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When does introversion become unhealthy?
March 28, 2012 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Is there something wrong with my husband with regard to his introversion?

For as long as I have known my husband he has had little to no close friends and would rather stay in than go out. At first I really paid no mind to it (we started dating in college and I was very young and self-absorbed and at the time he had 1 or two friends he'd grown up with that attended our same college) but here we are 20 years later and having moved across the country twice and he still has no real friends of his own. My husband is friendly and polite to my friends, and while he takes a little time to open up and feel comfortable spending time with strangers-turned-friends of mine, he is generally well received on the scene as my husband among my friends. I am extremely extroverted (to the point that I rarely need alone time and get very close to people very easily and quickly) and so it seems particularly odd to me now that I've really sat down and realized that in 20 years, my husband has not once pursued friendships outside of his best friendship with me and has no friends (none!) that he does things with. I asked him about this last night and he told me he isn't extroverted like I am and he doesn't "need" ppl the way I do. That he is content to have me as his best friend and the social interactions he occasionally dips into with my friends when I am present and doesn't want to pursue other friendships on his own. I observe that when I'm not around (I travel for pleasure with friends and frequently go to or organize many social events) he stays at home, alone, reading or cooking, or gardening or other solitary activities. (Note that he does come to social events with me also from time to time and he never begrudges me attending them on my own either).

Is this really objectively ok to be a loner to this extreme? It seems really unhealthy to me, but then again I am an extrovert. He doesn't seem unhappy or miserable with this arrangement (like I would be) but society is always telling us everyone should have at least a few friends (not just 1). What does the hivemind say? Have you ever known an extreme loner that was truely happy and healthy? And if not, how do I convince him this is a problem that he should fix for his own good?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
It really is okay to be a loner to this extreme, and yes, he can be truly healthy and happy the way he is now. I think you should believe him when he tells you he's content with having you as a best friend.
posted by Specklet at 12:10 PM on March 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


If he's happy, that seems like the final word on it.

People rarely need (or really respond well to) people convincing them that something that they don't want to do and are happy without is "for their own good." Your heart's surely in the right place.

Some of us just fly solo.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:11 PM on March 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Is this really objectively ok to be a loner to this extreme?

"This extreme"? He has you.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:11 PM on March 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


He says he's happy. It doesn't appear to be causing conflicts in your relationship or cramping your style. I don't see any reason to go trying to turn this into a problem that needs solving.
posted by ook at 12:12 PM on March 28, 2012 [11 favorites]


It seems to bother you a lot more than it bothers him.

If he ends up without you, he may discover that having only one friend (you) is less than ideal. But if he's happy with the way he is now, and it isn't causing disruptions in his work life, then no, it's not unhealthy. For him.
posted by rtha at 12:12 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think its OK if he's happy and it isn't negatively impacting you. If he was unhappy it would obviously be an issue, or if he expected you to give up your social life.

Do you feel guilty that he always stays home when you go out?
posted by Laura_J at 12:13 PM on March 28, 2012


He doesn't seem unhappy or miserable with this arrangement (like I would be) but society is always telling us everyone should have at least a few friends

"society" is biased, because, by its nature, what "society" tells us is filtered through the voices of extroverts, who are the people who feel a compulsion to talk all the time and tell us how we should live.

If this were a new relationship, I'd say that the situation is raising some red flags, but you've been together for 20 years, and he seems healthy and well adjusted, so things seem to be working out very well for him, despite the claims of what "society" claims he should be doing and feeling.
posted by deanc at 12:14 PM on March 28, 2012 [32 favorites]


I am your husband, its fine. MY husband wonders if I am ok occasionally and I assure him that I am more than ok.

If he was awful when you went out together, that would be bad. If he was miserable at home by himself, that would be bad. If he tried to restrict your going out, that would be bad. He doesn't do any of that, so its all good.

There is nothing wrong with your husband and it seems that this is all very familiar, its been him as long as you've known him, frankly if my husband still thinks there might be something "wrong" with me in twenty years, I'd feel very betrayed.
posted by stormygrey at 12:14 PM on March 28, 2012 [13 favorites]


He's not alone. He has you.

Now it's up to you to decide if you want to be his everything, but I suspect that after 20 years and not noticing it until now, you're fine with it.

He's fine. You're fine. You're all fine.
posted by inturnaround at 12:14 PM on March 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


If he is severely depressed and wishing that he had more friends but not doing anything about it except complain, then yeah that's a problem. BUT If he is genuinely happy then I don't see a problem with this.

Honestly who cares what "society" thinks?
posted by littlesq at 12:15 PM on March 28, 2012


Speaking as someone who used to be quite extroverted and is becoming more and more introverted with time - social stuff can tire me out. It is totally possible that for someone who is very introverted, the secondary social connections through you are totally enough.
posted by dubold at 12:16 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


society is always telling us everyone should have at least a few friends

"Society" sends lots of oversimplified messages that aren't objectively truthful and applicable to the hundreds of millions of complex human beings who actually make up society.
posted by scody at 12:16 PM on March 28, 2012 [27 favorites]


I know a few couples who don't really have friends outside each other and seem fine. It might be a bigger issue that you are, as you say, extremely extroverted and he is extremely introverted. As long as you can accept each other and as long as he is happy that you have other friends I think its fine.
posted by Laura_J at 12:17 PM on March 28, 2012


How do you feel about being his only friend? That wouldn't work for me, but I'm not you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:17 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a lot like your husband and I can say that not only is it perfectly normal but having lots of friends is a prospect that to him seems exhausting.

For me, at least, going to social events and/or doing things with friends (even just sitting around talking) takes a lot of energy. I can't "relax with my friends" because it isn't a setting that I find relaxing. If I want to relax I do something by myself or with my wife. Any more people than that and I usually don't get as much out of it as I put in.

My wife is the only person that I interact with socially that gives me a net gain, it's a big part of why I married her.
posted by VTX at 12:21 PM on March 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


Forget society for a second. In the last 20 years, have you regularly been in situations where you thought "my husband really needs some friends" for reasons outside of the fact that he doesn't have any? That is, have you ever felt like there needed to be more people to carry the load that is his emotional health, because it was taking an toll on you?

Some people think all they need is a significant other, but they're wrong and putting undue stress on their partner. If this isn't the case, if the only reason you think he should have friends is because common sense is telling you that not having friends objectively sucks, then you should let him be. Square pegs and all that.
posted by griphus at 12:22 PM on March 28, 2012 [11 favorites]


FAMOUS FATHER is exactly like this. Honestly, the sense I get is that if he wanted more people to spend time around, he'd find some.

If the weight of being your husband's only friend in the world isn't too much for you then I don't think there's a problem here. This works for him, you know?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:24 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is not extreme.; it's just extremely different than you. Your husband is fine.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:25 PM on March 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


When does introversion become unhealthy?

When the introvert in question becomes unhappy about it.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:33 PM on March 28, 2012 [15 favorites]


It's completely normal and healthy for your husband to be this much of an introvert. Read Jonathan Rauch's great article "Caring for your Introvert" for tips on understanding your husband better.
posted by rhartong at 12:39 PM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


my husband is an extreme introvert, i'd say. i'm sort of a middling introvert. we can both put on our extrovert faces for the world, but we'd prefer to be snuggled up on the couch, lost in our computers/video games. we sometimes force ourselves to go out into the world, but when we get home again, we're always like "phew! now we can relax!" doing extrovert things feels really unnatural and stressful, like it's opening day at the play and we're supposed to know our lines.
posted by nadawi at 12:40 PM on March 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


It seems really unhealthy to me...

How is it unhealthy? What are you worried is going to happen to him? You don't mention any potential downsides.

He doesn't seem unhappy or miserable with this arrangement (like I would be)

Exactly. You just answered your whole question. He's been like this for decades and he's fine with it. It isn't causing him problems. So, it's not unhealthy.

Have you ever known an extreme loner that was truely happy and healthy? And if not, how do I convince him this is a problem that he should fix for his own good?

It ain't broke; don't fix it.

If you haven't seen this famous article already, read it.
posted by John Cohen at 12:41 PM on March 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, it's fine. If you feel like he's trying too hard to make you meet all his needs, that's a problem. But it sounds like he's content and has a lot of hobbies.

I've made friends in new places throughout the years, but it's a very slow process for me and often takes a long time before the benefits of hanging out with someone outweigh the stressors. I'm pretty content with my significant other and my (long-distance) family most of the time.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:57 PM on March 28, 2012


As an introvert, when I observe really extreme extroverts I get the sense that THEY are unhealthy. I mean, they can't be content to be alone for any amount of time and don't seem to have any solo interests that they can engage in without being with others. Often such folks seem (to me) to not be able to deal with silence, or contemplation, or just being.

Of course, I realize that this sort of observation is generally nonsense and I am watching a healthy individual live the way they want to. Just like your husband.
posted by utsutsu at 1:03 PM on March 28, 2012 [15 favorites]


If he's happy, he's happy. It's hard for you to see, I'm sure, but some folks can thrive with a low level of social contact that astounds the typical extrovert.

It is entirely possible to be happy, pleasant, kind, loving, well adjusted, and very nearly alone. I've been doing it for years and I've never been more satisfied with my life.
posted by Sternmeyer at 1:03 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am like your husband, and I am happy. If you don't see any indications that your husband is unhappy and just not telling you, then let him be. His desire to be solitary is no more or less unhealthy than your desire to be social.
posted by ashirys at 1:11 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


You just described my in-laws. They have been married 50 years in a few months. I think once she decided he really was fine with his life as an "extreme" introvert and left him alone, everything has worked out well.
posted by maxg94 at 1:15 PM on March 28, 2012


One more thing: think about the phrase you used, "for his own good." What does the word "good" refer to in that sentence? We've established that he seems happy with everything. How would something different be "good" for him? Or do you mean: it would be good for you, because then you could take comfort in knowing that he's similar to you?
posted by John Cohen at 1:16 PM on March 28, 2012


Leave him alone. He is ok. My husband and I are both like him, my husband more so. We are UNHAPPY in crowds, surrounded by people, forced to make or listen to small talk. Go out with your friends and let your husband be who he is. You have stayed with him this long so there must be things you like about him despite his introversion. Would you be happy if he decided you talked too much, were too loud, too social, and should become more like him?
posted by mermayd at 1:56 PM on March 28, 2012


I can't tell you how many long-term couples I know (10 years+) made of an extreme extrovert and an extreme introvert. Some of the happiest people I know.
posted by joinks at 2:39 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


That seems fine and normal to me. I would happily live like that.
posted by lollusc at 6:58 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hello, dear.

I have you. That's quite enough.

Now can you go out or something? I want to watch American Dad.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:07 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am exactly like your husband, and my significant other is more like you - very extroverted.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with him, he seems healthy and happy and totally fine with you being way more sociable.

I might also add that, as an introvert, it can be very insulting when someone implies that there is something wrong with you, or that the way you are is unhealthy. I hope that you try to not to make him feel flawed if and when you discuss this stuff with him.
posted by ohmy at 9:58 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


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