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What Introverts Married to Extroverts Need to Know

Knowing who you are individually and together can make you stronger.

We’re all wired differently, and the differences are never more evident than in marriage. While navigating differences in relationships can present challenges, you’ll go deeper as your relationship grows and you become a student of your spouse. Couples often encounter differences when one spouse is introverted and the other is extroverted. This can be a pretty noticeable difference based on the individual’s personality, but these types are often misunderstood. Let’s dive a little deeper into understanding them.

What’s the difference between introversion and extroversion?

The common perception of the difference between these two is that one is shy and the other is outgoing. While that can be true, it isn’t the rule. Psychologist Carl Jung (the father of this whole conversation) classified the two groups based on where they find their energy. Extroverts are energized by the external world. Introverts are energized by alone time. 

So, are they polar opposites?

Jung discovered that people aren’t necessarily one or the other. Instead, look at it as a spectrum. There can be varying degrees of introversion and extroversion. My wife and I fall on different points of this spectrum. And it can fluctuate.

What does an introvert married to an extrovert need to know? 

There are differences in how these two are wired. So, for the introverts out there, here are some things you need to know and some tips to help you navigate your differences:

Navigating social settings.

As we discovered earlier, extroverts are energized by the external world. They are often the life of the party, and they love it. They live to meet new people and experience new places. “Stranger” is a foreign word to them. 

For the introverted spouse who likes to be alone, this can be a struggle. If they do go out in the crowd, they often want to be out of the spotlight. But if you know that your spouse is energized by being around others, you should talk about this. It’s not fair to prevent them from being in social settings, but it’s also unfair to always send them alone. It’s possible to find a balance that meets your needs and your spouse’s needs while strengthening your relationship.

Talking about their problems.

Extroverts usually find it easy to talk out their problems with others. They’re often more than willing to express their feelings, thoughts, and issues. 

On the other hand, introverts tend to internalize and think through things. They dislike conflict and will withhold their thoughts to avoid confrontation. For the health of your marriage, it’s essential to talk through issues and manage conflict together. Introverts may need to step out of their comfort zone and discuss issues with their spouse. They don’t have to talk to all their friends about it, but need to express it to their significant other. Remember, if you don’t discuss problems with your extroverted spouse, they will find someone to discuss them with. And the best place for marriage work to be done is in the marriage. (Read https://firstthings.org/should-you-tell-your-friends-and-family-about-your-marital-problems/.)

Taking risks.

Extroverts aren’t afraid of risk. They may be more apt to engage in risky behavior than an introvert. Some studies have shown that they are wired this way. Their brain rewards them when risks go well. One study found that risk-takers are rewarded with dopamine, a “feel good” chemical associated with pleasure and reward. So for extroverts, risk-taking brings about a rewarding sensation. The greater the risk, the greater the reward.

Introverts are more inclined to weigh the pros and cons of any risk. Whether diving into the stock market or diving out of an airplane, they think it through and process it. Their extroverted spouse just jumps. The introverted spouse needs to express their desire to process to their spouse. You can’t hold them back from taking the risk, but you can be their cheerleader, so look for opportunities to support healthy risk-taking. Remember, they are wired to have a natural desire to take risks.

These are just a few ways that introverts and extroverts differ. Remember, this is a spectrum, and you both may find yourselves at varying degrees on that spectrum. But most importantly, you need to recognize who you are, who they are, and who you are together. Marriage is about learning from each other and growing together. Be who you are and encourage your spouse in who they are. 

Sources: 

Neurobiology of the Structure of Personality: Dopamine, Facilitation of Incentive Motivation, and Extraversion

How Does Dopamine Effect the Body?

Extroverts, Introverts, and Everything in Between

Are You An Extrovert? Here’s How to Tell.

Tips for Extroverts Married to Introverts

These tricks can help you understand and appreciate each other!

I’m sure you want to understand and appreciate your spouse, and it can be hard sometimes. But I’m here to tell you: When extroverts are married to introverts, it can be a good thing — a great thing, even! You just have to figure a few things out and appreciate your differences.

My spouse and I are the epitome of the saying “opposites attract.” I’m an extrovert. He’s an introvert. Throughout our 27 years of marriage, I’ve become more extroverted. In contrast, he’s become more introverted. We’ve worked through and understood these differences by now, but it wasn’t easy at the beginning of our relationship. (Read What To Do When You And Your Spouse Are Really Opposites.)

We had conflicts and disagreements as a result. As an extrovert, I tended to be more talkative and demanding, which caused him to retreat. That led to frustration because I wanted him to be like me. But he’s not, and that’s ok!

Once I realized there was nothing wrong with him being who he is (an introvert), we could have productive conversations. In turn, he shared some things he wanted me to know about him, so I’ve got some tips to share. Navigating through our differences to reach the point of understanding was a good thing for us. 

How did we get there? 

We finally realized that the difference between introverts and extroverts is how each gains and uses emotional energy. We also recognized that being introverted or extroverted is not cut-and-dried. Instead, it’s on a continuum from extroversion to introversion. There are extreme extroverts, extreme introverts, introverted extroverts, extroverted introverts, and other combinations. 

If you are an extrovert married to an introvert, here are some things they probably wish you knew.

Being an introvert doesn’t mean they don’t like people.

As an introvert, your spouse does like people, but being around them requires them to use a lot of emotional energy. To restore themselves, they need time alone. Recognizing that they have limits on the amount of time they spend with others and the number of people they want to be around can help you understand them better.

Have a set game plan.

Whether you’re planning a dinner party for friends or want to attend the retirement party for your supervisor, talk about it with your spouse. Consider things like date, time, location, and the number of people. Once plans have been set, try not to change them at the last minute. Once you’ve shared the game plan, have an honest conversation about what you both expect. This will help you both mentally prepare for the interaction.

Accept, and don’t judge them.

If you’re at a social gathering, your introverted spouse may want to be near you. They may need your presence as support. While you want to “work the room,” realize that may be uncomfortable for them. Give them understanding, not judgment. Telling them they are anti-social or standoffish is not helpful.  

They need alone time.

After spending time with people, your spouse will need time to recharge. While you may be over the moon about spending time with people (and energized afterward), being around people can cause stress in your spouse. Solitude gives them the time and space to regain their equilibrium. They’re not trying to reject you or distance themselves from you. You can help your spouse out by creating an atmosphere that provides the solitude they enjoy. For example, try drawing a bath, placing candles around the tub, or making their favorite drink and leaving it near their favorite chair. This can demonstrate that you see, respect, and appreciate what it took for them to go with you to the outing. 

No matter what you prefer, it’s vital to know and understand how your spouse feels and responds to social events. Find ways to assist and support them. Things like standing near them, holding hands, or checking in from time to time to make sure they’re ok. Be aware of the signs that they have reached their limit. There’s a delicate tightrope between your comfort level and your spouse’s, but it leads to a great place. Remember, the more you understand your spouse, the more you can love, serve and give them what they need.

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-introverts-corner/201509/5-essential-tips-introvert-extrovert-couples

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/introversion

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/extroversion