Introverts vs. Extroverts: How to Navigate Relationships When You Have Different Social Needs

The terms introversion and extroversion became part of our vocabulary through the work of Carl Jung and different personality studies. It is also one of the four areas identified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a common test given to analyze personality and cognitive style. According to many personality theories, everyone has some degree of both introversion and extroversion. However, people often tend to lean one way more than the other. The difference between extroverts and introverts is how they gain their energy, how they deal with stress, and their preferred way of dealing with the world. For introverts, they gain their energy from spending time alone and value their own thoughts and feelings over the external world. Extroverts gain their energy from other people, use their energy to attract people to them, and they get recharged from social outings. But how do you navigate a relationship between an introvert and an extrovert? It may seem like you are total opposites, but I like to think of it is as being complimentary. One is not greater than the other, they just are different ways people process their feelings and where they place importance in the world.

What do you do when two different personality types combine in a loving relationship?

Communicate honestly and often.

It is important to be able to communicate your social needs to your partner. If you feel “trapped” at home or bored all the time while your partner is enjoying staying in, you aren’t getting your needs met.
If you are uncomfortable in large gatherings where you don’t know anybody or find yourself dreaming of your couch, some yoga pants, and your Netflix account while you are at social gatherings, you maybe aren’t communicating your needs to your partner. It may sound hopelessly difficult (won’t one person always be sacrificing for the other?). But there are ways to make it work! If you let your partner know that you aren’t comfortable or don’t enjoy settings for long periods of time, you can come up with a game plan together. Since you can’t avoid everything that you don’t love doing, find out what you CAN deal with.

Check in with each other. Set time limits.

Maybe you’ll feel better at a party if you know in advance how long you will be staying? Having a time limit can let the extrovert know when to begin winding down and the introvert has something to look forward to in a social setting. One way to check in with your partner or to communicate your needs could be coming up with a secret code word at a party to let the other person know that you are feeling flooded (i.e. “Hey baby, I think the Dodgers are playing tonight” *wink wink*).

What if you asked your partner if you could invite a friend over for movie night to create a social aspect to staying in? Negotiate how many nights a week you need to stay in (or go out) and find a happy medium that works for the BOTH of you. Most importantly, take time to really enjoy each others company (and appreciate the other person for being there with you), especially when the other makes an effort to assimilate to your social style for the evening. Don’t forget to set aside a few days for just the two of you!

Allow each other space to get their needs met.

If your partner needs more social time, would it be okay if they went out with friends without you? If your partner needed alone time, are you able to recognize that it may not be about something you did but that they may just need some space to unwind? Make adjustments so that your partner can de-stress effectively without sacrificing the needs of the other partner all the time. Sometimes taking ownership of what your needs actually are is the hardest part of making it work. I know that even in my own life I’ve had to realize that I align most often with extroversion. I’ve had to work out how to meet my social needs while still being attentive to my family. It is a constant negotiation, but well worth the fight.

Embrace the differences.

It’s like the old Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang; apparent opposites or contrary forces that are actually complementary (rather than opposing) and interconnected. They can give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another and form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than its individual parts. The introvert can create a peaceful home environment for the couple and initiate meaningful conversations. The extrovert can bring new friends into your lives and help initiate new life experiences that studies say can create lasting happiness in couples. Work together to create a life that is dynamic and healthy. With your powers combined…..!!!!!



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