She was the one at the party hanging back from the crowd, but she wasn’t doing nothing. From the look in her eyes, you could tell she was watching the scene and not missing a thing. When you talked to her, she didn’t bore you with superficial chatter about her weekend — she actually had something meaningful to say.
Or maybe he was the quiet guy in the cubicle next to you. You almost always had to start the conversation, but when you did, it was worth it. He was witty and smart — a little unconventional — and you knew right away there was something different about this one.
However you met your introvert, one thing’s for sure — his or her quiet strength drew you in and now you’re here to stay. Maybe you’re an extrovert who relishes your introverted partner’s depth and ability to listen, or maybe you’re an introvert yourself who finds quiet companionship with your like-minded lover.
Whether you and your introvert have been on one date or hundreds, here are 12 things you should know about being in a relationship with an introvert:
1. We take things slowly. If extroverts are the hares, then we’re the tortoises. We tend to take everything in life a little slower, because we need time to process our experiences and reflect. Relationships are no exception.
2. We may have trouble talking about ourselves. Seriously. If we’re on a date with you, especially a first or second date, we may stutter and fumble for words when you ask us about ourselves. Introverts are like onions — our personality has many layers, and it takes a while to discover all of them, especially the hidden layers closest to the core. We’re private and we won’t reveal the most personal parts of us until we fully trust you.
3. Want to truly connect with us? Talk about ideas. Most conversations require some level of small talk. We need to warm up to each other. What turns us off is a conversation that never moves beyond weekend plans or how the day at work went. As introverts, we’re excited by ideas, and, ironically, although we struggle to open up at first, what we really crave is authentic connection. When the time is right, try asking some questions like these to take the conversation deeper: What in your life are you most proud of? Do you have a dream or goal that you’ve never shared or thought was possible? Have you ever read a book that changed you?
4. We don’t like being the center of attention. So don’t propose live on a Jumbotron during the big game or ask the servers to sing “Happy Birthday” to us in a crowded restaurant.
5. Our social circle is small, and that’s okay. We’re selective, preferring quality over quantity when it comes to friendships. Psychologist Laurie Helgoe writes in her book, Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, “We know we only have so much energy for reaching out; if we’re going to invest, we want it to be good.”
6. We won’t go to every single party, happy hour, or family get-together. If you’re an extrovert who loves a party, this is something you’ll have to accept and respect about us, because it’s probably not something that will change. Of course, as a partner who cares about you, we will go to some social events — but we may want to leave early because we’re “peopled” out. The reality is, large crowds and busy environments drain and overwhelm us, because we’re sensitive to the brain chemical dopamine. If you’re an extrovert, dopamine gives you a rush of good feelings when you socialize, but for introverts, too much dopamine makes us feel frazzled.
7. We think. A lot. We live inside our heads — and we get lost in there sometimes! If we’re quiet, we’re not upset or depressed, we’re probably just thinking.
8. We’re sensitive to conflict. In fact, many introverts struggle to meet conflict head-on, because arguments are overstimulating and stressful. We may bottle up our feelings and revert to people-pleasing behaviors to avoid disagreements, or we may shut down when an argument does erupt. Tread gently. Some introverts find it helpful to write about their feelings or to step away from the conflict for a bit to process things.
9. A busy schedule with no downtime will poison us. A weekend full of activities is what dopamine-seeking extroverts crave, but for us, it’s often too much. Our internal resources get depleted, and we feel the need to retreat alone to a quiet space to recharge. Sometimes we’ll want to be completely alone, while other times, we may enjoy having you join us in quiet solidarity. If we don’t get enough downtime, we feel cranky, stressed, tired, or just not like ourselves.
10. We want time with just you. This means we want to spend time with you and only you — no friends, family members, or kids around for a while. We may be quiet in groups, but we can be masterful at connecting one-on-one. We’ll use this time to try to reconnect with you authentically. “When an introvert cares about someone, she also wants contact, not so much to keep up with the events of the other person’s life, but to keep up with what’s inside: the evolution of ideas, values, thoughts, and feelings,” writes Helgoe.
11. We’re actually a lot of fun. No, we don’t just sit in silence reading books and petting our cats (okay, maybe we do that sometimes). We can be flirty, playful, and downright daring, especially when we feel comfortable with you.
12. Although we may not be the best at expressing it, we love you deeply. “Introverts treasure the close relationships they have stretched so much to make,” writes Adam S. McHugh in his book, Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture.
Image credit: Marta Bevacqua
*This piece was originally published on introvertdear.com. It is republished here with permission from the author, Jenn Granneman.