Compatibility in a relationship is a funny thing. Some people insist that opposites attract, while others think that the more alike you are, the better. But there’s one particular dynamic that you really need to master—and it’s way more important than if you’re a dog person or a cat person. If you’re an introvert married to an extrovert, it’s so crucial to your relationship happiness—and your mental health—that you come up with a way to navigate how you spend your time.
That being said, there’s no reason you can’t have a fun, fulfilling, and totally in-sync relationship with an extrovert, no matter how introverted you are. It’s just making sure that you’re both on the same page about what you need and how you can find a compromise. And, of course, it’s important to understand what it means to be an introvert and an extrovert, so you have a better grasp of where each other is coming from.
Most people think all introverts are shy—which isn’t actually what that word means, although many of them are shy. Similarly, not all extroverts are the life of the party. The introvert/extrovert divide is more about how you recharge and where you get your energy from. Introverts need time alone to recharge, while extroverts feel energized by spending time with people. Once you understand that, you can start to make your relationship work around these differences. Here’s what to keep in mind.
Remind Them That It’s a Need
A lot of extroverts might not always remember how important your downtime is. It’s not that they’re being deliberately insensitive, it’s just that—because they’re wired so differently—it can slip their mind. And they may sometimes try to push you to do things you don’t want to do, not because they want you to be uncomfortable—they’re just thinking of how much they like you and how great it would be if you could join them at their pick-up baseball came or at the movies with their friends. So don’t be afraid to remind them that you're alone time is a need. Be firm, but at the same time make sure that they know it’s not personal.
Encourage Your Partner
Similarly, just like you don’t want your partner to take things personally, you have to make sure you do the same. If your partner is an extrovert with a lot of friends and a lot of hobbies, that’s a great thing for you as an introvert—so encourage it. Your partner needs that social time to recharge, so encourage them to go and spend time with their friends and doing the things they like that you might not have any interest in. Now, sometimes it’s easy to feel left out even when you don’t want to be doing something in the first place, so remind yourself that that time is really important to your partner.
When you stay home and they go out, you’re both getting what you need. We might know that logically, but we don’t always feel that emotionally, so be gentle with each other.
Set Clear Boundaries
Both my girlfriend and I are people who need alone time, so we’re pretty shameless about scheduling that in. If we’re figuring out each other’s schedules for the week it’s not unusual to say “Oh, you’re seeing friends that night? I'll try not to schedule anything so I can have the flat to myself.” Having clear boundaries can make such a difference. Maybe you block out every Saturday morning as “you” time, maybe you just get better at saying “no” and finding time in your week to recoup and recharge. Just make sure you’re taking care of yourself.
Know That You Might Respond to Stress Differently
We often think about the introvert/extrovert divide as having to do with how we socialize, but it actually goes far deeper than that. During times of stress—and even times of grief—introverts and extroverts are likely to react differently. So don’t be surprised if your extroverted partner acts in ways that seem unusual to you. “...in difficult times, they may look to buoy themselves up by surrounding themselves with friends and family,” Dr. Becker-Phelps tells Web MD. “So, if someone close to them dies, they might keep busy socially rather than holding up alone to grieve.” That can be quite jarring if you’re someone who deals with stress and pain privately, but remember that it’s just what their mind needs to process things.
Communicate and Compromise
Communication and compromise are crucial in any relationship, but especially in introvert/extrovert pairings. You’re going to occasionally bump heads and have moments where you just can’t imagine where the other person is coming from—like if they want to go on a two-week vacation with their 18 closest friends and you want to go on a retreat alone for a month. But when you find these moments, don’t focus on the events or the disagreements themselves—instead, try to get to the bottom of why you both want to do these things, what needs are they meeting, and how important they are. Getting to the root of the issue will help you find a compromise.
Introverts and extroverts can live and love together in perfect harmony—as long as they understand each other. Keep an open mind, don’t take things personally, and be open to communication. Really, it’s just like any other relationship, but with a bit more compromise—it can be done. And it can be great.