I am an introvert. A proud introvert in fact. I love my alone time. And I don’t mean that in that overly defensive “introverts are people too!” sense either. I just love the feeling of independence it brings out in me. Yet, I appreciate the difference in conversation that extroverts and ambiverts bring to the table. Honestly, I believe they often keep us balanced when it comes to both platonic and romantic relationships.
By now, I’m sure you’ve seen at least 500 clever listicles and thoughtfully curated videos showing the best way for us introverts to communicate with partners. If you’re like me, most of these pieces went over your head, or caused you do a subtle eye roll and go on about your day. Let me be clear, a lot of the advice forced down our throat feels like straight up B.S. wrapped in a pretty bow. For me, this was usually because as an introvert, I pompously told myself that I’ll never NEED to tweak my communication style to “impress” a partner. After all, I had never been in a relationship, and certainly hadn’t even gotten close to falling in love before. But it wasn’t until I really started to seriously date an extrovert that I began to take a second look at some of this advice, and see if it really fit my life. What I found is although some of the advice is valid, it doesn’t necessarily apply to someone just starting to see someone, who hasn’t really been in this situation much before. You know that awkward, “Are we dating or are we just hanging out stage?”
So, I want to pass along some advice I’ve garnered from lived experience. Trust me, I’m not an expert, but sometimes it’s easier to hear advice from a fellow skeptic.
1. Be honest.
I start out every single potential relationship by just telling partners that I’m an introvert. This might sound weird, but it really does help a partner (especially an extrovert) understand where you might be coming from. Usually, after we get comfortable with each other, I usually have some sort of dialogue similar to the following:
Yes, I absolutely want to hang out with you often. But then again, sometimes I don’t. And that has nothing to do with how I feel about you, but sometimes I need to recharge the emotional energy I’ve spent with you for a few hours, or a day.
2. Set boundaries.
For me, I can’t hang out with a partner every single day, so it’s important for me to let others know this once we begin to get more serious. Maybe you can. But either way, it’s ok to let a partner know when things are becoming just too much.
3. Recognize the little things you do.
Sometimes, as an introvert, we don’t always make big grand gestures to show affection. Sometimes a text or a hug is the best way to communicate our feelings. Acknowledge that you are allowing yourself to be as vulnerable as you can in that moment.
4. Don’t rush into a commitment for fear of losing someone.
For me, often I feel a need to match a partner’s enthusiasm for a relationship and end up doing so by jumping the gun and committing to something I’m still unsure about. Take the time you need to learn about a partner, and expect them to be patient with you as well.
5. Don’t let expectations ruin you.
If you’re like me, an introvert who hasn’t dated much, you’ve spent a lot of time listening to friends complain about relationships and seeing exaggerated depictions of love on tv. Here’s the thing: You define your own relationship. The cool thing about a new relationship is that you and your partner get to create your own rules. Don’t like dinner dates? Totally fine. Hate watching sports? Let it be known. You don’t need to model anything after what your parents, friends, or favorite character from Insecure does.
6. Don’t change yourself.
This one probably seems pretty obvious, but there will come a time when you need to stand your ground, and let a partner know that what you offer is enough. Of course, allow yourself the space to grow in a relationship, but don’t let anyone tell you that there is something wrong with being an introvert. Trust me, I’ve been there.
7. Allow yourself to try.
I know, this is another obvious one, but it really hits home with me. Part of dating is putting yourself out there and having some successes and some fails. As an introvert, my energy is precious, and sharing emotional and physical energy with someone else and having things not work out, is daunting. The thought of getting back on Bumble and starting a conversation with a random person, and suffering through the “How are you’s,” and the “Oh yeah hiking is fun,” just seems absolutely exhausting. But the reality is that it happens sometimes. I’ve had relationships fail even when I felt like I put everything into them, we all have. Take the time you need to restore your energy between dates/relationships, and allow yourself to slowly get back out there. It’ll be worth it down the line.