As I sit down at my laptop to flesh out this article, a familiar voice behind me recants his latest phone bill. From Alexa’s stereo, I hear soft piano keys play a jazzy tune. A dog bark echoes outside, almost as if it was attempting to sing along with the jazz.
The lights in our shared office space are brighter than I prefer, but I’m used to it. I’m an Introvert who has lived with an Extravert for nearly two years and has been in a relationship with said Extravert for almost five.
My fiance, the Extravert, loves spending time together. Activities I typically would prefer to do alone, like running to the grocery store to grab a frozen pizza for dinner, are, in his opinion, much more fun in pairs.
He needs external stimulation: a phone conversation with an old friend to fill his afternoon commute, Saturday night out with a group of college buddies, or spending “alone time” not completely alone, but “alone together” with his favorite person — me.
Fortunately, I love spending time with him, too. But I’m also an Introvert, and there are plenty of days where the differences in our personalities make cohabitating a bit challenging.
I need time alone to recharge. Yes, this means “alone alone.” And even my favorite person doesn’t get a free pass to disrupt this need.
If you’re an Introvert-Extravert couple who live together, read on for what to expect and tips on how to live together peacefully.
Moving in together? Prepare for space shock
One of the hardest periods of our Introvert-Extravert relationship thus far happened when we first moved in together.
Even though I knew I needed alone time as an Introvert, it was my first time sharing a space with a significant other. For several months, I felt like I needed to always be “on” for my extraverted partner.
We’d come home from work and talk about our days, eat dinner together, watch television together, go to sleep together and do it all again the next day.
At first, it was fun. Then it started to get draining. I would get moody when he asked if I wanted to go out to eat because all I wanted to do was take a bath and read a book. These were little things, and we didn’t even realize that they were causing friction.
If you’re an Introvert moving in with an extraverted partner, or vice versa, it’s essential to realize that cohabitation will change your relationship. The Introvert can no longer retreat to his own bedroom to recharge at any given moment and the Extravert can’t invite a group of friends over on a random night just because she feels like it.
However, this doesn’t mean that an Introvert-Extravert couple can’t live together while both feeling energized and fulfilled.
Happily sharing a home with anyone requires healthy communication, respect, and compromise. It’s easy to forget that the person you live with has needs that may be much different than your own. These tips can help the Extravert-Introvert couple succeed not only as partners — but also as roommates.
Tips for the Extravert living with an Introvert
Be respectful of your Introvert’s alone time. If your introverted partner is preoccupied (like reading in bed or working at their desk) ask if it’s a good time to talk before diving into the story you’re excited to share with them. They may be just as excited to hear your tale as you are to tell it, but they will appreciate the care you took to respect their alone time.
Give advanced notice about social functions — and, if possible, the chance to opt-out. Remember that as an Extravert, you need more external stimulation than your Introvert. And that’s OK. But don’t expect your introverted partner to be as excited as you are about a spontaneous Tuesday dinner out with your best friend and her husband or participating in that kickball tournament you signed up for next weekend. Introverts enjoy being around people, of course, but they’re more strategic about how they spend their social batteries. The more they have time to plan, the better. And if it’s a last-minute request, don’t be too surprised or upset if they decide not to go.
Find fulfilling hobbies outside of the relationship. This tip goes for both Introverts and Extraverts, but it’s especially crucial that the Extravert not rely too heavily on their introverted partner to fill their need for company and conversation. Find a regular hobby that energizes you and doesn’t require your partner’s participation. This could be a weekly happy hour with co-workers or bi-monthly bible study group. Make sure that you’re also giving your Introvert the same amount of time to do their own thing.
Don’t take your partner’s needs personally. When your introverted partner communicates their need for alone time, don’t take it personally. It can take a lot for an Introvert to feel comfortable enough to express this need. The best thing you can do for your partner is to listen and understand their needs from their perspective.
Express your needs. Yes, Introverts need more time alone to re-charge than Extraverts. But this isn’t an excuse for your Introvert to cancel all plans from now until eternity. It’s just as important for your introverted partner to respect your needs as it is for you to respect theirs. If there’s a social function that’s extremely important to you, make sure your partner knows how much you would appreciate that they be there. Compromise is a two-way street.
Tips for the Introvert living with an Extravert
Communicate your needs. The most important tip for an Introvert living with an extraverted partner is learning how to express your need for solitude. I used to worry that expressing my need for alone time would hurt my fiance’s feelings. But he has been incredibly understanding and supportive. Don’t expect that your partner will “get it” right away, or worse, read your mind. You need to clearly articulate what you need and be willing to help your partner understand how important these needs are to you. Not doing so will cause small annoyances to bottle up until your feelings of slight frustration turn to major resentment.
Find your own space. When my Extravert and I need to do our own thing, he goes to the office, and I go to the bedroom. In his space, he can study, talk on the phone or listen to music as loudly as he wants; I can read, chat with friends online, or watch Netflix on my laptop. For Introverts, especially, it’s essential to have somewhere in your home that you can retreat when you need solitude.
Manage your energy wisely, but also say “yes.” One beautiful thing about being an Introvert in a relationship with an Extravert is that the Extravert can encourage the Introvert to try things that they usually wouldn’t choose to experience on their own. Life is much more fun when we live it outside of our comfort zone, and saying “yes” to your extraverted partner’s experiential suggestions could result in both of you having a great time. Just make sure you take the time you need to mentally prepare, and go in with an open mind.
Know your limit and express this to your partner. Many Introverts know that after a certain amount of time at a party they “hit a wall” and mentally begin to check out. Tell your partner what this experience is like for you and create an action plan for social functions when needed. For example, if your husband wants to have a group of friends over for a Saturday game night, explain that you’ll most likely want to leave the party at a certain time. But understand that may not be enough social time for him. Devise a plan that suits you both. Maybe he takes the late-night party-goers out for coffee and continued conversation after you hit the hay, or they move the poker game to the basement.
Happily ever after
When I think back to what attracted me most to my soon-to-be husband, it was the way he can enter any room and invite other people’s attention. He loves people — and I love that about him. I’m grateful for how we balance each other out and how we learn and grow from our differences.
Living together as an Introvert-Extravert couple will come with some adjustments. But the living situation doesn’t have to make the relationship hard.
By making an effort to understand your partner’s needs, respecting those needs and communicating issues as they arise, an Introvert and an Extravert can live happily ever after, together.