Introvert-Extravert Relationships: Can They Work?
Boy meets girl. They fell in love, get married (or move in together). Weeks pass…months…maybe even years…the first stage of love starts to fade and things begin to change. Many things she found attractive seem to disappear or lose their luster. Her endearing, lovable quirks suddenly annoy and frustrate him. The relationship normalizes. Boy and girl revert to their true personality types and their own love languages. It’s all quite disconcerting. Where did the love go? What’s wrong with the relationship?
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is all about personality types…and it works. It’s going to save boy and girl…and their relationship. And I want you to start using it too. Why? To successfully create the best connection and relationships with everyone in your life — starting with your partner.
Over a number of articles, we’re going to look at the various preferences that make up MBTI and see how they affect us and our relationships. There are four sets of preferences that make up MBTI, and in this article, we’ll focus on the first preference pair: extraversion and introversion.
Introversion versus extraversion
Extraversion and introversion describe the direction and focus of your personal energy. In simple terms, extraverts prefer and are energized by the outer world of people, activities, and events. Introverts, by contrast, prefer and get energy from the inner world of ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
Now, when considering personality types, it’s important to remember that we all use each preference in a pair, but each of us biases towards one end of the spectrum or the other. For instance, I’m able to both extravert and introvert, but I get my energy from the outer world of extraversion. Like me, everybody spends some time extraverting and some introverting.
Now don’t confuse introversion with shyness. Being shy means that you get very nervous and self-conscious in social situations. This can happen to both introverts and extraverts (not all natural born extraverts run around chatting with strangers). Even as an extravert, I still don’t like going into a room full of strangers. However, because I’m an extravert, words just roll off the tip of my tongue and it’s easier for me to engage in social banter than it is for my husband Paul who is an introvert. Paul likes to think before he speaks and doesn’t want to make small talk with people he doesn’t know.
Take a minute to ask yourself, which of the following descriptions seems more natural, effortless, and comfortable for you.
People who prefer introversion usually:
- Are energized by being alone or with one or two people they feel comfortable with
- Listen well and give their partner or child the time to tell them their thoughts, concerns, and ideas
- Are reflective and quiet, waiting to be invited, whether into conversations or just to life itself
- Take time to reflect so they have a clear idea of what they’ll be doing (and why) once they decide to act
- Are more reserved and take time to get to know others
- Prefer to focus on just a few things in-depth and need privacy to concentrate
- Prefer communicating in writing, such as with texts and email, which gives them time to reflect on the message they wish to convey
- ‘Think, talk, think’, preferring to mentally process what they’re saying
- Become very stressed when expected to provide an instant, verbal answer, needing time to process their response and give one that’s not rushed and reflects what they really want to say
- Learn through reading and reflection
Understand that introversion is not about how one acts in social situations; it’s about how a person recharges their stores of energy. Introverts tend to feel drained after socializing and regain their energy by spending time alone.
Of course, not all introverts are the same. Some need only a short amount of time to recharge and can handle a fair amount of socializing before feeling drained. Others drain quickly and prefer to spend very long periods of time alone. And many introverts land somewhere in the middle; because let’s face it, it’s an extraverted world out there, and introverts need to extravert to survive, so some get quite good at it.
Okay, now let’s talk about extraversion. People who prefer extraversion usually:
- Are outgoing, expressive, and interested in external events
- Are energized by interaction
- Like to make things happen and generally feel at home in the external world
- Have words at the tip of their tongue, and so may speak before reflecting
- ‘Talk, think, talk’, with words coming easily and quickly, perhaps putting their foot in their mouth…sometimes both feet, in fact, as they scramble to recover their initial mistake!
- Understand a problem better when they can talk it out loud and find they can best solve the problem as they talk it through
- Socialize easily and are easy to get to know
- Are happy to disclose details about their personal lives to anyone who shows interest
- Have many interests and get their energy from active involvement in events and having lots of different activities going on
- Need regular stimulation, variety, and can get bored easily
- Learn best by doing and interacting (Pro tip: Don’t keep them still for too long!)
- Enjoy being around people and like to energize others
Once again, as with introverts, remember that some extraverts don’t require as much time in the extraverted world as others to re-energize.
Are you more introverted or extraverted?
So how do you see yourself — remembering that you can move in both directions but will have a preference that you will bias toward most often?
Environmental factors can also play an important role in our type because the way we’re raised, and the circumstances of our lives depend on whether we use our preferred or non-preferred type.
For example, I was brought up in a household where all five other members were introverts. And since we lived in the country, for the first eighteen years of my life, I had a very small group of friends. I’d sit inside and read books (both my parents were librarians) and I didn’t go out of my home to seek out friends as there really weren’t many others around to be found. I spent much of my childhood bored and lonely. But when I eventually travelled into the city for university, everything changed. My world opened up with so many new friends to meet, places to experience, and fun to have, and if I’m honest about it, I don’t think I’ve read many books or spent many days at home alone since!
Introversion and extraversion in relationships
Let’s look at these two different preferences in the context of a relationship. What often happens when an extravert and an introvert meet, is that it can seem like a perfect combination — yin and yang. The extravert has someone to listen to their stories and not interrupt. The introvert has someone to hold the conversation when they’re out together and cover all those awkward moments when words are needed, and they’ve not had the chance to prepare. The extravert energizes the introvert. The introvert gives important downtime for the extravert. The introvert shares their outlook on life in a deep, meaningful conversation. The extravert shares their outlook on life with all their thoughts and ideas brought to the table, whether deep or superficial, in a brain dump of verbal information. In short, they each fill in the missing parts of each other’s personalities.
This is us
Paul and I started our relationship with no understanding of personality types. We just thought we were right for each other — I’m the extravert; he’s the introvert. Initially, we went out and saw lots of people all the time. It was all so much fun, I thought. But as time went on, and the first phase of love disappeared, things began to change. I’d plan an exciting weekend, full of social obligations, friends, and fun. But then Paul and I would end up having so many disagreements about it that we’d often only end up going to one of the three events I’d planned. What I hadn’t realized (until we found out about different personalities) was that I was overwhelming Paul with my need for, and love of, socializing in the outer world. He was so energy-depleted, without the downtime that he needed, that we were in a constant state of friction, which lasted for years. It was breaking us. The eventual discovery of the differences in our personalities saved the relationship — saved us. It created the path for change as we learnt how to adjust our ways of understanding each other and our differences.
That’s how boy and girl move past that first infatuated stage of love into a more mature, more sustained, more sustainable phase of love — perhaps even that ‘happily ever after’ stage.
Think about the relationships in your life, romantic or otherwise. Is this an issue for you?
How does this understanding of the differences between introverts and extraverts change your perceptions? How might it colour your interactions with one another?
How might you use that understanding to reach better compromises and solutions in your relationships to live a happier and more fulfilled life?
If you believe, as I do, that this type of understanding is vital for getting the most out of our life and our relationships, I’d invite you to visit www.katemasonauthor.com download the first two chapters of my book Who Is This Monster (or Treasure) in My Home free. In it, you’ll find an assessment you can complete to confirm your MBTI preference (and your partner’s) along this introvert/extravert dimension.