I’m married to an introvert. An INTJ, to be exact.
They do be some funny creatures! 😉
Although I’m an extravert — the extravert of extraverts, so think the introverts in my life — I adore the introverts that enrich my existence. I may not see or talk with them as much as I’d like, but I treasure them dearly nevertheless. 😉
Over the years, they have collectively taught me a lot about how to love an introvert.
Like extraverts, introverts are complex beings and no two are exactly alike. However, there are some handy standards you might want to keep in mind when navigating life with your introvert.
So, here is a quick-and-dirty list of do’s and don’t’s on How To Love An Introvert:
DON’T … expect them to be extraverted
- Introverts are not fans of spotlights; surprises, or spontaneity IF other people are involved — meaning, sure, surprise them with a gift, but …
- Don’t suddenly make them the center of attention. Don’t ever throw a surprise birthday party. Don’t anticipate them saying ‘yes’ to something as simple as ‘hey, let’s go out to eat … like, right now.’
- Introverts do not want to go to big parties or otherwise feel forced to interact with a ton of people they don’t care about or like (note: this tends to be a larger body of people than it is for an extravert).
- Introverts can’t hop from people-event to people-event … and for them, people-overload might mean they’re game for just one social event per week — or even less! Remember, all introverts have different energy needs.
Recently my husband and I discovered that he needs at least a full day buffer between people-events — or more, dependent upon what sort of event, for how long, and with what people. We had hosted acquaintances for dinner, which ended up being a 5 hour-long affair (read: waaay too long for any introvert I’ve ever known, at least!). 24-hours later, we were supposed to go to another dinner event (a large party with people we really enjoy). But, my husband was completely wiped out. We agreed I’d go alone, which was sad for both of us but better than either forcing him to extravert or keeping me at home. We learned a lot about how to better manage — i.e. prioritize — our people-events. More buffer time is now essential!
DO … respect their need for time & space to themselves (and know you’re still loved!)
- Introverts require ‘sacred space’ — oftentimes a small space, perhaps even cave-like, and always quiet.
- Introverts need to have the confidence and reassurance that you will not interrupt them while they’re ‘introverting’, so sacred spaces should have doors (and locks!).
- If an introvert has been away from home (e.g. at work for the day), it is very likely that s/he will need immediate introvert time upon returning home — so, don’t expect to hang out right away. They want to be with you, but they’ll enjoy that time together a heckuva lot more (and you will, too), if they can recharge alone for a while first.
Early on in our relationship, my husband and I really had to negotiate our conflicting extravert and introvert needs. It was crucial to me to re-connect as soon as one or the other of us returned home. My introverted husband, however, wanted to immediately retreat to his introvert sacred space, which left me feeling alone and lonely. Eventually, we figured out a good balance for us: he prepares to initial re-connect with me for up to 10 minutes when we are first re-united and then I ‘let him go’ for even hours after that, so he can fully recharge before we completely catch up.
DON’T … apply pressure
- Living in a very extraverted society, introverts tend to believe that they’re something wrong with them. In many cases, this is even explicitly stated by others! Introverts feel a lot of pressure to be more extraverted since that’s what our culture woefully considers ‘normal’.
- Help your introvert accept their introversion as simply different, not bad, by not pressuring them to smile more, talk more, make more friends, go out more, call more, or anything else ‘more.’
- Release the pressure, free your introvert from their burdens, accept them just as they are — which is totally good enough and patently different from an extravert! — and you’ll win yourself a dedicated, appreciative friend.
- One of the kindest things you could ever do for the introverts in your life is let them off the proverbial hook.
My introverts don’t have to talk with me often, visit me often, or otherwise pretend to be extraverted. We text or FB message primarily, since that’s another boundary introverts can set for their energy’s sake (writing isn’t as draining as talking on the phone which isn’t as draining as talking in person, etc. — it all exists on a spectrum). We schedule any interactions for a good time for the introvert — no surprises! — and they know they can re-schedule with me anytime that the date rolls around and they find themselves totally peopled-out. Our interactions are almost always just 1-on-1 and usually more-so low key. And we have a grand time as introvert-extravert friends. 🙂
DO … be patient
- Introverts tend to be more reserved. They don’t typically make as many friends as an extravert might and they almost never make them as quickly!
- Extraverts can easily jump to the conclusion that the introvert just doesn’t like them very much, isn’t truly investing, etc. But, really, it simply takes an introvert longer to open up and they’re not so readily going to throw themselves into a relationship like many extraverts do.
- Introverts circle around an idea (or a person), processing on the inside in order to make a decision that they then act upon (e.g. I want to be crazy-close friends) whereas extraverts are usually more experiential (i.e. let’s try being crazy-close friends for a bit and see what happens).
- Introverts may be quieter and ‘slower’ to act, but different is just different — not bad. Once an introvert makes up his mind, little will deter him; this is how experiential and experimental extraverts can seem ‘flakey’ by comparison … we have to test out the waters by diving in head first and going from there.
I’ve personally had some close calls when it comes to missing out on awesome friendships with introverts. Things weren’t trucking along fast for me, the introverts weren’t opening up enough, investing enough, initiating enough and I thought they just weren’t interested. I nearly threw in the towel a few times right before a major opening up from a few introverts (apparently they had just then decided they wanted to be friends and they started sharing more and more of their deep selves with me). Again, it’s about the processing. So, if you know the person you’re dealing with is an introvert, relieve the pressure and heap up the patience. Give them extra time and space to process and chances are their verdict will be in your favor because they’ll be impressed with your understanding of introverts!
Introversion / Extraversion is one of my most favorite topics ever since it’s such a core part of our personalities and the choices we make in our daily lives. So, look forward to more on this subject.
In the meantime, please comment below on this first installment of How To Love An Introvert. Is this information helpful to you extraverts who love introverts? Introverts, do you disagree with anything I suggested? What would you add / improve?