Jerry—classic introvert. Very tuned in to the internal world of emotions and ideas. Refuels via alone time, whenever he’s exhausted or drained. Able to tune out the world when he’s focused. More at home in small, intimate groups than big blow-out parties. Life is going fine for Jerry, an orthopedic surgeon with a penchant for vegetable gardening. Then he meets Andrea—classic extrovert. He is smitten from day one. Falls head over heels with a woman who processes by “talking it out,” is high energy, rejuvenates when around lots of people, and thrives in changing environments.
How did that work out? As a matter of fact, it worked out very well. Jerry approached me looking for ways to find balance in this exciting but challenging relationship. He was highly motivated to make it work, and Andrea was on board too.
One of the key things to understand is that introversion and extroversion are largely about brain science. The personality of any given introvert or extrovert will be different, of course, as a lot goes in to making a person. But there is something going on in the brains of introverts and extroverts that makes them who they are in some very essential ways.
Introverts experience tremendous internal brain stimuli. Any additional external stimuli can feel overwhelming. Jerry’s home is neat and serene, his down time spent in his garden, and his routines are in place to allow him maximum creative and professional growth. Thus he, like all introverts, needs alone time to recharge.
Extroverts are stimulated by external activities—people, places, experiences. They are fueled by the excitement and variety. Andrea is in her element when hosting 30 of her closest friends in her eclectic, colorful apartment, with a dozen high-energy conversations going on at once and maybe a game of charades in the corner. Professionally, she is a creative dynamo in a work environment that operates collaboratively.
So how does an introvert/extrovert couple find balance? According to Myers Briggs and the many happy intro-extro couples I know, they can in fact make the perfect couples.
Both of you will experience exponential personal growth.
- You will both move outside the familiar circle of your comfort zone. By being with Andrea, Jerry stretched himself by socializing more. By doing so, he met a few really interesting people with whom he is still friends.
- By extending past what is comfortable, you’ll gain personal awareness. Both Jerry and Andrea came to understand themselves so much more than ever before. In communicating their quirks, needs, desires to one another, they firmed up their self-awareness…never a bad thing.
- You will open up to new possibilities and experiences, both internally and externally. When you love and spend time with someone, you visit one another’s worlds and explore. The internal world of feelings, thoughts, hopes and dreams, and the actual physical world—where you live, work, grew up… and with whom. You’ve doubled your exposure to ways of being and living, and when you are an introvert in a relationship with an extrovert, and vice versa, the world-opening scenario can be pretty significant.
- You’ll learn to feel gratitude and appreciation for differences. The empathy you feel for your partner will inspire great things in you. Instead of thinking your extroverted partner “should” figure out how to be alone or your introverted partner “ought to get out more,” you come to understand why the person you love is that specific person you love—with all his or her peccadilloes and “vert quirks.”
So how do you get there, to that place of perfect balance? Okay, I crossed off the word perfect because why put so much pressure on ourselves? Balance is good in its own right without having to be perfect all the time. So… how do we find that balance in a relationship between a Jerry and an Andrea?
- Value yourself, your partner, and the relationship. This is true for any relationship, of course, not just between introverts and extroverts. Put the time and energy into the partnership and into yourself.
- Communicate. Speak your truth. What do you need and want in your life and relationship? Your partner can’t read your mind…. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be. So Jerry tells Andrea: “I need alone time.” Andrea tells Jerry: “It would mean a lot if you’d go to this party with me.”
- Communicate (did I mention that?)—and make plans. Agree on things so that you are both satisfied. How long will you stay at the party? What activities will you do separately to meet your individual needs? What are the best ways for each of you to resolve conflicts? “Talk-it-out” Andrea had to learn to pause and let Jerry process what he was thinking and feeling before opening dialogue.
- Appreciate one another. Find the beauty in your differences and validate your partner’s good qualities. Realize what you both bring to the table, and how your different approaches and styles enrich the relationship and your lives together.
- Quality time. Make the time you share meaningful for both of you. Being an intro-extro couple, you will probably need to do things apart, too. Jerry loved time in his garden, or just reading. Andrea went out with friends at least once a week. But sometimes Andrea would curl up on the couch with Jerry and they’d read to each other. And Jerry knew how much it meant to socialize together so they did that too, several times a month
There is so much beauty to be found in the differences between and among human beings. We can enrich one another with our different ideas, perspectives, experiences, processes, and feelings. The introvert and the extrovert make a great team. Not only did Jerry and Andrea find true love, but they have been married harmoniously for 4 years. I love happy endings, don’t you?