Opposites attract, right? Sure, but they can also drive you nuts. My husband and I spent a whopping whole year in marriage prep (we actually took it pretty seriously) before we tied the knot, but we are still routinely running into little glitches derived from the fact that we have two very different personalities.
Fortunately for us, most of the tension thus far has been solved by fully accepting one small thing: he is an introvert, and I am an extrovert. Since extroverts tend to get more attention than our fellow introverts—afterall, statistically, there are more of us—here are four of my epiphanies about introverts that became game-changers for my marriage and made our home far happier.
They really need quiet time. (But not all the time.)
As an extremely extroverted person, I come home from work ready to talk all evening long—even when I am exhausted. Human interaction is how I unwind and recharge, so when we were married and started living together, I was thrilled to have someone always there, all the time, ready to listen. Dream!
Unfortunately for me, my introverted husband unwinds and recharges with quiet time (often alone). He does his best to listen—he really does—but after so much talking, he finally asserted one day that quiet time needed to be just that: quiet.
He's a fairly social person, so he is happy to talk and go out with friends. He is also happy to let me talk his ear off for the first 30 minutes after I walk in the door as I process everything that happened in my day. But at the end of the day, he likes to read in silence or listen to a podcast before bed. Over the past few months, I have had to learn how to give him this time when he needs it. It’s not always easy, especially if I have a lot I want to share, but it's of paramount importance for his well-being—which, since we're now married—affects my own well-being, too.
They really do want to talk about themselves.
Although I may walk into the kitchen after work immediately ready to share every detail of my day, my husband is rarely as ready to talk about his. Or, if he does share a significant event, he doesn’t always explain why it is important to him.
At first, I made the mistake of assuming that if he didn't bring something up, he didn’t want to talk about it. Turns out, that's actually an unfair and inaccurate assumption. I've since learned that just because introverts don’t volunteer information, it doesn't mean they don't want to share things about their lives—they're often simply waiting for an invitation to do so.
In the past few months, I have worked hard to be proactive in asking him about the things that I know are important to him. I’ve also gotten better at understanding when to ask questions that prompt him to process events: Why was that your favorite part? Is this something you'd want to do again?
That said, depending on the situation, he might not always be ready to share at that moment, just because I've asked. There are certain instances I need to trust and accept that my introverted man will open up to me when he is ready—even if that’s a little further down the road than I would like.
Whether good or bad, your introvert needs space to process what just happened.
We knew before we got engaged that we could work through most disagreements by talking them out, but one thing I didn’t realize until we actually lived together was that my husband needs his own space to process the dispute before he is ready to talk about it. This can be a challenge for me.
In fact, learning to navigate when and how to give that space has been one of our biggest challenges as a newlywed couple. But I can assure you that the effort has been worth it! Being able to give my introvert even two to three minutes of space before we dive into working through a problem yields significantly better results than trying to push through an argument without giving him space to think about it.
And, strange for me to realize, this need for space actually applies to good news too! I've realized that even if something wonderful just happened: a raise or free tickets to his favorite concert, he may still need a second to process and enjoy the moment without words before he is ready to spill over in enthusiasm.
It's my job to try to and remember this, and, if necessary, it's his job to gently remind me.
Your introvert probably wants you to get better at listening.
I’ve dated guys as extroverted as myself in the past. It was fun! But sometimes, I felt like they weren't that good at listening (and I'm pretty sure they felt the same about me). One thing my relationship with my introvert has routinely reminded me is that I’m not the world’s greatest listener (far from it, actually). My tendency to interrupt or overshare has crossed the line from ‘annoying’ to ‘hurtful’ a time or two.
My husband, on the other hand, is much better at letting me talk about the parts of my day that I just can’t wait to tell him. He learned very quickly that letting me ramble sometimes is good for me—as a wife, as an employee...as a human! Frankly, without his incredible listening skills, I would not be the person I am today. And his natural ability to listen is always a solid reminder that I need to listen just as well, too.
Happy couples don't just figure out how to manage personality differences, they also leverage them to make their relationship richer. But, in order for that to be possible, we first need to create an environment at home where both individuals can thrive. If applied, these little reminders can fundamentally enhance your understanding of your partner, and consequently, help your relationship flourish.