts could learn from extroverts about dating? Anything you think you get so cosmically right that the other side should take to heart?
Zaron: Cosmically right? That’s a tall order. I think … and this will probably sound harsh, I’m sure … but you guys sometimes value your comfort over everything else. I believe any person’s greatest strength is also their greatest weakness. As much as I’ve learned from introverts to value comfort, I think sometimes you guys place too much importance on it. Sometimes, to your detriment. Rather than remaining quiet, or choosing not to respond, or being reluctant to physically step outside of your comfort zone, like you said, I would think that you’ll find there are great rewards to sacrificing your comfort. I don’t mean in an emotionally haphazard way, not as a reaction, but when you’re on the fence, or when you feel you want to do or say something, instead of pulling inward and considering it further, let it out, even if it’s not exactly what you wanted to say or when you wanted to say it. You mentioned it earlier, and I totally agree: step out on the dance floor even if you don’t want to. Make the first move. Send them a Facebook message. It sometimes feels like introverts ruminate on everything and I’m left feeling like the Joker, asking, “Why so serious?”
As far as dating specific advice for introverts, it would be simple: Smile with your eyes more.
If you’re not gonna talk much, or initiate conversations, when you do like someone, you can let them know with your eyes. Also, no one can read your mind, so please be patient with us, extroverts, as you sit there silently enjoying your gelato. Please look past the occasional floundering of your dates. Do not judge them too harshly. Silence can make us nervous, and in our nervousness we will go with what we’re thinking about — which is our interest in getting to know you, so we ask you questions hoping to get you to talk. Which sometimes, only makes it worse. So, you know, try to remember, we mean well and we also love staying in for movie and ice cream nights. That’s like, totally, “our thing,” too. Even if it’s your idea.
Zaron: How can someone who’s dating you learn about your boundaries and reticence to put yourself out there without learning by mistake, by crossing the lines, or making you feel pushed or pulled somewhere you don’t want to be? Like, how should an extrovert respect your introvert way without sending the message that you’re acting scared, timid, or reluctant? How can we respect your journey even though to us it sometimes looks like you’re going silent, or choosing to pull away, deflecting, or stepping into shadow? How should an extrovert question you or disagree without it feeling like a big deal for you?
Ella: I think a lot of it really stems from just taking things at face value. (Remember, introverts really don’t like to imply things, so it’s better to take us at our word.) I’ve never really known an introvert to be big on lying or overreacting — we’re just more prone to protecting those secret parts of ourselves, and that’s not lying by omission so much as it is just being cautious. Like, to go back to your cats and puppies analogy, it’s like when a cat hides under a bed or behind a couch when they see somebody new in their space. You can reach in and pull the cat out, but chances are good you’re going to get scratched. And all for what – so YOU could play with it? No, the cat is going to want to have to play with you. But if you leave a toy around or put food out or any incentive really and just give it time, chances are good the cat is finally going to realize that there are far, far more better things out there than being scared.
It’s really just that — a matter of giving things time. And for introverts especially, because we don’t take things as quickly and are as go-go-go as extroverts, we want to make sure that these things are going to last, and are in it for the long haul. We want to know that the time isn’t just worth it, but that the investment is going to last for a longer period of time. (Which is not to say that extroverts don’t value LTRs, too, but I’ve really never met an introvert who would rather be all wild n’ free than get into a solid relationship.) So giving things time; believing what we say when we say it and not projecting reactions all over it; and trusting that when we hit a roadblock that we can’t handle internally, we’ll come to you. I know, the waiting game is terrible. But sometimes the best part of dating an introvert is that we really would rather not unload all of our emotional baggage on you unless we know that it’s something we can tackle together. We don’t want to weigh you down with our crap when you like going faster — that’d be like asking you to run a marathon with a flak vest on and that sounds like fun for absolutely no one.
And if you want to challenge us for staying in every night or not trying new things, make a compromise. Because I guarantee you, that if you tell me that if we go to this party and stay for three hours, and then you will personally see to it that I get a slice of pizza after the night ends, or I get to spend all the next day mainlining a 30 Rock binge, chances are good I will say, “yes, fine, I will go to this party with you.” And chances are good I’ll have a great time.
Just, please, remember to make good on the slice of pizza.