Growing up, I remember noticing that the people who were drawn to me were almost always extroverts.
But it wasn’t until I was older that I learned what I needed to connect with people in more meaningful ways as an introvert.
Whether you’re an extrovert dating an introvert and trying to navigate conflict, or you already have a good relationship with your significant other and want to make your relationship even better, keep reading.
I’d like to share the interesting research and five key takeaways on relationships between extroverts and introverts, which could help shed light on your relationship too.
Introversion and extroversion fall on a spectrum
What even is an introvert? And what do we mean when we say someone is an extrovert?
Picture a line that goes from light to dark in varying degrees of color. Extroversion sits at one extreme, and introversion sits at the other. Most people find themselves somewhere along that line, not at one extreme or the other.
Have you ever known someone who can light up a room with their presence, but then needs days to themselves to rest and recoup their energy?
What about someone who appears shy and reserved, but clearly loves being around others, going from strength to strength after being in a room full of people?
These examples describe people who have both introverted and extroverted tendencies. Maybe they even describe you.
Although we tend to have a mix of qualities in us, I’ll use ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ to refer to people who lean one way or the other.
The real difference between an introvert and extrovert is not whether you are shy or outgoing; the crux of the issue is where you get your energy from.
If you’re an introvert, you draw your energy from time spent alone, processing your own thoughts, or in small group and one-on-one interactions that allow for deeper connections.
If you’re an extrovert, you likely enjoy large groups and new settings; you draw your energy from interactions with others and the world around you, and don’t find yourself overstimulated by the cacophony of sights and sounds.
You want to know what I find even more interesting?
The differences between introverts and extroverts show up in ways that are not so obvious…
1) Consider how your lover makes decisions and deals with conflict
One of the most interesting things I found in the research on this topic was the difference in how introverts and extroverts make decisions and deal with conflict.
In positivepsychology.com, Elaine Houston writes that introverts tend to reflect more before making decisions; they tend to ‘avoid impulsive decisions through thoughtful consideration, intuition and primarily count on themselves.’
Extroverts, on the other hand, tend to take risks and make decisions more quickly.
It’s easy to see how this could affect people in a relationship, where one makes decisions more impulsively and the other takes their time and needs to reflect and deliberate.
This could be a potential source of conflict, but with intentional communication and the desire to understand each other, it doesn’t have to be.
Speaking of conflict, extroverts and introverts tend to have very different styles.
Elaine Houston describes introverts as often being ‘less assertive, less willing to compete and tending to avoid conflict altogether.’ Extroverts, on the other hand, tend to ‘be more likely to confront conflict head-on.’
Communicating about the way you communicate with each other can help you reach a new level of understanding, and together you can find ways to handle conflict more effectively.
2) Communicate your needs and listen to your love interest’s needs
It’s important to understand how your love interest or partner expresses their particular brand of introversion, in order to better relate to them and improve your relationship.
Growing up as an introvert, I often found myself sitting in one place for hours, having one-sided conversations. These conversations could be so long, the sun would go down and the room would go dark, and I wouldn’t even get up to turn on the light, for fear of ruining the moment.
These were almost always deep conversations, but instead of feeling connected to the person, I found myself checking out at some point in the conversation, because I was overwhelmed and needed space to process my thoughts.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to disentangle myself from conversations when I just don’t have the time or energy to engage. This has helped me conserve my energy and feel less frustrated.
Find out what your lover needs in terms of space to breathe and process information.
Communication is key:
Ask your lover what they need from you, and be prepared to actually make compromises and adjustments to your expectations.
Communicate your own needs too, when it comes to spending time together and apart, how you like to socialize with others, and how you prefer to communicate and resolve conflict with each other.
Ask your lover questions like:
- What do they consider an ideal date?
- How do they like to socialize?
- How much time do they need to themselves?
- When do they need their alone time?
- How do they deal with conflict?
- What do they need from you in times of conflict?
Until your love interest opens up more, be prepared to ask more questions and give them space to speak. In times of conflict, be prepared to give them even more space to think and process their thoughts.
Keep in mind that people’s needs can change and are context-based as well, so try to be flexible and meet your lover where they are.
3) Don’t take it personally if your lover needs their own time and space
The person you’re dating may have different needs to you when it comes to seeing each other, meeting new people, and spending time with friends and family.
You may want to go out three or four times a week, but they may only want to go out one or two nights. You may want to go to parties and other large gatherings, which they may not enjoy.
It can feel personal and hard to accept when your lover needs more alone time, if that’s not something that feels natural to you. But the more you get to know them and understand their behavior in the context of their introversion, you’ll notice it isn’t about you.
It’s especially important to not take things personally if your lover has a different way of dealing with conflict than you do. If their silence makes you feel shut out, you can express that, and figure out a way for the two of you to handle conflict together.
Feel free to express your needs but give your lover the space they need and allow the space to work its magic. If the two of you have a connection and want to spend quality time together, this will not hurt your relationship. It will only help by making the time you spend together better and more connected.
This is especially important in the beginning stages of a relationship and may change as the two of you get closer and connect on a deeper level. As this happens the person you’re with will likely let you into their world more and more.
Still, it’s important to allow for some space even as the intimacy grows, and to consider how your lover’s needs might be different from yours.
4) Find ways to connect that consider their needs
Once you’ve established what your love interest needs in terms of time alone and apart, you can find ways to connect that consider their needs as well as yours.
You could plan date nights in quieter settings that are not overstimulating, since introverts are more sensitive to noise – for example, going for a quiet walk or having dinner at a more intimate restaurant, instead of going for drinks at a noisy bar.
Once, a friend asked me if I’d been annoyed the whole time we were having dinner at this restaurant. Not wanting to compete with the blaring music, I’d been quiet most of the time, and when I did speak I’m sure I had a strained expression that read as annoyance.
I had to explain to my friend that I wasn’t mad, just overstimulated and distracted by everything that was going on around us.
When I’m on a date or spending time with friends or family, I want to be immersed in conversation with them.
I like sitting across from a person and making eye contact, or sitting next to them and touching hips and shoulders, not being interrupted by our phones, and meeting in less chaotic environments so we can focus on each other.
I like slow and steady conversations where we ask questions and take time to listen and learn about each other.
This kind of concentrated time and attention feels like quality time, and makes it easier for me to connect with someone, whether a new interest or an old friend.
One thing you can do with your loved one is to spend quiet time together. For example, if they like to read or scroll on their phones after a busy day at work, you can sit close or next to each other and quietly do something that you enjoy too.
It’s important in any relationship that the silences are comfortable, and that you don’t feel you have to fill them to keep things from getting awkward.
It’s important to feel you’re connecting with someone you’re dating or interested in pursuing something more with. Talk to your person and ask them what they need and want, in order to feel that they’re truly connecting with you and with themselves, and be prepared to honor their needs.
5) Accept that you may need to meet your needs in different ways
When you’re in the beginning stages of a new relationship, it can feel like you can’t get enough of the person.
It’s healthy and normal to want to spend a lot of time with them in the beginning – but some distance and time apart can also be healthy.
This is especially important for people who’ve been together for some time, and find themselves frustrated because their partner doesn’t want to do the same things as them.
Consider going to events on your own, or finding other friends and people who have the same interests as you.
Investing in your own interests can improve the relationship you have with yourself and broaden your world, and time apart from your lover can be healthy as it helps you build a life that doesn’t revolve around them.
This takes the pressure off your relationship to meet your every need.
What are some practical ways to make friends and meet people who are interested in the same things as you?
You could join a sports club, join a gym and take group exercise classes, join a book club, or join a cooking or photography or art or other hobby class.
I know making friends as an adult can be hard. It takes more effort than when we were in school, in extracurricular activities or in the dorms, when making friends seemed simpler.
But it’s possible to make friends at any stage of life, and it’s worth pursuing and investing in other relationships that help meet your needs.
In the end, relationships are about compromise and mutual understanding…
Putting this kind of energy into trying to understand your lover and better meet their needs is a gift that gives back. If you’re in a mutually caring relationship, they will also make the effort to understand you and compromise to meet your needs when possible.
As an extrovert dating an introvert, you can learn a lot and develop relationship skills that can carry over into other relationships. Through your relationship, you can build character and improve the way you relate to people in general.
This is the point of relationships, in my view. They don’t always make us happy (although I think we should be more happy than unhappy in our relationships of choice), and they don’t always meet our needs, but they can teach and shape us for the better.
Can a relationship coach help you too?
If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.
I know this from personal experience…
A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.
If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.
In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.
I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.
The above link will give you $50 off your first session - an exclusive offer for Love Connection readers.