What an extrovert learned from her introvert fiancée
My fiancée walks in from her hour-long commute home from work, drops her bag by the door, waves a vague hello and heads right to the bedroom to get changed. There’s little greeting and no smooching, and my overprotective partner alarm goes off. I go into “fix-it” mode: tell me all about it so that I can agree with whatever you say and then ramble on about happier things until you feel better!
Except she doesn’t want to talk, she snaps at me, and then immediately apologizes for being in a foul mood, and the next few hours are spent with both of us feeling awkward and guilty: me, for pressuring her and not being able to fix the problem; her, for making me feel bad and for not wanting to rise to my level of energy and excitement.
This happened a lot to my fiancée and me when we were first living together, and it led to some serious frustrations and more than one fight. The trouble is that both of us were right, we just have one key difference: I’m an extrovert and she’s an introvert.
When we realized there was a pattern, we thought there must be SOMETHING we could do to alleviate this kind of stress in our relationship. Since we’re both Ravenclaws we jumped into research mode. Granted, most of our information on came from free online quizzes and pseudo-psychology dug up on Google. But, from the reading and the talks and the fights and the tears, I’ve picked up a few real truths about introverts than can help bridge the gap in the ‘vert world.
There’s no ‘right’ way to be
I grew up in a family of extroverts, so if someone didn’t want to talk to you, it meant they were mad at you. This is true of a lot of extroverts I know: to us, introverts are quiet, sullen and anti-social. The truth is, though, that introversion and extroversion have little to do with friendliness or outgoingness. The real question is: where do you get your energy?
Let’s paint a picture: Your boss is a pain and has been on your back all day, you had endless, boring meetings and your work BFF is on vacation for the next two weeks. And now it’s finally closing time. Breathe a sigh of relief and imagine how you’d cope with a day like that. Happy hour with friends and lots of adult beverages? Or would you prefer to curl up at home with reruns of “The Big Bang Theory” and your cell phone on silent?
This is a simple demonstration of the difference between innies and exies. Exhausted after a long day, an extrovert will relax by meeting up with some friends, complaining about the day and dancing her cares away. To an introvert, it’s the social stress that has drained her batteries, and the best way to recharge them is some quiet time with no obligations and no one to answer to. There’s no right or wrong way, it’s just what makes you feel better and keeps your tank full.
It’s totally not about you
When your innie friend doesn’t want to recap her whole day line-for-line or head for the club after work, please try to remember: it’s not about you. The truth is: when put in stressful and intense situations, an innie’s batteries can drain faster than your iPhone’s. Except, instead of plugging in to recharge, an innie needs to unplug and chill out for a while.
It’s OK to have different wavelengths
Exies, don’t panic: none of this means that your innies hate you, or don’t want to socialize with you, or think you’re overbearing and dramatic. Most innies I know love to be social and love to have fun – they just need breaks in between it all to recover. So here’s how to help your innie without trapping your inner social butterfly in a jar.
Firstly, let them know that you love them BECAUSE of who they are, not in spite of it. In the situation I described earlier, my fiancée felt guilty for bringing down my energy and for getting cranky when I tried to help. Coming down hard on herself only made everything worse, and it’s an easy spiral for an innie to get caught in when they feel like they are outside the norm.
A simple point that both ‘verts need to remember: there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. Innies can quickly become overwhelmed by their own feelings, which is compounded when it seems like they’re letting you down or holding you back. Let them know that it’s okay if they want a couple of hours to read alone, or if they don’t want to meet you for dinner on a weeknight after a day of long meetings. Help them feel validated, not guilty.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you know your friend is an innie and you find her getting irritable or not acting like herself, ask respectfully if you can help. If you’re at a party and she wants to leave, help her make an exit without attracting too much attention.
Finally, listen. Exies are amazing at talking to, at, and over people—and it can make innies feel small, like their feelings don’t matter or aren’t important. Make sure your interactions are genuine, that you are really listening, and that your innie knows that you really care, and don’t think she’s an antisocial weirdo.
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember in any relationship—romantic or platonic—is to be true to yourself and encourage the other person to be true also. Let your inner extrovert shine, and embrace the innies your life for the quality they bring to it!
Samantha Volz is a Ravenclaw Jedi who passes most of her time writing, solving puzzle games, watching Dr. Who or Supernatural and lounging with her fiancée and 20 lb. cat. She can found on Twitter @SammyCanis.
[Image via iStock]