Remember the old saying, “opposites attract?” The truth is that opposites do attract each other, but not total opposites. Most couples are opposite on some traits, and the same on other traits. But in my marriage, when it comes to introversion and extraversion, we are opposites. And it’s been a problem over the years.
What’s interesting is how we were attracted to the opposite. Jan (my wife) says that when she met me, she was intrigued by my introversion. It felt mysterious to her–a challenge to get to know me. Then we got married, and she said my introversion almost felt morbid at times.
I was drawn to her extraversion and felt that she could do most anything. She could meet people, jump into various activities, and I could “tag along.” Over time, after we were married, I often felt her extraversion was pressure. I had to try new things that I didn’t really want to try. I couldn’t just “tag along.”
In marriage, the combinations are interesting. What happens if two extraverts marry? Typically they compete with the social calendar to plan things. They are always on the go, and only stop when they get burned out. What happens when an extravert man marries an introverted woman? Well, that fits more into the role stereotype of the gregarious husband and the quiet wife.
If two Introverts marry, they are happy with a peaceful, quiet lifestyle. They may agree to come to your home for dinner two weeks down the road, but the morning of the dinner engagement, they see it on their social calendar and one will say, “Oh, I was hoping we could just have a quiet evening at home.” Sometimes they will even cancel at the last minute due to a lack of energy and a need for a quiet evening in order to recharge their emotional batteries.
The adjustment problem is greatest when the couple is like my wife and me–the extraverted wife and the introverted husband. What can all too easily happen ini this scenario is that the talking of the extraverted wife begins to feel like pressure–even could be called “nagging.” And the quiet reflection of the introverted husband begins to try the patience of the wife who can’t get him to talk. Eventually she may begin to feel like he doesn’t really care, or maybe he is even rejecting her.
The solution takes understanding of the opposite style. As an Introverted husband, I have to keep reminding myself in our conversations that Jan “is just thinking out loud.”
It’s how she has to process information–out loud. And she has to remind herself that I am not rejecting her, “I am just processing.” Once you understand each other, and celebrate the differences, your marriage gets a lot richer!
Question: Who’s the “processor,” the introvert in your marriage and who is the extravert who “thinks out loud?”