Introverts and Extroverts in Love (Psychology Today, March 2010)

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… here’s some amateur advice from a professional introvert.

Remember that your way is just one way: Introversion and extroversion are of equal value. One is no better than they other; they’re just different. Once you recognize the differences, respect them in yourself and your partner. No eye rolling, no snide remarks, no guilt trips, no apologies, no shame.

Embrace the differences: Yin and yang, make it work for you. The extrovert can bring new people into your lives, the introvert can create peaceful spaces in the home and the relationship. The differences can enhance your relationship if you work with them rather than fight (over) them.

Set guidelines for socializing: If you don’t want to socialize much, then your extrovert is entitled to the freedom to socialize solo, no guilt trips. And if you like deep, intimate conversations with your friends, do you really need your partner there? The rule in my marriage is that neither of us is required to participate in any particular social event, but we do grant special requests when the other says “pretty please.”

Take responsibility for your comfort outside your comfort zone:  First, figure out how to make the best of any situation, since you can’t avoid everything you don’t love. Maybe meeting new people is easier if you do something–flea market, street fair, gallery opening–rather than sitting around making get-to-know-you chit-chat. Maybe you feel better about parties if you and your partner agree in advance how long you’ll stay, or even take two cars. Then speak up, step up, take responsibility, no whining. The same goes for the extrovert.

Figure out the phone: The telephone can be a surprising source of tension. Must one person answer every ring because the other doesn’t want to? My husband uses his cell phone exclusively so if I don’t feel like answering our home phone (as is the case 97.9 percent of the time), he doesn’t care. And while he will e-mail during the day for necessary discussions (i.e. dinner) , I call sometimes, too, since that’s more convenient for him–although he agrees that I’m terrible on the telephone.

Negotiate quiet time: My husband is an early bird and I’m a night owl so we each get daily solitude that way. (I work alone, but that’s different from unwinding alone.) I also travel alone on business and he doesn’t mind being an occasional  bachelor. Actually, he kinda likes it. Some solitude is important for everyone, especially introverts.You don’t have to apologize for this, but you do need to be gracious about it. For example, insist on quiet time after work if you need it, but your partner should then get your undivided attention for equal time. If you have kids, which we do not, you have another layer to the negotiation.

I read this piece when it first came out and it rang so true! I am a true introvert, married to a raging extrovert, and much of this applies. I laughed out loud at the section on the telephone….he has to answer the phone regardless of what the display says, and I, like the author, ignore it the vast majority of the time.

I’ve hit paydirt in a way because I’m at home all day alone, with kids and spouse at school/work, so I get lots of peace. I find it extremely distracting to have anyone else in the house with me during the day. My stress and headache frequency went way down when I stopped working the regular nine-to-five and I’ve come to believe it has a lot to do with being able to be alone more.

Would love to hear from others in a similar introvert/extrovert situation.

Your thoughts?

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