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Because of your blog, I know that it is possible for me to have the love that I want one day and that I don’t have to be alone.  — Indepthwoman  on space2live
Indepthwoman
I met Brenda and took the MBTI… I had a fairly good understanding of these types before the meeting but was impressed by the depth of knowledge that Brenda shared with me. She clearly has a passion for this work and a gift in imparting the information. There have been doors opened for me because of our talks… — Alan Hintermeister
Alan Hintermeister
THANK YOU….. you just summed up my swirling thoughts into something i can read with out everything else in my head meshing with it. I finally feel like i can explain what happens within without getting distracted. I’m an Introvert with ADD and it makes it so hard to explain quite what im feeling sometimes. — M.G. on space2live
M.G.
Thank you for all the words. You’ve created the magic drug I’ve been looking for all my life. Your blog has transformed my life, and I feel like I am on the brink of a most satisfying fulfilling journey…You’ve made me see everything in a new light. I now feel calmer, able to care better for my toddler, less hateful of people around, and hopeful for my future. I am not so afraid for our marriage anymore. — Shilpa CB
Shilpa CB
Your site has saved my sanity and my life. Maybe even my marriage. I work part time and have two young boys at home, my husband is supportive of me but until recently I thought I was going crazy. … Reading your writing not only inspires me to pick up the pen again, but gives me nourishment in the deepest places. I will fight for balance. Everything you write is spot on… And wellness is so incredibly multifaceted.  I was ready to give up hope, but understanding myself through your words is bring…
J.K.
You’re so honest in your writing. It’s bold. It’s frank. It’s wonderful. I could definitely see the work you are doing here as a useful book. It could save/make a lot of relationships! — Jimmi Langemo
Jimmi Langemo
This is me. This is me from the day I was born. For so long I felt misunderstood and rejected, even by the people closest to me, because they could never understand my need for solitude, and I had no idea how to explain it to them. Even now that I know more about Introversion and have a more informed understanding of my hard-wired need for solitude, it’s still very difficult sometimes to help my loved ones understand this profound craving for time and space all to myself. This is one of the best…
Sharon
BRENDA: thank you SO much! Your advice is exactly what I need to do. I am amazed how much you “get” me after only exchanging a few messages!… Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve helped me more than a year of therapy sessions! – Megan on space2live
Megan
During one of the harder times in my life I found Brenda’s website
and reached out to her. To say the least it has been one of the best
decisions I have made. Being an extrovert I never quite understood
what it meant to romantically involved with an introvert. Brenda does
an incredible job listening, giving in the moment feedback, and helped
me understand the how an introvert functions. She helped explain to me
that I am introspective extrovert, and this gave something to identify
with and allowed me t…
Evan H.
Brenda has truly opened up a space for introverted types on the ‘net, and her self-revelations are always inspiring. Her voice is one I always look forward to. She is one of the writers that actually played a part in my return to writing.  — S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms

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Can This Introvert – Extrovert Relationship Be Saved?

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There’s a theme among my new clients. It is extroverts alone after a breakup with an introvert. The extroverts wonder what made their introverted mates leave and if they will ever come back.

In the beginning

With my new clients, the beginning of the relationship was heady and incredibly satisfying. They spent lots of time together. Their partners were like no one else they ever dated. They saw something in each other they really liked. They talked every day. Some met online. Some met through mutual friends. All of them were combinations of introverts with extroverts.

Polarity is sexy. Opposites attract like crazy. The other person is different in an interesting and helpful way. They surprise each other with behaviors, gifts and expressions of affection.

In my clients’ cases, the introverts wrote sweet notes to their mates and kept track of important things about them in notebooks. The extroverts introduced their introverts to their family and friends. They lavished them with affection.

Then the honeymoon phase ended and the misunderstandings and hurt feelings began. Just like they do in all relationships but with specific introvert/extrovert challenges.

A little about introverts and extroverts

Introverts constantly reconcile what is going on in the outer world with what they believe to be true in their inner world. If they encounter a lot of dissonance between the two, the reconciliation process uses up energy. They may need to get away to re-charge.

Extroverts need to hear their own thoughts in the outer world to process them, which is why they often think as they talk. They process as they hear their words/thoughts.

If an introvert continuously hears an extrovert’s thoughts before they are well formulated, it can be draining. The introvert is filtering, filtering to get to the point and figure out whether it resonates with his or her inner world. The filtering is draining and if the mate’s words don’t line up with their values there is reconciliation to do. Interestingly, according to personality type profile expert, Antonia Dodge of Personality Hacker, introverts often monopolize conversations because if they are the ones doing all the talking, there is less reconciling to do. The content is safe and aligned with their inner worlds.

When it works

Introverts appreciate the overt energy the extrovert brings to the table. They ride that energy wave when they go out socializing with their extrovert. The extrovert may get them out of the house more. The extrovert’s enthusiasm and communication skills literally charm the pants off the introvert.

The extrovert appreciates the introvert’s ability to slow things down and reflect. The extrovert finds that calming and it helps them review their own inner realm. The extrovert finds a vessel to pour their energy into. The performer (Es) and audience (Is) dynamic plays out and both feel satisfied. The talker and the listener work well together. Their differences add sparkle and enrichment to their lives. 

When it doesn’t work

The trouble comes when the quantity versus quality ratio does not match for the partners.

The introvert may assume he or she is giving their partner adequate attention and affection by spending one or two nights a week in intimate endeavors with them and the rest of the time doing their own thing. Quality versus quantity.

The extrovert may expect interaction and affection every day throughout the day in brief encounters, more like touching base. They may also wish for more assurances regarding the health of the relationship. Quantity versus quality.

Stress and emotions

Introverts and extroverts often deal with stress and emotions differently. Introverts under pressure, like to pull back and assess in private without distractions and further stimulation. Emotions, words and physical interactions are all stimulation to an introvert. This is not to say they don’t want to work things out with their partner but they prefer to reflect first before they engage. Part of that is their reluctance and often poor ability to speak off the cuff due to their long neural pathway processing.

Extroverts tend to want to talk through the problem right away. It feels good to get their feelings out into the open where they can process them. The extroverts in my client cases kept asking the introverts for feedback, for confirmation that everything was alright.

If the stress is chronic within the relationship’s environment the introvert may become less demonstrative and disconnect more and more to stop reconciling inner and outer worlds and conserve energy. Not surprisingly, this feels like rejection and withdrawal to the extrovert.

In two cases I worked with recently, insecurities due to lack of affirmation from the introvert and the subsequent emotional outpourings by the extrovert, caused breakups and permanent withdrawal by the introvert.

How to make it work?

How to be in an introvert/extrovert relationship and still honor your needs and be true to yourself? You’ll need three things: Self-awareness, self-soothing and self-expression. These are very similar to the three legs to the self-stool (self -awareness, self-esteem, self-expression) required for personal fulfillment.

Self-awareness means knowing yourself. Knowing your non-negotiable needs. What would you fight for? What will you not concede on? I’m going to be honest, most of the time you have to figure those out by going through strife in relationships. Self-awareness also means knowing your shadow side, the part of you that surfaces when you’re stressed. It’s your weakest link. The things that you may have shame around or feel inferior expressing. It’s vital to also seek understanding about your partner’s non-negotiable needs and shadow side. Having an inkling of their perspective is priceless. Relationship coach, Jayson Gaddis, always says a very important question to ask your partner during rough patches is “What’s going on in your world?”

Knowledge and understanding of your partner’s way of being transforms resentment into gratitude. Now you can appreciate what they bring to the relationship. You can appreciate their perspective even if it differs from yours. You know they aren’t just behaving like that to annoy you. It’s how they are wired.

Understanding and non-judgment go a long way in soothing hurt feelings between introverts and extroverts.

What can I do to get them back? 

One thing I’ve noticed when helping introvert/extrovert couples navigate their relationships, is that the extroverts ask  how they can change to make the introvert come back to them. They will give them more space. They will let them spend more time in their heads. They will stop contacting them as much. They will live with less love affirmation.

I give them credit for working to understand their introverted mate but I also ask them if they believe that behavior is long-term sustainable. Will you be satisfied with less interaction? Will you be satisfied seeking extra interaction outside the relationship? Extroverts have non-negotiable needs that should be honored too.

Self-soothing means learning how to shore yourself up. Figuring out how to be happy without relying on the input and approval of others. This is a developmental stage. Not everyone reaches it. In Self-Soothing and Not Giving a F*ck, I said it is a relief to loved ones when they sense that you are relaxed and don’t need anything from them. To self-soothe you have to be able to not lose your integrity within relationships. You have to maintain boundaries and not lose yourself in the pressures and demands of others. To self-soothe you also need to know how to stabilize your own emotions. Do you have a self-care plan? Do you know your emotional triggers?

Self-expression requires the ability to take everything you’ve learned, distill it down into nuggets of wisdom and clarity and communicate it to your partner. It’s being able to honestly and vulnerably answer your partner when they ask, “What’s going on in your world?”. It’s being capable of making your point without putting your partner on the defensive. There’s maturity, tact and openness involved.

One way to get more openness from introverts is to encourage expression through writing. Introverts generally love writing. They get to edit and formulate before they present the message. I’ve seen introverts convey extremely painful and vulnerable information via the written word.

A tip to extroverts when communicating with introverted partners, less is more. A firehose of information and emotions is going to overwhelm them. I recommend doing your own distilling and editing prior to expressing. I also recommend emailing over texting. Texting feels urgent and an introvert will feel pressure to respond quickly (which they won’t like). I also recommend texting over an unexpected phone call. Introverts like to prepare. Texting at least allows for a prepared, well thought out response.

Introvert/extrovert relationships can work beautifully. The key is for both parties to be willing to do the work necessary to promote the growth of the relationship.

Are you in an introvert/extrovert relationship? What challenges have you encountered? How have you resolved them? 

If you are an introvert/extrovert couple and would like more information and guidance regarding the differences in communication, stress management and intimacy needs between your types, please contact me here.

 

 

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10 Comments

  1. […] Brenda Knowles knows how to save an introvert/extrovert relationship. […]

  2. Carla March 29, 2016 at 12:10 pm - Reply

    Brenda,

    Thank you for this. Rereading it has been so helpful during my healing process. I’m not even sure why this “break up” was so difficult for me considering how short of a time we were together, but I think there is something to be said of the fact that our opposites did attract. He never officially “ended” anything, he just backed away, I have given him weeks of space now and he reaches out every so often via text but we haven’t spoken or seen each other since the emotional day we last spoke. I have considered sending him an email for my own closure or trying to reconnect and just be friends. Being an extrovert, I would love to talk it out and move on and just know that the friendship could happen but maybe it’s best just to let it go completely, but I would like to let him know I’m here if he needs me.

    To all the people reading this and wondering about it, as an extrovert who has tried to be in a relationship with an introvert, this entire article is more than true and helpful and I hope you all will take it to heart and realize the amount of love and work that would have to go into a relationship of this magnitude. I can see how it would be beautiful, but I have also seen how painful it can be, so tread lightly and focus on the needs of yourself and your partner and like Brenda says, make sure they are willing to do the same equally. Thanks again, Brenda for being such a bad ass. 🙂

  3. Blue Sky March 28, 2016 at 10:28 am - Reply

    Thank-you Brenda for a tremendous article on the challenges of the introvert/extrovert relationship. I have been in one for 3.5 years, I am more of an ambivert, he is introvert. I feel sometimes that it is the partner of the introvert that has to make much of the accommodations around the introvert’s energy levels in order to make it work. In my experience this at times can be emotionally draining and can lead to hurt feelings, especially when something is important to the extrovert and the introvert doesn’t show up or is super late or is there but not present when they are there. The partner’s feelings and needs are just as important as the introverts. Sometimes it feels like it is all about the introvert and what they can handle and the extrovert’s needs have to come secondary. Not sure what the answer to this is except what you have written about self-soothing and self-expression. Thoughts?

    • Sideline March 29, 2016 at 8:53 am - Reply

      This is exactly my thoughts too. In my relationship I felt that I (the ambivert ) would go above and beyond to accommodate and mold myself according to my ex. He was too self absorbed and set in his ways to even meet me halfway.

      For instance when he was overwhelmed and would withdraw from me I would simply ask him to hold my hand and tell me he needs some “down time” in order for me to know not to take it personally. He couldn’t even do that! I felt like I was fighting an emotional battle I would never win.

      • Brenda Knowles March 30, 2016 at 10:41 am - Reply

        I’m sorry you didn’t get the communication, connection and two-way participation you wanted in your relationships. It is up to us introverts to let our partners know when we need to recharge. We should work to make it clear it is for our own self-preservation, not rejection of you. Best case scenario, the extrovert respects our needs and then when we re-join them we can be fully present and attentive to their needs. Thanks for adding your perspective to the discussion Sideline.

    • Brenda Knowles March 29, 2016 at 12:01 pm - Reply

      I hear you regarding the extrovert’s needs being important too. I agree. Both personality types should be honored. I think the introvert is often the one putting on the brakes to the extrovert’s ‘giving it gas’. There should be a high level of awareness and willingness to communicate and work together to set up systems of solutions to balance the mismatch in energy outlays. The introvert needs to express their need for downtime. The extrovert needs to express their need for together time. Needs from both partners should be prioritized. The introvert for example, may not need solitude every day and therefore should not ask for it. The extrovert for example, may have an important work function they need their spouse to attend with them. This should be accommodated, of course. If the couple can think of their relationship as long term and therefore in need of real guidelines to manage these differences, then solutions should be easier to work out. If it is a series of reactions from each partner each time conflicting needs arise, then the relationship will be highly stressful. Each partner will walk on eggshells. Boundaries help everyone relax.

  4. Cheryl March 26, 2016 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Brenda!
    You have an amazing ability to explain the way an introvert feels, and the push/pull nature of Introvert / Extrovert relationships. I find your columns very comforting and highly enlightening at the same time.
    I am currently struggling with the conflicting needs and interests of my introvert / extrovert relationship. Like Orange Rhino, I sometimes wonder if I really want to continue to put the effort into sustaining a long term romantic relationship at my age, or if I really need it to be happy in my life. I am close to retirement but still doing interesting and demanding work, whereas my extroverted significant other is mostly retired, which creates an even greater imbalance between what each of us needs in terms of attention (him) and space to think and breathe (me).
    Then there are the other times, when our needs are in line and we go out dancing and have a fantastic time. Or I cuddle up to him in the middle of the night and the comfort of having him next to me is just what I need to vanquish my insomnia. And I wonder just how much I would miss these things if we were not together
    As an accountant I sometimes ask myself – can this account ever be reconciled? Would I be happier alone? Would a relationship with someone more Introverted require less effort, less energy? I still don’t have an answer to these questions, but your Blog his a big help in my reconciliation process 🙂
    Thanks again, Brenda!

    • Brenda Knowles March 26, 2016 at 4:20 pm - Reply

      I ask myself the “can this account be reconciled” question all the time. I believe interdependent relationships are the healthiest, so that means two independent individuals come together and help each other when needed and also maintain a level of personal integrity. The question is always how much effort is too much effort? I totally relate to the examples you gave of needing space but also loving the comfort and fun of having a partner. For me, it comes down to the ability to remain true to yourself without giving up your core values, having enough common interests and fostering each other’s growth. If there is no strong emotional connection I feel untethered and disconnected as well. I truly need that (a core value of mine). It anchors my love boat and makes other areas of the relationship like sex and caregiving, thrive. Thank you for your thoughtful comment Cheryl.

  5. Orange Rhino March 25, 2016 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    After thinking a lot about this, I believe that men who are successful in their careers and who are setting personal records in their lifts (or recent personal records if they are past 50 years of age) may not need a relationship at all. I don’t know how many of my friends have told me that if anything happened to their wives, they would not be looking for a replacement.

    Indeed, I wonder if relationships are not a younger adult thing. How many people with successful careers end up neglecting a partner simply because of marketplace pressures?

    When you are a younger adult, with a dead-end job, it is nice to have someone to come home to–as a refuge from that job. By contrast a stimulating career, many nights, leaves a person merely seeking a dinner and sleep.

    Brenda, do you get much contact from people who really aren’t looking for a relationship and, if one came along, wouldn’t know where to put in in their daily lives?

    • Brenda Knowles March 26, 2016 at 4:11 pm - Reply

      OR I would say I mostly receive comments/messages about finding the right partner or working through struggles with the current partner. I have not received too many notes about individuals who are content just going solo and enjoying their career. I recently watched an online webinar about different attachment styles and it talked about the avoidant attachment style, which is when a person is reluctant to have others depend on them and is leery of intimacy. They are independent and emotionally distant, often introverted. When partners get too close they retreat or withdraw. Years ago I had a date tell me he thought I was that type. It made me think. The webinar said that the dating pool is full of avoidant attachment types. That made sense. The secure attachment and anxious attachment (co-dependent, love intimacy, have to have it, worry about losing it) styles are already in relationships. I am not sure if there are a lot of avoidant attachment people or just a lot of introverts who are more willing to let their needs be known now.
      I do think our current culture makes it easier to be single. It’s possible and acceptable to travel alone, eat alone (just look at your phone or read), focus on your career, have a tribe of friends vs. extended family. You don’t have to get married and have a family to be ‘normal’ anymore.
      I, too, have friends who have not looked for replacement husbands when their first relationship ended. They are content doing their thing: working, traveling, working out, going back to school. It’s kind of a free for all now. I’m not sure if that is positive. Thoughts?

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