Look, I don’t want to get ahead of myself and allude to being an expert in these things, but when it comes to introvert + extrovert relationships I may, in fact, be an expert.
I’m an introvert.
My boyfriend of 7.5 years is an extrovert.
My dad is an introvert. My mum, an extrovert.
My sister is an extrovert (who, when I first noticed this strange pattern we were forming, was in a relationship with an introvert)
My grandfather was an extrovert. And my grandmother, bless her cotton socks, emailed me after I posted 16 Signs You’re An Introvert and said, “You know what, I think I might be an introvert.”
Yes, Grandma, I’ve been ruminating on this for a while and I know you’re an introvert (and a lovely one, who I’m very grateful to for not only reading my blog, but also knowing what a blog is and being able to operate an iPad). You don’t like taking calls and refuse to live in a retirement village in case someone invites you out for bingo. I get it, I do.
Anyway, back to my point:
I’ve got a bit of insight into how this whole shebang works.
So, because one of my lovely clients has been begging me to write this post for weeks now, I thought I better sit down and share my thoughts on the subject in an easy-to-follow (I hope) step-by-step guide.
1. Start with this
There’s still a lot of confusion around the introvert/extrovert thing. Introverts aren’t all necessarily shy or sensitive. Extroverts aren’t all necessarily outgoing and loud.
There are sensitive extroverts.
And there are outgoing introverts.
It is impossible to define a person based on where they fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum.
The only thing that is really clear is this:
Introvert = Someone who gets their energy internally, usually from quiet time alone.
Extrovert = Someone who gets their energy externally, usually from being around others.
That’s pretty much the only thing we know for sure.
And it might seem unlikely that two seemingly opposite personalities could be attracted and, while that’s often the way it often goes, it’s also worth remembering that we all have elements of introversion and extroversion, we fall on a scale and you and your bed buddy might not be as different as you think (apart from the whole Mars and Venus thing…)
2. Really know yourself.
Let’s start within. It’s so easy to get annoyed with your significant other for doing things that bug you, for letting you down, or for being a pain in the ass, but let’s face it, we need to start with us.
+ Pay attention to when your energy is high or low.
+ Get to know what really frustrates or triggers you.
+ Take note of when you’re feeling loved, happy, comforted, present.
Really be mindful of how YOU work and take the focus off your partner and put it all on you for a while. Chances are when you do that, you’ll see that your frustration towards them might be misdirected and may actually be all about you.
So own it.
3. Really know them
When you’re in a new relationship, you’re just starting to get to know each other. When you’ve been ‘going together’ for a while now, you might have put certain labels or beliefs on each other.
A hilarious example for you? The other week I made my BF do the Myers-Briggs test (because I’m in research mode) and, as mentioned, he’s an extrovert. He talks his ideas out until I start losing my mind (I love you, B), he shines in a group of people, he has THAT charisma associated with extroverts…
And yet his results were…the same as mine.
Yep, after 7 years, the ‘extrovert’ I’m in a relationship with is – according to Myers-Briggs – an introvert (maybe I’m not such an expert on this introvert/extrovert relationship thing after all?)
Wow has that changed how I look at our relationship.
It’s also showed me a massive flaw in the MB test, but that’s a story for another day.
Anyway…no matter where you are in your relationship, take some time to REALLY know your chosen person.
+ Is there a limiting belief that you’ve set on your loved one or your relationship with them? There are two totally different things, for the record.
+ How does their energy work?
+ What seems to trigger them?
+ When do they seem most content, happy, present?
Maybe even talk to them about this stuff, just for funsies.
4. Oh, COMMUNICATE
To be completely honest, this is the core theme of this post and is probably entirely where my focus should be. But I never said I was an expert…
It is key in every relationship. But it is overwhelmingly important in an introvert/extrovert relationship.
(Is that even a word? The more I look at it, the more it doesn’t feel like a word.)
You. Need. To. Talk.
Open up those lines of communication, my friend, and talk it out in a way that works for both of you. Find that sweet spot in your relationship where you can be open, honest, vulnerable, and real with each other.
+ Tell your partner what you need.
+ Let them tell you what they need.
+ Break down those limiting beliefs, expectations, and assumptions.
+ If you’re the introvert, maybe even journal it out before hand. Get your thoughts in order. Go deeper and pinpoint the key issue before you say something you will regret (for years, knowing that’s what most introverts do)
+ And talk some more.
+ And then keep talking (i.e make this back and forth communication just part of your life, okay?)
+ Listen lots too (you probably already do) and take what they say on board.
+ Find a way to work together even though you may want and need different things a lot.
The key is to just talk. Tell them if their music is too loud (maybe they could put head phones on?) Tell them you need some quiet time on your own in order to go out with them later. Tell them that you can’t talk first thing in the morning, or to text instead of call.
And understand that they might have some stuff they need from you too (yay, relationship)
5. If it doesn’t work, let it go
I’m sorry, this is the honest truth. There is a danger of introvert/extrovert relations not working out.
Maybe you’re giving a lot and not getting much in return.
Maybe you’re at extreme ends of the spectrum and you just can’t see eye-to-eye on anything.
Maybe your values don’t align and what you really need in a relationship is never going to be there (this goes for all relationships, really).
Maybe you feel completely misunderstood (introverts can be complicated to extroverts) and your partner won’t stop to try and get you and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
So many reasons, and only the two of you can make this call. But if it’s not working you have two options, keep going back to Steps 1-4 and commit to the relationship, or let it go.
6. Find things you both love doing
My man is sickeningly athletic. My idea of fun is going for coffee, reading in the park, or binge watching Netflix. It took us a while (read: many, many years) but I think we are starting to get the hang of it.
On Fridays we go rock climbing. He gets to scale crazy walls, I get to push myself, we work on our trust, and it’s got a healthy mix of alone time and interaction (except when there is a kid’s party on and I just want to run for the hills).
After that we get take out and watch movies on the couch.
It’s like a little piece of relationship heaven.
That might not work for you, and I daresay it won’t, but I strongly encourage you to find the stuff you both love doing.
Find your own little mix of introvert/extrovert fun (hmm that sounded dirty, but whatever works for you…sorry grandma).
7. Do your thang
Look, I hate to say compromise, so I’m not going to, because, ew.
But here’s a thought (more of an untested theory): do your own thing.
I feel pretty strongly about not having to sacrifice your happiness for someone else’s (or vice versa), even in the name of happy relationships.
Maybe your partner wants to go out drinking.
And you are happy to go along for an hour or so (or not at all).
Agree to go for a little while make the most of it.
Or leave separately.
Or stay at home and watch The Other Woman because Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann are hysterical.
And then reconvene at a later hour and snuggle together on the couch.
Do stuff you really want to do and, if you can’t do it together, maybe sometimes it’s good to have a little break and shake things up a bit (said while I’m in NYC and the boy is home probably putting together some sweet obstacle course videos – see we switch sometimes).
8. Remember the most important thing.
An introvert/extrovert relationship is HARD WORK, I’m not going to lie.
But aren’t ALL relationships?
There is one important thing that overrides all of your differences, your frustrations, your misunderstandings, and those times you do compromise and find yourself somewhere noisy and just wishing you could go home.
Even if you feel like you’re losing your mind listening to your extrovert thinking out the same thoughts for the past hour and a half. Even when you’re bored out of your brain sitting in the quiet while your innie partner has some alone time. Even when you’re so frustrated that you seem so different and it might not work out.
The thing about love is that it transcends everything. It’s easy to love the best parts of someone, but when you can love them at their worst, when you completely disagree with them, or when they’re giving you the shits, you know it’s the real thing.
Quoting McDreamy and Meredith’s wedding vows from Grey’s Anatomy (because, at this point, why not?):
“To love each other even when we hate each other.”
And that is real love.
This is one of those topics I could go on about forever! In fact, writing this post has made me realise how much there is to say, but hopefully this is a starting point!
Are you in a relationship with someone who is at opposite ends of the spectrum to you? How do you make it work?
Leave a comment below or please share this with someone you know who’s in a relationship like this!