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Are you compatible with that introvert?
There is no “right” combination of introversion and extroversion. Some introverts prefer other introverts for intimate partners—they like the coziness of shutting out the world together. Some introverts prefer extroverts for their energy, and the luxury of a personal social director. These introverts enjoy engaging with the world, but don’t want to work too hard at it. (Don’t judge, plenty of couples operate happily this way.)
We each of us land somewhere on a continuum between introversion and extroversion, and who fits with whom is highly individual to the couple, of course—as with all personality traits and quirks. There’s nothing wrong, however, with factoring in introversion and extroversion when assessing your compatibility with someone new, or if you’re having friction in an established relationship.
Here are a few questions introverts and extroverts might ask themselves about being in a relationship with an introvert. These questions have no right or wrong answers, and no judgement is implied. All ways are fine ways. “I hate to be alone,” is as honorable an answer as “I love to be alone.” It’s just about knowing where you’re coming from in your relationship.
- How am I with confrontation?
Introverts are great communicators—if you can drag things out of them. They just don’t always like to bring things up. Introvert-introvert relationships are often at risk of flat lining. Emotions are tamped down, deadening the air around the couple. Issues aren’t aired and stay buried deep, like a splinter, infecting the health of the relationship.
If you’re the kind of introvert who won’t bring things up, you might want give a good hard think about whether you can succeed in a relationship with a similarly nonconfrontational introvert. Extroverts’ tendency to just blurt things out, sometimes with energy that blows your hair back, can be overwhelming, but it also allows issues to be handled. Are you able to bring things up? Are you willing to learn?
- Do I think my way is the right way?
This question is obvious if you’re an extrovert in a relationship with an introvert: If you think extroversion should be everyone’s goal and it’s just a matter introverts pushing through whatever their “problem” is,” you’re in for a world of trouble.
But introverts can be judge-y too. Of extroverts, yes–which I discourage. But we’re not always understanding even of fellow introverts who fall on different points on the continuum from us. We speak in generalities about introversion because we tend to share similar attributes, but to varying degrees. Some introverts enjoy small parties, others consider all parties a waste of energy. You can’t assume that just because you’ve landed you an introvert, it’s cozy TV times every night forever. And if your partner is a no-parties introvert, are you willing to brave your social scenes solo? Or, if you’re more of a hermit, are you OK with your partner making other plans?
- How susceptible am I to FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)?
Introverts are not entirely immune to FOMO, but it doesn’t hit us frequently and we find it pretty easy to get over. We can say “no thanks” to invitations without much worry, and we’re often relieved when plans fall through. (We’re also frequently tempted to back out of plans at the last minute, but I do not generally advocate this except in dire cases of introvert overextension.)
If, however, you suffer genuine pangs when you see last night’s party pics minus you on Facebook, you might have rough times with an introvert. Even introverts who enjoy riding along on extrovert energy will have a limited appetite for socializing.
So part two of this question is: How do you feel about going out without your partner—with friends or alone? If you’re OK with it, your partner might be equally OK the down time. (Although how many times a week might require negotiation.) If, however, you don’t like the idea of spending time solo, you might have conflict ahead.
- What does alone mean to me?
You can ask this question two ways: First, what emotion does the word alone bring up in you? Does it make you feel sad? Abandoned? Hollow? Or does it sound peaceful? Serene? Thrilling? If the emotions that alone stir in you tend towards the dark side, you might have an essential misunderstanding with an introverted partner. You might also project those negative emotions on your partner, assuming that the person who needs alone time is angry or sad. Not helpful.
Looking at the question another way: How do you define alone? I’ve heard from people who were hurt and puzzled to learn that when their partner said I’d like to be alone tonight, it meant alone without you. Do you think couples should want to spend all their time together? How would you feel if your partner needed a weekend of solitude? And imagine if your partner said, “I’d like to take a trip alone.” Could you handle it? (Fortunately my husband can.)
What does alone mean to you, and how do you feel about it?
So, are you compatible with that introvert? I’ll get to extroverts in a later post.