I married an introvert, bless her heart, and spent the first 8 years or so of our marriage driving her crazy, and vice versa.
If you’ve married one of us extroverts, you’ve had some dark thoughts about your spouse. It’s OK. We’re nutbags who can suck the life out of you if we’re running the show.
But at the end of the day, it’s a personality thing. We’re not bad people, we just get a ton of energy out of things you tend to hate.
The Primacy of Parties
Sorry, if you have an extrovert in your house, you’re going to have to throw some parties. People you don’t know, and/or don’t care to know are going to invade your home, drink your booze, scratch up your floors, and corner you with small talk.
And if you’re my age, they’ll bring their kids.
Quiet get-togethers with a couple of friends over a warm cup of tea are death to an extrovert. We need music, grills, and loads of people.
I don’t know what it is about parties, but after I’ve thrown one, even a bad one, I feel great for the next few days.
And, really, parties are easy. Sure, the house gets messed up. Sure, I’ll “help” clean up afterwards. But the payoff is well worth the mayhem.
Never Met a Stranger
Sometimes strangers are more fun than old friends because there’s all this new stuff to learn about them, and no water under the bridge.
It’s fun to find out where people are from, what they do. And if they’re from planet Ex, well… get ready for hours of small talk.
Wife and I were on a date the other night to see the Broadway musical “School of Rock.” Shortly after we settled into our seats (that were probably designed by the Frontier Airlines anti-legroom department) I struck up a conversation with the elderly woman sitting next to me. About 10 minutes into our conversation I asked myself something I’ve never questioned before.
“Why am I sitting here chatting it up with a complete stranger and not talking to my wife?”
Wife’s not a boring person – by a longshot. She’s a thinker, and knows/loves me better than anyone else. But there’s something about a stranger. And this one happened to be an extrovert as well.
I know, this world is a crazy place. A stranger can be a really nice person, or a complete psychopath.
But for us, it’s worth the risk.
Because everything revolves around people, we tend to be sensitive when things aren’t right in our relationships and social interactions.
We worry about what people are thinking, and can many times suffer from social anxiety. We see things you introverts typically can’t. We’ll raise the alarm in the most peaceful of places. True, sometimes we’ll see problems that aren’t there, but at least 30% of the time we’re right on the money.
This can be a good thing when we have the courage to step into places of tension. But because we’re so sensitive to what others are thinking, we typically avoid it all, look past the problems, downgrade them, act like they’re not real, and get super unhealthy in the process.
So when we run from relational problems, especially the ones in our marriage, it’s not because we hate you. It’s super scary. True, we need to grow up and face the music, but we tend to struggle here.
Extroverts think as they speak, while introverts think before they speak.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve blurted out something stupid, then regretted it for the next 20 years because I later realized what I actually said.
I’d love to provide you with some juicy stories, but they’re so. embarrassing.
Well… maybe one…
I’d say “don’t judge” but that’d be asking too much of most humans.
I had a friend in high school who was way cooler than me. At parties, he would frequently do this maniacal laugh that would start out low and soft, then quickly build into something hilarious. Everyone thought it was hilarious. Every time.
As someone who desperately wanted to climb the popularity ladder, I tucked my friend’s crazy laugh into my “I’ll try that at a party sometime” pocket.
About a year later, I sat at the dinner table with my girlfriend of 6 months. Things had gotten uncomfortably quiet so I thought I’d try the maniacal laugh thing. The problem was that we were eating dinner at her mom’s house, surrounded by her family, most of whom I had never met.
I knew her mom though, and boy did that lady hate me.
In the midst of a quiet moment, I mimicked my friend’s shtick:
ha…ha ha…ha ha ha …bwaaaa ha ha ha ha ha haaaa!!!!
And then sat back and waited for everyone to laugh.
Everyone looked at me. More silence.
You might be tempted to chalk this one up to sheer, unmitigated social-awkwardness, and you’d be right. I have a long history of clueless, awkward, social perpetrations. But an introvert would have stopped to do a bit of thinking, maybe something akin to, “I don’t know most of these people, and the matriarch, who outweighs me by a thousand camels, hates my guts. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut,” among other things.
Extroverts typically don’t do that.
We’re not insensitive, We’re simply in a hurry to connect.
And whatever connections we do manage are worth the risk of social embarrassment – in the moment at least.
When We’re Wilting
For those of us married to introverts, it’s easy to feel like we’re cramping their style, or simply annoying them.
We want peace and harmony, so we try to live like introverts, which doesn’t go well. When the kids come along, especially when they’re young, we get tired/lazy and stop putting fun stuff on the calendar.
Then we wonder why we’re so depressed, hiding in the garage with a bottle of whiskey when we think nobody’s looking – or whatever unsavory activity we’ve gotten ourselves into because our souls are drying up.
When we don’t get the time we need on planet EX, bad things happen; usually bad things that spread to the people close to us – too much TV, booze, can’t sleep, porn, overeating. We struggle with addictions, not because we love food or booze or TV, but because our souls have gotten so thirsty for extroversion time that they start groping in the dark for anything that feels like a party.
Addictions make anyone – regardless of personality type – grumpy, checked out, uninterested.
This makes us seem like we’ve completely lost control, which scares the H out of our introverted spouses, who are tempted to step in and help us get control, which can sometimes make things worse.
What we’re in need of is a good party, a Sunday afternoon bbq with friends, golf with buddies, beer with friends – even a boring Sunday school class can help.
If you’re an introvert living with an extrovert, don’t let them run the show. You have needs that they don’t understand, and that’s OK. But if your extroverted spouse hasn’t been out with the boys in a month, there’s trouble ahead. For your own sanity, you might need to throw an emergency party, or give them a weekend “off” to go do whatever they want – something – for God’s sake – before their innate desire for extroversion time burns everything to the ground.