Are you more of an extrovert or an introvert?
With the rise of personality inventories flooding the web, you may have seen that question floating around social media lately in some way, shape, or form.
But believe it or not, these inventories are not just the next fad to hit the web. The truth is, personality inventories have been around for quite some time in the professional world. In fact, as a Licensed Professional Counselor, I’ve used personality inventories on myself as well as many of my clients.
As fun and interesting as they might be to take, the importance of getting to know yourself goes far beyond a fun Facebook fad, because the knowledge and self-awareness they bring have the ability to impact your life and even your relationships.
When it comes to marriage and relationships, a popular personality scale to consider is that of Introvert to Extrovert. People often think that the terms introvert and extrovert describe whether or not a person likes being around people. But the truth is that these terms are not descriptions of your affinity toward people, but rather, how you tend to recharge.
Are you a person who recharges and refuels by pulling away and being alone? You're an Introvert. Or are you a person who recharges by being engaged with people and interacting in relationships? That's an Extrovert! The answer to these kind of questions is very important because it impacts how you take care of yourself and, in turn, how you relate to others.
Sometimes in marriage both partners have very similar personalities and traits. They understand each other because they have similar needs and desires due to the nature of their personality types.
But more times than not, married couples tend to have differences in their personalities, and like the saying goes, “opposites attract.” Opposites tend to attract because we are drawn to people who balance us out. We find ourselves pulled in the direction of people who have strengths in the areas where we have weaknesses, and vice versa. But just as quickly as opposites attract, they can also attack when we there isn’t a deliberate attempt at healthy communication and understanding. Oftentimes, the same differences that pulled us together are the very things that cause conflict within a relationship. And because of the differences in personalities, you may find yourself speaking a totally different language than your spouse.
When it comes time to recharge and refuel, if you’re an extrovert married to an introvert, here are a few key things to remember:
1. Alone-time vs. Together Time
If you’re an extreme extrovert, you probably don’t even know the meaning of “alone-time.” Because extroverts get recharged by being around people, they try to fill their time with relationships and interactions to the best of their ability. If you’re an extrovert married to an introvert, you need to remember that their need for socialization isn’t quite the same as yours.
As much as introverts love people, in order for them to fuel up and recharge they have a need to simply be alone. This important alone-time gives them what they need to be able to interact and communicate to the best of their ability. It’s not only important, but it’s healthy for the introvert to get to a place where they can recognize and request some time alone. But to an extroverted spouse, the words, “Honey, can I have a few minutes to myself?” can almost sound rude or insulting. If you’re an extrovert, remember not to take this request as a personal insult, because it’s simply a sign that your partner needs to refuel and recharge. Be deliberate about building time into each day to allow for a chance to connect, while also making room for that important alone-time as needed. Talk about your different needs, and come up with a plan so that both partners feel loved in the way that speaks their language.
2. Internal Processing vs. External Processing
For many extroverts, problems solving, conflict management, and decision-making are processes that need to be talked through. I am definitely one of those people. My husband will tell you that I enjoy talking everything through down to the itty-bitty details. There’s just something about verbalizing and articulating the situation out loud that helps an extrovert digest the information and come to a conclusion. “Talking it out” is simply part of the healing process. But what you have to remember as an extrovert, is that this is not always so for an introvert.
Many introverts like to think things through rather than talk things out. They tend to “take it in” rather than “talk it out.” They can internalize information in order to digest it better in moments of quiet. Some introverts may even need some time to step away and think before taking for a chance to speak. When problems or conflict arise in a relationship, it’s important to remember this key difference between introverts and extroverts, otherwise you’ll end up playing a game of cat-and-mouse with one person trying to “talk it out” while the other person is not quite ready.
If you’re married to an introvert, remember that it’s not only okay, but important to give them a chance to think before requesting for them to speak. Allow them the freedom to step back or step away from a situation momentarily, with the goal of coming together later to process, discuss, and work through the situation at hand.
3. One-on-One vs. Large Groups
“Bringing some friends home for lunch. See you in 10 minutes” was the simple text message that caused a major argument between two of our married friends. Being an extrovert, bringing a few friends home was no big deal for her. But as an introvert, her husband needed a warning and some time to prepare. Ten minutes of prep time just didn’t cut it when being around people was such a draining experience for his introverted personality. But it’s moments like this that remind us of the genuine and beautiful God-given differences between each of our personalities, as well as the difficulties those differences can cause if not well understood.
If you’re an extrovert married to an introvert, it’s important to remember that when it comes to socializing with others, your spouse is not wired like you are. What may seem like a “simple” get together for you, may be a much more emotionally elaborate event for your spouse. A quick text message or an impromptu gathering may come across as disrespectful or inconsiderate to your spouse. And though it might feed your social life, it may all the while be draining your marriage. Taking these differences into consideration, it’s important to learn to talk through your schedule, planning ahead for events or situations that might push one or the other of you out of their comfort zone. Get things on the calendar and find the right balance of one-one-one intimate gatherings and large group settings.
There’s no doubt that personality differences in marriage can cause conflict, but they can also be used by God to build in us empathy, bolster our communication skills, and teach us how to selflessly love in the language that is most meaningful to our spouse.
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life as well as the 21-Days To JumpStart Your Love-Life Program, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 100+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of the True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!
Publication date: April 6, 2015