They say opposites attract, but how true is that? If you and your partner’s methods of communication and processing are polar opposites, how deep can your relationship really get?
I am an introvert and have been dating a (brilliant, beautiful) extrovert for almost two years. It’s a constant learning and growing experience, and sometimes it can be very trying, but there’s much to be gained from dating across communication styles.
For instance, parties and social gatherings can be an anxiety roller-coaster for an introvert. Like, I know that this thing we have to go to has booze and probably even snacks, but what if i have to – god forbid – talk to people?!
I wish I had learned this earlier, but holy fuck, pro-tip: heading into every party with an extrovert by your side is maybe the most stress-alleviating thing ever. Instead of having to show up, greet anyone I make eye contact with, procure a drink and find a place to stand, now I can just roll out and follow her lead. And when I have to make small talk with a person whose name I forgot, I can lean on her for that too. I’m more comfortable, meaning I can have more fun without getting, you know, totally shit-faced.
That being said, simple activities are waaaay more complicated. Being the classic introvert that I am, I love getting immersed in movies, music, and art. I can pop in the director’s cut of one of my favorite movies (Blade Runner, can I get a “hell yeah”) or go to any late night show, zone the fuck out, and find my happy place. Soaking in dystopian sci-fi vibes and letting my imagination run wild is my nerdy mental home base. Blade Runner, though. Right?
For the extrovert, this is a nightmare. Clubs are too loud to hear, galleries too quiet to talk, and sitting through a whole movie makes her feel bored or suffocated. She prefers social activity, like watching reality TV while dissecting the life choices of everyone on screen. Endlessly. Like, the whole time. She has no qualms chatting about her day at work while someone is getting horrifically murdered on television in the background. For her, it’s just blowing off steam, regardless of what type of apocalyptic scenario her television boyfriend Ice-T is confronting simultaneously. For me, I’m trying to index, analyze and process all of her feelings, while also having my senses overwhelmed by brutal murder scenes. Turns out, these are not the greatest conditions for a serious conversation.
Our greatest difficulties arrive during our most stressful times. Recently we found ourselves both slammed at work at the same time – she was out of town visiting a maximum security prison (seriously) while I was helping put together the 25,000-scary-drunk-people zombie event I had been working on for months (seriously). She spent the day meeting serial killers, bombers and rapists, and wanted to vent. And after answering hundreds of emails from fully-grown adults asking things like, “Could you please book Missy Elliot, that’d be awesome,” I desperately needed alone time.
We both badly needed to process – she by talking, and me by thinking. It can seem like a no-win situation.
While that’s hard, the process is ultimately rewarding. I know my boundaries better than ever – when I need to say no to going out, or when I should push myself to socialize. I am more confident talking to others than ever before, since I know myself better. And she has learned to slow down at times, utilizing other social opportunities, venting to friends and family, and even taking time to recharge and be by herself.
Like any working relationship, we learn to compromise.
And when all is said and done, we’ve both had opportunities for personal growth – she knows not to unload her morning’s emotional luggage until I’ve had coffee, and I can tell you who did it within five minutes of any episode of Law & Order.