I’m an extroverted woman in a long-term relationship with an introverted man. It has mostly been easy, but some things have definitely been an adjustment – for both of us.
But before we talk about relationships, let’s think about what the words “extrovert” and “introvert” actually mean. It might surprise you to learn that they have less to do with how loud someone is and more to do with how they recharge. Check it out:
Extrovert – Someone who feels energized when they spend time around other people.
Introvert – Someone who feels drained when they spend time around other people.
So, don’t be fooled into thinking that all introverts are shy recluses (The Myers and Briggs Foundation says otherwise) and all extroverts are outgoing and annoying. That definitely isn’t the case all of the time, although introverts do tend to be quieter than extroverts in general.
I’d actually consider myself much less outgoing than other extroverts (otherwise, I’d never survive working alone as a writer all day!), and I’d consider my boyfriend a somewhat outgoing introvert.
He’s the first introvert I’ve been in a serious, long-term relationship with. And I’m the first extrovert that he has been in a long-term relationship with. Ever.
As you can imagine, this has caused a couple of misunderstandings and communication issues. But now, after being together for 3 years, we’ve worked through most of them and have gotten used to each other’s tendencies.
If you’re dating an introverted man and struggling, or if you’re thinking about pursuing a relationship with one, here are a few things you’ll want to consider trying to make things go more smoothly:
Find A Happy Medium
So, you’ve met a great new guy (or are trying to figure out the one you already have). Awesome! But then… you find out that he doesn’t want to go out very often. He’d much rather stay in and read a book, watch a movie, or play some video games.
While his wants are completely understandable, you should realize that his introvertedness doesn’t mean that you should have to stay in all of the time too. Meet him in the middle, and plan weekends where you can do both.
My boyfriend and I have gotten really good at this, but we definitely struggled with it for a while. We were either going out every night for long periods of time or not going out at all for long periods of time. Now, we know to just be straightforward with one another to find out what we need. For example, if I need a night out, I tell him, and he’s more than happy to make it happen. And, if he needs a night in, I’m totally cool with staying home and doing something more low-key.
Address this issue with your guy if you’re feeling bored because you aren’t getting out enough. While he may not want to go out as much as you do (just like you don’t want to stay in as much as he does), you can work together and compromise to make each other happy based on both of your needs.
Understand That He Might Not Make A Move
My boyfriend and I met when we started playing in a band together, but it took him a while to make a move on me initially. And when he did, he seemed pretty nervous and unsure about telling me his true feelings.
While his hesitance was endearing to me, it might not have gone over so well if I didn’t understand the flirting style of introverts. You see, introverts can be super polite when they flirt… almost to a fault (if that’s even possible).
No, I’m not talking about “niceness.” Niceness is great. I’m talking about the fact that they don’t always relentlessly pursue what they want. Sometimes, they feel more comfortable holding back a bit until they feel like it’s a sure thing.
So, you really have to pay attention to non-verbal signs and the way they treat you to determine whether or not they like you. Then, you’ll probably have to make the first move. Or, you’ll have to drop tons of hints to get him to do it.
And this doesn’t just apply to casual dating or the beginning of a relationship. When you’re well into a relationship like me, you’ll still have to make the first move in other ways. For example, you’ll probably find yourself reaching out to your introvert for affection far more often than he reaches out to you. Don’t let yourself get too upset about it. That’s just how introverts are.
Don’t Take His Need For Alone Time Personally
Chances are, an introverted guy is going to need alone time. Much more of it than you need.
Try not to be too hurt by this. It has nothing to do with you (well – unless you’re mistreating him or the relationship is unhealthy). It’s just part of his personality.
Think about it this way. Just like you need to be around people to re-charge your mental batteries, he needs to be alone to re-charge his mental batteries. Neither way is wrong. Just different.
That being said, remember: Don’t excuse emotionally abusive behavior just because someone is an introvert. Sometimes, there is a fine line between introverted-ness and neglectfulness, so make sure you’re with someone who has your best interests at heart – someone who will happily show you the attention you deserve if you let him know you need it.
Create A Conflict Resolution Plan
Most introverts I’ve dated have been pretty conflict-avoidant. They’d rather go for a day or two without speaking than deal with a difficult fight that lasts for 30 minutes and move on. In fact, Sophia Dembling, an author who writes about introversion, asked more than 50 introverts how they deal with conflict, and most said that they tended to shut down.
Yeah. That has definitely caused some issues for me.
While I don’t seek out conflict, I do tend to take a more… proactive approach to resolving issues. I don’t like to let tension linger. I’d rather hash it out quickly and get over it. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to postpone an unpleasant conversation for days. Why not tackle it head on and quickly get back to getting along and having fun again, right?
Not quite. I’ve had to learn how to compromise a bit in this area. My introverted guy and I have created a conflict resolution plan. Instead of literally taking on problems immediately, I try to give him a little space first, because I get that he needs time to process things mentally before we resolve a conflict. Also, he understands why we can’t go days without resolving a conflict, even if it’s less stressful and uncomfortable, so we don’t do that either.
Be open with your introvert about your needs when it comes to conflict resolution, and encourage him to tell you about his too. You’ll thank yourself later when a problem arises!
So, we’ve already established that I’m an extrovert. But, like I said, I’m not incredibly outgoing for an extrovert.
In fact, when I was in elementary school, I kept to myself quite a bit. And I’d often get asked a variety of annoying questions that really pissed me off, including:
- Why don’t you want to go play with the other kids?
- Why are you so quiet?
- Why don’t you go over there and make some friends?
Because of this, I feel like I got a peek into what life is like as an introvert. And it isn’t easy!
In fact, according to Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, work and school in the U.S. are both geared around the way extroverts like to work. The bottom line is that extroversion is much more widely accepted in society, and people tend to treat introversion like a disease. It’s really tough to relate to the people around you when you don’t feel accepted because of your personality and tendency to need alone time.
The point is this: you need to accept your introvert for who he is. He’ll always need some alone time. He’ll always feel drained when he’s been around other people for too long. And that’s okay.
By being accepting, you’ll make him comfortable and help lay the foundation for a strong, trusting relationship.
Appreciate The Balance
Before my current relationship, I was going out every night. Seriously – every freaking night. There was nothing more exciting to me that the idea of going to new places and meeting new people.
Then, I met my boyfriend. For a while, we went out every night together. Concerts, bars, museums – you name it, and we went there. He kept up so well that I actually started to think that he was an extrovert like me! I mean, I knew that he was a little on the quiet side, but I can be that way too, so I didn’t think much of it.
Eventually, we got more comfortable together and I realized that he was only going out every night to make me happy – not because it was his idea of a relaxing evening. In fact, I’m pretty sure he drank an unhealthy amount of energy drinks and coffee just so he could stay out with me every night for as long as I wanted to!
While that was incredibly sweet of him, I wouldn’t have wanted him to keep going that way. Relationships are about compromise. Now, we go out some nights and stay in other nights.
For a while, this frustrated me. It’s hard to completely change the way you live, and sitting at home for entire weekends was definitely a change for me. But now, I’ve learned to appreciate the balance.
After all, I’d probably never have become a writer if I’d kept going out every night. Staying in has helped me learn more about myself and become more comfortable without constant social interaction, which has been critical to my personal growth.
It makes sense. Linda Bloom, L.C.S.W., and Charlie Bloom, M.S.W. at Psychology Today explain that introverts and extroverts have opposite ways of dealing with stress and getting their emotional needs met. And, while this seems like it would cause problems, it actually tends to make things easier from a relationship standpoint because each partner balances the other out.
So remember, be patient if your partner’s introvertedness is frustrating you, and understand that the balance he provides will help you become a better person if you let it.