With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, there is no better time to talk about the complexities of a marriage between someone who is an introvert and someone who is an extrovert. When preparing for this article, I did quite a bit of research. There are countless articles about how to make a marriage work between an introvert and extrovert. After all my reading, my experience, and arguments throughout our marriage, I have learned a few things. I came up with the five most important things to know or do in this relationship and I asked my husband to do the same.
My (the extrovert’s) five most important things:
Needs are important
One of the main topics in every article I read stated introverts need downtime or alone time to unwind. On the other hand, extroverts thrive when they get to communicate with other people. In our situation, I stay home with my son and my husband goes to work. This is so backwards based on our social needs. When he gets home, he wants quiet, whereas I have sat at home with a nonverbal child and I need to communicate. Evenings sometimes become “battle of the needs.” Recently, I had made my needs clear and made us sit down and come up with a schedule allowing me to go to the gym. This is a need my husband always expressed for himself that I wanted too, but never voiced.
Set expectations and compromise
I understand my husband does not thrive in social situations. I try not to put him in places where I know he will be uncomfortable. There are, however, times he is expected to be there and I make those expectations known. Every year for Christmas, my family gets together to celebrate with whoever happens to be in town. It is understood that my husband has to attend. He eats dinner with everyone, does the gift exchange, then usually goes and plays with our son. If you happened to be at our son’s birthday party last year, you would have seen him around for lunch, the cake, and opening gifts; otherwise, he was on his own hiding out in his workshop. It is important to me that he be present for the main events, but it is also important to him to have time and the ability to sneak away. Our expectations were set and our compromises were made.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Without being able to communicate, needs can’t be discussed, expectations can’t be set, and compromises can’t be made. Communication isn’t always the easiest thing and oftentimes we fall short and it causes frustration.
Having a routine
Routine is very important to keep things clear. Knowing alone time is hard to come by but essential for my husband, and social time is just as hard to come by for me and is something my husband does not always want to do, we have come up with a system. He works long hours during the week and has three weekend days off of work. We have created a system where he gets one day to do his own thing, I have one day to do my own thing, and we have a day to spend as a family doing fun things together. Of course life happens and we can’t always stick to such a schedule, but we keep it as a basic outline. It gives me time to see friends, get work done, clean, or do whatever my heart desires. He gets a day to work in his workshop or escape and go fishing. Regardless of our individual social preferences, we both value family time and love having a day to spend doing various fun things as a family.
Defending your partner
Something I believe is missing from every article I read is the idea that being an introvert is not a disease. It has been implied (and my husband has been told) that being an introvert is a problem that he needs to fix. Being the protective person that I am, I go on the defense. Being an introvert or extrovert is a personality trait and not an illness.
His (the introvert’s) five most important things:
Being able to communicate in a way we both can understand.
Giving each other alone time
Being an introvert, alone time is what I need to recharge and I know she uses the time to get things done.
Knowing each other’s body language
Knowing when I am uncomfortable in social settings or when I have hit my social limit, without having to say anything is very important.
Supporting each other’s interests
I don’t love doing things in a very social setting, but I will support her interests and she will refrain from doing social things to support my interests.
One on one time
Being able to spend time together and communicate without distractions.