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How Can an Introvert and an Extravert Get Along?

So you’ve stumbled into a relationship, you’ve met someone who was looking disturbingly like they may be mr or mrs right.  And then you realise what the problem is: you’re an introvert and they are an extravert.  Is it possible?  Can it work?

Right off, I’m going to unashamedly say that I’m an introvert.  This article is from an introvert’s perspective (specifically an introvert who has spent the past half decade living with and loving an extravert)  So it shows my side of the story, my needs and the compromises I make that seem to work.

Why Consider Dating an Extravert?

Wel, first off, they are easier to find.  In short, the extravert will come and talk to you while you’re feeling shy or frazzled.  Introverts you only get to connect with in safe spaces.  Secondly, an extravert is able to add quite a lot to your social life – they go places and do things that to an introvert sound scary and exhausting – but as an extrovert’s partner, you get to pick and choose which of these you might like to grow.  Extroverts also handle all the small talk that you, as an introvert want to avoid.  You get a buffer between you and all the irritating, tedious parts of the world.

So what are the problems of dating an Extravert?

Introverts and extroverts often don’t understand one another.  As an introvert, I enjoy spending time on my own, or sitting around thinking or reading a book.  Mrs Extravert looks at me and thinks “poor guy, he must be so bored” and starts trying to entertain me.  Its a loving, caring, and totally unneccessary behaviour on her part.

Similarly, I’ve realised that the way Mrs Extravert likes to think is by talking things through with me – her world doesn’t quite seem real until she has discussed it with someone else.  I have to put aside my thinking time to talk with her, so that she gets a chance to think out loud.

Differences in energy are the big issue.  Often I’ll be having a wonderful, quiet, weekend.  After a week of work in an office, the weekend is my introvert chance to hide away in my cave and refill myself.  And then I’ll look over at mrs Extravert, and she’ll be pacing around like a tiger in a zoo – a tiger whose enclosure is far too small.  She needs to be out in the world, not cooped up at home.  The answer here is to remember “We don’tt always have to do everything together”  Sure, I will put side some of my energy to go with her – exploring the world with an extravert is more fun (Mrs extravert basically knows everyone in the world – so I can be sure of meeting interesting people), but she also knows  I need time alone.  I slink off to coffee shops or just lock myself away in my office, while I encourage her to spend time with her friends.

Can introverts’ and extraverts’ friends be a problem?

Only if you mix them!

This is an overgeneralisation, but introverts tend to have a small circle of friends they have known for years, and trust totally.  Extraverts tend to flit between large crowds of other extraverts that they may or may not know particularly well.  Their crowd changes as their mood changes, and they can go months or years without seeing a friend, then pick up as if it didn’t really matter (introverts – this seems strange and odd to you – but consider an extravert reading that passage, they won’t realise there is anything odd at all, it’ll seem like that passage was a waste of time to them – thats just how their relationships work)

In fact, I’ve noticed that introverts can envy the range and number of friends extraverts have, while extraverts envy the depth and stability on introvert friendships.

The problem is when they mix.  When an introvert is thrown into an extravert party, the other extraverts will tend to wonder why he is ignoring them or spurning them.  Introverts can come across as aloof and superior – especially if they get a little tired.  When an extravert meets a group of introverts, they begin to flit over them like the rest of their friends.  For introverts this is just plain weird -the relationship won’t have been built on firm enough foundations for the sort of friendship the extravert wants.

My advice is – do everything in small measures, and keep groups of friends fairly separate.  Pay attention to energy – and especially never let your introvert get drained in a social situation – make sure he has a bolt hole to escape the massed crowd of extraverts when he gets too tired.  As for the extravert – ask her to tone it down a bit when she is with the introverts – and make sure she knows how important these friendships are.  It really is important that an extravert is careful around an introvert’s friends.  Probably the best way to handle it is with meeting one friend at a time, so that the introverts have the balance of power.

But is it worth it?

Four years of marriage says yes.  I wouldn’t trade Mrs Extravert for her weiht in gold.  She has improved me (even if I had to be pulled screaming) and I have refined her.  Its still a challenge – its the core challenge at the heart of our relationship.  But we both recognise it and understand it.  And as an introvert, I’ve made a special effort to talk about it with her, because that it what makes it real and understandable in her world.