I am a super-introvert, and my husband definitely is not. Not that he’s an extrovert—that actually might have been easier to adapt to since he would have had a broader social circle to run around with and would have depended on me less for social stimulation. But he’s sorta in the middle of introversion and extroversion which means that he prefers to spend most of his time with one or two of his favorite people. And that almost always includes me.
So, spending time together gives him social energy, while mine becomes depleted (as is the case with all of my social interactions).
When we were dating this was one of our biggest sources of conflict and one that we knew needed to be figured out if we were going to stay in the relationship long-term. With a few tips from some friends, and with a lot of trial and error, we found ways to make it work.
The lists below are some of those suggestions and experiments that panned out, as well as a couple ideas we’ve yet to try (we’re continually “in process” about this). Some are ways each of our energy needs can be met, and some are ways to compromise so that he gets a little less energy from me than he’d like, and I expend a little more energy for him than I’d like.
Getting some alone time:
- He cooks dinner while I read or work on a project in another room
- Exercise at different times and places
- Run errands by myself
- I read or journal while he plays video games or watches YouTube videos
- I wake up a little earlier than he does to drink my coffee in the silence of the morning
- Take a solitary walk around the block to clear my head
Do less-interactive activities together:
- Watch TV or movies together
- Find a fun and low-energy activity nearby that we can focus our attention on but still be together and have a shared experience
- Listen to mellow music in the car
- Sit next to each other at restaurants instead of across so we can people watch and so we don’t have to project our voices when we make comments—plus we can communicate affection non-verbally with an arm around the waist or resting a hand on the leg
- Get a couple’s massage
Bring in a couple extra people:
- Have another couple over for dinner, let everybody else carry the conversation
- Have a game night with a small group of friends—it gives my husband something to look forward to socially so he’s a little less dependent on me, and the games give us an activity to focus on instead of having to search for things to talk about
- Go out dancing, hiking, or bicycling—all are physical ways to work off pent-up energy, and if you do them with others you can get some light conversation in between being focused on the activity
- I hang out one-on-one with a girlfriend while he hangs out with one of his guy friends
Managing my introversion definitely looks a lot different now than in my singleness when I made all my decisions for myself, by myself. It is challenging to compromise, but I found a man for whom it was worth giving up my overly-indulgent solitude. In return I got a more healthy and stable inter-dependence. And I get the chance to continually practice the introverted self-acceptance I was forced to learn three years ago in China. Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten that if I’d married an extrovert.
Plus, I have the feeling that the current energy adjustment with my husband is preparing me for what will be an even more extreme energy challenge in the future: parenthood. Oh, Lord have mercy on me when that day comes…