Marriage Advice From A Christian Perspective

How Extroverts Can Thrive with Their Introverted Spouses

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I am an extrovert. What does that mean? It means that I get my energy by feeding off other people's energy. I write novels for a living. Unlike many other authors, I do my best writing amid a group of people. At a coffee shop, my kid's karate practice, it doesn't really matter. I just love the energy people exude. I don't need to talk to them to be a part of them, and it makes writing so much easier.

Contrast this with my introverted husband. He gets his energy and inspiration from solitude. He has no problem interacting with people and being outgoing, but it leaves him drained and needing time away from humanity. When he writes, he sequesters himself in his office, and even if I poke my head in to ask if he wants supper, it is enough to distract him and set him back in his progress.

So, imagine us on a Friday evening. The conversation often goes like this:

Me: "Honey, Jack and Jill invited us to go out for dinner and dessert."

Him: "Why?"

Me: "Ummm, so we can hang out?"

Him: "I can hang out here at home."

Me: "But then it's just with me and no one else."

Him: "Exactly."

Let's face it; if you're an extrovert married to an introvert, you've had this conversation too. So how do you thrive when you feel like getting your introverted spouse to socialize involves coercion and bribery?

1. Recognize who they are. 

I found it really important to step back and recognize who my husband was and what "filled his cup," per se. This also meant accepting that he didn't gravitate to social activities to be content. A lot of my struggle came when I was irritated, aggravated, or felt cheated by his lack of need to be with people. I wanted him to be like me, and frankly, that wasn't fair to him, nor was it realistic to a healthy relationship.

2. Be open to discussing your differences. 

A lot of our conflict was resolved by being open and honest about our frustrations. And—key, here!—listening to the other's point of view without the intent of correcting them as if they are wrong. You'll probably discover most of your frustrations are the mirror image of the others. You need people; they need you (or alone time). While you feel their rejection of social engagements is a personal slight or even selfish of them, they feel your insistence that they engage is a personal offense to their needs and selfish of you. Recognizably then, it may feel as if you've reached an impasse, but you have taken a big step to understand each other instead of allowing your differences to create tension.

3. Find compromises. 

My husband and I had to agree on compromises, and it required sacrifice on both sides. I had to realize that my husband would not only have a limited tolerance, but he would have limited energy to be social. This meant weekly social activities were probably a "no" for him. But he also realized that if I stayed home three weeks out of the month, I'd turn into a shell of myself. Our compromise? I accepted that sometimes I would pursue social activities solo. He accepted that sometimes I would choose to be with other people or groups of people and leave him home. To be honest? It was difficult at first. I felt slighted. He felt abandoned. Until we realized that it wasn't personal against the other, and it helped each other become healthier versions of themselves.

4. Seek togetherness. 

I also began to look for ways to feed my extroversion while being with an introvert. This meant I was happy to do some video chats with friends without leaving the house. During the afternoon, my gal-pal from overseas and I would be on video and work side by side with consistent interaction even though we were oceans apart. It was thrilling to find that video connections could really help fill the void while maybe not as satisfying. It also meant that sometimes I chose social activities that didn't take entire evenings, but perhaps were an hour or two in the morning for coffee. He also found himself able to look forward to periodic involvement with people we both got along well with, knowing that we also built-in time for him to just be at home and not follow every social interaction with another one and another one and another one.

5. Don't be demanding.

It was difficult, but I learned not to be demanding. The biggest sabotage to my need to be with people was myself, my attitude, and the element of entitlement I felt I had because I needed it. I found as I gave to my husband, as I learned to find fulfillment in our time together, and as I learned to appreciate quiet, there was far less resistance to when I did want to pursue social activities. Mainly because I wasn't always going here, there, and everywhere and exhausting him.

Let's be honest. It can be a tricky balance, extrovert to introvert. There are a lot of areas for potential tension. If you're in a relationship with this tug and pull, it is critical to consider the person's needs as valid and not invalidate their needs simply because you do not relate. This understanding of the other person will lead to mutual respect versus constant war.

I've also learned the value of introversion. So often, as extroverts, we assume that introverts do not like people, or are shy, standoffish, homebound individuals. The reality is, sometimes introverts can be more outgoing than an extrovert! They genuinely value relationships and other people. Shyness may have nothing to do with them as a person. It is simply that they become mentally and emotionally tired. They give 100% of themselves in social interactions, and they need time to recuperate and re-energize. As extroverts, we give our patience to alone time. We don't necessarily regenerate by being alone, but I've experienced so much joy and so much energy by watching my husband as he thrives in an environment that suits him. You see, that is a part of extroversion. Feeding off the joy and energy of other people. Why shouldn't you garner the most energy from seeing the joy of the one you love the most?

So, dear extroverted friend of mine, take a step back from your demands and see how you can thrive meeting the needs of your introverted "other." Be conscientious of your needs and be willing to strike out solo if that works best, so you both can be fulfilled simultaneously. Learn new ways to be socialized and energized, not just rely on the every Friday-night mantra that can become a wedge between you and your significant other. And most of all, be willing to listen. You'll be surprised when you recognize and respect the introvert's need for downtime, how they will rise to the occasion to acknowledge and respect your need for uptime. Listen. Validate. Respect. Re-energize.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/bernardbodo

Jaime Jo Wright is the winner of the Carol, Daphne du Maurier, and INSPY Awards. She's also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of three novellas. The Christy Award-Winning author of “The House on Foster Hill”, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing suspenseful mysteries stained with history's secrets. Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com!




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