The Odd Couple: The Introvert-Extrovert Relationship

So you’ve successfully made it past the asking out, first date, and getting to know you phases of a relationship. Congratulations! But now that you are in a relationship with someone who isn’t a total introvert, what do you do? How do you make it work?

For me, an ideal partner is neither a full introvert or extrovert but is rather an ambivert- someone in between. I’ve dated a true introvert and we were hermits together, which I guess defeats the purpose of being a hermit, but basically it meant that we avoided the world together and never stepped outside of our comfort zones. I’ve also dated a true life-of-the-party extrovert and, as you can imagine, that was not a good match. I was continuously uncomfortable and frankly felt like a burden to him.

I’m thankfully married now and it’s going strong. For introverts dealing with a similar situation, here is how I maintain a happy relationship with someone who is neither a hermit nor a party animal.

  • Finding Mutual Fun- As an introvert, I have certain activities that recharge me spiritually. These include hiking (I love the woods), biking, reading, playing video games, and watching movies or TV. Luckily, he likes all these activities too. Mutual interests are important in any relationship, but for an introvert, I think it is particularly important that your partner likes doing the things that recharge you so that you can share those moments when you want to.
  • Finding Individual Fun- My partner also has other interests which include things that terrify me, make me uncomfortable, and in general, are just not fun for me. For instance, he runs an RPG (role playing game) with a group. If I participate, I have to pretend to be a character and I have to think of things my character would and should do on the fly that will benefit the rest of the group. I suck at it and I spend the whole time as a huge stress ball, afraid of saying something stupid and disappointing the rest of the group. Having come to the realization that this is zero fun for me, we decided that he would do this on his own. So, my second recommendation is to each have your own interests, hobbies, and activities and to give each other space to do them. He goes to his RPG group and I have a day to myself.
  • Being Honest- It took a while to get comfortable enough to do this but I finally talked to my partner about being an introvert. I shared with him things that can be hard for me and what it does to me to be placed in those situations. For some things that had no impact on our lives, we just mutually decided to avoid the situation. For example, we do not engage with people at kiosks in the middle of the mall. We just skirt around them and go about our business because they freak me out. They are usually so pushy. For other things that are not reasonable to avoid, we developed a signal system. I don’t want to avoid hanging out with friends or go to events with crowds. But we developed signals that would allow me to subtly tell him that I need a break. That might mean that I go outside for a little bit or find a quiet spot, or it might mean that I need to leave. We’ve worked it all out in advance so that I am not having a meltdown internally with no way to get out.
  • Comfortable Silence- A good partner for an introvert will be able to experience comfortable silence. This is the ability to be together without a need to fill every moment with activity and words. It can take time for a relationship to get to this point, but it is rewarding to be able to enjoy each other’s company while also being in your own thoughts.
  • Personal Space- Find someone with the self-confidence to give you space when you need it, and to hear that you need space without getting upset and taking it personally. This too can take time if you are with an insecure partner, but it is vitally important for an introvert to have space and you deserve to have it without feeling guilty.

Much of this will take time. It will take time to be comfortable enough with your partner to tell him or her about yourself. It will take time to develop the joy of sitting in silence together, and the ability to honestly tell each other when you need space. But the work of a relationship doesn’t end once you are finally past that first awkward date, and it is worth it when you realize that being with your partner can recharge you too.



Edited by Viveca Shearin

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