I’m An Introvert Married To An Extrovert. Here’s How We Make It Work.
This is what ten introvert-extrovert couples do — and don’t do — to ensure both their needs are met.
They say opposites attract. So, it’s not exactly surprising when an extrovert falls in love with an introvert. But there can be issues that arise from the pairing. One person may become frustrated that their partner needs additional alone time to recharge after a long day. Or the person that needs to recharge might become resentful of their always-full social calendar. And so on. Of course, the success of introvert-extrovert relationships is largely dependent on the same principles that guide other happy relationships — namely expressing appreciation, communicating effectively, and understanding their partner’s needs.
“Relationship dynamics with contrasting mindsets and attitudes create unique challenges,” explains Sam Nabil, CEO and Lead Therapist of Naya Clinics. “But, in doing so, we push ourselves to compromise and understand each other's boundaries. We add depth to our relationships, enjoying both balance and each other’s individuality.” While, he says that introvert-extrovert relationships require more planning to ensure both partners receive what they need, Nabil says that they also can be more resilient to external stressors and general wear and tear, due to the reinforced bond from working and navigating around each other's differences.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Monica Vermani adds that introvert/extrovert relationships can be mutually beneficial for both the individuals, and the couple as a whole.
“We often seek partners who are different from us to complement traits we feel we lack, or have attributes we admire,” she says. “In introvert/extrovert relationships where both individuals are committed to working on themselves and are aware, respectful, and appreciative of their differences, they’re more likely to learn and grow together.”
By emphasizing healthy boundaries that acknowledge, respect, and reflect their differences, Dr. Vermani explains that such couples can meet in the middle and create routines and expectations that support their relationship while allowing each person to live authentically.
So what do those in introvert-extrovert relationships do to make their partnerships work? How do they balance their separate needs? What tactics do they deploy to ensure they’re both content? We spoke to 10 couples — all combinations of introverts and extroverts — who practice what these experts preach, and have found healthy, fulfilling, loving relationships as a result. Even though they might not always “get” their partner’s tendencies, these couples look at them with empathy, curiosity, and admiration, while trying to embrace their differences. Here are some things they do — and don’t do — to make it work.
1. Sometimes I Feel Left Behind. But We Always Communicate.
“I am an introvert and my husband is an extrovert. We’ve been happily married for more than 12 years now, and just like any other marriage we have had our ups and downs. My husband can easily fit into any gathering. And, while I’m not silent, it’s not easy for me to communicate with most people. Sometimes I feel like I am left behind at many occasions due to my introverted nature.
Luckily for me and my husband, we are able to communicate, which I believe is how we make it work. We pay close attention to each other’s non-verbal cues. We use open-ended questions. And we try to understand what each other is feeling, and why. My husband is in sales, so he does most of the talking at social events. It actually makes life really easy for me. And he knows that, as an introvert, I enjoy time alone. So we’ve learned to communicate in ways that allow us to respect each other’s time, and to complement each other.” — Pooja, 38, India
2. Hosting Parties Helps Give Us Both What We Want
“I’m the kind of person who loves to talk about my dreams and goals and ideas, while my husband likes to process things more internally. My idea of a fun date night is being at a loud concert and dancing all night, while my husband would prefer to go to a quiet dinner and sip an espresso. When it comes to social engagements, I usually bounce around from person to person, while my husband will stick closer to people he knows.
So, as we’ve talked about our values, boundaries, and expectations, we’ve learned that we like hosting parties and get-togethers. I love socializing, and my husband loves being at home. So this works for both of us. He can be done when he’s ready, and I can move things outside and chat with guests all night long if I want to. The one social engagement we are on the same page about is family gatherings. Each of us is ready to leave in about 90 minutes.” - Kris, 32, South Dakota
3. We Plan Ahead
“My husband is an introvert and I am an extrovert. It’s challenging, for sure, but we make it work by discussing our plans beforehand. During social engagements, for example, my husband often wants to leave early while I want to stay longer.
To compromise, we typically agree that either we'll stay for a certain amount of time and then leave together, or I will stay longer while he heads home. Both of our needs are met, and we can enjoy ourselves. And because our dispositions are different, we make sure to try and have at least one conversation every day, even if it's just for a few minutes. This way, we can check in with each other and see how the other is doing, which helps make our relationship work.” - Jessica, 38, Ohio
4. We Found The Balance That Made Us Both Happy
“Introverts and extroverts make a great team together in a relationship. Opposites attract, because we need balance in our lives, and so we are drawn to people who can bring that balance. If you’re an introvert, you need someone that will get you out of your shell and the house to do fun, exciting things and be around people. If you are an extrovert, you need someone that will help you relax, enjoy the moment, and have time to think or reflect.
When we first met, my wife was a definite introvert and I was a definite extrovert. We still are, but now we’ve come to appreciate the balance of both personality types. My wife has become more extroverted, and I've become more introverted, not due to any sense of obligation or desire to please each other, but because we've found the balance that makes both of us happy as individuals and as a couple.” - Chris, 37, Louisiana
5. We Invented a Unique Relationship That Works For Us
“As an academic dean, having an extrovert for a partner was a wonderful gift. He is great at cruising through a gathering to generate contacts and I am a wonderful one-on-one conversationalist. Between us we can work any room. It is a great partnership, and we truly bring out the best in each other.
The terms extrovert and introvert aren’t about shyness or being outgoing. They’re about how someone recharges their battery and processes information. There are things I would never have done if I wasn’t in this relationship. I’ve gone to baseball games with his friends, joined him at several events sponsored by the many groups he belongs to, and spent time with his entire extended family. And then I do things alone — like kayak, hike, and bike — so I have balance.
He has come with me on quiet adventures that he never would have tried. We spent two nights in a yurt, one night in a treehouse, and took a road trip to a small Colorado town for hiking. Through our differences, we have learned to invent a unique type of relationship that works for us.” - Dr. Elisa, 67, Colorado
6. We Stay Flexible
I’m an introverted relationship coach, and my husband is an extrovert. Like I see with my clients, how each partner thrives and feels valued is important to creating understanding and lessening conflict. As an extrovert, my husband thrives on interactive, in-person time with people. He enjoys time with large and small groups and many types of activities. I prefer time alone in nature, reading, and occasionally visiting with small groups of friends. We have learned to tune into each other’s needs, and actively check-in with each other to make sure those needs are being met. We like to be present for each other, so we know how each other thinks. As an extrovert, he can often happily talk all the way through a topic with no break. As an introvert, I need to think deeply about a topic before engaging. We don’t push each other into our preferred styles. Instead, we try to stay flexible and allow the reflection process to happen in ways that benefit both of us, and our relationship.” - Susanne, 66, Tennessee
7. We Respect Each Other’s Needs
“It’s not as simple as ‘an extrovert likes people, an introvert doesn’t.’ Introverts gain energy from time spent alone and are drained by being around too many people. Extroverts gain energy from being around others and find it draining to be alone. Both can do the opposite of what they are naturally inclined towards, but they need to make sure they get enough of what they need to stay healthy.
When you are in a fulfilling relationship, you respect the needs of your partner. You also let your partner know that you appreciate them. If there is an activity that I want my introverted spouse to participate in — because I like being with him — I make it clear that his presence is wanted and appreciated. I also acknowledge the need he will have for downtime after. If we were both introverts, we might have difficulty pushing each other to get things done or to make connections in the community. If we were both extroverts, we might overschedule our social lives or become competitive. So I appreciate what we each bring to the relationship. ” - Holly, 54, Connecticut
8. We Have Very Specific Modifications to Our Daily Lives
“My husband and I are extreme opposites on this. I’m the extrovert, he’s the introvert. We make it work through very specific modifications to our daily lives. Every Monday I have alone time scheduled in my calendar. I either get the house or part of the house to be alone in and recharge from the weekend’s activities. We have quick signals that we can use among social situations to indicate that either my social battery is drained and I need to go home, or that he’s enjoying where he’s at and wants to stay.
My signal for my social battery running low is taking my thumb and index finger and bringing them together, much the way you zoom out on an iPad. My partner’s signal that he’s riding high with extroversion is to make a little fist and then explode his thumb and fingers outward like a firework. Sometimes parties are great because I can lean on him to be more social and carry the socialization for us. Most importantly, we have ongoing communication about what it's like to be an introvert/extrovert so we better understand each other.” - Ryan, 37, Texas
9. We Each Work To Understand What The Other Needs
“At times, expectations are off due to our natural tendencies. For example, maybe I expect my husband to be excited to tell me about something that happened during the day, but he is quieter and needs time to internally process things before communicating them to me. I have learned to be more patient. I also tend to over-talk about my days, which can be overwhelming. Another issue we have is that whenever we do dive deep about heavy things or complicated situations, I can only talk about it for so long before feeling "full".
My husband has learned to not bring up these topics casually, but rather plan a time when we can discuss them so I don't feel overwhelmed in those moments. We both work to understand what the other person needs. If he needs some quiet time, he can tell me that in a way that's not offensive. If I need to get out all my thoughts, I can tell him that freely, and he will either listen right then, or give me time later that day to get it all out. The ultimate thing that works for us is genuinely wanting to understand how the other person ticks, so we can connect with each other on our own levels.” - Natalie, 28, Indiana
10. We Stay Patient
“At the beginning of our relationship, I often found myself frustrated by my partner’s hesitancy to spend time in social gatherings or meet new people. We actually had quite a few arguments about it, and sometimes I wondered if we were actually a good match. He is a native Italian, and as he became more comfortable speaking English in public — while we still lived in New York — he became more comfortable in social situations. It made me happy, and he told me how much more at ease he felt because I was there.
Truly, he is a great conversationalist. But people can exhaust him. When he shared his appreciation for how it was to be in a group with me there to support him that made a big difference in how I felt. As an extrovert, I couldn't be more grateful for my wonderful introvert. He’s brought some much-needed peace into my frantic life. I'm so glad we stuck it out and came to appreciate each other's strengths.” - Nathan, 41, Italy
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