Can Introverts & Extroverts Make it Work in a Healthy Relationship?
Introverts and extroverts have a vast variety of preferences that can differ when assessing how they like to recharge their energy. Anything from the amount of alone time they would like to receive from their partner, to how large or small they prefer their social circle to be. For introverts and extroverts alike, these preferences influence where they get their energy from, and the happiness that it brings them!
In a relationship, it is essential to address how you and your partner identify, being titled as an introvert or extrovert, or anything in between! Often, lifestyles can differ between the two, so when you are dating or married to the opposite, it isn’t always easy! Balance is key here to identifying a healthy relationship with your partner. Take a look at Alycia Toohey, LMFT, and Clinical Director of PCC’s, scenario to understand how slight changes can make all the difference for an introvert and extrovert in a relationship.
“I need my space” says the wife as her husband sits on the couch next to her looking befuddled. He states “How much space do you need? We are already in separate bedrooms”. Wife turns to me and says, “I just don’t feel like I ever have enough space”. As they look to me for the answers to their quandary, I think about the last thing they stated. It feels as though they have no idea that one is an introvert and the other is an extrovert. The need for the wife to have a space to herself without restrictions or expectations confuses the husband that just wants to spend time with her when he is home. They look uncomfortable with the silence I have given them to collect my thoughts.
I expressed, after a time, they seemed to have a different way of looking at the same issue. They looked at me questioningly and I further explained “Have you ever felt ‘Man I cannot wait to get home to see my spouse to talk about my day and ask them about theirs’ the husband perked up and nodded. The wife continued to look uncomfortable, I further stated “but the other person just wants to have a time out as soon as you get home”. They both appeared to be interested now. I continued “one person in the relationship loves to talk and the other feels the need to recede for a time before they can talk”. They both look at me and then look at each other and nod in unison. “This is because one of you needs the solace of alone time to feel their happiness cup being full after being drained by the day, the introvert, and the other needs to contact to fill their happiness cup, the extrovert. So with this both of you need to know what helps the other but respect what the other needs in order to be able to be the partner the other needs.”
The next week they come in and are in a different mood entirely. They report they have been taking the first ten minutes after getting home from work to have time to rest and clean up from the day. Then, the next ten minutes they spend telling each other about their day. They stated they do try to change it up every other day so that one person does not feel they are always second and things are the most equal they can make it. The husband stated he is really enjoying the quiet time more than he thought he would, and the wife stated she feels better when she is able to have that time to rest and recharge and is more willing to talk knowing she is able to have her peace too.
In the example above the husband and the wife both needed different things to feel fulfilled, but they realized they really could give these things to each other with a small adjustment to their daily rituals. The change may have been small, but the effects have been long lasting and the feeling of being heard has been a boon to the wife. She is also now looking forward to the chats with her husband and they are learning more about each other than they knew before. The husband stated the quiet time is also a good way for him to organize the things he would like to talk about when they are able to chat.
For a relationship with an introvert and an extrovert to work they both need to be aware of the other’s needs and be willing to have some discomfort in order to help the other person. Though what has been noticed is that as they help each other with their needs they are able to see the other person grow and change to be a more complete being.
-Alycia Toohey, LMFT, and Clinical Director of PCC
Being in a relationship takes balance, no matter how similar or different the partner’s preferences are! Awareness, understanding, and compromise can mold this healthy balance, just like in the example above.
- Awareness: Being aware of how your partner prefers to gather their energy is the first step. Again, there is a spectrum of introverted or extroverted-ness that they could fall in between. Everyone is individual, and being honest and asking your partner their preferences is a great start!
- Understanding: Then, one must gain understanding of why their partner’s preferences might differ, and how to best treat each other on a daily basis based on this understanding, without judgment.
- Compromise: Finally, the couple can then develop compromises that prioritize both of their needs, leaving each individual feeling not only recognized, but healthily fulfilled!