If he’s the yin to your yang, there’s a good chance you are partnered with your exact opposite. In the beginning, this introvert-extrovert connection is delightful as you experience an attitude different from your own.
Over time, though, it can test your patience and make you question your compatibility.
- Your mate wants to socialize while you want to stay home together. Aren’t you enough for him?
- He wants to talk things out while you need time to process. Can’t she give you space to breathe?
- It hurts your feelings when she tells you she needs time to herself. What is she not telling me?
It’s easy to take these differences personally or think your mate is just being difficult. That’s how my husband and I felt for a long time. It wasn’t until we began traveling the world together in 2010 – working, traveling, and being together 24/7 – that we learned the lessons it might have taken us years to notice and absorb in our old lifestyle.
Before you get to the communication hacks we’ve learned from being together 24/7 the past few years, first take the introvert-extrovert test to verify your hunch about yourself and your mate from introvert expert and author Susan Cain.
Know How Your Mate Recharges
I was sitting in a farmhouse in Slovenia, visiting with a friend at her kitchen table about books, life, and love. It was an introvert’s dream: a calm setting and an intimate conversation catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in some time.
As we were discussing relationships and life, I mentioned that I’d recently learned the difference between introverts and extroverts through a book. It helped me realize what I needed to function at a better level, and I’d been implementing some new strategies with good result. My friend, also an introvert, shared her experience.
During our conversation, my husband walked through the kitchen, overhearing a part of our conversation. Later that night as we were lying in bed, he told me it was the single most important bit of information he’d ever learned about me. (And we’ve been together for 10 years.) It was like a light bulb went on in our relationship, erasing the shadows that were distorting our actions.
You see, when I told him earlier I was an introvert, he didn’t quite understand what I meant and I didn’t fully explain it. I also didn’t bother to figure out he was an extrovert. We both missed the introvert-extrovert connection that could drastically improve our communication.
- Introverts get their energy from being alone and it is drained by being with other people. This doesn’t mean introverts don’t like being around people or that they are shy, just that the effort of being around them is a drain on their energy.
- Extroverts get their energy from being with other people and it is drained by being alone. This doesn’t mean extroverts cannot be alone or that they are social butterflies, just that the interaction with other people is what energizes them.
Most people fall closer to the middle of the continuum from introvert to extrovert, so you needn’t worry that extroverts need to talk all the time or introverts just want to be left alone. But when you know where your partner is coming from and what helps them be at their best, it’s easier to create the right environment for them to excel (and reap the reward of having them at their best more often).
When you know how your mate needs to recharge and honor it, you’ll notice a drastic improvement in the mood and level of tension in your relationship.
Pick Your Moment
Need to talk about something important with your partner? For the most productive outcome, pick your timing based on his or her best mood, not yours. This is especially true if you have a complaint or bad news to deliver.
If your mate is an extrovert, you have to allow plenty of time to talk it through. You can’t drop a bomb on the way out the door from work and expect to pick up the conversation later after you’ve had a chance to mull it over. He or she doesn’t want to mull. They want to work it out with you.
If your partner is more of an introvert, he or she will want some time to process and think things through, so giving them a heads up about a conversation beforehand will give them the necessary time to think it through before talking it out.
Don’t Take It Personally
It’s not about you. Your mate is who he is independent of you. Her need to talk things out when you want to be quiet, or his desire to go to the garage and tinker when you want to be together is not about you.
It is simply the way they recharge and get energy.
Once you understand it’s all about them, it makes it easier to manage and less of a personal attack. In fact, once you start noticing your mate’s energy levels and how they recharge, you’ll want to encourage what they need so you can have more of them at their best.
In an introvert-extrovert relationship, your way is not the best way, and neither is your mate’s. It’s simply a different way of being in the world.
Compromise on Styles
It’s one thing to know your introvert/extrovert status and manage your own energy levels. It is an entirely other thing to merge that style with your mate.
After all, you can’t demand that since you’re an introvert, all conversations are scheduled out so you can have time to think them over. If you’re an extrovert, you can’t keep working to bring your mate ‘out of her shell’ because that’s never going to happen. We are who we are, and even though there are some very social introverts and somewhat shy extroverts, the way we get our energy doesn’t change.
In a relationship, this means compromise. The introvert has to talk about things before she gets enough time to process. The extrovert has to give his partner some space when he wants to be together.
It’s hard to strike a 50/50 balance, so the more reasonable goal is to lean a bit one way or the other on an alternating basis. The extrovert gives the introvert space on a Saturday afternoon before a party so she can relax and recharge. The introvert stays at the party an hour longer for her partner so he can socialize more.
It doesn’t take much effort to reach a compromise when you understand what your partner needs to function at their best. And you know this small favor on your part will reap huge dividends for your partner and your relationship.
Appreciate Your Mate’s Influence
He’s the yin to your yang, and her influence makes you a better person. He may draw you into more social situations than you like, but it gives you the chance to meet more people you can then follow up with one-to-one and develop great friendships. She may be quieter and more observant, and you benefit from her keen insight into challenging situations.
Different is good, and appreciating how your mate differs from you can add a richness to your life you don’t have on your own. Rather than working to change the other person, it’s important to realize how your mate is changing you simply by being part of your life.
Once you know where you’re mate is coming from, you can much more easily travel down life’s road together.
Are you in a introvert-extrovert relationship? What is your favorite communication hack?