People think the difference between introverts and their extroverted counterparts are in how bubbly or chatty they are. You see the life of the party and you immediately know that that person is an extrovert.
While being extroverted and being the life of the party, more often than not, go together, introversion and extroversion is not about being the life of the party versus being a wallflower. It’s not about being able to make small talk or being adventurous or funny.
The difference between introverts and extroverts is simply in where they get their energy from. Extroverts get their energy from being around people. Social situations recharge and make them full of life.
Introverts, on the other hand, are energized by spending time alone. It is not that they are shy or reserved (they can be, but it does not necessarily mean they are); rather, that being with people saps their energy and they need time alone to recharge.
I think I have a very high level of extroversion – I love parties, I like being around people and social situations recharge and energise me.
Then I met my husband. At first, I thought he was on the shy side, which I found attractive. When I got to know him however, I realized he is extremely comfortable in his own skin and is not shy or awkward – he is simply extremely introverted.
When two extremes meet…it took us a few years, but we’ve found a great balance that allows us both to be ourselves – and happy.
Here are things I learnt from dating an introvert:
#1: You must understand that they need time alone to recharge, like you need air to live
If your introverted partner is sitting quietly at home, focused on something (it could be playing FIFA, watching Game of Thrones, reading a book or surfing Facebook) it is likely that he or she is not sad, depressed or upset with you. It is simply them recharging.
In the early days of our relationship, I didn’t quite understand this. I would ask if anything was wrong and he would say “nothing”. I thought he was being some form of passive aggressive, which generally infuriates me, and he got annoyed because he thought I was picking a fight where there was nothing to fight about.
While it may seem like your introverted partner is shutting you out or ignoring you,
stop being so oversensitive and self-absorbed don’t take it personally. Introverts do not mean to seem distant in love; they just need that time alone – it is just their way of re-centering.
Think of it like a dead-battery mobile phone being plugged into a charger socket – being quietly alone doing something that brings them joy is simply the introvert’s way of getting their energy back.
#2: You must be independent – or dating an introvert will hopefully teach you to be
This is crucial. Introverts don’t just enjoy their alone time now and then – they need it.
If you are needy and/or insecure and take their need to be alone as a rejection, you will be very unhappy. If you nag or whine about their not spending enough time with you, your introverted partner will be very unhappy. Either way is not the path to happiness.
Being with an introvert reminds you to not feed off someone else for security – you learn to be that person for yourself. And that is an amazing thing.
#3: If you value your freedom, introverts make the best partners
Because their world is so internalised, they are generally secure people who will not think to curb your freedom. In fact, they will probably be happy if you want to meet your friends! (See next point.)
Having come out of an unhappy situation with an ex-partner who was unreasonably controlling makes me value my husband’s total trust in me even more.
As an extrovert, I need social time around people to recharge and get my energy back. I have many groups of friends and I enjoy sports and activities that require many people – or are simply more fun with more people!
I appreciate that there is never a demand on my time or on knowing what time I will be back. This is also great because it directly complements the introvert’s need to be alone!
#4: Don’t expect to do everything together – and you don’t have to feel bad about it either
You must be comfortable in your own skin enough to go it alone sometimes. The introvert has a limited capacity for social situations. If someone you love is an introvert, you will not force them beyond this capacity. You must give them time alone to recharge.
I enjoy meeting up with different groups of friends, and while my husband knows he is always welcome to join in any of these outings, I make it clear to him that he never has to feel bad about choosing to stay in. I am very conscious of what I half-jokingly call his “social quota”.
This means I attend many things alone, and I am okay with that. Some friends like to do everything with their other halves, and they don’t really understand why my husband and I do many things separately. There is nothing wrong with either arrangement. Every couple is different. Do not feel bad about your relationship, and do not ever think your partner loves you any less just because they prefer to stay home and wait for you to get back rather than go with you to a big gathering. Isn’t the time you spend together quietly more quality couple time than the time you spend together at a party anyway?
On his part, I never have to let him know when I really would like him to be there – for family gatherings, weddings and important events, I know he will always be there without me asking.
#5: Doing quiet things together can be fun too
I’m hyper and full of energy, which I like most times, but this also means I find it hard to relax. Being with an introvert means I’ve learnt to find joy in quiet time and in small things.
My partner sometimes “confiscates” my phone and computer, and stops me from walking around when we sit down at home to enjoy a movie – to stop me from trying to multi-task (email/clear the house/arrange things while watching a show). This forces me to be fully present, and that time is so much more precious and savoured.
Sometimes we just sit side by side, reading, and then we discuss what we have just read.
#6: Don’t expect small talk or gossip
Introverts do not like small talk. My husband thinks small talk an utter waste of time and breath, and gossip to be both of the above, plus toxic to boot. Introverts are thinkers and they do not waste their time on being social for the sake of being social. They talk when they have something meaningful to share – something that they have thought through in detail.
If you need your dose of gossip or catching up, I suggest you find that time with your other friends for your introverted partner is not going to be very fun to share juicy news with anyway. True story.
#7: If an introvert loves you, they will love you with all their heart
If all this seems so far like introvert-bashing from an obnoxious extrovert, it isn’t. While introverts can be a little more challenging as partners at the start, they have make up for it with many qualities that make them super partners.
Because they don’t enjoy socialising and hanging out with a lot of people, the people they do choose to be with are people they really like.
If you have an introvert’s love, it means they have chosen to let you into their little internal world. They open that gate to so few, so once you have been granted that deep connection, it does not easily go away. They will value and cherish you truly, madly, deeply. #SavageGarden
#8: They protect you from toxic people
Introverts are great judges of characters. Because they keep to themselves and spend very little time talking, very little escapes them. They are able to take time and observe the people around them; able catch little nuances in conversations as well as non-verbal cues to truly get to know who people are.
They are usually able to see everyone for who they really are and not just what they want people to see or appear to be.
My friends call me the “eternal optimist”. This, combined with my extremely extroverted personality sometimes makes be blind to toxic behaviour and people. Having a husband who sees more than I do has helped me cut out a few toxic people from my life. I am much happier without the toxic baggage that I didn’t realise was weighing me down, and I spend my time these days only with friends who are true.
#9: Introverts are the best listeners
I never have to ask my husband, “Are you listening to me?” because he always is, even when it seems like he isn’t. He remembers everything (that is important) and thinks through everything I say or ask his opinion on. This brings me to the next point…
#10: They give really good advice…just don’t expect it to be instantaneous
Once you’re in an introvert’s tiny inner circle, and even more so if you are their partner, they will think through any problem you have in great detail and offer very intelligent, thoughtful solutions.
My husband will take the time to analyse and think though anything problem I bring up, and will suggest really good ideas and opinions that help me see things from another perspective.
Once you are in that inner circle it means they have full trust in the relationship to tell you things as they are, sans any bulls**t. There is no second-guessing or sugar-coating, just full honesty. This saves a lot of time – super efficient!
One thing I learnt though is that you cannot expect an answer immediately. This used to drive my impatient, extroverted self nuts (“don’t you have anything to say on this?”) until my husband explained he likes the time to think things through. You cannot rush an introvert – they will and must think through everything before speaking.
Patience is key – and an ongoing challenge for me!
Top photo from Getty Images.