5 things I’ve learned as an extravert married to an introvert

I’ve just recently finished recording an audio book about introversion and confidence and it really struck a chord.

James and I have been married for nearly 7 years and tend to have similar outlooks and feelings in most areas (unless we talk about the 2016 U.S Presidential election). That said, we have very different ways of energizing and re-energizing ourselves.

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It’s a common misconception that introverts, by definition, are shy and extraverts are outgoing. In actual fact, introverts and extraverts differ in how they process information. Introverts get their energy internally. Extraverts gain energy from being with other people, often the more the merrier. (Elizabeth Bernstein, Wall Street Journal, 2011)

I thrive on interaction with other people. I feel at my best and most energized after seeing friends or spending a day with a big group, in a social setting. I think that’s why I loved my job so much before we moved to Germany. My phone never stopped, I was with different people and teams all day and was on call constantly, managing relationships with clients.

James is the absolute opposite. When I asked him to make more of an effort at Emmie’s birthday party last month, he looked at me incredulously and replied “I’m talking to everyone here, all afternoon. That is my effort” And the thing is, it sounds totally idiotic and juvenile, but that really is all-encompassing for him. Overwhelming almost!

So here are 5 things I’ve learned being married to an introvert:

  • The irritating as hell habit of escaping to the basement to play video games is his way of decompressing and filtering out the world after a long day of social interaction. It’s not just done to annoy me!
  • Saying yes to every invitation going is a total no no. After a weekend of intense socializing, the following weekend has to have zero on the calendar
  • We communicate and acknowledge each other in different ways. What I once interpreted as him ignoring me during a conversation, is actually the mental digest of what I’m saying
  • He’s amazed (note, not impressed!) at how easily I meet new people, whereas it takes him about 5 years to add another friend to his already very small circle
  • When we argue, he tells me to stop talking and go away. Because of his need to think things through, compared to mine of  just talking it out

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I’m more than ready to admit that just because I’m aware of the above, doesn’t mean that I’m always understanding of the introvert’s needs for solitude, peace and self-preservation. I can sympathize but my empathy tends to be rather lacking!

N.B. extravert is the spelling we used when I was studying for my Psychology degree so I just can’t bring myself to spell it the more widely used way, extrovert!

Lucy

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