Introvert-Extrovert Relationships: When Opposites Attract

Couple sitting on floor and having pizza

Dating can be frustrating when your partner doesn't want to do an activity that really interests you. You might be in the mood to go out dancing, but your significant other wants to stay in and watch a movie, or vice versa. Whether you're an extrovert dating an introvert or an introvert dating an extrovert, knowing the characteristics of each of these personality types will help you better understand your partner. This knowledge will also enable you to assess the needs and desires on both sides of your relationship, to ensure you both feel fulfilled.

Introverts Versus Extroverts

The introversion-extroversion dimension is just one way that personality is conceptualized. Put simply, introversion and extroversion characterize how you get energized: either by being around people or being by yourself.

couple relaxing in the Japanese-style room

Introvert Tendencies

Some common misconceptions about introverts are that they are snobby, have no sense of humor, and don't want to have fun or have a social life. People may view introverts as aloof, but the better conclusion to draw is that introverts are energized when they spend time by themselves. Being around other people drains introverts of energy. This does not mean that they're complete hermits. After all, like extroverts, they are human and thus social beings, so they too need nurturing relationships.

Because interacting with others drains introverts of energy, some examples of introvert preferences are:

  • Using email instead of calling people on the phone or having face-to-face meetings
  • Attending social events less frequently
  • Having smaller, quieter gatherings such as card games with a few other people at home, instead of going out to a bar or nightclub
  • Eating lunch alone at work, especially if the job involves a lot of interaction with others
  • Having quieter hobbies such as reading or two-person board games
  • Thinking introspectively

One key thing to note is that introversion does not equate to shyness. Certainly, there can be some overlap between the two, since shy people are less likely to be outgoing. However, introversion means that you need alone time to recharge. An introvert might still like engaging and participating in work and social outings with little anxiety, for example.

In short, introverts need quiet time spent alone much more often, to recharge and ready themselves for work or to interact with others.

Couple doing karaoke

Extrovert Tendencies

On the other side of the coin, extroverts need interaction with others in order to recharge and get energy. Too much quiet time alone is tiring and boring for them. Some examples of extrovert preferences are:

  • Talking on the phone or in-person rather than email communication
  • Socializing regularly both on weekends and during the week
  • Eating lunch with others at work
  • Enjoying louder venues such as concerts, bars and dance clubs
  • Thinking out loud
  • Expressing their excitement outwardly
  • Needing less-frequent alone time

How to Communicate With an Introvert

Given that introverts tend to be introspective, they may take more time to think about what they want to say. Or they might be quieter than others. That doesn't necessarily mean they aren't enjoying themselves, but rather, they're observing and taking in what is happening around them.

Some helpful communication tips if you're dating an introvert include:

  • Allow them quiet moments to think, as they may need more time to respond.
  • Ask them open-ended questions to help them articulate what they are thinking. Open-ended questions are those that cannot be answered with a yes or no. For example, "What is the hardest part of this decision for you?"
  • Be comfortable with silence. An introvert can probably have a meal without a lot of talking, and just enjoy being with you.

How to Communicate With an Extrovert

Given that extroverts are more energized with others and might have a tendency to think out loud, some helpful things to do to communicate with an extroverted dating partner can be:

  • Understand that they are processing their thoughts while talking, so not necessarily everything they say is a decision or belief that they land on.
  • If you are confused by something they say, you can reflect back to them what you heard as a way to clarify. For example, "So let me see if I understand. Are you asking if we should visit your family over Thanksgiving?"
  • Be willing to engage more verbally with your extroverted partner. If they are expressing excitement by jumping up and down and screaming good news, you might have to mirror that behavior to show that you are appreciating their experience.

You Can Make the Relationship Work

The key to a healthy and satisfying relationship is to work to understand your partner, respect their needs and desires, and come to an agreement so that both of your needs are being met.

If you are an introvert dating an extrovert, it is important to respect that they need more interaction with others. Insisting that they always engage in quiet activities with you would not be fair to them.

If you are an extrovert dating an introvert, it is important to respect their need for alone time and quiet time. Expecting them to always go out dancing with you or socializing with groups of people would not be fair to them.

Here are some ways in which both partners can get their needs met:

  • Accept your partner for who they are. Do not try to change them to your personality style.
  • Designate a date night once a week and take turns picking the activity.
  • Pick a day once a week when each of you can have time for yourselves and do something that your partner doesn't care to do.
  • Find hobbies you can enjoy together as a couple.
  • Remember that some conflict is expected; and that's a good thing because it means you have a communicative relationship.
  • Keep lines of communication open so that issues can be addressed before they become bigger problems.

Maintain a Balance

The key to a successful relationship is give and take. It involves compromise so that both partners can harmoniously operate as a unit; and it takes balance so each person can maintain and foster their own identity.

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