After nearly 25 years of marriage, I'm still a whole lot more social than my spouse, a personality clash that tends to become more pronounced during the winter holidays -- as well as during the summer BBQ season. Fortunately, we've learned to compromise. We've made a deal that we rarely go out on both a Friday and a Saturday night in the same week. One night we hang at home and the other night we either go out as a couple -- or I go out on a girls' night.
Despite our disparate dispositions, it's wonderful loving an introvert. Although my husband is quieter than I am, he takes everything in. He's a fabulous listener who's able to read between the lines. While others are talking, he's processing his thoughts. As a result, his insights are usually a lot better than mine.
Do you love someone who has to be dragged kicking and screaming to parties, and then has to spend the next day alone so he or she can decompress? I asked the long-married extroverts in my friend group what it's like for them to love an introvert. Here are 10 truths we've all come to understand over the years.
1. The need to take two cars to any social event in case either of you wants to duck out early.
Not every introvert is shy, but most introverts derive energy from being alone -- and not from being around a large group of people at a party. As Susan Cain writes in her landmark book Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can't Stop Talking, "Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating." Introverts may be OK with crowds -- but only in small doses.
2. If you don't have two cars, the need for a private signal in case your introvert partner wants to make a quick escape.
"Introverts are excellent listeners and not big minglers, so at parties, we're sitting ducks for chatterboxes," Sophia Dembling, author of Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After, told The Huffington Post. "And while extroverts have a talent for flitting from person to person at a party, introverts are not always good at extricating ourselves from conversations that have gone on too long."
3. Your partner's inclination to think through an issue before opening his or her mouth, even though you may like to talk everything out.
As Cain says, "Introverts are careful, reflective thinkers who can tolerate the solitude that idea-generation requires." Introverts are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams.
4. Your partner's panic when the hostess sits him or her next to a stranger at a long dinner party.
Studies indicate that, generally speaking, extroverts often are better able to find common ground and talk about a wide range of subjects with people they don't know. Introverts, in many cases, are less comfortable exchanging stories with strangers. Mary Kelley, an extrovert friend of mine married to an introvert, says her husband always gets up from the table early if seated next to people he doesn't know. "When he gets up, I know it's my cue that we're about to leave," she said.
5. Your partner's need to decompress after a social event.
Whereas extroverts might get antsy spending time on their own, introverts actually need to be alone in order to feel rejuvenated again.
6. The importance of routines.
Chaotic environments seem to sap the energy of the introverts my friends and I love. Routines, though, eliminate the need to make choices, thereby freeing up an introvert's brain for more important things. Leah Myer, an extrovert friend of mine married to an introvert, says her husband hates it when she springs a social event on him. "He likes to know way ahead of time what's coming up on our calendar," she said.
7. Your partner's irritation when you keep asking "is everything OK?" every few minutes when you're with other people.
Peggy Bristoll, another extrovert friend of mine married to an introvert, says it took her a long time to stop checking in with her husband. "I learned that he was absolutely fine sitting on his own at a party and that asking him if he was OK all the time just irritated him," she said.
8. That when your partner says, "I need to be alone for a while," he or she is not being rude. It's just the way your partner recharges his or her battery.
A 2010 study shed light on another reason why introverts sometimes prefer being alone. The study found that human faces may hold more meaning for extroverts than for introverts, which could be why extroverts are more likely to seek the company of others than introverts are.
9. Your partner's ability to speak in front of a crowd, even if he or she doesn't want to make small talk afterwards.
Research shows that introverts can sometimes make better leaders than extroverts. For example, Cain described Bill Gates, one of the world's most successful businesspeople, as an introvert. He's quiet, but able to speak in front of a large audience.
10. The trouble you'd get into if you ever planned social outings two nights in a row -- or without asking your partner.
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