If the old saying, “opposites attract” is true, then there is every likelihood that your partner is the complete opposite of you. Initially this may not seem like a huge factor in your relationship; you enjoy each other’s company and genuine appreciation means you are able to overlook your differences.
But what happens when you are living together and your partner displays some characteristics that are just plain strange to you? How do you cope when you want to go out and all they want to do is lock themselves up in a quiet room for an hour, alone? How do you respond when your partner develops that distant expression two thirds of a way through a social outing and is unable to communicate effectively with your friends, let alone you, for the rest of the evening? If these circumstances ring true to you, chances are you are an extrovert and your partner is an introvert.
It goes without saying that every human being is unique, yet we find that there are two common personality traits people fall in to. The extrovert garners their energy from social situations. They thrive around people and often find they would rather be engaged with another person, even if it’s a stranger, than sit in the silence of their own thoughts. Alternatively, the introvert needs to spend time alone in order to function. Much like a battery, their energy is depleted when spending time with people. They recuperate and are able to function by spending time by themselves and will often prefer the company of a few close friends or even just you, compared to a large social situation.
While it can seem difficult to accommodate for each other’s differing personality traits – especially when you don’t understand them – there is hope. Having a partner with a different personality type means you are able to balance each other out, that you are able to encourage one another to grow in ways that were once foreign to you. But how do you come to a point where you are comfortable with these differences? For the many extroverts out there who desire to support their partner yet are unable to fathom their need for complete and utter alone time, here are 3 tips that will help you appreciate and live with your introverted partner.
1. Give them their space
While you may want to sit and talk about your day, the weather and the current status of Brangelina, your partner will struggle to cope with this at a moment’s notice. Allow your introverted partner to have their ‘alone time’ in order to recuperate from their long work day or a social situation before you vent to them. A great way to assess their current capacity to actively listen to you is to observe whether they are responding in full sentences and are retaining eye contact. If they’re not, hold back and wait until they are re energised so they can give you the attention you deserve.
2. Don’t expect your partner to be high energy
Just because your partner is an introvert doesn’t mean they won’t like doing things. They need to spend quality time with people – especially you; and a healthy introvert will desire this. In saying this, be aware of your partner’s capacity to retain energy and concentration at social gatherings. Do they feel comfortable going to that work party? If so, how long can they spend there before they ‘switch off’? Are they able to have people over for dinner? How often? Just because your partner is less inclined to spend prolonged amounts of times in social situations doesn’t mean you should be. As an extrovert, you NEED to spend time with other people. Talk to your partner about this and figure out a compromise. Perhaps it is best to agree on a ‘curfew’ before attending a party; or maybe your partner just needs to know a few weeks ahead of time in order to mentally prepare for an event. You may even select a night every few weeks where you go out for a ‘girl’s night’ or ‘guys night’, giving you your social fix while they spend time at home alone.
3. Don’t expect them to have an answer immediately
Are you facing a difficult financial decision together? Perhaps you are trying to decide whose parents’ house you should go to for the holidays? It is important to discuss these things with your partner, but don’t always expect them to have a definitive answer or view point on the situation immediately. Chances are they will be able to voice the pros and cons to the varying options and will need some time to process what they feel the best response should be. Give your partner this time – a few hours, a day or a week, before you bring the topic up again.