Oh No, I Married an Extrovert!

It’s extremely common for a married couple to be comprised of one outgoing/extroverted person and another who is more introverted. My marriage is no exception, with me being the introverted one (as most writers are), and my hubby on the far extreme of extroverted.

I didn’t expect this to cause much conflict when I got married, but in fact this difference affects how you each wish to plan your days, your weekends, your vacations—pretty  much your lives. That means, while I would love to be reading alone or taking a solitary walk to recharge my batteries, I host large or small groups of people in our home on a regular basis, because that’s what recharges my husband’s batteries. To be honest, I generally enjoy these gatherings and love our friends, but they require much more energy from me than for him. (I also have higher housekeeping standards, but that’s another post entirely.)

What defines an introvert or extrovert anyway? Introverts refuel their energy by spending time alone, while extroverts become fired up and energized when they are socializing with others. One can exhibit different personality traits depending on the situation. For instance, you may be introverted in a group of strangers, but extroverted at home with friends and family. Introverts generally have a longer attention span, are more private and less aggressive. Not all introverts are shy; they just don’t enjoy or thrive on social situations as extroverts do.

I’m fairly social for an introvert (partly because of who I married), but I can’t change my brain’s biology. Introverts and extroverts have different brain wiring then extroverts. Brain scans have shown that introverts have more blood flow to their brains than extroverts. In addition, they showed different pathways for the blood flow in the brain, with introverts showing a longer and more complicated path when involving internal experiences (i.e. problem solving). Extroverts’ brain scans showed their blood flow was shorter, less complicated and traveled to different areas. Clearly, introverts respond to internal stimulation, while extroverts respond to external stimuli.1

So, with the understanding that we can’t change one another, how can we best manage the disparity? It’s best to respect your differences, and negotiate or compromise when you disagree on events or schedules.  My very spontaneous, social husband understands that he should check with me before inviting people over, because sometimes I’m just not up for it. And I understand that being social is part of who he is, so I encourage and make room in my life for that. We help balance one another. However, during the first five or more years of marriage, we were still figuring this out and wondering why the other person didn’t want to do what we did.

In most of the interviews I’ve done with happily married couples, one person has been introverted while the other is extroverted. They also had to learn to adjust to these differences over time through trial and error. Maybe one person leaves church or a party early, so the other can linger and talk. Or, one spouse takes more frequent outings with friends and allows his or her partner some time at home to rejuvenate. Resist the urge to separate your lives too much; we need to be involved in one another’s interests and friends—to be attentive, caring and interested. Read Pour Love on Your Spouse.

I’m glad I married someone different from me, because it stretches me out of my comfort zone. Maybe I even cause my partner to become more reflective at times. I think we are more interesting and better people as a result of our balancing act.

I’m curious… whether are engaged, dating or married, do you and your partner have different social tendencies? If so, how you have learned to negotiate that landscape? If they are the same, does it make you more compatible?

 

1 Source: Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D., The Introvert Advantage (New York: Workman Publishers)

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29 responses to “Oh No, I Married an Extrovert!

  1. Hi, there.

    I’m an extrovert engaged to an introvert. The funny thing about our relationship is that my fiance has many more friends and a much richer social life than I have.

    My fiance is older and more experienced than I am — he’s very well traveled. That’s because he went to a very social college in another country, where he made friends by osmosis. Many of these friends followed him to the States, and they see each other fairly regularly.

    Though I like socializing, I’ve lived in isolating places. I simply haven’t got as many friends. The friends I do have I keep up with religiously, but he’s socially busier than I am.

    I know he’s an introvert because he tells me he much prefers to be alone. Whenever we’re together we avoid huge spaces, crowds and parties. I’m totally fine with that, though I need some socialization or else I get very lonely and depressed. I have long phone conversations with my friends, he hangs out with his independently — ski trips, bowling, car rides, etc — and we’re very happy together.

  2. Oh, and excellent, excellent post. I’ve bookmarked it and I know I’ll come back to it from time to time. You keep a lovely blog.

    • Thank you so much for the compliment and for your feedback. It sounds like you are ahead of the game by negotiating these issues early. Hope to see you again here soon.

  3. I’m the introverted writer-type and my wife is the extrovert in our marriage. Like you I’m thankful that she is wired differently than I am because it does enrich my life beyond what I would otherwise be willing to engage in.

    We have learned to compromise. I am sometimes willing to socialize more than my comfort normally allows and she is willing to forego some things for my sake. She does go out with her girl friends, but tries to keep it during the day so as not to impact our time too much.

  4. Happily married extrovert to another extrovert. What I like about being the same is that in any social setting, we’re both fine on our own. I don’t need to worry about sticking close to his side and ditto for him. We arrive together, socialize separately, reconnect to go home AND have a lot to talk about as we share our experiences and conversations. It also makes it easy for both of us to have social lives outside our marriage and not feel like we’re leaving the other behind. Only issue we sometimes have is vying for air time!!

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  7. I’m not quite sure what I am. My job makes me into a pretty big extrovert, and I tend to be the life of the party, and tend to enjoy going out drinking with people I like, but I do like to come home and spend time alone just decompressing lots of times. My b/f is an extrovert, and has a lot more friends he likes to hang out with, but especially when I’m done with working I just like to go home and rest. If I didn’t work that day I definitely need to go out.

  8. I have such a hard time deciding if I am introverted or extroverted, I agree w/your post sometimes it depends on the situation. I took the Myers Briggs personality test for work and says extrovert but I go back and forth I think. My husband is very social as well and definitly stretches me to be more that way which I think is very helpful. I feel so liberated knowing personality information like Myers Briggs teaches, I wish it were a requirement in highschool so we could all understand each other better!

  9. Great post! Just being aware is at least half the battle. I have been married 38 years and have been somewhat unaware for most of that time. I am just now becoming aware and trying to end up with a good, loving relationship that carries us into our final years. In the beginning I was the extrovert and my wife was the introvert. I used alcohol to overcome my shyness. Now my wife is the extrovert and I have become introverted, probably because I quit drinking. I put up with being dragged to her social events and she lets me go out to the lake house by myself. It works! I wish we had had these blogs in the old days. It is important for every couple to be aware of the intricacies of their relationship so they can tweak it from time to time, something I am just figuring out. It takes work, people, it doesn’t just happen!

    • Congrats on making it the home stretch in your marriage and for continuing to work hard on it! I also replenish with alone time after socializing, and it works for me, too. Thanks for the feedback. Best,
      Lori

  10. I’m an introvert married to an extrovert and quite frankly I’m ready to divorce him,as an extrovert he likes to share personal information with supposed “friends” everyone he meets is a “friend” , so guess what,all of his so called ” friends” have personal information about our lives,persoanl information that I would only share with close family members,bottom line,the man is a big mouth.I have to say NO,introverts and extroverts should not marry.Extroverts are way too needy and always wanting someone elses opinion,these people cant seem to think for themselves or be comfortable in their own skin for that matter.This is one introvert that is ready to head for the hills.

    • Thanks for the comment, Michelle. I think you have a point about not providing personal information to people that aren’t well known. I know my Mom does that a lot when we’re on the train or at the airport. She has never met a stranger. As for the conflicts you are mentioning, they seem to go deeper. I hope you can discuss your feelings without blame. Each person can’t really help their basic traits. Ex., say, “I feel” comments rather than “you always” and try to recall why you married him in the first place. The more you focus on the negative aspects of a relationship, the more they will grow and appear to take over the marriage. Also, make your needs clear for some solitude, alone time, or whatever you need. (I feel great after an afternoon of reading or alone time!) Each of us is responsible for meeting our own needs. Maybe he needs to play golf with 10 friends, and you’d rather read a book at home. By seeking your own happiness, hopefully you can spend time together as fulfilled, and happier, more interesting people. I wish you both the very best!

  11. Oh yeah,my inlaws ALL FREAKING EXTROVERTS.These people have made my life a living hell. We go to visit maybe 3 times per year,can I be allowed to sit and read a book,maybe do a puzzle,go for a walk alone.NOOOOOOO I am dragged from one mindless event and function to another with the plans changing every few minutes,they arent happy unless they are doing something .I dared to separate myself from that pack of yapping hyenas ONCE ,my word you would think that I killed grandma,it was the end of the world,how dare I be myself. Then we have my SIL,shes a peach alright,she has a beautiful little girl being raised by babysitters because her social life means more to her than her own kid and this is somehow acceptable in society.Dont think so. Do I sound angry and bitter.I am .This is one introvert that has had it up to the eye ball with BS from extroverts.

    • Same here, Michelle.
      I do understand Extroverts are people with needs too, However they almost act like the world revolves around them and if you dont want to go out and party or constantly be visiting then you are some sort of rude witch or something.
      My Inlaws are all extroverts and they think I am rude and tell everyone they know that I am rude and unsocial.
      It is so frustrating and I certainly understand what you are going through.

  12. I’m an extrovert go on judge me, in 2 months I will marry an introvert he is not overly introverted, but he prefers to stay home. ALL the time, he picks me up from work we come home, on the weekends when i used to go out this yr he has taken me out with out winging about 3 times! and with other people i think not just with family… Please we have needs too!

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  14. I am a introvert married to an extrovert.
    It has caused definite stress in our marriage.
    I can manage a couple of social interactions a month.
    But, only if they are outside our home, I HATE people coming into my home, I feel like the home is our sanctuary and for my husband and I only.
    He LOVES just randomly inviting people over and visiting.
    He doesn’t understand that it literally panics me when people show up at my door, he doesn’t think its a big deal, he just thinks I am self conscious about the house or something.
    The weird thing was I was able to cope better before I got married and now that I live with him, I feel more out of control because I don’t know what will happen next, so, I am worse then before.
    Now, I do not want to do anything out of the home or see anybody or have anyone at the house.
    My inlaws are all extroverts as well and think I am some nasty witch, and tell those around me that I am “unsocialable ” and “rude”.
    Which of course, embarrasses me more and makes me want to attend family functions less and less.

    • That sounds difficult for you both. Have you tried to agree upon a certain amount of socialization that is scheduled ahead of time? I know I sometimes get panicked when people show up or if I have little advance warning. But I have learned to enjoy some entertaining if I can prepare. Or perhaps outside your home is preferable. I would hope you or your husband could also discuss with your inlaws and let them know you are not trying to be rude by have some anxiety about social situations. Ask for their help and encouragement. Try not to cut yourself out of family situations. When we marry a person, we marry into the family. Best wishes to you!

      • Pepper June

        Thank you for replying!
        My husband is trying to understand my needs.
        And me, his.
        He did try to give me plenty of notice for a family get-together this weekend for Easter. (which I made sure to him how much I appreciated that!)
        However, talking with my Inlaws will never be an option, I shared with my MIL after I had a painful miscarriage and she told me to stop feeling sorry for myself and just hurry up and try to get pregnant again, I sincerely doubt they will have any empathy for me being an introvert or needing space/quiet sometimes.
        Unfortunately, my inlaw problems go deeper than just extrovert/introvert.

      • That does sound horribly unempathetic. I’m very sorry for your loss. If you and your husband are working to be understanding of one another’s needs that is a HUGE step, congratulations. And maybe it doesn’t matter what the in-laws think if you support one another and back one another up. Be a team that no one can divide. Enjoy your Easter!

      • Pepper June

        Thank you and thank you for your kind words.
        Yes, I think you are right, as long as my husband and I understand what we need to do for each other and our marriage, then who cares what they think.
        I greatly appreciate you replying to me, People (extroverts) think that introverts are never lonely, but just because we enjoy being alone sometimes doesn’t mean that we don’t get lonely, especially when we feel like we are some sort of weirdo or that no one understands us.
        Thank you all for helping me see that I am not alone in this.
        Happy Easter weekend to everyone!

      • You are very welcome! Take care.

  15. I think one of the best ways an introvert and an extrovert can handle being married (I’ve been married to an extrovert a week shy of 22 years) is to accept that the “do all social events together” paradigm will kill your marriage.

    Oh, an the the idea that it is the woman’s job to facilitate all social events is as much of a relationship-killer in this situation as having to do everything together.

    There are days when my husband spends the weekend going to social events while I write (yeah, that big cliche — a writer introvert). There are times when I take trips by myself.

    We used to feel guilty, as if there were something wrong with our marriage, because we did not do every damn thing together. Do we do SOME things together? Absolutely. We go on vacations or to parties or visit friends, or go on those long walks, and they’re all wonderful.

    But we don’t ONLY do things together.

    • You make a really good point. It’s very hard for both people to feel satisfied if one wants to interact with others much more than the other. It is important that some social activities and a good amount of 1-1 time are spent together, but not necessarily all activities. Thanks so much for sharing your tips!

  16. Interesting topic. I am in a relationship now (both of us divorced) and always thought I was a mix of extroverted and introverted. However my boyfriend is very extroverted. So much so I am seriously wondering if I should continue on this path. I really want him to be happy and don’t want to burden him with my need for peace and quiet. He says it’s not a problem but I do wonder truly if he wouldn’t be happier with someone much more extroverted like himself.

    • Through informal surveying, I would say most couples I know have one partner who is much more extroverted than the other. The same is true of my marriage as you have read. It doesn’t have to get in the way of a great relationship, but you do each have to vocalize your needs and be aware of your partner’s preferences. Best wishes.

  17. Yes:) I’m glad I’m not the only married to a social butterfly. I don’t really enjoying being around big groups and I become easily tired and drained. My hubby on the other hand loves it, always wants to be out and about. It has made me become a wee bit more social at times and I think my introverted ways have rubbed off on him a bit. We still bicker about going out but compromise is key. And now that we have a seven month old, I get to stay in even more now! :)

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