Ken Page L.C.S.W.

Finding Love


Sparkle Versus Glow—and What That Means for Your Love Life

An illuminating dialogue with Sophia Dembling, author of 'Introverts in Love'

Posted Mar 14, 2015

I recently had a dialogue with Sophia Dembling, author of Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After, a wonderful book which serves as a user’s manual on romantic intimacy for introverts and the people who love them. Both of us had books come out at about the same time concerning the search for love. Dembling captured the complementarity of our books (which often sit on the same shelves) when she said, "Both books are about accepting, respecting, and loving our own essence in order to find that special person who will accept, respect, and love us as we deserve."

In my book, Deeper Dating: How to Drop the Games of Seduction and Discover the Power of Intimacy, I explain that the places where we are the most insecure frequently reveal our greatest gifts: gifts that have to power to profoundly improve our search for healthy love. My talk with Sophia illustrated that concept in some very exciting new ways. I consider myself an ambivert with strong extrovert tendencies. My partner is an introvert. One of my great joys in reading Sophia's book was in coming to a fuller understanding of the beauty inherent in introversion. There is much of value in this wise handbook, but the message that stood out most for me is captured in this statement she made:

"I think the message I really want introverts to hear is that even though extroverts can command a room and draw attention to themselves, we are not invisible. We have wonderful quiet qualities, and if we respect them and allow ourselves to be who we are, we will attract the notice of people who will love us for those qualities. My slogan for this: Extroverts sparkle, introverts glow."

Sparkle and glow. It became clear to me that the distinction between these two attributes is of profound importance.

Sophia continued, "I think a lot of introverts can sparkle when we need to, but that's a mask. A useful mask and highly functional, but it does cover up our glow. I think we have to learn when to put on the extrovert—I call it my dog and pony show—and when we can sit back and let the glow through.”

I really wanted to hear more about this glow: "Can you tell me more about glow? What feeds it? And what happens when we allow it to be cherished and nurtured?"

Sophia responded, "I think our glow comes from that quietness, our ability to be still and observe, our great listening skills. There is actually a lot of energy behind the quiet facade, and I think that feeds the glow—if people slow down enough to notice. And people who are drawn to our glow and are still enough to appreciate it are rewarded with the kind of focused attention that we all crave. (The caveat: We also have to be allowed to get away by ourselves in order to keep that glow going.)

"And we can be very loyal—we are selective about who we invest time in. The people who both appreciate our glow and give us space to be ourselves win our loyalty.”

In listening to her and in reading her book, I also appreciated the qualities of introversion in me: my need for silence and my hunger for time alone; that beautiful gathering of forces that happens when I'm left alone—and when I am capable of leaving myself alone.

Our conversation left me reflecting on the important concept of sparkle versus glow, a distinction which, to a very large degree, defines the entire quality of our search for love:

  • The over-valuing of sparkle leads to a nagging sense of inner emptiness. Not to mention a romantic history full of bad relationships.
  • Sparkle accents a good life. Glow sustains it.
  • An inordinate need for sparkle demonstrates—and intensifies—low self-esteem.
  • I used to think that sparkle was the sign of love. Which led to chronic singlehood and decades of romantic frustration.
  • My partner, an introvert, sprinkles our days with small acts of kindness but leaves no signature. I know that I miss many of these acts—but the ones that I notice spark a wonderful glow in me.
  • Glow, when cherished, becomes sparkle. The kind of sparkle you want to build your life around.
  • As Sophia points out, sparkle is heavily rewarded in our culture. Glow is often undervalued and overlooked.

In 1985, evolutionary psychologist David Buss published the results of an extensive study of the traits people rate as most important in finding a mate. His finding was clear. Number one was not good looks. Nor was it wit nor charm nor confidence nor success. It was kindness and understanding—across cultures, ages, and genders. Gifts that, according to Dembling, are native to many introverts.

This is not to put introversion on a pedestal. As I say in Deeper Dating, each of our innate gifts needs its complement in order to have legs in the world. As an extrovert, the key factor that saved me from my history of “chronic singlehood” has been my ability to put the thrall of sparkle in perspective and cultivate a taste for the deeper joys of glow.

For introverts, the journey to find love might involve a growing recognition of their own innate and unrecognized sparkle.

Sparkle and glow—how have these qualities influenced and shaped your own romantic history? Sophia and I would love to hear your stories.                                                 

© Ken Page

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