Rock and roll all night, party every day? Seriously?
May 20, 2010 12:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm being romanced by a wonderful man. Problem is, he's a super-social extrovert, and I am your classic introvert who needs lots of alone time. Communication is good about this, but I am worried that I am somehow "holding him back".

We met through mutual friends who thought we'd click, and they were right; he's funny, smart, kind, handsome, and affectionate. We've been dating for about eight months, in which we have achieved a rough balance between my demanding schedule and his frequent travel, and he's brought up the idea of moving in together next year after my lease is up. I'm mostly excited about this, but - INTJ alert - am worrying nonetheless. He's gregarious, has a large posse of friends, and likes the nightlife. I work with people all day, which requires alone time to recharge. I've gotten more social since being with him, and accompany him more than not, but I need a day or two off in between. This has been easier to deal with while we live apart, since I automatically get alone time when I'm home. He's worried that I will begin to resent him going out with his friends when I don't want to go, and I'm worried that he'll see my requests for alone time as rejection. We're talking about this, a process which has helped a lot, and we both acknowledge that we're probably making up monsters under the bed where there are none. Still, I wonder if extroverts and introverts can find middle ground where everyone's needs get met and emotional intimacy stays strong.

Bio data: I'm female, in my 40s, divorced for about six years, partner in a small busy medical practice. He's in his 30s, never married but wants to be, is a consultant with a very flexible schedule and an international clientele. We live in a major western US city. We communicate well, the sex is good, he likes my dog, I like his friends. He brought up monogamy before I did, so I can reasonably assume he isn't having sex outside our relationship.

Suggestions for success in an introvert/extrovert romance are gratefully accepted, either here or at
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I am an ISFJ and married an ENFP. We have managed quite well even though I need a lot of alone time too. I never thought I would be OK with having someone around all the time but I have grown accustomed to it. I actually have found I am doing more social things with him because I love being around him and he is the life of the party while I hang back some and just enjoy what is going on around me.

May be different for you but that is how it has worked for us. My husband is also younger than me.
posted by shaarog at 1:07 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

We're talking about this, a process which has helped a lot, and we both acknowledge that we're probably making up monsters under the bed where there are none.

Hi. Introvert here, married to extrovert.

If you're talking, you're good. The danger is that you'll be afraid to bring up your needs, or that one of you will just start assuming that you know what the other one wants/is willing to do without actually talking/asking them.

You have to be free to say "I really need some me-time" without fear that it will become a Big Thing. Also, he has to be free to say "It's really important to me that you're there for this [INSERT SOCIAL EVENT HERE]." And then, if you're both free to say those things, you negotiate the space between just like any other relationship issue.

And you have to continually talk through that, because if you assume you know the answer ("Oh, she won't want to go anyway," or "Oh, he's going to be heartbroken if I don't go to every game this season"), then the likelihood of stress/hurt feelings/etc. increases significantly.

This also assumes that you're OK with him going out without you (hopefully yes). He has to be free to feed his extrovert nature, just like you have to be free to nurture your introvert. But really, this is totally doable.
posted by somanyamys at 1:17 PM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

The fact that you are already talking rationally about this is a good sign. Keep doing that. I'm also a classic introvert, and like you I used to feel insecure about dating highly extroverted people. It can be a great combination, though, if both people are willing to be responsive to each other's differing needs. If you feel confident about that after discussing with him, and you decide to move in together, then at some point you'll both need to just accept that it's okay to be who you are and ask for what you need. And try not to worry about "holding him back". Sometimes extroverts need our complementary introvert qualities to balance them out (and vice versa). :) He probably appreciates those qualities much more than you might think.

And it is perfectly okay, even after you move in together, to state your feelings about this honestly. If you feel a little resentful that he's going out with his friends on a particular night, or if he feels a little rejected that you want to curl up alone with a book instead of hang out with him, you can say that while also making it clear that you're not trying to dictate the other person's actions. Sometimes fears need to be voiced, and sometimes we all need to be reassured.

Like I said, I'm a classic introvert, and my (live-in) boyfriend is someone who loves to chat and be sociable all the time and will strike up conversations with random people on the bus. But it's worked for us so far. YMMV on this, but one thing about living together that I think is nice is that we can have people over. It satisfies his need for socializing (although of course sometimes he still likes to go out), and as long as they're not friends who have come over to specifically see me, I can always go do my thing in another room if I need some space for a while. And when you're alone together in the house, you can each be doing your separate activities while sharing the same space. I still revel in truly-alone time, when I have the apartment to myself, but being on my own and still having him in the house can also be a lovely thing.
posted by spinto at 1:22 PM on May 20, 2010

Opposites attract. As long as the two of you communicate your needs to each other, I think you will be just fine!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:35 PM on May 20, 2010

As others have said I think it's going to work out fine as long as you keep communicating about it. Set some ground rules like it is perfectly fine if he goes out x number of days per week, but he shouldn't assume you don't want to go somewhere. He can express that he really wants you to be a certain event (but only occasionally) with the understanding that you are allowed to decline but will accompany him to events that are really important to him.

Then make a pact that if something comes up in regards to this situation where either one of you feels uncomfortable, there is a space to discuss that without the other person getting defensive immediately.

I think it would also help to see the positives of your different social personalities. My husband and are introverts and we stay in a lot. We both like this arrangement, but sometimes we wish we did more things. We know a couple in your situation though and not only does she get out more than she probably would normally, but he also has a great excuse to stay home and say no to his extrovert friends sometimes too. They really complement each other.
posted by Kimberly at 1:43 PM on May 20, 2010

INTP married to ESFJ here. We are happy, although there is friction that comes from her wanting me to go be extroverted with her. We deal. If your guy is happy going without you and you're happy to have him go without you, it sounds like a win-win to me!
posted by callmejay at 1:52 PM on May 20, 2010

I'm an INTP married to an ENFP, FWIW. When we met I was required by my job to be more outgoing and sociable than I ever was comfortable with. When the job ended, I had every excuse to hole up and not go anywhere or do anything. This caused a little friction because she enjoyed the gatherings we used to go to and the fact that I was an "important" person in the community (her word, not mine). But we talked it through and all became well again.

Part of the reason I married her is because she's outgoing and I knew she would prevent me from becoming a hermit. For her part, she appreciates that I've introduced her to the joys of a quiet evening at home. Keep your communication going and be willing to compromise: you'll go to X party with him tonight but then the weekend is alone time.
posted by bryon at 2:16 PM on May 20, 2010

When I've seen this work, it's gone like this:
"Oh, my beloved Extrovert! It's so nice that you go out and party without me! My exes always insisted on dragging me along, but you just head right out so I can relax and curl up with a book. I love that!"

"Oh, my beloved Introvert! It's so nice that you respect my time out with my friends! My exes always got all weird and jealous about it, but you practically shove me out the door because you want me to relax and have fun. I love that!"
The key, I think, is thinking about love as an "I want you to be happy and fulfilled" thing and not necessarily as an "I want to be JOINED AT THE HIP" thing. If you look at it that way, then spending time apart — in a way that makes you both happy — can be a really deep expression of the things you love about each other.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:17 PM on May 20, 2010 [10 favorites]

Recognizing the differences and not taking them personally has been very important for my marriage. If it's important to me that he come along and share an experience with me, I let him know and he usually comes.
(ENFP married to an INTJ- celebrating 16 yrs of marriage tomorrow :)
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 2:39 PM on May 20, 2010

I'm a super-social extrovert married to an incredible introvert. I love him, and I love his introvertedness. In fact, being with him has taught me the value of shutting up and getting some alone time to my emotional health.

Our couples counselor said that in her experience, the strongest relationships were formed between people with similar values, overlapping but non-identical interests, and different personalities. That suits me and my husband to a T. In November, we'll have been together for 15 years.
posted by KathrynT at 4:38 PM on May 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

I think you're good since you're talking about it. I'm a fellow INTJ, and while my husband is just somewhat more extroverted than I am, I have some friends who are REALLY extroverted. I've explained introversion to them, explained that I value them dearly and love spending time with them, I just get tired easily and it has nothing to do with them. This seems to solve the problem except with unreasonable or insecure people, and hey, that just lets me know who I shouldn't be friends with -- not that they're bad people, but it would never work out.

I really like nebulawindphone's comment. As long as you keep reassuring each other that you're not upset about it, it shouldn't be so bad. I would add that you might both feel better if you leave the door open to making special requests that the other will try to accommodate, just so you don't worry that they're secretly upset and not telling you. So for example, my friends will generally be happy to let me recharge, but they also know that if they're in town for a limited time that I will suck it up and go see them even if I'm very tired. One-off things are possible, frequent things are not. So you might agree that if he really, really starts to miss you, he can say, "I know you're tired, but I feel like we haven't been hanging out and I'd feel better for a while if you just go out with me tonight." Or if you're really exhausted, you might say, "I know I said I would go out tonight, but if I go out I will go insane. Please excuse me this one time."

If those requests become too frequent -- more than once every few weeks would be my standard, personally -- you can both re-evaluate. You might be able to do something to lessen them, or it might be that in the end, you're too incompatible. But talking is great.
posted by Nattie at 6:39 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

"He's worried that I will begin to resent him going out with his friends when I don't want to go"
^^ well, do you resent him?

"and I'm worried that he'll see my requests for alone time as rejection."
^^ does he feel rejected?

If so, then you have a problem. If not, then you're probably fine. These things need to be reevaluated on a semi-regular basis because people change, but as long as the answer is no, then reassure each other that the answer is no and stop worrying about it!

For good measure, I'll tell you the story of a relationship that didn't work because we didn't see eye to eye on these things and we didn't talk about it.

I am an extrovert (F) and I lived with an introvert (M) for 5 years. There were lots of problems with our relationship, but the fact that we rarely went out and did anything social together particularly bothered me. I wasn't good at communicating with him, so I let it stew and gnaw at me. Every time I made plans with my friends, I would hope that he would want to come; I would ask him if he'd like to join, always putting it to him as, "my friends and I are going to do X -- it'd be great if you wanted to come with us, but you don't have to," and he would *always* say he'd rather stay home. I never wanted to insist that he come, because if I did I'd just worry the whole time that he wasn't enjoying himself, and that would keep ME from being able to have a good time, so it was better if I just go without him. Eventually I started staying in with him instead of going out with my friends because I wanted to spend time with him and that was the only option he gave me. I wound up alienating myself because my friends just stopped calling. I convinced myself that I was happy for a while, but in retrospect I feel like I wasted those years of my life and it makes me sad to think about how much fun I could have been having if I had been more honest with myself and with him.

What I learned from that relationship is that you have to be ok with the level of interaction you both want. I know now that I need to be with someone who will join me most of the time. You have to be clear about how often you each would ideally want go out vs. stay in, and decide if you can reach a compromise that is both realistic and comfortable for both of you. If you can, you'll be fine. If not, then I would seriously advise you to think hard about whether this relationship can work. From what you've said, it sounds like you guys will probably be fine.
posted by roscopcoletrane at 8:19 AM on May 21, 2010

I'm an ENFP very happily paired with an INTJ. Nthing what others have already said about being comfortable saying "hey man, that's just not my scene but you go ahead and enjoy!"

I chimed in to say: Don't underestimate the fact that you like his friends. It'll be a HUGE help for you to feel less drained or put upon as time goes by since you get along well with the people you're interacting with on your SO's behalf.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 10:31 AM on May 21, 2010

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