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That courage and dedication you so generously share with the world, has inspired me to push myself a little harder, persevere at each task a little longer, dig a little bit deeper to where the answers just “feel” right to both my humanity AND my spirit. Your insights have reinforced my direction and given me additional tools that help me clear my path. I’m wired into my creativity as never before and the new music is pouring out of me faster than I can record and produce it; this is the Un…
Gary
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
For the first time in my life I could truly explain, through your words the way in which I experience life and myself. Brenda… It all fell into place. I had found myself and had such a moment of clarity. It felt like such a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Finally I felt like it was ok to be me. I was not the only one. I had found people and a little space where I fit in. … I was at work and crying on the inside. Emotions ran wild inside me. I was ecstatic, sad, confused, motivated, i…
Niko
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
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
I think I want to print out your articles and hand them out as a sort of relationship waiver form. “You want to be my friend?….You are interesting in going out? Here read this first. Sign here to acknowledge that you have read and understand the enclosed material. Thank you.” Seriously. I think it would work. — Guerin Moorman
Guerin Moorman
I have been dating an introverted man who I am very in love with for almost 2 years.  Reading your posts have helped me to be more supportive and understanding to him especially during the times when he needs space.  I just wanted to thank you for your weekly posts and let you know how helpful they are for someone who is in a relationship with an introvert. C.M. on space2live
C.M.
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
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.
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

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Nurturing and Caretaking in a Relationship: Sword and Shield or Energy Drain for Introverts?

Redford yum

Redford and Streep. Out of Africa.

I wasn’t sure Lorraine and others like her — ones who were so despairing of marriage, ones who were so sure their expectations could never be met — understood that it was these small moments of caretaking that meant the most, that forged the real relationship. The way one pulled the blanket over the sleeping other, the way one prepared a snack for oneself, but made enough to share. Such moments made for the team of two, which made for one’s sword and shield.

― Elizabeth Berg, The Year of Pleasures

I’m quite sure I was remiss in the caretaking department with my ex-husband. I doled out most of my nurturing and self-less energy to my children (and even with them, not perfect). I didn’t have enough oomph left in me to give those extra touches, to go beyond the expected. It wasn’t like I didn’t have role models who exemplified such care. My father and step-mother are good at thinking of each other. I’ve seen my dad warm up and clean the snow off my stepmother’s car. She always leaves dinner for him if she is going to be away for the evening. These are just two of a myriad of ways they gently help each other.

Can introverts be good caretakers or are we too self-interested?

Introverts are often seen as selfish. We often choose time to ourselves over time with others.  We don’t like to be interrupted when we work. We are protective of our energy and therefore are highly selective about the causes and people we support.

I said in, Introvert Relationships: Love Me or Leave Me but Please Don’t Need Me (Too Much)that Black_and_White_love_romance_kiss1relationships,  

…Must feel effortless. So full of desire and attraction that the work naturally required in any relationship is done without thinking. Relationships with obligations and agendas forefront must be forged. Relationships with desire and passion up front must be expressed. Forging a relationship takes up much precious energy.  

But perhaps there is value and strength in the forging. Desire and attraction go out the window when you or your partner are sick, for example, but after he/she brings you nourishing soup you feel loved and relieved. You don’t have to do all of this life stuff on your own. There is someone else who wants to light you up, give your energy reserves a boost. Granted, introverts recharge from within by reveling in ideas, impressions and thoughts, but we blossom with encouragement and caring too.

How nurturing is different from gift giving and helping around the house

I still remember the time a former sweetheart, without prompting, cut up an apple and put it in a bowl with a side of peanut butter (my favorite snack ever) and delivered it to me as I relaxed on the couch. He didn’t have to do it. It felt like receiving flowers, but better. There was nurturing behind it.

nur·ture
ˈnərCHər/
verb
  1. the process of caring for and encouraging the growth or development of someone or something. “the nurture of ethics and integrity”
          synonyms: encouragementpromotion, fostering, developmentcultivation

NurturingEncouragement and the unspoken wish to see us grow, make caretaking an acceptable and appealing interaction for introverts. We love to expand and experience. Caretaking is also a form of unburdening which relieves us of one or more draws on our energy.

Receiving is awesome but reciprocating is tiring, right?

What if your significant other expects constant catering to them? Sounds like a classic set up for introvert outta here, right? Too many obligations and too much neediness … aaaaahhhh!!

Adam Grant, Wharton professor and author of Give and Take, says that givers are successful (versus being a doormat) when the giving includes an element of self-interest. Like, for example, when someone gives you a massage in bed. There is almost always an element of hope that it leads to more.

In seven years there have only been three times when someone cooked for me, and you were two of those. A sweet man recently revealed this surprising information to me. Cooking is an easy way for me to give. It’s my way of nurturing and I enjoy the whole process from menu planning to food shopping to simmering and savoring as the meal is prepared. I also love the experience of eating with someone. My dining companion appreciates the meal and feels cared for. Win – win.

The key is to keep your gestures small and doable.  Don’t promise to do the books for your boyfriend’s company. That’s over the top. Do sew that button back on his shirt sleeve. Work a shoulder massage into a time you are sitting quietly together. Make a smiley face out of his vegetables. I know it’s hard to think ahead sometimes. I often feel like I barely keep up with the barrage of daily activities that comes at me, let alone notice when my partner could use help or extra loving. Just try for a week to give your partner additional caregiving and attention. See if it enhances your team of two and gives you a feeling of protection.

What makes caretaking easier?

I have a greater desire to caretake within a relationship since my divorce.  I’ve tried to sort out why this is. It could be I have more energy because I am not round-the-clock caregiving to my children (loss and gain there) but I think a major reason is that I feel more at ease and comfortable in my own skin with the partners I’ve chosen. I never feel like I have to keep up with or compete with the men I care about now therefore I can be thoughtful and gentle without fear of being dominated or seen as weak. I can give without being overtaken.

I have primarily dated introverts since the divorce.

Whatever it is, it’s been beneficial. Nurturing and caretaking feel like a sword and shield against the dragons of a world that favors large, bold, aggressive living.

Tell me how you caretake in your relationship? How does your partner nurture you?

If Nurturing and Caretaking in a Relationship… spoke to you, you may also love:

Seductive Security: Living Without the Protective Embrace of a Committed Relationship

Introvert Relationships: Love Me or Leave Me But Please Don’t Need Me (Too Much)

What It’s Really Like to End a Marriage and Start Over Pt. 4: Being Alone, Dating and Co-Parenting

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Sensual Massage (Sundance Channel Blog)

Are Introverts Givers or Takers?: Does Managing Our Energy Limit Our Generosity?

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25 Comments

  1. Robyn LaRue December 17, 2013 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    I’m capable of a lot of nurture if my life is quiet and includes a lot of alone time. When the house is full or my attention is in high demand, I have almost no energy to do more than crawl away on my own somewhere to recharge. I take care of my family and dote on the grandson, but I forget laundry in the washer and little details of life. I’m just now understanding the cost of living with other people or in a situation where I can’t go into a room alone and close the door. Good thing for them I love them so much. 🙂

    • Brenda Knowles December 18, 2013 at 7:52 pm - Reply

      Perfectly said Robyn! I have a natural inclination to think of others and care for them but too much of that and I’m mapping escape routes in my head.;) If my brain gets too busy with interactions and details I become a bit of a cranky tyrant or I cry. Carl Jung said that is because we need to bring everything into balance. My inferior functions (emotional management, logical thinking) will rear their ugly sides when I’m stressed. Thanks for sharing your insightful comment.

  2. Arman December 12, 2013 at 4:35 am - Reply

    Hi!

    First, thank you for bringing your experiences and knowledge about introversion to your followers/reader. It is really helping me to manage my partner, he is a power -introvert – a pianist (Yes! He is he – we’re both male) And I’m an extrovert – in the field of marketing and teaching.
    At times, I feel like he’s ignoring my feelings and concerns but suddenly I realize that its his nature to take away dramas in his life and focus on practical ways of living the life. He is not a believer of church but he believes in one God. I always cook for him, clean his room, do simple things that sometimes I don’t understand why he can’t do those.
    In bed, when he wants me to hug him, I wrap around my arms from his back. Then after 15 – 30 mins, he will untangle my arms. And other stuff like that.
    One time after his piano competition, he went to a place that we cannot find him. He’s not answering our messages and barred all our calls. After 5 days he returned. I asked him what happen or why he left and all I got was “I’m sorry, I’m clouded” I love him so much and I am not asking for anything in return. As a lover, as a friend, I want to take care of him, not too showy but to just make him feel that I’m always here.
    I agree with your writings and I hope to hear more about these helping tips coming from an expert.

    Arman

    • Brenda Knowles December 12, 2013 at 8:05 pm - Reply

      Dear Arman,
      I hope you and your partner are openly talking about your temperament differences. Both of them should be honored. I am happy that you feel you are gaining insight from space2live regarding introversion. It is quite possible that your partner needs time alone with minimal outside stimulation to focus on his creative endeavors. After being interrupted it can take some introverts up to 30 minutes to return to where they left off in their thoughts.
      I don’t want it to seem as though introversion is an excuse for disrespectful behavior. Disappearing for five days without explanation is not excusable in my book. If he had told you he had a deep need for solitude in order to recover after the strenuous preparation for his competition that is understandable, but leaving everyone worried and confused doesn’t feel right.
      The best thing you can do as a couple is communicate openly about your desire for solitude or togetherness. Introvert/extrovert relationships can work but there has to be respect, awareness and maybe even a sense of humor about your differences.
      Keep up your care taking as long as he appreciates it.
      Introverts can be like cats sometimes. We like to have the choice whether or not to come to you. Just make sure he knows you’ll be there when he’s ready for your company again.
      Always be who you are, love openly but listen to your partner. If he starts to get short with you or talks less it may be that he is ready for time alone to replenish his energy well.
      Best of luck. Thank you for reaching out.

      • Arman December 12, 2013 at 8:34 pm - Reply

        Thank you so much, Ms. Brenda. I will talk to him and maybe Its time to discuss matters about our desires like what you’ve said. I belive that aside from his introversion there’s something in his past or inside of his mind that he can’t dwell. He’s young -21 yo. And I’m 28. As a more mature person, I am willing to understand him on what he’s going through.

  3. Angi December 9, 2013 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    I like doing things to help people, but anymore it sucks the life out of me. I think over the past 16 or so years I have done so much damage to my mental and physical health trying to be a perfectionist and help others that I just don’t have it in me anymore. Its all I can do right now just to take care of my family and do a little contract work on the side. Even doing that is a big energy drain right now. I have learned to give myself a break and let a lot of stuff go, including helping others outside my immediate family. Maybe in a later season of life I will be able to give more.

    • Brenda Knowles December 10, 2013 at 6:02 am - Reply

      Angi remember no one says you have to give to EVERYONE. It’s amazing that you give to and nurture your family. Your adrenals may be exhausted from stress and giving for a long time. I have been working with a nutritionist and reading the book The Mood Cure. I’m learning a lot about taking care of my energy through diet and stress management. Please do take care of yourself. I had to do that too. It’s not usually a popular decision but it pays off tenfold. Nurture yourself friend.

  4. Kristen December 9, 2013 at 11:10 am - Reply

    I agree that cooking for someone is a wonderful way for an introvert to show love and caring for others. We are able to spend time alone in the kitchen (unless everyone wants to join in and “help” which can get stressful), focus deeply on one thing, express our creativity (even if using a recipe, we are still creating) and then share a flavorful meal that allows us to savor tastes and textures while connecting with those we care for. I love it when something I’ve made for someone brings joy to them when they eat it. Even if my kids don’t always like or appreciate everything I cook for them, I hope that they know that cooking is one of the ways I show them love.

    • Brenda Knowles December 10, 2013 at 5:58 am - Reply

      I feel like I have more help in the kitchen preparing the meal than cleaning up so clean up time has become alone or zen time for me. I like sharing the experience of cooking with others. It’s more fun with my kids now that they are older and can converse with me as we work in the kitchen. I definitely use recipes and still consider cooking a creative outlet. It’s nice to hear how others find pleasure in the cooking experience. A lovely thing.:)

  5. nour December 8, 2013 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    I thought my ex was introverted and I was hurting him by asking more time and not understanding his need for space everytime he shutdown, at some point i felt guilty for not understanding, I read so much your blogs so i help him….Came to realize that in his shutdown time he was hanging out with friends smoking and drinking 🙂 something he did not mention maybe because i don’t do either one! His excuse of having so much going and being drained from stress, was actually a way to get out from me since he was already seeing someone who also drinks..smokes..clubs things he said he disliked since he crowds take energy and felt better around old friends. Financially ways i make 3 times more than him, he talked me about his introversion but i think he is more of narcissistic, he portraits to have highself steem but at the sametime showed insecurity making remarks of my great job and looks, so constantly i had to reassure of my love and care towards him….7 months of hell trying to understand him and helping myself reading and getting educated about introversion, after breaking up he still kept me in contact and flirting, stating Im the best thing in his life of course forgetting to mention his new girlfriend, confusing and hurtful, I don’t wish it to anybody. Sad that some people will use introversion to play with others, maybe he is introverted, not going to judge 🙂 Anyhow I still love reading the blogs here…Thank you Brenda!

    • Andrea December 9, 2013 at 8:04 pm - Reply

      Nour,
      Your post makes me so sad. Is he really a (healthy) introvert, or is he simply unwilling to put time and effort into this relationship? At this point, he sounds like someone you don’t want in your heart or head, as you’re suffering from the effects. I pray peace for you. When you find a healthy introvert, it will NOT look like this. I’m glad you’ve found this blog, as am I!

    • Brenda Knowles December 10, 2013 at 5:55 am - Reply

      Oh wow! I hope your ex-boyfriend is not an introvert. I don’t like how he represents us if he is! I have a feeling he is more extroverted since he chose socializing in groups and clubs.
      I certainly don’t consider your new awareness and education regarding introversion a loss. You are now more aware of other temperaments. Perhaps your next love will be an introvert and much more kind and respectful!
      Good for you for recognizing a negative relationship and getting out. We love and we learn. Hugs and peace to you.

  6. Lisa December 7, 2013 at 1:14 am - Reply

    Reading your posts always remind me of what I can do better for my introvert husband. It is a constant battle for us (me–the extrovert) because I always want to hear the message i need and my husband wants me to just know the message he needs without words. Thanks for the hope.

    • Brenda Knowles December 7, 2013 at 5:35 pm - Reply

      Always hope.;) Men/women, Mars/Venus, introvert/extrovert… Just keep listening, learning and respecting. You’re doing the hard work that pays off.:)

  7. elizabeth2560 December 6, 2013 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    Maybe it is not that we introverts are too selfish in needing time to ourselves, but the extroverts are too selfish in needing us to give so much time for them.
    Introvert – introvert seems a better balance.

    • Andrea December 6, 2013 at 5:02 pm - Reply

      Excellent point, elizabeth2560. The big hurdle for an introvert + introvert relationship, though, is being “in sync.” There’s no guarantee the two will need their time and space AND will want to reconnect at the same time(s). LOL

      • Brenda Knowles December 7, 2013 at 5:27 pm - Reply

        Yes, I’ve experienced the introvert-introvert discordance. Rough but still overall a magical pairing for me.

      • elizabeth2560 December 10, 2013 at 8:23 pm - Reply

        That is true. However, at least another introvert would probably understand the need for space.

    • Brenda Knowles December 7, 2013 at 5:32 pm - Reply

      Perhaps no one is selfish, just different ideals. Although, I’m sure there are selfish and self-ful people within both temperament types. Both types need to be honored. Thanks Elizabeth for using your voice.:)

  8. Andrea December 6, 2013 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    I love reading your posts! Even though I’m a life-long introvert, I always learn something new. I have been single for many years and, while I have moments when I would like a partner, I don’t have it in me to expend the energy. I dread even one date. All that energy asking and answering questions, starting over, talking, etc. Does this sound healthy?

    • Bluesky December 7, 2013 at 12:36 pm - Reply

      I don’t know if it’s healthy or not. Maybe it’s not your temperament to do the “dating thing”. Several years ago I put an ad in a well known listings magazine in London. I got a lot of replies and there were quite a few guys that I wanted to meet.
      I had several dates, most were fine, one guy I wanted to see more of (but it didn’t happen).
      But here’s the rub………there were other guys that I wanted to meet, but I was too exhausted by the first round of dates to meet anymore. And this was when I was much younger with more energy.
      I tended to give a lot to my friendships, family and relationships. Too much the nurturer and counselor (yep INFJ). I’ve had CFS several times in the past 15 years because of this tendency. Now I know that nurturing starts within.
      I read an interview with a celebrity, known for property consulting and homemaking. She has two children with her partner and two stepchildren. She also has two nannies and
      was very disparaging about mothers who wanted “me time”. She saw it as self indulgence.
      I was angry when I read that. As an introvert this “me time” is like air to breathe. Its non negotiable. And I know the consequences of going against my needs all too well.
      So actually your desire not to date is your body telling you that dating, at least in the conventional sense, is not right for you and you are honouring that message.
      Begin within. It’s about self nurturance first. Everyone else take a ticket and stand in line.

    • Brenda Knowles December 7, 2013 at 5:26 pm - Reply

      My first instinct is to say that you probably dread even one date because it has been a while since you were out there in the dating world. Starting something ‘new’ is a big energy expenditure. It sounds like you have your single life set up and are content. I understand that comfort. Many introvert readers and close friends have said they feel dating can be exhausting. My own personal experience is that online dating makes it somewhat less of an energy zapper. I love winnowing down the options (when there are options) so there is less of a chance that meeting in person will be a flop. By the time I agree to meet someone in person I’m reasonably sure an engaging conversation (at the very least) will ensue. Engaging conversation energizes me. That said, I have had streaks of first and only dates. Keeping up communication and then handling disappointment is draining. I guess I’m a hopeful optimist. I enjoy the possibilities. I enjoy one on one communication a lot too.
      If you are satisfied in your current single status, more power to you.:) There’s a fun book called Quirkyalone. I related to it, you may too. If you want company do what you love and see who finds you.:)

    • elizabeth2560 December 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm - Reply

      I agree with Brenda to do what you love and see who finds you…… the old fashioned way. ‘Dates’ may be exhausting but engaging in something you enjoy and taking part in meaningful conversations.

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