In a recent column by the excellent advice columnist Carolyn Hax, a woman worries about her tendency to criticize and harp at her boyfriend. She writes: Read More
Those tips are great, really. But they all assume that the extrovert will understand the introvert, which usually isn't the case. The extroverted spouse, unless he or she is has exceptional empathic capabilities, just thinks the introverted spouse is shy or cold or arrogant, and resentment festers. At least this is what happened to me when I was married to an extrovert. Most of our arguments - whatever their original cause - ended with him berating me for not having many friends. I'm married to a kindred introvert now, and infinitely happier.
Your experience sounds awful and I am glad it is behind you and you have found the right person. But I'm not sure it takes exceptional empathy to open your heart to a personality different from yours, or that extroverts, by definition, lack empathy. Anyone who would berate another person for not having many friends just sounds like an unkind person. Clearly he didn't understand you and was unwilling to try, and if you were the kind of person who wanted a lot of friends, the insult would be a crueler yet.
But you're right--these tips presuppose that the people involved are open-hearted to their differences.
Yes the key is acceptance of each other, which isn't always possible. I am currently separated from my extraverted spouse after years of being put down because he felt I was antisocial, a hermit, lazy, snobby, self-absorbed, you name it - he took every aspect of my introversion and tried to twist it around into making me feel like a terrible person. I definitely want my next husband to be an introvert - or at least a genuinely kind, accepting and empathetic extravert who values the good side of my introversion instead of focusing on the negative.
Hi Sophia, thanks for your wonderful tips and comments, very useful...
The reason why I wanted to join in the discussion is that I just broke up with my bf who's an introvert and still have questions in my mind that I need some advice.
We were having a long-distance relationship that we see each other from time to time and this last for a year...
This was not a problem for both of us as he's not a person who sees communication as a need like I see it and I'm a person who has empathy so we didnt have any problems about that. I can't specify myself as a true introvert or extrovert but I guess, I have both in me that's why it's not difficult to understand him..
However, last time I saw him everything was different...I never felt that I've faced his introverted side this much or he was caring more about me before and we had a stability in our relationship that he didn't behave this much selfish and cold with me...I was totally shocked and did not know what to do...he was treating me like showing intimacy and then taking that back...as he's not sure how he feels...
So when I get back, I've decided to talk to him, what the problem is and why he's cold with me etc...he then said it's because of distance although he was thinking the opposite all the time and talked about some other excuses that I was not expecting, at all. so I decided to break up...
This made me think that, as he's an introvert and he's with his world, computers, internet all the time, I started to feel like he doesn't know what he really wants or he hasn't discovered himself yet...
maybe he thought he loved me but he actually didn't..he only loved me because of my empathy as he used to say he has never met a person like me before...but now, after all these things and his unstable manners I don't believe in his thoughts or his intimacy or his decisions and goals about himself...
and he became so selfish, suddenly and made me feel like sht with his cold manners...
and in spite of all my empathy and struggles not to make him sad on his introvertness and accept him the way he is... he gave me excuses like he wants to end the relationship but he can't...thats what I felt and as he's not good at finishing things or saying no..so, I was the one who said lets break up and he accepted it in a very careless way as if it's not him..I mean he was totally different than how he used to be...
and he used to be a person, who was so caring, thoughtful etc...
what do you think? Thank you..
As corny as this may sound...don't take it personal. My job requires a lot of extensive travel and I feel the difference when I get home. I'm short-tempered, I think every story someone's telling, is just draaaaagging on, people are too loud, too touchy-feely, ask too many questions. It nearly ruined all my personal relationship (family, friends and intimate).
Patient people shook me up before it was too late; because whether conscious or not, I was driving people away to return to the state of isolation I had gotten used to. Maybe this helps.
And snobby. Snobby is what my mom called me my entire life due to my introverted quirks.
I had a lot of problems with my introverted girlfriend who was a great person most of the time. I actually like introverts (they are a broad group, not all the same) even though I am a very extroverted guy. If the introvert is emotionally stable and secure, not needy but understanding it could be fine. I found that there was too much silence, a sense of neglectful coldness, a siege mentality and little room for growth. We all have problems in life but I feel that both the introvert and the extrovert need to be stable and mature to work on their patterns. A difficult balance is not helped by further issues thrown into the mix. If a lot of time is to be spent at home the resources need to be there to meet the needs of both and that may mean both partners need to make a solid financial contribution to construct a mutual base together.
As a man who charges into the world, I found it hard to be with someone who receded from it and turned inwards. Next time I will probably be heading for a little more extroversion.
Kelly, I don't think having few friends is a problem. It is the quality of them that matters. Cold and arrogant is an extravert perception, not a reality, and I have a friend who has the same problem. I became resentful and angry in the end so I left. It might be fine if the extrovert is allowed to go out and get on as normal and the introvert stays in. Introverts who stay in and expect their partners to do so should pick another introvert as it will be the only long-term option. I would also suggest very different employment and an appreciation of the other partners interests.
I am a slightly introverted extrovert whereas my boyfriend is a slightly extroverted introvert. Before, I used to try to get him to go out more, meet people etc etc because I genuinely believed that there was something wrong with him and I was trying to make him feel better the only way I know how.
However, reading this blog made me realised that his mind actually works differently to mine and has helped our relationship loads. I try to accept him now and try to make him feel proud of who he is.
But there is one big thing i have not yet worked out - excitement! I love the feeling of fun and excitement when im bouncing around and doing silly things. He, of course, hates it and as a result, although we get on well, my time with him seems less exciting and less 'high octane' than with my extroverted friends. Is there a solution where both introverts and extroverts can have a really satisfying time together? Please help Sophia!
This makes me think about my very high need for variety in life compared to my husband's more steady nature and high tolerance for routine. Fortunately, my job as a travel writer requires a lot of travel, so by the time I get home, I am grateful for the solidness and predictability of our home life. I appreciate the security and steadiness my husband provides. When I start feeling bored and antsy, I know it's time to fulfill my need for variety and hit the road--with or without him. (He likes travel too, of course, just not as often as I do. And he doesn't get paid for it. But I love it when he can travel with me, he's lots of fun on the road.)
You might want to find ways outside the relationship to burn off your high octane so that by the time you get back to him, you appreciate his peacefulness and lower energy. Also, if he gets adequate quiet time, he will probably enjoy joining you and your extrovert friends.
And here's a metaphor to consider: I like going to amusement parks, but I hate rides. I'm perfectly happy to hold everyone's jackets and purses and watch them on the rides. That's truly fun for me, no kidding. And no matter how much you try to persuade me to get on the roller coaster, I'm not gonna do it, and I'll get annoyed if you keep trying. Your boyfriend may feel the same. Don't try to force him to participate and he may be perfectly happy to witness all that wacky fun.
It simply sounds like you have it worked it out well together, Sophia. Stable extroverts and introverts may well have a good relationship. What happens though when the introvert is unstable? Or maybe the extrovert?
I am lucky ... I picked a good 'un. But it is a marriage--complicated and sometimes hard work. Nothing happens by magic, that's for sure.
It seems to me that instability is a separate issue from introversion/extroversion and has to be dealt with separately. I don't mind saying that I have worked out a lot of personal issues over the years with the help of talented counselors. I am a big advocate of counseling/psychotherapy, especially when you have hit the wall on things you know must change but can't manage to fix yourself. And if your partner won't go, you can go yourself because a relationship is a dynamic and if one person changes, the relationship changes.
I couldn't find an email address for you, so I thought I'd post this link here. I hope that's okay:
Researchers Find Differences In How The Brains Of Some Individuals Process The World Around Them
The article is about research regarding how the brains of "introverts" and "extroverts" process information differently!
I appreciate the link. Very interesting and useful.
I have been reflecting on some of my ex-girlfriends and family with regards to introversion. My sister was one and turned out to be the most sadly missed person in my life. I have had some extremely nice introvert girlfriends.
With regards to what I wrote above I think there were far greater issues with my last partner than simple introversion. I suspect a narcissistic disorder so this would colour the waters a great deal. A needy, lonely introvert with self-esteem problems does not work well.
I am very much an introvert, I need at least an hour, preferably more, alone each day to stay sane. If circumstances hinder that for even a few days, I get antsy. You know how it is, I guess.
My former girlfriend was also introverted (I guess she still is), in some senses more than me. Even I got bored when we've had no visitors at all for about six months (except maybe her parents). I'm no life-of-the-party but I do have some friends I'd like to meet now and then.
Also, it turned out that her definition of "alone time" was "alone with family" (i.e. me and, later, our daughter) and she was seriously hurt by my need to be alone from them as well. (My own definition of "alone time" is being, well, alone.)
In the end, a part of the reason our love died was this difference. We talked about it several times, that I could spend more time with her if I could get some time alone, both would get more of what they wanted (instead of me trying to avoid her because I could not get recharge time and my nerves were on the outside of my skin) but it never seemed enough for either of us and after some years resentment set in and about half a year ago, we finally decided to move apart.
In some sense, my current life is actually ideal, half the week I am a single-parent (we share custody), focusing on my daughter, and the other half I'm gloriously alone and can recharge enough for the rest.
I really appreciate people sharing their stuff here. I think that our experiences...even (especially?) when less than wonderful...provide very useful information for people wrestling with similar issues.
I'm with you: For me, alone with someone is not the same as alone alone. And I need alone alone time.
Of course, as with so many things in relationships (romantic and other), it comes down to respecting and making room for everyone's needs and quirks, within reason.
This is an interesting topic for me--and one that's been on my mind for a long time.
I'm divorced and for the last 5 months have been living with my cousin and her husband.
She is an extrovert--and her husband is an introvert. In fact, she seems to surround herself with introverts for psychological reasons I won't go into.
In this situation, the introvert/extrovert schism is more pronounced because she has deep psychological issues and they do get expressed in an extrovert vein...namely volatility and lacking empathy about other people's comfort.
If she were normal I'd see how they balanced each other out. Her husband has good social skills and knows when he's had enough social stimulation.
I tend to get involved with introverts because I enjoy connecting at a deeper level--and often don't find that with extroverts. I'm very much into myers briggs personality types and accept that a deeply empathic extrovert would be beneficial for me.
Still...I connect more naturally with introverts. Preferably moderate ones.
It's interesting how introversion expresses itself differently in people. I happen to be quite social--and enjoy small groups of people--lie 2-8. I am most at ease and confident in that scenario.
I've made it a point to be frank about this. I just let people know that large groups of strangers makes my skin crawl--and I'm at my best in smaller groups. Case closed, no apologies. lol!
Hmmmm...misstated something there. I didn't quite follow up on my thought about my cousin's problems getting expressed in an extroverted vein. It came out wrong. I'm not attributing volatility and lack of empathy to her extroversion.
To clarify: she gets restless and irritable when she doesn't have social stimulation almost continuously and it expresses itself in volatility and lack of empathy towards everyone around her.
The comments here raise some very interesting points about when essentially benign traits--introversion and extroversion--take bad turns. I will think about this for a later post.
Being a real extrovert has real stresses as well. I need people, like groups and enjoy crowds. Obviously we like a rest and some peace and quiet but a wide range of social contacts is important. The phone hums a lot.
I sympathise with introverts and can understand that I may be annoying. The best situation is if I avoid extreme introverts. It does not work. However, there are many great people that are quiet and they may be pretty understanding and balanced emotionally. A degree of introversion is often a pleasant trait.
I wonder how many introverts have more serious issues as a result of misunderstanding and lack of appreciation of their nature.
If you read through comments on various posts, you'll find a lot of anger from introverts over being misunderstood, criticized, and pushed to be different, and a lot of relief when they realize that their preferences are not weird or unusual. I would imagine that if you scratch the surface of some people, problems have developed from being told their whole lives that their way is "wrong."
I would love to know more about the stresses of being an extrovert.
Alas, I am not an extrovert, however I do extend a toe over the line occasionally. Being the most outgoing introvert I know, I can imagine what some of the stresses might be...
When you get your energy from other people and high stimulus environments, something you may not have control over, you may be at the mercy of your friends or calendar in order to get recharged. For example, I once spent Thanksgiving weekend blissfully alone, wearing my introvert hat, happily ensconced in a good book.
Imagine if I had been wearing my extrovert hat! With all good friends with family and my own blood relatives away on vacation, where oh where would I have gotten the stimulation I might have desperately needed?
*shrug* Personally, I am happy that I am an introvert, since it is much easier for me to escape from the world than to arrange a party in it!
I consider myself a generally introverted person. I enjoy spending time alone and with small groups, but I also enjoy spending time at family gatherings and relaxed social events, like barbecues. I don't seek out these social activities regularly, but I do enjoy them more often than not.
In terms of extroverts constantly needing social interaction, I believe this may indicate a high need of approval from others or a constant sense of belonging to foster self esteem. In this sense, extroverts may find solidarity stressful because it may provoke negative feelings of laziness or loneliness; or maybe they overcompensate out of fear of being labeled a "loner" by his/her peers. Of course, the negative feelings are likely reinforced by other extroverts that negatively label introverts as such. It may also be related to addiction if an extrovert needs the constant adrenaline rush of large crowds, peer approval,etc. and begin to seek out more risky social activities, like social drug or alcohol use.
Thanks for some food for thought, JJ.
Certainly there are extroverts who fear solitude or need approval (just as there are introverts who are shy or suffer from social anxiety), but I question whether such things are inherent to extroversion. I don't think extroverts are driven to behave as they do by fear or anxiety any more than introverts are. We just get pleasure from different activities.
I agree, we are just different. The obvious differences between introverts and extroverts seems to be an issue of stimulation. Introverted minds seem to work on a higher level in certain areas, thus the need for solitude and aversion from environmental stimuli. While extroverts need to seek out activities that stimulate certain areas of the brain. Which makes me wonder if pleasurable introverted and extroverted activities stimulate similar areas of the brain and which areas are active during solitary/social activities in extroverts/introverts.
That's a wonderful question that I will ask next time I interview a researcher who might have something to say about it.
Greetings, I just found this page by googling "social interaction exhausts me." I was curious to see what would come up in the results. Well, thank God for this page. I never realized introversion was a clinical topic, I thought it was an adjective similar to "shyness."
Well, having been an active alcoholic (and unknown to me, an introvert) married to a drinking (but not an alcoholic) extrovert for 12 years, I can say that things can get rather complicated when we try to compensate for introversion. I'm curious to see if anyone else out there has tried to compensate and found themselves an alcoholic, married to someone "to bring them out of their shell," or medicated with anti-depressants? I've now been sober for nearly 5 years, divorced for nearly 4 years, and off my anti-depressants for 2 months. I now find this page and it all starts to make sense...and I feel fine about myself -- and much less confused. I'm not the only one who feels a distinct NEED to recharge after interacting with other people. I'm not the only one who, upon having children couldn't handle all sorts of social interactions any more....because I was using my energy interacting with my kids! I'm not the only one who felt berated by a caring yet confused extrovert for not being social, or for being a bit too "intense" when I did socialize. I still have some adjusting to do, but having it all start to "fall into place" really helps. Thanks, dudes and dudettes!
I am married to a man who is more extroverted than me, although still an introvert. He likes to spend lots of time with his family and his group of friends; which would be fine by me, if I weren´t expected to come along. Since he was a boy his family has been going to the same place on vacation every year, and he has a valued group of friends there, which he only gets to see then. So when we got married I agreed to spend our vacation there. It was a nightmare!!! Although I like his friends and I find it fun to hang out with them for a few hours each day; and I love his family as well, I couldn´t stand feeling the obligation to spend most of the day with them. His friends like to hang out in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening; and it got so boring for me... I couldn't take it any more. I wanted to stay at the house we rented most of the day, doing things on my own or go for a walk alone with my husband; but people couldn't understand that, they probably though I was weird at least I felt that, I felt a huge amount of pressure to behave as people expected me to. After a few days of this, I had what I believe was a full blown panic attack, when we went to hang out by the pool one afternoon. I just couldn't take it any more, all these people I barely knew and was expected to interact with all day, everyday... After some time alone I was able to calm down and have fun with these people, when I am well I am actually pretty talkative and bubbly... But I felt trapped, being there, I couldn't find my space to be alone. The second year wasn't much better... Now this year I will not go. If my husband wants to go spend some time with his friends and family, that's fine for me. I would like to go and stay 4-5 days, but more than that is just too much for me to handle... So, it is hard to manage these introversion/extroversion differences, even if they are not so big. I think it is one of the main problems in relationships.
But I would like to add something more: my extended family is composed mainly of extroverts, they like to all get together and have parties. For me it is an ordeal to go to these parties. They are always pushing me to visit more often, and they really believe something is wrong with me for not wanting to hang out more with people. Once at Christmas, I ended up crying while my aunt was telling me how much I was flawed. When you are in a bad relationship you may leave. But as a child growing up, there is not much you can do about your extroverted family who believes there is something wrong with you.
I found this post over a year after you wrote it, but I totally relate. My family is almost 100% extroverted, and they always treated me like a pariah just because I had different needs than they do. I feel the tension and anxiety in your writing and love your insight about being a child that can't 'divorce' their family. Oh, how I wished many times I could lol. But seriously, I appreciate their extrovertism, I just wish they could appreciate me as an introvert. Thanks for sharing :)
I so completely relate to what you say. You probably will not read this, so I'm writing mostly for myself and others like me who will come to this great discussion and find some comfort.My former boyfriend was a big extrovert who liked to spend a large part of his leisure time with his friends and this difference in our personalities was amongst the chief destabilizing factors in our relationship which eventually broke down.
I think I'm falling in love with someone very extroverted and I'm trying to find ways to bridge this difference. This is what brought me to this article and discussion.
Like you, I too am from a rather gregarious family and my introversion has always been judged - but I don't really care with my family.
Like you, I think I'll be ok if I'm not expected to be as outgoing as my partner. Find a middle ground - where I try to be a little more extroverted and she a bit more introverted maybe.
Oh wow but 4-5 days of merry making scares me frankly. Maybe I could carry 'unavoidable' work to trips like that. Or arrange to have to leave in 2-3 days. Also try and ignore the imagined or real judgement of my need to be alone or my awkwardness- I honestly don't understand judgement of awkwardness. People are all kinds and awkward people make the world rich and varied :-) Also maybe connect one on one-- that what worked when I went to a trip with a set of new friends (ha ha! even my own friends), this is what made me feel less 'left out' of things - I sneaked people off with me.
Most of all if the extroverted partner can reassure the introverted one that they don't miss too much a partner who shares in something that brings them that much joy - this I'd personally want very much.
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Sophia Dembling is a widely published Dallas, Texas-based writer. Her latest book is The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World.
When and how should we open up to loved ones?