Living In An Introvert-Extrovert Marriage
By: Lauren Greer
according to Myers-Briggs I am an ENFJ, I am just one point away from being an “I” (aka introvert). I identify pretty strongly with the introverts of the world. I am social and love interacting with people, but it drains my energy more than it gives me life. Having a whole day to myself or with one person is about as dreamy as it gets for me. I love quiet, loud music and lots of background noise overwhelms me, and it usually takes me about 30 seconds to cut through the small talk and ask people deep questions about their hearts and lives.
Pretty early on, Jordan and I started to see how our personalities were different in this area. If Jordan was gone for some reason, I almost always wanted to spend that night alone reading, watching TV, or just doing random things around the house by myself. If I was gone, Jordan almost always thought of a friend to text, something to do, or a place to be. My default was to choose to be alone and Jordan’s default was to invite people into our world. And as you can imagine, we occasionally had some clashes.
Even though neither of us is an extreme extrovert or introvert, we still quickly realized one important thing we’d need to explore in our marriage: How do we learn to love and support each other while also giving ourselves the space to fill our emotional tanks like we are wired to do?
Over the course of these first few years of marriage, we’ve learned a lot about what it looks like to understand and love each other in this area. These five things have slowly unfolded over these last 2.5 years and we continue to grow in them even now. I have a feeling this will be a lifelong process, but these are a few key things we’ve learned so far.
1) Don’t let your expectations define how you treat your spouse.
Just because I’d categorize myself as a mild introvert and Jordan as mild extrovert doesn’t mean we can’t occasionally swing toward the opposite ends of the spectrum. The labels don’t always define us well. Sometimes I crave time with people and sometimes Jordan needs time alone, even if this isn’t our default. I love hosting and having people over for meals in our home, even if I can only do it once a week before starting to feel overwhelmed. By the end of a long day of interacting with people, Jordan is exhausted relationally too and needs time to unwind before he can sit down and connect emotionally with me. We both fall somewhere in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum and need grace no matter how we’re feeling on a particular day. By communicating about these needs and giving each other the space to breathe, we were able to love each other well both within and outside of the confines of a particular label.
2) Learn what your partner needs to function best in a given situation.
We had a tough few weeks at the start of school as we figured out what it looked like to love each other with Jordan’s new schedule of morning and afternoon cross-country practices that had him gone from 5:45 AM- 5:45 PM. By the time Jordan got home, I’d had two hours to myself after work and felt recharged and ready to connect, where he had just finished his long day and needed some down time to unwind on his own.
After talking through it, we realized that Jordan sometimes needs some alone time when he got home to unwind a bit, whether that meant heading upstairs and taking a quick shower while I finished dinner or watching a quick show before we ate to give us both time to unwind. By talking about this specific situation and figuring out why we’d both felt a little irritable and disconnected when he got home, we were able to address the issue and come up with a plan that helped both of us connect with timing that worked well for both of us.
3) Learn to love the things that fill your partner up emotionally.
Whether introverted or extroverted, everyone has different things that fill them up and give them energy. My husband loves to run, bike, and be outside, and I struggled with the time this took away from time together when we were first married (like I described in this post on learning to love my husband’s hobbies). Although it wasn’t an easy process, I’m learning to embrace Jordan’s hobbies because I know that they make him the man he is and that time spent away from me is incredibly valuable for his heart (and his body!).
Hubby and I at one of his triathlons in Colorado
In the same way, I rest and recharge in quiet, slow moments alone or with just Jordan. Where Jordan might come down the stairs in the morning and want to turn on every light and put on loud music to wake him up (all the introverts cringe at this one), I feel overwhelmed when there’s too much noise or stimulation. Hubby is learning that I act like a totally uncool 90-year-old woman when the music is too loud in the car or house, and to really connect with me, things need to be a bit less distracting. Quiet, cozy time in our house is life-giving to me and Jordan is learning to give me that space, even if it’s not what he would choose.
4) Challenge each other while still giving grace.
I’m a big believer that there’s no inherent advantage or disadvantage to being an introvert or extrovert. They both have their strengths or weaknesses and can learn a lot from each other. When I moved to Kansas City, my introverted tendencies meant that I was often hesitant to call somebody when I did have a free night. I love time alone and texting somebody new sounded scary, so why not just forget the whole “I need friends and community” thing and sit alone on the couch in my PJ’s? Jordan was great about gently encouraging me that building relationships with people was important even though it scared me at times. We have to learn to accept who our partner is while still gently and lovingly challenging them to grow.
5) Learn how your personality impacts your conflict style.
Our personality types can impact the ways we process conflict. We saw early on that when Jordan started to engage and go into a more argumentative mode during conflict, I felt overwhelmed and withdrew. In the same way, Jordan sometimes felt overwhelmed when I came to him ready to talk and process everything but he needed more time to process on his own (we’re kind of the opposite of introverts and extroverts here). Over these last few years, we’ve had to explore how we process emotions, how our personality types impact our marriage, and how we work through conflict to help us figure out our conflict cycle and learn to love each other well in the midst of hard conversations.
These differences in how we interact, process, and understand the world are one of the things that make marriage beautiful. Marriage stretches us, challenges us, and reminds us that our way of seeing the world isn’t always the “right” way. Sometimes our partner can offer us new perspectives that help us to see things we wouldn’t have been able to without them.
If you and your significant other have different personality types (whether introverted, extroverted, or otherwise), I hope you’ll see those differences as a chance to grow and learn to love your partner in a whole new way.