Thursday, June 6, 2013

7 Tips for Living with an Introvert

If you're anything like I am, you know the terms "introvert" and "extrovert" and you simply think "quiet" and "talkative." But, after being with an introvert for two years now, there are some tips and tricks I've picked up. I want to share them with you guys because I think Ian and I are the dictionary definitions of an introvert and an extrovert.

I prefer to go out, have fun, talk about everything that comes to mind, and just bounce around carelessly and enjoy life. Ian, on the other hand, thinks things through for a long (and I mean loooooong) time before doing them, he prefers to have fun in a familiar place (like the house), and silently spend time together. So I've made this list about how we extroverts can better understand our introvert partners without having those annoying arguments and hurt feelings.

1. Going out in public drains their energy. While extroverts get charged when they go out for a night on the town, introverts literally drain all of their energy, and need to go back home to recharge theirs. This is probably the biggest difference. Ian and I balance it by only going out for "date night" once a week. During the work week, we simply hang out at home and enjoy each other's company. That way, he can charge in a familiar place and have energy for when we go out (where I get to absorb energy!).

2. Introverts hate surprises. It's kinda like when your cat is is in the corner grooming itself and you jump out from behing the door to scare it and the poor thing goes flying ten feet in the air and runs behind the chair in the corner... Yeah, poor baby. That's the mental image I get when I think about surprising an introvert. Now, that was completely metaphorical. Obviously, the jumpiness of your partner varies for each person (obviously :P). But, going back to them using all their energy to be in public, surprises work the same way. If you, for example, throw them a surprise party, they not only feel out of their element, but they are also  taken over by an "oh gosh, here we go" feeling. At least when they go out, they choose to go.  Surprising them like this literally throws it on them unexpectedly. Instead, try surprising an introvert with an intimate candle lit date or a cute gift to show your love. Introverts like to feel in control of their environment; it's what helps them be able to relax and recharge at home- because they control those elements and can focus on other things they enjoy. (Women, it's like taking a bath when the house is dirty. Isn't it so much more relaxing to take a bath when you know all the chores are done? :D)

3. You are an exception. When I say that they are emotionally drained when they're in public or around people, that does not apply to you (the significant other). However, family and friends DO count. But don't take it personally. That's the way they are built; don't be mad or hurt over something they can't control. So if your partner is an introvert, they can recharge and relax with you. So try to bond with them in their own way, rather than change them to be the way you are. Ian and I often "hang out" together, even though we might not be talking. We might just be in the same room on our computers or I might be reading while he plays guitar. The point is: adapt to the way they are and learn to enjoy it with them. This will let you still feel close to them, while respecting their need to not be in public.

4. Give them their alone time. Introverts by definition are relatively shy. Don't wait for them to ask for free time: give it to them. If you know they have a lot to do after work, don't bug them about hanging out or doing something. Let them have their time to do whatever it is they want to do. They might initiate "doing something" together, and they might not. But let them decide. Also, know when they are subconsciously asking. If they hint that they have a lot to do or haven't in a while, take that has your cue to leave them alone and let them do what they want. Trust me, if you let them have their alone time, they will want to come hang out and cuddle with you after they recharge in their own way. But if you pressure them, it gets bad:

5. Don't pressure them about going out. The more you nag them about going out, cuddling, doing things together, etc., the more they feel overwhelmed and don't want to do it. Believe it or not, even thinking about doing a lot of things can drain their energy, leaving no desire for them to actually do any of those things. I'm bad about this because I think of fun things to do all the time. So I've had to explain to Ian that when I say them, I am simply vocalizing an idea that we can later discuss. If I say too many at once, though, it still overwhelms him, so I have to make a special effort to either only say the good ones, or set aside time to have a specific conversation about plans. We also have our weekly "date nights" that I look forward to. That way, instead of throwing out a million ideas at once, I can throw out ideas for things to do on a specific day. That makes it easier for him to willingly talk about plans and be involved in making them.

6. Being alone in the same room is fun. Back when we first started dating, I always thought Ian was just "boring" or "didn't like to have fun." But what I later discovered was that being alone together in the same room/house/apartment is fun to him. Especially if I sit beside him and watch him work or play guitar. That way he feels close to me, and it lets him share things with me that are important to him. Just because his definition of fun is different than mine doesn't mean it's not equally as important. So while I like to go out and have fun that way, he likes to have fun in the apartment together. Both are important for our relationship to grow. We like to cook together, watch tv (yes, that means sometimes watching shows you hate just to be with that person), and just sit and talk. But we also like to do our own things. We are still independent people; that is also important. But letting them be able to know you're willing to have fun with them in their unique way makes them more willing to later have fun with you in your way. It's all about learning how your partner likes to have fun.

7. Being quiet doesn't mean they're upset or distant. It just means they're processing internally. If you do go out, and they're quiet or seem to have short answers, they are not mad. They just have something else on their mind (notice how I didn't say someone else? Yeah. Never jump to conclusions or start accusing them). If you go out and it seems like they aren't saying much, it most likely means they just don't have much to say. If you ask a direct question, they will answer. But small talk probably won't go too far. But DON'T WORRY. Even if you ask what's on their mind, and they say "nothing," that doesn't literally mean "nothing." It means "nothing important or worth talking about." It could be as simple as him not being able to finish the guitar part for a song he's writing or not being able to beat a certain level in a video game. Those aren't important things. If you ask what's wrong, they will say "nothing" because those things aren't real problems to them. SO, don't pressure your mate to talk. Let them have their little internal monologue and enjoy the silence. If you have things to say, they don't mind. They'll talk. But don't force conversation, and DO NOT assume that it means they're upset with you, being distant, thinking of another woman, etc. Seriously. Throwing out false accusations like that will just get them frustrated with you and then you'll reeeally feel distant. And there's no need for that. All it'll do is make you upset over a situation that wasn't important to begin with. So, ladies, don't pressure your men to talk to you all the time. If you really feel like going out, letting loose, and chatting the whole time, call your friends and have a girls night (and give your introvert some free alone time!).