There's a lot of confusion about what saying you're an "introvert" actually means. It doesn't actually mean that you're always socially anxious, shy, a deep thinker, or hate parties. Extraversion and introversion are more simply explained by how people use what Myers & Briggs, the founders of the famous personality test, called "social energy": extroverts gather energy by being around other people, while introverts use theirs up. So after a long party, extroverts are buzzy and happy, while introverts are drained and need to go sit somewhere quietly for a while. Introverts like social time as much as the rest of the world: they just need less of it, and time out afterwards.
I'm in an introvert-extrovert relationship. My dude loves people and huge gatherings; after a day of meetings and eight lunch and coffee dates, he'll come home cheerful. I handle people much more easily one-on-one, and find myself tiring very quickly from group interactions. (My mates know this well, and it's pretty common knowledge that during parties — which I love hosting, by the way — I'll often quietly disappear for ten minutes to recharge a bit.) Apparently this match-up between introverts and extroverts is fairly common, and it brings out the best in both of us.
If you're in the position of being an extrovert dating an introvert, here are eight tips that should keep both of you happy.
1. Have a get-out-of-the-party game plan.
If you date an introvert and go to parties together, you're going to need a game plan. The introvert is going to get tired out and either need to go somewhere else or go home and rest after awhile, and this is something you should talk about ahead of time. Make sure it's possible for them to go home separately if they need to, have a private signal that means "I'm exhausted," and figure out the easiest way for them to slip out. Avoid resentment: compromise if you want to leave together (stay until after somebody's cut the cake, for instance).
2. Don't expect them to join in at all times.
My dude knows everybody, and can talk to them at great length wherever he is: on the street, at the supermarket, hanging upside down. It's now accepted that if I've used up my social energy for the day, I'll drift off from these conversations and look at something else, or just quietly listen from the sidelines. This is a massive relief to me: not only am I introverted, I'm also a little socially anxious. He never makes me feel bad about it, and after I greet the person I'm free to go.
3. Know their limits.
Get to know your introvert. When do they start drooping? How much quiet time do they need before they're up and ready to talk to people again? What particularly tires them out (small talk, heated passionate conversations, big groups)? It's a bit like caring for a plant, except the plant is hot and gives you kisses. Know the particularities of your partner and react to them when you see them.
4. Know that quiet time can still be together time.
This can be one of the trickier things to negotiate in an introvert relationship: their quiet time is deeply necessary for their internal social batteries, but it doesn't have to mean they're isolated. You can bond just as well, and feel just as connected, by being quiet in the same room — or, indeed, letting them be quiet and read in the next chair while you chat on Skype. Hold hands, touch feet, generally keep physically connected while they do their thing. It's comforting and intimate.
5. Know that introversion and extroversion aren't all-or-nothing traits.
Introverts can also enjoy social situations. It's just a matter of dosage. So don't deliberately leave your partner at home while you go to parties or gatherings because you think they won't enjoy them, or be surprised when they want to host a party; introverts get lonely too! And even extroverts can have their quiet moments; it's very rare to be entirely one category or the other.
6. Don't mistake introversion for rudeness or emotional unavailability.
The necessity of withdrawal for introverts shouldn't be overstated. It makes them good at self-reliance and working independently, and is an asset, not something they should be trained out of. It's also not a personal attack on you or your love.
When you've been together with an introvert for a long time, you can become part of their social recharging, rather than a drain on it (this can take years, but it happens). Until then, try not to regard their need for withdrawal as a reflection on the relationship, lashing out at your friends, rudeness, or anything other than what it is: self-care.
7. Find pastimes that feed both your energy levels.
Introvert-extrovert matches need to find stuff that feeds both elements. Introverts may not enjoy crowds at clubs after a certain point in time, and you might get bored in situations with low social requirements. Find a medium. Whether it's browsing stores, walking around interesting areas, traveling together, playing video games, taking in films, or just pursuing different interests while physically in the same space, it's good to compromise.
8. Learn to see their downtime as nourishing for both of you.
It can be tricky to see an introvert's sit-quietly time as fun if you're the kind of person who gets bored and itchy after six minutes. But it needs to happen, so change your perception of it. It's now recognized that a few moments of silence and listening to your own body every day have health and psychological benefits, and that peaceful isolation is part of a strong relationship.
Leaving them alone to get other things done is perfectly fine; don't feel the need to baby them or treat them like an invalid. They're not broken; they're just introverts.
Images: John P. Fleenor/FOX; Giphy.