We’re in that mode again. My partner tucked herself away with a book and I am feeling fidgety. I need someone to talk to. Why does she always need space?
It is not uncommon for a relationship to involve one partner that needs frequent quiet and alone time, while the other requires more social interaction. These types of differences can be a smooth and workable part of any relationship when both partners understand that they are navigating personality trait differences, namely extroversion and introversion.
What It Means to be Introverted or Extroverted
We have come a long way in understanding and identifying personality traits in the nearly 100 years since Carl Jung, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, introduced the terms introversion and extroversion to the world. We now describe an introvert as someone who generally conserves and recharges their energy levels by focusing inward, on their own thoughts. While an extrovert is described as someone who recharges personal energy by focusing outward – into the world through social connections.
Let’s look at Gretta, an executive manager who adores her team members, but she finds that a full day in-person in the office is draining. She begins to re-energize after she shuts the door behind herself at home. “This is my castle. I just want to be me, quietly, in my own space. I need time!” And, by the way, while silently absorbing her freedom in her own space, she also loves knowing that her special person is fully supportive. Later, when she feels that familiar spark of renewed energy, her partner says, “She’ll then happily yack my head off!”
How to Navigate a Relationship Between an Introvert and an Extrovert
If you are the extroverted partner in a relationship, know that the space that your introverted person needs has nothing to do with you.
Acknowledge and Understand Personality Differences
You can nourish the health of the partnership that you have with your opposite through acknowledgment – knowing and understanding the needs of your special person and appreciating who they are.
Deeper Connection and Open Communication
When you met your person, you connected and began your supportive trek toward developing a deeper connection. This must continue to be your goal today, even as you recognize your differences. Keeping a deeper connection in the forefront requires open communication. Remember to validate your partner. Communicate to your partner that you care and that they are important to you. And that you value them even when they need time alone. Good communication is not always about spoken words. Small gestures silently, but boldly, speak love, appreciation, and support.
Support through Compromise
What middle-ground compromise can the both of you make to ensure that each of your emotional energy level needs is met (and that nobody feels completely left out or drained)? Talk about your passions in life and encourage individual outlets. Support each other’s interests and outside relationships. Encourage dates – time spent side by side quietly, as well as time spent in social settings (especially for the extrovert). Come to a compromise by discussing how you will exit a party, for example, when your introverted partner has had enough.
Look for the Positives (It Takes Patience)
It is an innate deep human need to be loved and to be seen for who we truly are. Seeing your partner through an unblemished lens is hard to do when you feel hurt and frustrated. It is inherent, however, to look for the positives in your relationship even when you are feeling less than patient. Make a list of the positives that you are in love with – the things that make your partner who they are. Share them with your special person.
Patience keeps the relationship healthy, strong, and happy. Sometimes, just allowing your partner to be themselves means everything. – Jyoti Patel
Opposite personality traits in relationships can provide balance and growth. Reflect on these affirmative aspects, how you:
- Keep each other grounded
- Become better people (i.e., personal growth) – and often just by observation
- Learn patience and open-mindedness
- Listen well
- Manage conflict
If you are not finding patience, and if you are not managing conflict as a couple, you may need to Take a Deeper Dive to Heal Your Relationship Conflict.
Making Your Love Work
If you want to truly move on and find a balance in your relationship, you must reach mutual decisions that work for both of you, but this is not always easy, and you don’t have to do it alone. You and your partner can benefit from couples counseling.
Are you ready to have the relationship you’ve always desired – with the core elements in your relationship that reflect support, understanding, and connection?