When it comes to dating, you may seek out someone who’s similar to you in both personality and character. However, what happens when you’re an extrovert and they’re an introvert, or vice-versa? If you don’t understand the intricacies of each personality type, you may have more conflict in your relationship than is necessary. So, it’s best to know how to date an introvert in order to avoid potential personality clashes.
“Introverts and extroverts can create beautifully balanced, whole, and healthy partnerships together,” Lisa Olivera, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Oakland, CA, tells Bustle. “It takes honoring each other’s needs and learning about how you each best function in the world.” She also thinks it requires practicing patience.
“With the right tips and understanding, blending these two personality traits can lead to wonderful relationships,” she says.
However, to get to that level of understanding with one another, Olivera suggests learning what type of extrovert you are, as well as what type of introvert your partner is. One way to do so is through the Meyers-Briggs test so you can figure out your personality type. You can either do the test online or with someone like a therapist. “When we not only learn about ourselves, but also about our partner, we gain a better sense of how we work as individuals,” she says. “In turn, we learn how we can support our partner based on their traits and natural ways of being in the world.”
That said, here are more tips for dating an introvert if you’re an extrovert, according to experts.
1. Be Supportive
If you’re an extrovert, a full-on people person who gets more energy around others versus alone, it may be difficult to acknowledge that your introvert partner is not wired the same way. “By understanding what our partner needs in order to function well as a human, we can do things to support them,” Olivera says. She says this may include giving them space alone, asking if they want support, and reminding them you are there for them.
“Furthemore, you can offer to partake in activities together or separately, such as taking different cars so that each person’s needs can be met,” Olivera says.
2. Don’t Judge Them
Dan Neuharth, PhD, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, founder of DrDanMFTCounseling.com, and author of If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace with Your Past and Take Your Place in the World, says it’s best not to be judgmental. “Try not to judge or change the other person — introverted and extroverted tendencies are often set at birth,” he tells Bustle. “Instead, appreciate what the other person *does* offer. Introverts can offer extroverts the opportunity to slow down, reflect, self-soothe and increase introspection. Extroverts can offer introverts the opportunity to try new experiences, meet new people, and grow in new ways.
3. Respect Their Preferences & Don’t Take Them Personally
If you haven’t dated an introvert before, you may take it personally when they need space or alone time. But you shouldn't. On top of which, every introvert is different, so one may need more alone time than another. “Respect your partner’s preferences while also respecting your own,” Olivera says. “For example, if you are extroverted and want to attend a party, but your introverted partner is feeling drained, have a conversation about meeting your socializing needs, but also fulfilling their needs of wanting to stay home.”
She stresses that if your introverted partner needs time for themselves, respect that need by not taking it personally. “The more partners can practice recognizing and honor the needs of their partners AND themselves, the more satisfied and fulfilling their relationship will be,” Olivera says.
Dr. Dan thinks so, too. “Introverts need alone time and quiet time, but this doesn’t mean they don’t want you,” he says. He recommends letting them recharge in their own way. “If you’re an introvert, it’s OK to say to your partner, ‘I am overstimulated and need some quiet time.’ Similarly, an extrovert can say, ‘I am restless and need more stimulation.’ How else can two people with such different personality styles know how the other is feeling unless they tell each other?”
4. Have A Safe Word (Or Phrase)
Adam C. Earnheardt, Ph.D., Chair and Professor of the Department of Communication at Youngstown State University is an extrovert and has been with his introvert wife for more than 20 years. Keeping lines of communication open is important, he says, which is something that may be a little difficult for new couples. “The trick for me has always been to listen to my wife’s needs about crowded spaces and public events,” he tells Bustle. “It took me a while to learn, but it’s actually physically and emotionally draining for her to be ‘on’ for other people, as it is for most introverts.”
Their solution? Having a safe word. “When we’re out in public, and she’s feeling overwhelmed by people and conversations, she’ll use our predetermined ‘excuse’ for bolting,” he says. He says after dating an introvert for a while, you might not need a safe word. “Instead, you simply pick up on the nonverbal cues, or that ‘look’ your partner gives, and you know it’s time to pack it in for the night,” Dr. Earnheardt says.
5. Don’t Be Afraid Of Their Silence
Extroverts usually don’t love silence, but it’s often an introvert’s best friend. “Extroverts like it when introverts express enthusiasm and gratefulness, so extroverts may interpret silence as disapproval or a lack of enthusiasm,” Dr. Dan says. “But introverts often need more time than extroverts to mull over important issues. Try not to let this frustrate you.”
6. Highlight Your Introverts Partner’s Strengths
There are strengths to being both an introvert and an extrovert, and it helps to remind yourself of your partner’s strengths. “For example, if you admire your partner’s ability to be in solitude without feeling lonely, point it out to them,” Olivera says. “Similarly, they may recognize how great you are at being around groups of people without getting depleted.”
She says that when you highlight differences as strengths instead of barriers, the differences becomes less important. “Instead, the recognition of our partner and their needs becomes the focus,” she says. “From this space, relationships can flourish and grow in a healthy and supportive way.”
7. You May Have To Ask Them Questions More Often Than Not
As an extrovert, you probably have no issue with talking to your partner nonstop, about everything and anything, sharing your deepest, darkest feelings. However, that may not be the case when it comes to how your introverted significant other communicates with you. “Many introverts share more in response to questions rather than volunteering their thoughts, so ask away,” Dr. Dan says. “And, by allowing an introvert time, you are more likely to get deeper and more authentic responses than if you apply pressure.”
Whether or not you’re dating an introvert, compromising in relationships is key, and Dr. Dan suggests maximizing ways to do so with your introverted partner. “Seek compromise,” he says. “For example, take two cars (or Ubers or Lyfts) to social gatherings. This will allow the introvert to leave early if desired, which is better than not going at all. Look for win-wins.”
Dr. Earnheardt also thinks compromising is essential. “As extroverts, the activities we choose on dates can’t always be about us,” he says. “So be cognizant of the activities you suggest to your introverted date, being sure to pick an activity they’ll enjoy, like a hike in the park, a quiet dinner at your apartment, or talking about a book you’ve both just read. On the flip side, I promise, the right ever-observant introverted partner will see the effort you’re making and pay it back.”
9. Have Couples Time
No matter how much your introvert partner values their solitude, it’s also important that you continue to spend time together. “Make sure to make couples time,” Dr. Dan says. “Extroverts may need to do social things on their own just as introverts may need alone time. But don’t forget why you are together. Make time to give each other undivided attention.”
Dr. Earnheardt agrees, adding that it’s good if you and your introverted partner know what leads to intimacy. He says that while extroverts thrive in parties and public settings, meeting new people and experiencing new things, introverts see these activities as energy drains, sometimes to the point of near exhaustion. “Unfortunately, as extroverts, we don’t always think to talk about those potential energy drains with our partners,” he says. But he adds that talking about those limits may lead to great satisfaction as a couple.
“Plus, spending time alone as a couple, in quiet spaces, tend to be less physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding, and can lead to a greater levels of intimacy.”
As you can see, there are many ways to navigate an extrovert-introvert relationship. “I really think these kinds of pairings are best suited for long-term relationship success,” Dr. Earnheardt says. “All it takes a lot of good conversation and negotiation.” Of course, the bottom line is, communication is everything, and the sooner you master the communication style you and your introverted partner have, the better, though it may take some practice, which is completely OK.