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When an Introvert and an Extrovert Combine Households

Brady Bunch

Things are getting serious here in the Minneapolis suburbs. Over Memorial Weekend Mark (fiancé), his two sons (ages 22 and 18) and their cat moved into the home I’ve been living in with my kids for 14 years.

The actual move went relatively smoothly. Mark and I chipped away at the packing and unpacking. Now there are only a few random items that need a proper place. This is somewhat miraculous given we blended two complete households. As a side note, we now have three stability exercise balls, about nine laundry baskets and enough forks and spoons to feed thirty. Rubbermaid tubs are also ubiquitous. We tried to recycle them but the recycling center said no.

Hello old friend

About a week into the move, something happened that hasn’t happened in a long time… I felt introverted. Very, very introverted. My need for downtime increased. I felt edgy and started speaking more quietly.

I believe several factors led up to this intense feeling:

  • Increasing the population of our household from three to six (seven when my son in college comes home this week)
  • No routines, schedule or rhythm to depend on
  • The realization that Mark’s extroversion carries through in his daily routines/habits
  • The cat is extroverted too (and nocturnal)
  • No continuous sleep for me

Open door policy

I had been running my home as an introvert. We had order, quiet and often separate work spaces. We spent a lot of time in different rooms with doors closed. We had patterns of togetherness balanced with times apart. We slept at night with our bedroom doors closed. This felt comfortable.

Now doors are open to accommodate the cat’s comings and goings. If we close the bedroom door at night, he scratches and meows until someone does something.

Mark likes open doors. In his old neighborhood, they left garage doors up to signal that they were home and neighbors could come over. I like the community aspect of that, but what if your garage is messy? No one leaves their garage doors open in my neighborhood.

The master bedroom in our home is on the main floor off of the kitchen. Our kitchen is more active now at all hours of the day, especially in the early morning hours. With our bedroom door open, I hear everything going on in the kitchen.

woman tired

That was unexpected

The lack of predictability and sleep have been the biggest primers of fight or flight for my nervous system. Not knowing when I’m going to be woken up or meet someone unexpectedly in the kitchen, puts me on high alert.

Sleep is my recovery period. I can recharge my system overnight and be ready to mingle and manage in the morning. When I don’t get this time to recover, it gets ugly. I feel raw and wired. I don’t cope as well.

Oh no, not these again

The new household arrangements have brought up a couple of old wounds. I have been called inflexible. I’ve been asked why I don’t learn to sleep with disruptions, noise and light. As if I choose to not sleep. I would give anything to be able to sleep. It all echoes old accusations of being too sensitive.

Also, the guilt of needing downtime when I know someone would like to be with me, has returned. I know I work best without interruption. I like to decompress after workdays at the school. I don’t talk a lot in the morning. I get through my routine and get out the door. These habits have caused some relationship pain and misunderstandings.

When my introverted needs are not being met, I’m not easy to be around. I get short and sometimes harsh with my words. All of this is exacerbated by a lack of sleep.

I know I am not the only one adjusting to changes. Everyone in our household is working their way through new territory. I feel their discomfort.

Mark and I have made a point of not giving up. We keep talking to each other and with our kids. There are a lot of personalities in the house. It takes effort to remain considerate and helpful but our efforts are reaping rewards.

It’s coming together

On the bright side, I slept like a rock last night. Murray, the cat, is settling down. He loves to go outside in our backyard. I think it helps him burn up energy and be less restless at night. I have to admit, I like having him sleep with us. He is so soft and cuddly.

Murray

My two bonus/step sons, are interesting and kind young men. I enjoy their company. It’s been fun sitting and chatting at the dinner table with them. They like their space and work time too. They have introverted tendencies, making the family integration easier.

There is something satisfying about having our whole house utilized. We had rooms that sat empty prior to the move in. We’ve spent more time on the deck, relaxing and eating dinner. There is a nice family hum I didn’t realize I was missing.

Feeling resourced

I’ve found that even during busy, chaotic days I often feel calm and content. This is due in large part to Mark’s presence and touch. He soothes me. Last night we sat on the couch picking songs for our reception. We had a ball. I caught myself laughing out loud. The joy and fulfillment give me the energy and resources to handle the new family setup.

Do you have experience with introvert/extrovert relationships? If so, what are the pitfalls you’ve faced? The bonuses? 

If you are in a relationship with an extrovert, check out my online course on introversion. It offers explanations of our needs and behavior. You may even learn something about yourself! 🙂 Click the link or image below.

Introverts Explained: Why We Love You but Need a Break from You

Introverts Explained course

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One Comment

  1. Barbara June 7, 2019 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    You have just described my life for the past 3 months. I moved in with my introverted partner after leaving my house of 15 years. No kids involved, but the same struggles. I think we have had more conflict in the past 3 months than our whole relationship of almost 7 years. It has involved a lot of discussions (sometimes painful), compromises, and respect for each others differences in needs. I would like to see we have conquered it, but it is a day at a time process, which seems to get a wee bit easier as time passes and we get used to each other in the same space. Ultimately, it has come down to acceptance of one another and why we fell in love in the first place.

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