How to Make an Introvert-Extrovert Relationship Work

It’s true—opposites do attract. But they also negate each other. Can a romantic relationship between people with opposite personality types actually hope to last?

 

It happens all too often. Two people meet, they have a great time—he’s charming and outgoing, she’s mysterious and fascinating—and they fall in love by the end of the night. There’s fireworks in his touch and a melody to his laughter; she’s reserved, but her quiet gaze tells him she understands him better than anyone else.

But fast forward to a few weeks later and they’re starting to wear each other out. He gets upset when she makes excuses to avoid hanging out with his friends and how she’s so withdrawn at times. She gets annoyed by his constant need for attention and resents the way he can’t seem to focus on a single subject. And while they still love each other, the difference in their personalities puts a growing strain in their relationship.

This is a classic case of an introvert-extrovert relationship, where despite a strong mutual attraction, a couple often comes into conflict because of the different ways they engage with the world. But don’t think relationships like this are doomed to fail. In fact, it can be the best kind of relationship once both sides understand how to love and express their love to their partner.

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She’s quiet and reserved, he’s chatty and upbeat—and, together, they make the sweetest couple.
Image courtesy of Renatus Photography

7 Ways to Love an Introvert

In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, author Susan Cain lists down some of the typical characteristics of introverted people. These include a love for solitude, a gentle or mellow personality, conscientiousness, and a preference for one-on-one discussions over group meetings, intimate gatherings over large parties, and introspection over interaction. If that sounds like your partner, he or she is probably an introvert. To improve your relationship, understand why introverts act the way they do and learn the different ways they want to be loved. Here’s how:

1. Have meaningful conversations with them.

Introverts love heart-to-heart conversations that go on and on and on. They love to know about your childhood, the milestones in your life, your deepest sentiments—and when they’ve come to trust you, they’ll tell you theirs. These intimate talks are their way to build emotional connections with the people they love.

Words are much more precious to introverts, which is why they’re drawn to books (where only important details are kept) and find gossip and petty conversations a waste of time. While most introverts can manage idle chit-chats, they don’t think it’s necessary and would much rather remain in comfortable silence.

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Introverts don’t talk much, but when they talk about something they care very much about, there’s no stopping them.
Image courtesy of Renatus Photography

2. Watch your words and actions around them.

Introverts are often very sensitive, even unreasonably so at times. (Full disclosure: this writer is a self-confessed introvert.) This is because introverts internalize the things happening around them more deeply than their extroverted partners.

For this reason, try to treat an introverted partner more kindly than you normally would other people. Pay more attention to their body language and avoid agitating them or putting them in situations that might embarrass them. If they encounter something they don’t like—even if they don’t show any external reaction—they would “file away” the experience and make sure to avoid it next time.

3. Listen and show genuine interest. Really.

As you can probably already guess, introverts take things more seriously. Match that with their sensitivity and appreciation for deep conversations, and you can see why they may be offended when they realize that you’re not giving them your full attention.

When your introverted partner is trying to engage you in a serious conversation, it means that he or she has something important to tell you. If you’re not doing anything important, really listen to what they have to say; otherwise, explain that you can’t give them your complete attention yet, but that you will do so as soon as you can.

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A great way to show an introvert your love is to just sit down and give them your undivided attention.
Image courtesy of Signature Bridal

4. Don’t put them on the spot.

Contrary to popular belief, introverts aren’t always shy and they don’t abhor being in a crowd. But they do usually need to psych themselves up before they can confidently meet other people. This is why having them meet your friends or, worse, your parents, without due notice is courting disaster (or, at least, a poor impression).

Spontaneity isn’t introverts’ strongest suit. Worse, they can’t shrug off bad experiences as easily as most people do. So if you think you have accidentally placed your partner in an uncomfortable situation, fix it by excusing both of yourselves, and then letting your partner adjust himself or herself by spending some time alone. Speaking of…

5. Let them have their personal space.

The core difference between introverts and extroverts is that introverts recharge by spending time alone, while extroverts do so by spending time with other people. So when your introverted partner requests to have some time by himself or herself, just let them have it—no questions asked.

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Introverts are not anti-social but they do get exhausted when they spend a long time with new people.
Image courtesy of Unique Colours Creative Media

Don’t interpret this to mean that their love for you has somehow faded. They still love you and would like to be with you, but understand that their energy (call it their “social battery”) has been depleted, and they can’t give you anything more until it’s replenished. Common ways introverts recharge include sleeping, meditating, and reading—basically anything that takes their mind off things and help them get their center back.

6. Don’t smother them with attention.

Introverts don’t like attracting unwarranted attention. And while they may tolerate, and in some cases, even bask in attention, it has to be in a setting that they can control. For this reason, they may feel uncomfortable or even dislike it when their partner (whether out of longing, admiration or sheer love) is constantly around them or engaging them with trivial matters.

The problem about giving introverts too much attention is that, because of their conscientious nature, they often feel like they have to reciprocate that attention and the pressure to do so slowly builds up until they actually push their partners away just to have a break. Keep in mind that introverts are naturally solitary and independent: nothing makes them want to bolt from a relationship than a clingy or needy partner.

7. Understand that they’re just built this way.

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Introverts can also be spontaneous and enjoy going to unusual places as long as they’re with people they trust.
Image courtesy of Kinici Photo

Introversion is more than a trait—it’s a result of a brain function. That’s actually scientifically provable: introverts have more blood flow in the parts of the brain that control internal processing.

They are often very sensitive and easy to offend, but that same sensitivity is what makes them so good at understanding their extroverted partners. They may be easily overwhelmed—causing them to withdraw unto themselves—but their ability to be receptive to even the lightest stimulation also allows them to focus on their partners and be attuned to their feelings.

 

7 Ways to Love an Extrovert

Where introverts recharge by being alone, extroverts do so by being around other people. The most common signs of extroversion are a cheerful personality, an ability to get along with people easily, being comfortable in leadership roles, enjoys being the center of attention, and having a strong desire for social interaction and new experiences. In relationships, it’s usually extroverts who woo their introverted partners, coax them to try out new things, and bring them to new places. Problems in an introvert-extrovert relationship often result when the extrovert’s need to engage the world clashes with that of the introvert’s need to be alone. Here’s how to love your extrovert:

1. Understand that they’re just built this way.

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There’s rarely a dull moment with an extrovert.
Image courtesy of Avior Pictures

Yup, this is the exact same advice we gave above. Extroversion, same with introversion, is not just a personality trait that can be changed at will. Extroverts are also hard-wired to behave the way they do; i.e. it’s part of their biology. (Without being too technical, the parts of their brain that control sensory perception are more heightened, thus they require more external stimulation.)

There’s some good side and not-so-good side to this. Extroverts are prone to engage in multiple dialogues at the same time, jump from one activity to another, and not take some things seriously. But in exchange, they can learn a lot in a little time, accomplish more things, and bounce back more easily from setbacks.

2. Don’t misconstrue their actions as flirting.

Extroverts like nothing more than to meet new people and have a good time with them—if you have fallen in love with one, you know this very well—and the way they do that is often through positive body language, which unfortunately does look a lot like flirting.

Extroverts smile and laugh a lot, they open conversations with strangers, and they can be very accommodating. But that doesn’t mean they’re trying to start an affair! Just let them make new friends and trust in the love and commitment you have for each other.

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The difference between being friendly and real intimacy can sometimes be subtle—but it makes a world of difference.
Image courtesy of Annabel Law Productions

3. Take an interest in their friends and hobbies.

Extroverts process things that are important to them by talking out loud. So when your extroverted partner tells you about their friend who’s expecting a baby, a character in their favorite TV show, or what their office plans to do on their next team-building activity, try to really listen. You may think these are boring, trivial information, but all these are actually important to them.

Likewise, try to support them in their passions. If they’re into sports, go to their games and cheer them on. If they love hanging out, go out with them and their friends some nights. You never know, you might actually have fun yourself.

4. Don’t blow up small contradictions.

Introverts are very precise—they think before they speak, can maintain a strong focus, know exactly what they want—while extroverts are, well, not so much. They often say things they don’t really mean, start doing something in the middle of something else, or want things that are contrary to each other. Sometimes, all of these could even happen in a single date.

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Ever gone out with someone who can’t make up her mind what to order? Chances are she’s an extrovert.
Image courtesy of Seletar Broadway

Understandably, this can be very frustrating to an introvert—but be patient. Extroverts are naturally impulsive, but they are not mean, restless or fickle-minded. Unless these unintentional behaviors are causing a lot of pain or inconveniences, introverts shouldn’t make a big drama out of them.

5. Let them take the lead, but give your counsel.

Leadership comes easy to most extroverts given their proclivity to get things done and that they’re comfortable with attention. So it’s natural in a relationship for the extroverted partner to be the one to initiate activities or even make most of the decisions. (Introverted partners are often only happy to oblige as long as they have their own space.)

However, this doesn’t mean that introverts shouldn’t give their input. Like everyone else, extroverts may make wrong decisions or they may get tired of always having to be the one to take the lead. The key here is to let each other do what they’re good at while still giving constant support.

6. Know when they need to be reined in.

We live in a culture that rewards extroversion. The corporate world prefers outgoing employees who are not afraid to push a little more to improve business, while friends and strangers alike gather around individuals who are the life of the party. This may cause some extroverts to commit to so many responsibilities and put up a façade of being tirelessly entertaining.

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Introvert should take care to be there when their extroverted partners need to catch their breath.
Image courtesy of Affinity Pictures

If you’re in a relationship with an extrovert like this, be aware that they run the risk of burning themselves out—and when that happens, their life and the things they work hard for might crash upon them. As the introverted and, presumably, the more cognizant member of your partnership, it is your duty to reassure your partner and hold them down when they are pushing themselves too hard.

That said…

7. Get up, speed up, and cheer up.

As an introvert myself, I know how difficult it is to get out of one’s comfort zones. Thankfully, I’m married to someone who is as extroverted as I am introverted. And I for one guarantee that no time spent alone feels as good as doing something new with the person who you love and trust the most. So if you’re an introvert with an extrovert partner, make it a point—every once in a while—to lighten up, take their hand, and go out for an adventure.

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Whether it’s at home or outside, the best times happen when we’re with the person we love.
Image courtesy of White Link

In many ways, an introvert-extrovert relationship is actually ideal as it allows each side to provide what the other is missing. We should think of introversion and extroversion not as opposite traits, but rather as complementary ones. Introverts foster internal growth (understanding one’s self, awareness, spirituality) while extroverts allow external growth (socialization, learning through experience, self-expression), and together there’s nothing that they couldn’t do.

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