Every Friday night, writer Jill Savage and her husband have conflicting opinions on how they’d like to spend the weekend.
“My extrovert husband gets to Friday night and thinks, ‘It’s the weekend, who can we get together with?’ she explained, “I, on the other hand, get to Friday and think to my introvert self, ‘I’m so glad it’s the weekend because I don’t have to see any people until Sunday at church!’”
Like many couples in mixed introvert-extrovert relationships, Savage and her spouse usually come to some kind of compromise. Below, therapists, relationship writers and real-life couples share their best advice for introverts and extroverts in love.
1. Understand what it means to be an introvert or extrovert.
Despite comprising an estimated one-third of the general population, introversion is still widely misunderstood. As personality types, introverts and extroverts tend to see and interact with the world differently: While an extrovert is emotionally refueled by spending time with others, introverts thrive and feel emotionally refueled by time alone.
How we identity among the types ― and note that you may be a somewhere-in-the-middle ambivert ― is “integral to the way we inhabit the world and show love,” said Arnie Kozak, a psychotherapist and the author of The Awakened Introvert.
“Even when you recognize your partner’s differences, it’s often still necessary to understand their way of seeing things,” he told The Huffington Post. “Consider how you both feel, especially when it comes to social activities, stimulation and quiet time. While your feelings on going out tonight may seem perfectly transparent to you, your partner can’t really know unless you tell them.”
2. Don’t pity your introverted spouse for having only a small circle of friends.
Savage has been married to her husband for more than two decades. They know a lot about each other, but it wasn’t until recently that he opened up about an opinion he’d been keeping from her: After so many years together, he felt bad about how few friends she had.
“My husband confessed to me one day that he had always seen my tendency to have just two or three close friends as a defect in me,” she said. “But after listening to a podcast on the characteristics of introverts and extroverts, he learned that one of the big differences between the two is the number of friends they often have.”
Once Savage’s hubby understood that preferring a few intimate friends to lots of less-intense friendships was characteristic of an introvert, he apologized for quietly judging her.
“He learned that being different doesn’t mean wrong,” she said.
3. Remember that you chose this introvert or extrovert.
About half of the introverts author Sophia Dembling spoke to for her book Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After were in “mixed” relationships ― and completely content in them. In fact, many of them chose each other because of their differences, Dembling said.
“Introverts appreciated the energy and social life extroverts brought to their lives,” she said. “Many readily admit that they enjoy having their partner play ‘social director’ ― and several told me their extroverted partners had expressed appreciation for the way the introverts could get them to simmer down, to think before they spoke or encourage them to spend an evening on the couch.”
When couples in mixed relationships feel frustrated by their differences, Dembling suggests thinking about specific benefits those differences bring to their lives.
4. Schedule in couple time.
Squeezing in quality couple time is hard enough without two people having differing needs for alone time. That’s why almost every morning, author and self-professed introvert Betsy Talbot goes for a brisk, hour-long walk with her extrovert husband.
“We call it our morning meeting: We talk the whole way as we get our exercise and watch the sun rise, then we go back home and retreat to our separate offices for work,” Talbot explained. “This conversation and interaction gives him the charge he needs and the hour timeframe allows me to contribute fully without depleting myself.”
Talbot ―who runs the podcast An Uncluttered Life ― also pushes herself to open up and talk about inner thoughts she’d just as soon keep to herself.
“I decided to start sharing some of it with him, especially the weird stuff,” she said. “It’s entertaining for him: Just because I’m an introvert and live in my head doesn’t mean it’s all profound stuff. Thinking out loud usually sparks a short conversation, which feeds his extrovert battery.”
5. Don’t be afraid to make separate plans for the night.
Having different energy levels and socialization needs doesn’t mean that you have to compromise all of the time. If you’re an extrovert and you’re dying to check out that new gastropub down the street with some friends, tell your spouse.
That’s something Harris O’Malley, the man behind the blog Paging Dr. NerdLove and an extrovert, has learned firsthand in his own marriage.
“There will be nights where I go to events with our friends while my more introverted wife chills out at home and gets caught up on her Netflix queue,” he said. “We both get what we enjoy out of it without dragging the other along or making them feel like they can’t go out.”
6. If you’re the introvert, check yourself for passive-aggression.
Because introverts have a tendency to keep their thoughts to themselves, sometimes their true feelings come through in passive aggressive ways: think eye rolls, heavy sighs and snarky, unnecessary comments.
If you’re introverted, you owe it to your spouse to communicate like a grown-up, sans side eye, Dembling said.
“Passion aggression is poison to a relationship,” she said. “If you tell your extroverted partner, ‘Sure, it’s fine if you go to that party without me,’ then be sure you mean it and accept it with grace. That means no covert punishment, no texting your partner all evening and no suspicious grilling later.”
And sometimes, Dembling said it’s completely OK to tell your spouse, “Hey, I’d love it if you would hang out with me tonight and catch up on ‘Narcos.’”
7. If you do head out together, accept that one of you may be heading home a little early.
Sometimes, being in a mixed introvert-extrovert marriage means putting a little extra forethought into plans for the evening: If you know you’ll want to spend more time socializing at your friend’s housewarming party, take two cars or plan on calling a taxi or ride share for your spouse, O’Malley said.
“You just have to plan your strategy out in advance,” he said. “The extroverted partner may make room for the introverted partner to have some space to chill out while the extrovert does the bulk of the mingling. You may make plans to stay for a set amount of time, then assess how you both feel throughout the night.”