We sit around the wooden kitchen table laughing our asses off. The Happy Birthday banner hangs over the window. The smell of homemade chicken soup lingers in the air. There are seven of us gathered for this casual party. We play Cards Against Humanity and find out just how sick and lewd we truly are. The quiet friend plays the most twisted cards and suddenly her personality is loud. Her husband, the extrovert at the head of the table, is in full-out storytelling mode. Another friend’s laugh turns into a contagious cackle we all catch. It is the perfect let your hair down game and the perfect we’re all in this together night. I put my hand on my guy’s knee and smile at him. All around us are warm joyful faces, our friends, our community.
You are my everything
Marriage –we turn to one person to fulfill what once an entire village (friends, community, extended family) once delivered. How we expect our partners to be the primary supplier for our emotional connections, to provide the anchoring experiences of life. — Esther Perel, Future of Couples – Key Ingredients to a Happy Marriage
I know it sounds weird for an introvert to recommend surrounding yourself with groups of people but there is a kind of relief in community. There is less pressure to provide all things to your mate. Someone else can be their best friend, confidant, playmate, stress reliever, workmate, confidence booster, etc. When we look to our partners for total fulfillment we place a lot of pressure on them.
Freedom or isolation?
Many people today do not live near their extended families. There is no tribe of origin in the vicinity to celebrate with and lean on. They work from home and do not even have an office/plant environment to cultivate friendships and camaraderie. Organized religion’s numbers are declining in the U.S., thus removing the presence of another supportive community. We do not take the time to drop by and visit each other or host gatherings. My personal opinion is that this lack of community is more prevalent in suburban settings, but feel free to disagree with me. I will also venture to say that men appear to have fewer close friendships/relationships outside of the home than women.
Intense togetherness especially hard for introverts
As we become more and more isolated as individuals, our dependence on our partners and immediate family becomes more intense. We become our partner’s person. We become a bonded unit with no separateness. As an introvert, this can feel overwhelming.
It’s wonderful for our mates to have a circle of friends on which to disperse their energy and needs, therefore leaving us with space for solitude, meaningful relationships of our own and personal endeavors. Space to come back to ourselves and ultimately have something to give to our relationship.
But aren’t lots of people an introvert’s kryptonite?
I admit, I was a tad anxious leading up to the birthday party. Most of the invited guests were friends of my guy’s. There was food to be prepared and the worrisome desire for everyone to have a good time. Entertaining others is not my strong suit.
Empathizing and listening to others — right up my alley. Just knowing I will be required to be ON for several hours for guests is daunting. Usually, I leave plenty of time prior to an event for preparations. I also try to get time alone beforehand to fill up my energy reserves. In this case, there was no alone time beforehand. I am not going to lie. I was a bit edgy/irritable because of that.
Once the guests arrived and there was an ease of conversation, I relaxed. The group did not require entertaining. There was simply the pleasure of being together and sharing. Both introverts and extroverts enjoyed themselves. The pressure was off to be the sole provider of attention and fun.
Afterwards, I was tired but content. I had laughed so much my face hurt. I remember thinking to myself, If I stay with this man I will be part of lots of fun gatherings. And this was a positive thing, not a frightening, Oh my God I’m going to have to socialize all the time, worry. Community is good.
Do you ever feel you are your partner’s life raft? Do you have a good supportive community around you?
** As I was composing this post, a song from my childhood ran through my head. I must have listened to this song 10,000 times. I may have been a little brainwashed. 😉 Andy Gibb’s, I Just Want to Be Your Everything. Enjoy!