Written by Leslie Pelon
My husband and I often joke that we are grateful we never had to go looking for a spouse on a dating website, because we don’t think any dating algorithm on the planet would have ever put us together. Few of our interests match up. I’m a humanities girl - history, literature, the arts. My husband is a science and math man all the way. He likes the mornings while I am a night owl. I’m loud, he is quiet. He digs 80’s rock while I jam to show tunes. And the list could go on. Most of our differences have added color and zest to our life and made our partnership stronger, not to mention created a massive and impressively eclectic movie collection.
While most of our differences have caused only minor disagreements, one has come up as an issue again, and again.
My husband is an introvert while I am an extrovert.
People who have met my husband are often surprised when I describe him as an introvert. They assume this means he is anti-social or socially awkward, but neither description is accurate. My husband, like many introverts, is socially savvy (in many ways more so than I). When he is in social situations he is friendly and engaging. It’s not that he doesn’t like people, he just likes to be home more. Social situations wear him out, and so, when possible, he avoids them.
I, on the other hand, thrive on social interaction! A party every day of the week? Count me in! A massive group needs to be fed and entertained? Count me in! If I go even a few days without some form or social stimulation, I begin to wilt. If I have to go more than a week or two, full-on depression sets in.
Can you see how this could cause problems?
It took time, arguments, and compromise, but after six years of marriage we have come up with four strategies to help keep us both happy and properly socialized.
1. The Introverted Partner is in Charge of the Social Calendar
I think this is the most important part of our strategy. During the early years of our marriage we operated the way many of the other couples in our circle did, meaning I ran the calendar. And, just like when I was single, I said "yes" to EVERYTHING! As you can imagine, this set-up caused a lot of stress for my poor husband. He just did not have the energy or the desire to go to a different social gathering every other night of the week.
Finally, we realized that this “traditional” division of labor didn’t work. So we put him in charge. Now whenever someone invites us to something, I tell them I have to check with my husband who is the keeper of the calendar. Nothing is added without his okay and a discussion of who will go.
2. Choose Activities to Attend that Have a Defined Timeline
You all know the kind of parties that have no defined end, Thanksgiving, dinner with the in-laws, or a game night with that one couple. These sorts of activities can be very stressful for an introvert. I thrive on all-night chat sessions and lost weekends, they are my favorite kinds of activities. However, my husband hates them! So when we talk about which activities our family will attend, we do our best to choose activities that do not threaten to turn into crazy-long events. Football games, while long, have a definite start and end. Children’s parties hardly go longer than 2 or 3 hours. These type of events are the kind we choose to attend.
Those times we do end up at an event longer then my husband can handle, we have a signal to activate the “15 minute warning." My husband will come up behind me and rub his hands up and down my upper arms, so that I know that he wants to leave without us having to have a conversation. Within 15 minutes of the signal, the goal is to be saying our goodbyes. Obviously, if I want to stay, we can go off to the side and discuss a plan, but usually my husband only uses this signal if it has really been a long time and we should probably be working on heading home, anyway.
3. Set a Monthly or Yearly Number of Activities You Will Host
Part of what we have done to help me (the extrovert) get enough social time, is to make sure that at our periodic family councils we sit down and decide the number, and type, of activities our family will host in a certain time period. We do it yearly as part of our new year’s resolutions, but you could do it more or less often, whatever suites your family best.
Currently, for example, we do weekly dinners with some young women in our congregation who need family, a large children’s party for each of our children’s birthdays, and a big get together for Thanksgiving. These are social engagements that we host, and that are already agreed upon and expected. Then the extrovert (me) can plan for and get excited about these activities without stressing about being turned down by, or overwhelming the introvert.
4. Be Okay with Going to Things Alone or Staying Home Alone
Here is the cold hard truth - no matter how hard you plan and compromise, there will be an event the extrovert wants to attend that the introvert does not.
At times like these, remember that it is okay for you to do things separately.
In the early days of our marriage I had a hard time with this. In that early "honeymoon glow," couples often don’t want to be apart from each other at all, and that is okay. However, eventually one or the other of the couple will start to suffer emotionally. Either the introvert will be exhausted from flitting here there and everywhere, or the extrovert will be depressed from being stuck at home all the time.
It is important to find a way to make sure that both individuals in the marriage are getting what they need. For some, that may mean girls or boys nights-out. For others, like us, that may mean the extrovert goes to activities solo. When we are invited to a group activity that I want to attend, but my husband does not, we talk. If it works out, I go, bringing one or both of my children along with me. I get my time out and my husband gets his time at home. This can take some getting used to, but once you get it down it creates a perfect solution to the extrovert vs. introvert dilemma.
Being a couple divided by such a major personality difference can be difficult, but it is not impossible. You can make it work without either person being forced to emotionally compromise themselves. I hope that these suggestions help you and your spouse as you compromise with each other, fill your social calendar, and nurture your marriage.
Photo Credit: Crooze Photography
"What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility."
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