Woe Is Me! “How Do I Navigate a Relationship With an Introvert?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I am a highly extroverted person who loves being around people, but my partner is an introvert who prefers to be alone and hates social gatherings. She refuses to come with me when we are invited to parties, and I always end up showing up alone. I respect her decision but I would also like to spend time with her beyond the confines of our home. While I try to understand her situation, sometimes I feel like she’s not making an effort at all. How do I make this work?”
— Tricky territory
DR: There’s such a thing as compatibility, and based on the little information you’ve provided, it doesn’t sound to me like you two are compatible. I’m not basing my judgment on the fact that you identify as an extrovert while your partner identifies as the opposite — it’s absolutely possible for an extrovert and an introvert to have a lasting, beautiful relationship. My judgment is, instead, based on the fact that the two of you have yet to be able to come up with a solution that works for you both.
However, here are some ideas to put you on the path to that if you don’t want to give up on the relationship yet: instead of large gatherings, maybe, the two of you could do a double date with another couple you’re friends with; rather than a gathering where one has to keep making small talk through the course of the evening, perhaps, you two can meet your friends for activities like watching a movie at a theater, drunken painting, or anything else that suits your fancy; another idea is to host gatherings at your shared residence, perhaps, so she’s not only in her safe space, but can also retreat into the bedroom to take short breaks whenever she’s beginning to feel overwhelmed or exhausted from socializing; you could also ask her if she’d be more comfortable if the social gatherings you attend together don’t just include your friends, but hers too, so that she’s not just hanging out with people she’s not too familiar with personally. Irrespective of whether these suggestions work for you, I hope they inspire you to come up with more tricks to navigate your extroverted-ness and her introverted-ness.
If all else fails, couple’s therapy might be yet another avenue you could explore — please ensure the therapist is an unbiased one, and doesn’t solely take the side of one of you (this can be a polarizing topic, after all), breeding resentment in the other.
AS: I can understand this might be frustrating, but, as you already know, forcing your partner into situations that put her on edge will do no good. If the aim is to spend time with her outside the house, you could plan outings with just her, or include a few friends you know she is comfortable around to begin with. You are two different people who do not need to meld into one another, or always show up together, for your relationship to work.
Having said that, since being around people is important to you, you can talk to your partner about this and come to a sort of compromise — something that would work best for both of you. If she agrees to step out, give her time to mentally prepare for larger social gatherings, but respect her decision if she feels too drained and decides to leave early, or not attend at all. Alternatively, you both could plan small get-togethers at home more spontaneously on days you know her energy levels are higher. But please don’t spring a crowd of people on her without her knowing. She probably won’t like that.
AS: You could go on dates with her? Not every time you step out of the house has to involve a social gathering. Plus, you have to respect her individuality, and I don’t think forcing her into uncomfortable situations to save face is the correct way to go about it. There are people in the world who do not enjoy loud parties and gatherings and it is really fine if that’s not their vibe. You have to respect her choice here, nothing else to do, really.
QG: I’m so sorry, this sounds like an awful position for you to be in. I think the answer to your dilemma lies in finding common ground through mutual compromise. You need to also make peace with the fact that your partner is an introvert. That’s not really going to change and neither is your extrovert personality. You both need to find ways to find common ground and to make compromises for each other. That’s the only way forward. But, taxing as this may sound, there’s so much beauty in letting a person who is different from you in your life. You get to see and experience life the way they do and vice versa. I say, have an open conversation with her about this, navigate it with honesty and sensitivity, and see where it goes.