Introverts and Marriage

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web-4376542_mIntroverts have long received the label of “misunderstood.” Some estimate that at least a third or more of the population are introverts. While this is a subjective estimation (everyone has some extroverted and introverted parts), it’s safe to say that most marriages will have one person who is more introverted than the other.

If the term “introvert” is an unfamiliar one, let me give a brief background to this personality type. Introverts tend to be more concerned with the quality of relationships, as opposed to the quantity. They also are more interested in the depth of understanding, not the breadth. Introverts are people oriented but usually require time away from large groups of people to re-energize. Whereas an extrovert would have more energy after a social outing, an introvert would likely be left feeling a bit depleted.

A common misconception is that introverts only like to be alone. Certainly this is sometimes the case, it’s more likely that introverts are more limited in their social energies than of their counterpart, the extrovert. “Intro” refers to inside, which means that processing happens internally. The Myers-Briggs personality test is a great resource for helping to shed light on which personality types best describe people.

So what happens in marriage when an introvert, one who tends to be quieter, slower, and more internal in their processing, marries an extrovert? A feeling of being overwhelmed with all the stimulation of having another person inside in their world.

As an introvert with four young kids (at this time, 10 years old and under), I’m continually faced with people getting in my business. Sometimes, it’s too much for me. Two of my older kids are extroverts, as is my wife, so I’m definitely in the minority. Prior to getting married, I used to journal 4-5 times per week. It was my therapy as I processed the ups and downs in life through written word. I used to fill up journals of content every year, but when I got married, I stopped journaling. Part of this is because I didn’t have any words left for my journal. I used them all with my wife. The other part was that I really didn’t know what to do with someone else in my world on a constant basis.

I was confused. I loved Stephanie, my wife, being there, but I wanted space. I battled guilt for sometimes wanting to be away from her, but at the same time I resented her. It was an odd time. You or your spouse might face a similar situation. Here are some suggestions about navigating this area of your relationship.

First, be forthright about the emotional and/or relational needs that each of you have. How much time do you need apart or where there is enough space to recharge? How often do social gatherings need to take place? What about travel to family events, or weekend plans? All of these questions will address the needs of both the introvert and extrovert. Because introverts tend to be slower processors, they need space to think and consider what is happening in life. Talk about the specific needs you or your spouse have, and agree together how to go about accomplishing these needs.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to split up on any given event. You both don’t have to be together at every social gathering. If the setup is that both go together or not at all, one is going to be susceptible to resentment. If one of you does stay behind, make sure to check in with one another after the event, or the following day. As with all things, keep short accounts with each other.

Lastly, trade off leadership responsibilities in regards to date night or social gatherings. This is a great practice to do outside of the conversation about introversion/extroversion. The helpful aspect of this is the chance to invite the other into your world and what it is that you enjoy doing. By trading the leadership in this way, both partners will be given freedom to express themselves to their spouse.

Introverts help us to slow down, to think things through, and to settle into helpful rhythms. Without a sense of care, an introvert will shut down and become removed from the relationship. Care well for the introvert in you and in your marriage, and enjoy the fruits of a deeper relationship.



About

Samuel Rainey is a professional counselor primarily working with couples, men, and women addressing issues of sexuality, emotional health, relationships, and spirituality. He is the co-Author of So You Want to be a Teenager with Thomas Nelson. He earned his Masters in Counseling Psychology from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology in Seattle, Washington. When he is not roasting coffee, tending to his garden, or playing golf, he blogs about life process, parenting, and relationships at SamuelRainey.com. He can also be found on twitter @SamuelRainey. He and his wife reside in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee with their four children.


  • Karthi Masters

    Samuel, thank you for this reminder. I need to care well for the introvert in my marriage. :-) There are so many good things about having him as my “anchor.” Makes me slow down and dig deeper. I’ve learned so much from him-the quality in relationships is everything.

  • JanMarie

    Thanks for the insight as it fits me right down to every single word. I literally can go weekend after weekend without calling or visiting anyone but I do look forward to the one or two weekends a month that I go visit relatives out of town. I’ve never gotten married because whenever I’m in a relationship with a man, they always think that I’m not interested or not showing them enough attention when I need my “me” time or my “recharging” time so they move on. At some point, I came to expect that they would move on so then I started moving on first until I didn’t even want to try anymore. The thing is, I know this is the case/cycle, but I can’t change it. I can’t even make myself try anymore and honestly, I don’t know if I want to.

    • http://www.SamuelRainey.com Samuel Rainey

      If you still desire for a relationship, I’d suggest letting the other person know this about you on the front end. Talk about how you have managed this in the past (helpful or not) and talk about your concerns for the future in relationships. The more up front and honest you are about your fears, the less you will be controlled by them.

  • just me

    I am getting to know an introvert n I wonder what he will be like if we get together. Do introverts love more deeply than extroverts? He never says much, but he hangs about when I wasn’t feeling well n he major panicked the last time I refused to talk to him over a misunderstanding despite him clarifying himself. N at a camp, he chose the nearest tent possible to the women quarters so he could be near if something happens. But he says so little all the time n expresses himself so little. I’m fairly introverted myself but I’m friendly n it takes a lot of effort to get to know someone like him. I text him a fair bit but he replies only when he really really has something to say. :(( such as me not coming to see him.

  • just me

    Sorry that profile pic is not me. :(( I am a female. I’m the moderator for a friends website that’s why. :((

  • Guest

    Thank you for this, I’m working through understanding my wife’s needs.

    • http://www.startmarriageright.com/ Start Marriage Right

      Approve.

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