Me : Extrovert. She : Introvert. Can this relationship survive? Should it?
March 28, 2012 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Me : Extrovert. She : Introvert. Can this relationship survive? Should it?

My girlfriend and I have been together for about 9 months. The first 6 were pretty much constant honeymoon period; it's like someone was giving me a new puppy every minute of every day. We fell for each other completely and totally, sappy text messages and everything. However, my doubts set in about 3 months ago, and now I find myself wondering if I should break up with her. I don't know if I'm just feeling the normal letdown everyone feels after the honeymoon period is over, or if it's a deeper incompatibility that we cannot work past.

First, the good : we're very compatible on many levels. Basically, we have a really good time together. We could spend an eternity holding each other and talking to each other and making each other laugh. We love going on hikes, cooking together, going to museums and concerts, discovering hidden parts of the city, or just snuggling up on the couch and watching Mad Men. We have equally high libidos. Neither of us wants to have children. Her family loves me. Although many of our interests are in different areas, I definitely see her as an intellectual equal. Many of our strengths are complimentary; in a lot of ways, we make a good team. I love her, and if she were gone from my life, I'd feel an great aching emptiness.

Now, the bad : the introvert/extrovert thing. Didn't think this would be a big deal, but it's become an issue.

Basically, I'm a big 'ol extrovert. I love going out and being around people. If I don't have at least a certain number of friends that I see on a regular basis, I start to feel lonely and isolated. More than that, I try to always be meeting new friends and going to events where I don't know a lot of people. This is something I'm absolutely unwilling to change. I am not willing to have a diminished social life.

She is an introvert. She doesn't like to meet new people. She doesn't like going to parties where she doesn't know a lot of people. She doesn't like dinner parties at restaurants. She doesn't need or want to have a large group of friends. She's basically said that she doesn't like most people, and feels like she doesn't have anything to talk to them about. She doesn't make friends easily; the last time she had a group of friends was in college, and they all live in different places now. She keeps in touch with them pretty much constantly over Skype and Facebook, but hasn't really made any new friends since she graduated a couple years ago.

This isn't to say that she's completely *opposed* to meeting new people. She enjoys hanging out with some of my friends, and enjoys some social events. For example, going to dinner with one other couple is usually fine. And she seems to do well at house parties where she knows most of the people. However, at a number of social events, she's just sat there the whole time and not said a single thing. This wasn't a big deal at first, but it's become a big deal, and it's come to the point where I'm not okay with it anymore.

From the beginning, there've been nights where we'd go our separate ways : I'd go to a burning man party where I didn't know a lot of people, and she'd go off with a friend to a dance club. However, it seems like the list of "social things we can't do together" has grown somewhat. She's perfectly okay with letting me go off and do my own thing socially. However, I'm starting to wonder if *I* am cool with that.

Ideally, I'd have a mate who's as social as I am, or at least not an introvert. She'd have her own set of friends and events to introduce me to. She'd accompany me to parties and gatherings, and make new friends right along with me. However, I also realize that I could die alone waiting for my ideal mate to come around. I'm a weird, oddball, non-standard person, with an odd (but not unsavory!) past and an odd mindset. I feel lucky to have found someone who isn't totally scared off by that. So, while it may be tempting to shout, "DTMFA", please realize that I have a lot of reasons to want to keep this relationship going.

About a week ago, we went to yet another dinner party where she was silent the whole time, so I confronted her about it later in the evening. Really, I felt like a jerk bringing it up because I could imagine people have been talking to her about this her whole life. But having a silent girlfriend at a dinner party is a really awkward situation for me, and I just couldn't leave it alone anymore. This is basically what I got from her :
1) She claims that she's silent around people because "she doesn't have anything to say". To me, this sounds like she's insulting herself, but I get that some people just aren't into small talk.
2) She says that it takes her "a while to warm up to people". Okay, fine. But she's known most of my friends for longer than 6 months, and still doesn't feel comfortable around them?
3) She would someday like to be more social. She'd like to be able to go to a dinner party at a restaurant and make conversation with people. But at the same time, she hinted that shyness is a part of her personality, and that I need to accept it. This is difficult for me, because I see shyness as a mostly-negative personality trait, or at least something to overcome.

The last month has been kinda rough; neither of us are fighters -- we've never had a fight -- but we've had an increased number of "I'd rather you didn't do that" conversations. When she sends me sappy text messages now, I feel disingenuous replying. Even more, when she talks about wanting to be with me "forever", part of me kinda winces inside. I've even started to look forward to dating again, even though I *hate* dating, absolutely *hate* it, and am not even very good at it. She's noticed a change in me; or at least, she's acknowledged that the last month "has been kinda weird". Basically, it's gotten to the point where I either need to (A) break up with her, or (B) CHILL THE FUCK OUT, accept that much of my social life will be solo, try to help her where I can, and patiently wait for her to feel more comfortable in social situations.

Anyway, there's no need to post a link to the Introvert's Manifesto, or any of the online discussions or articles where introverts explain that their minds just work differently. Trust me, I've read lots of that stuff. The question here is not "what is an introvert?" but "can I stay in a relationship with this introvert?"
posted by Sloop John B to Human Relations (65 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
The question here is not "what is an introvert?" but "can I stay in a relationship with this introvert?"

No, the question is do you want to. Right now, as she is, do you want to keep dating this person? They may be awesome and great, but if they aren't scratching that certain itch, while actively pushing negative buttons on you, it doesn't sound promising.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:49 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Based on what you've written here, she's not what you want in a partner. It's okay to move on.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 9:50 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

"can I stay in a relationship with this introvert?"

Yes, but only if the both of you are willing to bend a little and only if you want to. I am much more extroverted than my husband (I wouldn't go so far as to call myself truly extroverted, though he is truly introverted) and we make it work. Basically, I have to be okay with him not accompanying me to many, many things and he has to be okay with coming out with me when it's important to me.

As for how she behaves when she's out, you need to be okay with her being quiet and/or she needs to make more of an effort to make small talk, etc.

It sounds like you're very compatible in every other way and it is not realistic to expect that someone who is exactly like you is out there waiting for you to find her. Do you love this girl? If this one part of your relationship was better, would you want to be with her? If yes, make it better - but understand that she's never, ever going to be an extrovert. If no, move on.
posted by cooker girl at 9:53 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't think any relationship is perfect. You might find another extrovert who is incompatible with you in other ways, for instance; I don't think that there is anything that has to automatically doom a relationship between an extrovert and an introvert.

The question really is whether the trade-off of you dating someone who isn't really going to be keen on some of the activities you enjoy is worth it, given all the other ways in which she makes you happy. This is really a question that is fundamental to ANY relationship, and I honestly don't think it is something that can be answered by the internet crowd, unless you like having strangers simply vote on the future of your relationship.
posted by modernnomad at 9:54 AM on March 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

(B) CHILL THE FUCK OUT, accept that much of my social life will be solo, try to help her where I can, and patiently wait for her to feel more comfortable in social situations.

1) You're going to be waiting a very, very long time.

2) Why do you need to help her? Why do you want her to be more like you, why can't you accept her the way she is?

(Introvert here. I get along fine with people who don't mind my need for alone time.)
posted by Melismata at 9:54 AM on March 28, 2012 [13 favorites]

You sound like you want to break up.

However, I bet that you'll regret it later on. Someone who is fun to talk to, has a suitable approach to sex, is smart, doesn't want kids, etc etc - I think that person is going to be very hard to replace, much harder to replace than you think. Especially if you're adding a new requirement.

Sometimes it can be a real misfortune to meet a good partner early in one's dating career - it's easy to imagine that the sea is full of attractive, smart, non-child-wanting people who like sex and have active social lives who will also be attracted to you, when unless you yourself have the advantage of wealth, fame or unusual good looks this is generally not the case.
posted by Frowner at 9:56 AM on March 28, 2012 [29 favorites]

Do not stay with this girl simply because you detest the idea of being single again.
posted by lizbunny at 9:56 AM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was about to say that you sound like my husband and I sound like your girlfriend. But that's not quite right-- my husband respects the fact that I'm an introvert and doesn't think that it's uncool that I'm this way. You don't really sound like you respect who your girlfriend is or what her preferences are. You talk about how it's awkward for YOU that she doesn't talk to people, that YOU don't understand why she hasn't warmed up to your friends, etc. I feel kind of bad for your girlfriend because it seems like you haven't really tried to understand her or see things from her perspective. Honestly, it almost sounds like you don't really believe her and think she's being intentionally difficult!

Anyway. Relationships between introverts and extroverts can and do work. My husband and I balance each other out. But that's because he understands why I am usually quiet at dinner parties and he doesn't look down on me for being shy or for not bringing new friends into his life. If these are things you cannot do in your relationship, then you two aren't a good fit.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:57 AM on March 28, 2012 [37 favorites]

Sometimes relationships between extroverts and introverts work out really well - my parents, for example, who balance each other out quite well.

Your question doesn't really seem to be about whether an introvert and an extrovert can be in a relationship though; it's about whether the two of you can be in a relationship.

And I think you hit on the crux of the issue here: Basically, it's gotten to the point where I either need to (A) break up with her, or (B) CHILL THE FUCK OUT, accept that much of my social life will be solo, try to help her where I can, and patiently wait for her to feel more comfortable in social situations.

Maybe you could try option B - try to chill out, accept that you are in a relationship with someone you really care about / love, but that your social life is going to be mostly solo. Try that for a while, if it works, great! If it doesn't work, you have your answer.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:57 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

When she sends me sappy text messages now, I feel disingenuous replying. Even more, when she talks about wanting to be with me "forever", part of me kinda winces inside. I've even started to look forward to dating again, even though I *hate* dating,

It seems like you've already broken up with her emotionally, tbh. Move on and find someone with whom you are more compatible, because if she ends up feeling like she HAS to change or lose you, there will be endless resentment if you stay together.
posted by elizardbits at 9:58 AM on March 28, 2012 [18 favorites]

Based on what you've written here, I don't think she's the right person for you. And this:

"About a week ago, we went to yet another dinner party where she was silent the whole time, so I confronted her about it later in the evening."

pretty much paints it in the sky in neon glowing letters. I'm an introvert as well, and few things drive me up the wall as much as when someone asks me why I was so quiet or why I didn't have anything to say in a given social setting. It's a complex issue that has to do with comfort levels, shyness and a ton of other factors, and it's not something that can be fixed by going mentally "oh, I'll just talk more next time".

Flip it around, what would your response be to "why did you do so much talking last night?" Exactly.

If you can chill out and actually do it, not make an effort while you hope she changes (and she might, but she'll change by degrees, doubtful she'll ever become an extrovert) go for it. Otherwise you'll just get more resentful so you might as well cut your losses now.
posted by barc0001 at 9:59 AM on March 28, 2012 [19 favorites]

I'm an introvert and I'm in a 5 year relationship with a fairly extroverted person. She needs people around to recharge. I need a lack of people to recharge.

There is no reason she needs to suffer through your personal life. She can do her own thing, whether it be reading, yoga, painting, etc. You can go be a social butterfly. You do not have to spend the majority of our social lives together. Really. If you require, and I do mean require, that of someone, then you need someone else.

You seem to be unwilling to let her be her. If she's not comfy around your friends after six months, bitching to MeFi won't change that. And neither will confronting her about it. Now she'll sit there quietly thinking "these are the friends I have to be OK with" the entire time. Sounds miserable to me, I'd stop seeing your friends ASAP if you told me that.

In short, let her be her and you be you. If flying solo the majority of the social time is not for you, then you need to find someone else who wont' be miserable tolerating your social life. You'll both be happier for it.

For someone who claims to be so well read on introverts, you sure do seem to think "why can't this person just be like me for a little bit?" as though something is wrong with introverts.
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:59 AM on March 28, 2012 [23 favorites]

But at the same time, she hinted that shyness is a part of her personality, and that I need to accept it. This is difficult for me, because I see shyness as a mostly-negative personality trait, or at least something to overcome.

You consider an intrinsic part of her personality to be some sort of character flaw. I think this makes you incompatible with her. Be kind and end it.
posted by xingcat at 10:00 AM on March 28, 2012 [53 favorites]

I can see where it could be awkward for you if your girlfriend doesn't talk at all in social settings, but this is a two-way street. Do your friends try to engage her in conversation one on one, or make the conversation about things that she'll be able to follow? I am by no means an extrovert but more so than my boyfriend; he is quiet with my friends but certainly talks to them when they talk to him.

I do feel like you sound a bit contemptuous of her social style though. I think shyness, in the form of anxiety, is something to be worked through; but I don't think being an introvert is the same as being afraid of interacting with others--it's a lifestyle, not a deficiency.
posted by mlle valentine at 10:01 AM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

When she sends me sappy text messages now, I feel disingenuous replying. Even more, when she talks about wanting to be with me "forever", part of me kinda winces inside.

If I knew my partner was wincing at my loving text messages, I wouldn't want to be with him.
posted by desjardins at 10:01 AM on March 28, 2012 [17 favorites]

I see shyness as a mostly-negative personality trait, or at least something to overcome.

I missed this until xingcat pointed it out. Yeah, it's not a character flaw or something to overcome. If you can't accept that she's probably going to be quiet when you go out, maybe you do need to end it. But I would, if I were you, evaluate why you felt that way and why you think you need someone to be the life of the party with you. Everything else about her seems almost perfect for you.
posted by cooker girl at 10:02 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You don't really sound like you respect who your girlfriend is or what her preferences are.

I assure you that isn't the case. Look, I'm on Metafilter. I've read many accounts of social anxiety. And I love my girlfriend. It isn't an issue of respect. When I'm at a party and she spends the whole time sitting next to me and feeling silent, I feel.... gah, it's hard to describe how I feel. I feel like I'm taking something away from her, or being the loud obnoxious brute who's monopolizing the conversation.

You talk about how it's awkward for YOU that she doesn't talk to people, that YOU don't understand why she hasn't warmed up to your friends, etc. I feel kind of bad for your girlfriend because it seems like you haven't really tried to understand her or see things from her perspective

I could see how you'd get that impression, but I assure you that isn't the case. It's much more the case of me being at a social event with her and thinking, "gee, it'd be nice to be with someone who was more of a help in a social setting" or going to a social event by myself and thinking "gee, it'd be nice to have a girlfriend who liked to go to these things"

Do not stay with this girl simply because you detest the idea of being single again.

I've spent most of my life single; I can guarantee this isn't an issue.
posted by Sloop John B at 10:03 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Depends on if you can change the way you look at her and about introversion/shyness in general. You haven't mentioned that she as any trouble with you being an extrovert, so it's all on you.

You really need to sit down and ask yourself how absolutely important is it to have an extroverted partner. Are you going to be miserable if your partner isn't a social butterfly? If you are, then it's time to move on.

Maybe some sort of compromise. Can you live with the fact that she's fine in small groups of people? Maybe focus your bonding in social situations on the small groups.

Please stop looking at her shyness or her inability to make small talk as a negative trait or negative implications of your friends. She's not judging you or them. If she's anything like me, she's probably interested in listening to what your friends have to say, but don't know how to relate that to herself and speak up. Especially if your friends are extroverts. Is she nodding her head, making eye contact, giving expressions? If so, she is talking, just nonverbally. If she's just staring down at her food and pretending to be as small as possible, she is seriously uncomfortable and doesn't want to be there. (In which case I'd give her hugs when you get some alone time and mention that she looked really uncomfortable and ask what I could do to make it not uncomfortable next time)

If you want to save this relationship, communicate more! Not in a blaming fashion, but in a more: "Hon, what can I do to help you?" manner.
posted by royalsong at 10:06 AM on March 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm an introvert, my husband is an extrovert...and i assure you if he felt that a huge part of my personality was negative, a flaw, and undesirable we would not be married.
Do your girlfriend a favor and end it, so she can find someone who loves and accepts her entire personality.
posted by d13t_p3ps1 at 10:07 AM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just for the record, there are shy people who aren't introverts and introverts who aren't shy.

So it takes her more than six months to be comfortable joining in a pre-existing group of friends. This isn't some huge flaw. It might be a dealbreaker for you (it sounds like it), but it's not a flaw.

She isn't going to be a "help" in social settings, and she isn't going to start to want to go big parties or big meals and she isn't going to change this. If this irritates you so much you are cringing at her text messages, just break up with her. It's okay.
posted by jeather at 10:08 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Also, I see a lot of you are zeroing in on the part where I said, "I see shyness as a mostly-negative personality trait, or at least something to overcome." Perhaps I do see it as a character flaw, although maybe I don't think it's necessarily a damning character flaw. Everyone has character flaws, including me. Nobody's perfect.

I'm beginning to wonder if I phrased the question poorly; I'm not really asking for an "up or down vote", I'm really mostly looking for others who have been in similar situations and am interested in how they dealt with it.
posted by Sloop John B at 10:08 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's much more the case of me being at a social event with her and thinking, "gee, it'd be nice to be with someone who was more of a help in a social setting" or going to a social event by myself and thinking "gee, it'd be nice to have a girlfriend who liked to go to these things"

Then your current girlfriend is not the girlfriend for you, unfortunately. Unless you are both in your mid-to-late teens, it is unlikely that her inherent introverted nature is going to change dramatically enough to fully meet your needs. I mean, sure, she might be the life of the party if she developed a drug or alcohol dependency, but that's not exactly the best way to heal a troubled relationship.
posted by elizardbits at 10:13 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

For me, I read multiple times that you aren't happy. You wince at her sappy messages, you fantasize about dating other people, you are hoping that if you wait it out, she'll change.

"However, I also realize that I could die alone waiting for my ideal mate to come around. I'm a weird, oddball, non-standard person, with an odd (but not unsavory!) past and an odd mindset. I feel lucky to have found someone who isn't totally scared off by that.

If this statement isn't you settling, I don't know what is.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 10:14 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's a question she (or someone in her position) could write:
Me: introvert. Him: extrovert. Can this relationship survive? Should it?

I'm a big 'ol introvert. I have a lot of hobbies and close friends I enjoy, and I like arranging my life so that I have quiet time to think and dream and do the things I like. If I don't get time to do those things on a regular basis, I start to feel overstimulated and stressed out. More than that, I just don't value the sorts of vapid, shallow conversations that people have at big parties full of strangers. I prefer to spend time with a few close friends with whom I can be myself and have deep relationships, even if a lot of our interaction takes place virtually. I am not willing to give up my rich inner life to spend more time making small talk with strangers.

My boyfriend is an extrovert. He doesn't like being alone with his thoughts. He needs constant noise and stimulation to function. Frankly, I think he's afraid of silence and being alone because it forces him to confront his own feelings and thoughts, and he'd rather be distracted so that he doesn't have to think deeply about things. He's not opposed to quiet dinners with just a few people sometimes, but he insists on constantly distracting himself from the things that really matter by pursuing noise and activity and shallow small talk with people whom he doesn't really let get to know him. I worry that he's incapable of building a close relationship because he's gotten so used to shallow acquaintances that he rotates through constantly as he gets bored of them. He almost never wants to sit at home quietly with me so that we can enjoy being alone together, and I worry that his constant need for distraction is preventing us from really having the sort of close relationship I want.

Ideally, I'd have a mate who is as introspective as I am, or at least not such an extrovert. He'd have his own rich inner life, and we could enjoy spending time alone together without needing to be distracted by activity. I realize that I'm a bit of an oddball and I'm lucky to have found him, but I'm afraid that we'll never be as close as I'd like because of his constant need to find new strangers to talk to.

About a week ago, he dragged me to yet another room full of strangers, then abandoned me to go talk to people he didn't know. I didn't really have much to say and was feeling overwhelmed, so I was pretty quiet. Afterwards, he confronted me and told me that I made the situation awkward for him by not being louder and more exciting. He didn't want to accept that it takes me a while to warm up to people and that these stranger-courting skills he takes for granted are out of my comfort zone. He told me that shyness is a negative personality trait and that I should work to overcome it. He thinks I have a mental illness (social anxiety) because I enjoy really getting to know people instead of making vapid small talk in a huge, loud room.

The thing is, I don't really want to become like him. I'm happy to have him go off and do his own thing, but I get the sense that he doesn't actually like my personality because I'm not as flashy and exciting as he wants me to be. I also suspect that he might be pretty shallow, and I'm not sure whether someone who feels the need to constantly seek out new experiences can ever actually commit to a long-term relationship with just one person.

So, should I break up with him?
Do you see what I did there? I described her personality traits in a positive way and yours negatively (deep and thoughtful rather than flashy and loud). I made assumptions about your mental health based on your superficial behavior (he must be shallow and afraid to share his feelings because he has so many acquaintances and scorns the desire for a few close friendships). Basically, I did the reverse of what you've been doing to her. I'm not saying that she feels the way I've described. I'm saying that you're being deeply unfair to her, and just as it's not okay for me to do that to you, it's not okay for you to do that to other people.

The two of you are different, and that's okay. What's not okay is your view that your way of doing things is the right way and hers is the wrong way. You say that you're "absolutely unwilling to change" your desire for constant stimulation from other people and that you want her to "overcome" her "mostly-negative" desire for quiet time free of social activity. That's not a sustainable relationship. You need to decide whether you can love her actual personality rather than the hypothetical personality you think she should work towards having.
posted by decathecting at 10:21 AM on March 28, 2012 [112 favorites]

I'm really mostly looking for others who have been in similar situations and am interested in how they dealt with it.

Both sides have to view this as a problem, want to fix it and make and effort to do so. Two nights a week go be extroverted. Two nights you go be introverted. Two nights a week go solo with friends. Flip for the seventh.

Like any couple problem, you work together on it and find a compromise that pleases you both.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:21 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

End it. I think if you are out having a solo social life, and simultaneously you think of her shyness as something that bothers you, you might end up cheating at some point. As an introverted female, when I've dated extroverted guys it often ended up that way. I didn't want to go out to bars and parties, they did, and they ended up meeting other girls who were more like them. Obviously intro/extra pairings can work, but generally not for me, and maybe not for you - that's totally fine. I ended up an introverted guy for this reason. Don't settle for someone who doesn't have the basic things that are important to you. It's not fair to you or her.
posted by permiechickie at 10:21 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm sure it's just in the way you wrote the question (and the fact that you're asking for advice) but it seems that in your view of her, "introvert" takes precedence over "girlfriend". If this problem was something that could be overcome, you'd appear more concerned about how she's feeling in a social setting. I'm an introvert with an extroverted spouse and though he thrives on being around people, he also cares deeply for how I'm doing and puts his need to socialize on the backburner if he's worried that I'm uncomfortable. I do my best to socialize if it appears to make him happy, and he does his best to tone it back if it appears to make me happy.

However, just remember you may not be a social butterfly forever. What are your ages? Values regarding friends and social activities can change dramatically. Personally, I became much more of a homebody over the years.
posted by theraflu at 10:22 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

My husband is an introvert, and I'm extremely chatty, outgoing and so on. When we go to events or social occasions, I make a big effort to introduce him to people, point out similar interests, etc. so as to grease the social wheels and then, he does his bit. He's not going to tell jokes to 40 people at once, but he does start chatting--he doesn't sit there, waiting for me to carry the whole social load. While we didn't make an explicit deal about this, it's worked out over the years. It would be ungracious of him to be stone silent, and it would be rude of me to leave him to fend for himself. It's got to be a team effort.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:23 AM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Okay, I'm going to leave this thread alone for a while. I forgot that if you ask people for advice, they'll often tell you to quit your job, leave your girlfriend, start a new business, and travel the world. Why? Because they don't have to deal with any of the consequences.

Maybe this question is unbalanced a bit. I mean, I could have spent more time talking about all the reasons that I *do* love her, but that really doesn't have much to do with the question, which was long enough as it is.

Anyway, if I could request anything of future commenters, I'd say maybe a little less of "you sound like a jerk, break up with her", and maybe a little more of "I was in this situation and we did this"

And please do realize that I love this woman. I really do not want to break up with her.
posted by Sloop John B at 10:23 AM on March 28, 2012 [9 favorites]

I am extremely extroverted. My husband is extremely introverted. We've been together for sixteen and a half years.

The most important thing I can tell you right now is to absolutely ruthlessly root out any sense that shyness or introversion is a character flaw or something to be overcome. It isn't. It is a fundamental part of who your partner is. If you can't or are unwilling to love this part of her as much as you love the rest of her, you need to move on, because nobody wants to be in a relationship with someone who is waiting for them to get over their personality.

If you stay with this person, then a major part of your relationship is going to be you going out while she stays home, and you entertaining friends in the living room while she reads a book in the bedroom. (Or whatever. Examples are illustrative, not predictive.) This is not because she is uncomfortable and resentful, it is because that's what she wants to be doing and it makes her happy. If you need someone who is going to be happy going out with you and doing the things that you do, then this woman is not that person, and expecting her to be will only lead to heartache.

I love my introverted husband. I love him because he's an introvert, not despite it, though. You need to be able to do the same for this to work out. The reason everyone is telling you to break up with her is because you seem to want a different answer than that.
posted by KathrynT at 10:26 AM on March 28, 2012 [22 favorites]

I've been the introvert half of that relationhip, and it did not work out. There were lots of reasons for that including us both being so very young and so very clueless, and him cheating on me, but looking back the intro/extrovert split was a big part of it.

These days I'm with someone who is still much more extroverted than I am, but not to the extent that my ex was, and we do make it work. It takes a good mix of him going out alone sometimes, me sucking it up and being social sometimes, and planning ahead so we both know we're going to a party Friday and I'm therefore going to be drained and not up to socializing the rest of the weekend. And both of us realizing the other person's thing is not negative or wrong, just a different way of interfacing with the world.

If you hadn't framed this with the negative personality trait stuff I'd be heartily encouraging you to keep talking it out and working on compromises. But the way you talk about her makes me hesitant.

Good luck, however this ends up.
posted by Stacey at 10:31 AM on March 28, 2012

I feel.... gah, it's hard to describe how I feel. I feel like I'm taking something away from her, or being the loud obnoxious brute who's monopolizing the conversation.

If you do want to give this relationship a go, this is where to focus your attention. Not on her and why she needs to change (or you need to leave), but on you.

With compassionate curiosity, look more deeply into your own reactions. What emotions and stories come up when she is being quiet in a group of your friends? What do those emotions remind you of? What do you fear will happen? What are you making it mean?

As an extrovert, one of your "character flaws" may be a lack of tendency to look inward, to witness and reflect on your own interior monologue.

In other words, you might not know what you think until you hear what you say. (I am an extrovert, and this happens to me all the time.) Talking with a counselor or a trusted friend can help in this process. Good luck.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:32 AM on March 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'd say maybe a little less of "you sound like a jerk, break up with her", and maybe a little more of "I was in this situation and we did this"

Maybe because there aren't that many people for whom this has worked out.
posted by desjardins at 10:33 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

And please do realize that I love this woman. I really do not want to break up with her.

Then accept, without resentment, that she may never be able to fulfill your social expectations without likely a lot of personal stress and emotional upset. Discuss with her everything you've mentioned here and try to reach a compromise.

I don't think you're a jerk, I just think you are perhaps lacking a true understanding of how utterly fucking exhausting it is for introverts to be frequently put into social situations that they find stressful, and then face questioning about their already uncomfortable feelings afterwards.

Really, I felt like a jerk bringing it up because I could imagine people have been talking to her about this her whole life. But having a silent girlfriend at a dinner party is a really awkward situation for me, and I just couldn't leave it alone anymore.

You obviously have empathy for your girlfriend's situation, so can you try to imagine how awkward it must have been for HER?
posted by elizardbits at 10:33 AM on March 28, 2012 [13 favorites]

I have been in your situation, but as the introvert. Things have never worked out between me and an extroverted partner. I'm getting the "this guy is likely to stray" vibes from you and I really feel that you two should call it quits.
posted by Anima Mundi at 10:36 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm you in this situation, and my husband is your girlfriend. After 10 years together, I've learned that if I need to socialize, a lot of that socialization is going to happen without my husband. We have some mutual friends, but I have lots of friends that I see on my own.

She's not gonna change. Is the above something that is okay with you?
posted by sugarbomb at 10:37 AM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Anyway, if I could request anything of future commenters, I'd say maybe a little less of "you sound like a jerk, break up with her", and maybe a little more of "I was in this situation and we did this"

What people are telling you (and what I agree with, as an introvert who has successfully dated extroverts) is that your expectations of her are out of line and need to be adjusted in order to overcome this issue. Her experience, mindset, and preferences are valid. She doesn't need fixing.

What an extrovert like you needs to do in this situation is think through what you want and be realistic about whether this relationship can be that for you. It's okay if the answer is no. If the answer is yes, you need to figure out how to accept what you view as her limitations and not call her out on them or get upset about them.
posted by cranberry_nut at 10:39 AM on March 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

Best answer: If you love her and don't want to break up with her, I would suggest that you stop feeling responsible for her happiness and/or her performance in social situations.

if she goes somewhere with you and is very quiet, don't feel like you're torturing her. She has chosen to go with you, to do something you enjoy. If she was really, truly miserable at an event, I'm assuming she could leave.

Give her more permission to be be herself, and don't spend so much time monitoring her social engagement. By all mean, check in with her, make sure you talk to her and stand near her often in a social situation but don't obsess about how much she is talking. Simply enjoy that she came to the event with you.

I'm an introvert who was in a relationship for many years with an extrovert. He always had to be at every party and was always the last person to leave the bar at closing. Trying to keep up with him was exhausting for me. It worked well for a while when I could come and go as I pleased - go home before him and so on.

However, things started to fall apart because he had no interest in the small dinners with friends that I wanted, and he also started to feel that I didn't "support" him enough socially. On the other hand, I felt like he was a black hole of social need and nothing I did would ever be enough. It all ended badly, with him cheating with late night party girls, as permiechickie points out is a risk. I guess they were more supportive?
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:40 AM on March 28, 2012 [13 favorites]

Best answer: If you really just want to figure out how to make this work, here's what I suggest (I am a shy extrovert, if that means anything):

-You may need to be sort of her social tour guide until she works through some of her shyness. Learn how to direct the flow of conversation so that she has things to add, or comment on; figure out which of your friends she has the most in common with, attempt to get them talking.

-Make a real effort to involve her in conversation. If this means finding people with whom she has things in common, and then essentially starting a conversation for them, do it.

-Do not abandon her at parties. I hate when people do this to me. I can get over my shyness once I've become comfortable somewhere or with a certain group of people, but if I'm left to myself right away I will miserable.

-I'm much, much better at one-on-one interactions than group things. If she can handle hanging out in small groups, do that more often, or manufacture a situation in which people are more inclined to splinter into groups like this.

-If she actively wants to be able to make conversation, go over some basic convo-starters with her, e.g. asking questions (everyone loves talking about themselves!)

-Try to set social interactions somewhere she is comfortable, maybe one of your houses or a restaurant/bar she frequents. I can feel a million kinds of awkward in someone else's home, but if I have people over it's like a base level of comfort that makes it easier to talk and interact.

Finally, and I think most importantly, one thing to realize in a romantic relationship is that you CAN NOT expect to get EVERYTHING you need from one person. She seems great for you in a lot of ways - awesome. She is never, ever going to be the social butterfly you think you want. That is what other people (your friends) are going to be for. Putting less emphasis on dragging her along everywhere you go might help you appreciate the times she is willing to come out and socialize.

This is a tricky dynamic to navigate, I would suggest giving it some time to see if it can work, but if you're having these same thoughts in, say, 6 months, it may be time to throw in the towel.
posted by krakenattack at 10:42 AM on March 28, 2012 [9 favorites]

Best answer: An ex of mine was very introverted, and by socializing him one-on-one with a few people I knew he'd get along with (us going for coffee/dinner/a movie with that person), at least he felt comfortable making conversation with the two people he knew at these gatherings. I also made some concessions with him, since I knew he'd only be willing to socialize for a few hours at most. I'd get dropped off at a party and enjoy myself for the busiest parts of the night, and then when things started to wind down I'd call him for a ride and he'd spend an hour in the (drunk and funny-to-watch) diminishing crowd, talking to the few sober people left, and then we'd leave. Knowing he only had to last an hour or so, he was a lot better with putting on a social persona (as best as he could manage) and when he was done we left. Knowing about the party a few days in advance and knowing I'd only ask that of him that weekend, he was more willing to try and stretch his limits. He liked how proud and happy I was for him to make that effort for me.

We didn't break up because of his introversion, but I am dating someone now who's far more extroverted than I am (I had no idea that's possible!) And the shoe's on the other foot, I get worn out before he does in huge crowds of people I barely know. So I've applied what I learned from the ex, and it's been working for us.
posted by lizbunny at 10:43 AM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You could be my boyfriend about two months ago. We were to the point of nearly breaking up because I'm more introverted than he is. My job and school require most of my social energy, so when he wanted to go to another party where I'd know one or two people at best, I had a bit of a breakdown. We spent a weekend talking about our different social needs, and we've readjusted, and have a lot of ways to accommodate each other. It does require both of us to compromise. I have more than once gritted my teeth and endured a night of OMG NEW PEOPLE, and he's both let me off the hook and gone to parties alone, or skipped them entirely. But we make it work because we love each other and want the other to be happy and comfortable. Here are some of the things we agreed on:

1. We have a time limit on how long we're going to stay at parties. Part of my dread of parties was that we'd go at eight and stay until four, and I just don't have that in me. So we agree on a time, and at that time I can say whether I stay or go. If I want to leave, he doesn't have to; he usually does, though.

2. He manipulates the heck out of me in the best way possible. He talks up individual people to me, and says how much they want to talk to me about X. He mentions that so-and-so is really looking forward to meeting me. He steers conversations toward things that I care about. He gives me background on people so I can ask them about things. He makes it as easy as possible for me to talk with his friends.

3. He's very attentive and inclusive when we're at parties together, so I don't ever feel like he's abandoned me. We have and use a rescue-me signal.

4. We've started going to more activity-focused events - running groups, bowling parties, a giant treasure hunt. I cope better with these.

5. If I'm getting pouty or tired, I take a walk. Sometimes I just need five minutes alone.

6. He'll pick one or two social things a weekend that he'd really really really like me to attend, and the rest are optional.

7. We formed new weekly outings with his friends. There was something I didn't like about just joining in on his friends' weekly TV show viewings and game night and happy hour.

8. He lets me be quiet when I want to be quiet (we have a signal for that, too.) I've absolved him of all responsibility for me having a good time.

I know that my SO has made a lot of accommodations for me. We're both making sacrifices, but not once has he asked me to change or not be myself. He gives me a lot of positive feedback when I make an effort, and he also compliments me on my more introverted traits. You're not going to be able to change your girlfriend; the best you can do is to create an environment that puts up the fewest barriers to her sociability.
posted by punchtothehead at 10:52 AM on March 28, 2012 [39 favorites]


I'm a ENTJ and I've been married to an ISFP for almost 18 years.

The keys have been understanding that it's perfectly OK with her to go do my own things and have fun without her. She doesn't mind and in fact likes having time to herself.

In the beginning, it felt weird to me to do things without her. But now I can realize that she needs to recharge her batteries in quiet time, while I often recharge by doing new things and being out with people.

Sometimes she does the quiet thing, sometimes she's the life of the party. I've learned to accept it as her being her and not a reflection on me or something I need to manage.

We have learned to be open about whether one of us wants to leave early or simply doesn't want to go somewhere. It's awkward at first to be honest and not so concerned about pleasing the other person, but it works out better in the long run.

We tend to be OK letting the other one make decisions about our shared life. For example, I used to get very worked up if she tried to plan a vacation without going over all the details with me first. Now she'll say, "Since we agreed to go on vacation this summer, I bought the plane tickets today." And I'm OK with it. In the end it really doesn't matter, but in the past it would make me crazy. If you can get OK with giving up some control in the relationship, it will work out great.
posted by Argyle at 10:52 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

My 2 cents...

Among other things, you wrote, "Ideally, I'd have a mate who's..." and "Gee, it'd be nice to be with someone who was..."

I see in these thoughts of yours, a recognition that the honeymoon is over and your relationship is not perfect. Welcome! : ) EVERY relationship is like that!

I don't think you should bail on this relationship if your main complaint is that she hates attending larger social funtions. You two seem to be compatible on the "big" issues.

YOU need to change your mindset, and just figure out how to deal with her introversion. Mainly it will probably mean "letting go" of a need that you seem to have for her to be a particular way, and accept her as she is.

Unlike others here, I'm not alarmed by your thoughts of dating other people or wincing a little when she mentions your long-term future. You are just fantasizing in response to the conflicts you're experiencing in your mind. My attitude is, go ahead and play out all kinds of scenarios in your head (I do all the time!) . Just don't believe them.

It sounds trite, but just try to always "count your blessings" when your thoughts turn negative, keep your mouth shut when in doubt, and ALWAYS treat her with the same level of courtesy and respect that you'd treat a work colleague - - and over time you will get used to it, and you will know acceptance.
posted by see_change at 10:53 AM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Mod note: Folks, the answer to AskMe questions is really never "We should tell them to dump YOU." Knock it off or go to MetaTalk while I add this to the FAQ"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:53 AM on March 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

I have introvert tendencies. Even in a group of people I know well, I can only tolerate so much togetherness before I have to go. My friends seem to accept that I'm the first to leave every party and that it has nothing to do with them, it's just that I have only so much energy for groups.

I've stopped seeing this as a flaw. It's a whole bundle of characteristics including strengths and weaknesses. Extraversion is too.

Things that help me are people gently bringing me into the conversation, giving me openers, making me feel welcome.

Structure helps - a group project or a game like Trivial Pursuit or Apples to Apples gives me something to do and makes it easier to talk and participate.

It might also help for you to introduce her to your friends in very small groups. If she generally meets them in giant parties, that could explain why she is still uncomfortable with them.

It might also help if you can compromise - she goes to one larger outing a month with you, the rest of the time she gets to do her thing.
posted by bunderful at 10:55 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am more extroverted married to a fairly introverted man. Our best couple friends are the reverse -- he is very extroverted, she is very (very!) introverted. (I will call my husband Hubs, and our friends Joe and Jane.)

I think it's harder for Joe than it is for me, because when you're married and in your 30s, wives are expected to be social directors and more of the socializing occurs through the wife maintaining the network of friendships and community relationships. (Another of our couple friends, where my husband sees the man literally every day and I only see the wife every couple of weeks, the men decided we should all have dinner together, and then they decided, "Let's tell our wives to set it up." Really, guys? Really?) Anyway, Jane is not, and never will be, a social director. Jane is SO shy it took me 18 months to convince her to come get a pedicure with me, even though she liked me. Joe has to do all the work to maintain their network of relationships -- and that gets harder as people start to have kids, etc. Moms network with other moms. They INCLUDE dads, sure, who are at mommy & me class, but they're much more likely to set up playdates with other moms.

I have the experience of going with my husband to a party and having to either leave him sitting like a lump to hold up the wall, or squire him around nursing the conversation along. Neither was very much fun. Sometimes it's easier to go by yourself and not have to "babysit" your introvert. But here's the thing: As I've gotten older (my husband and I have been together since our early 20s), I've realized that my husband is perfectly happy sitting and watching the party. He doesn't NEED me to babysit him. He finds himself a quiet corner and hangs out. People we know know that he's more quiet in social situations, and plenty of them will now go seek him out to chat for a few minutes when they need a party break -- but they mostly know he's unlikely to initiate a conversation at a party unless he has something he specifically wants to say. Jane is similar. Neither of them is ever going to work the room. Joe and I are the ones who pull friends into our orbits. Most of my husband's friends are also my good friends because I'm just more sociable.

If it's important to you that you have a partner who can introduce you to more people and be the life of the party, then no, I don't think this relationship will work. I also think that it's harder for an extroverted man to be with an introverted woman than vice versa because of social expectations for couples as you age.

I guess how we deal with it is that it's just not that big a deal. I find my husband a restful person (most of the time) who's less frenetic than I am, socially, and it helps keep me grounded. I appreciate that about him, I don't resent it; and as I've gotten older and a bit more mature, I've realized that's part and parcel of the same thing that has him be not super-chatty at parties -- which isn't hurting anybody. And I can be social enough for the both of us.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:01 AM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

The description of your relationship is me (introvert) and my wife (extrovert). We've been together for ten years now, so it can work.


It's not so much that I'm an introvert per se, but there are only a few people I know that I genuinely enjoy being around. None of my wife's friends are in this group. So, I don't hang out with them, and my wife doesn't ask/expect me to. This avoids the whole "Why didn't you talk at the dinner party" argument.

This is great for our relationship because it shows to me she respects/enjoys who I am as a person and I get to spend time she's socializing doing whatever I want.

Don't put your lady in a situation you know she's not going to feel comfortable in and you'll argue a whole lot less, which will make you love and appreciate the several wonderful things you like about her.

I simply can't fake enjoying being around people that I don't feel comfortable or enjoy being around, and neither can (I bet) your GF.

My wife and I spend time together when we go out and do many of the things you described, so we get plenty of quality time with each other.

If this is a person you genuinely enjoy being around separate of the issues you described here, I'd try like heck to keep this relationship going, because while there are plenty of fish in the sea, there are only so many you'd want to bring home for dinner.
posted by Fister Roboto at 11:01 AM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If you want to make it work, sit down and have a talk about how the two of you could make it work. Start with building mutual appreciation for your differences. You could have a pretty good respect building conversation with her about the positive aspects of your different approaches to socializing. Right now you both seem to be entrenched in your separate perspectives, when neither of them is really right or wrong. She's more of a depth person when it comes to people, and you're more of a breadth person. Here's an exercise; both of you come up with a list of reasons for why being an introvert is awesome, and why being an extrovert is awesome. Then read your lists together and compare them.

Here's a few ideas to start:

Being an extrovert means you're exposed to a variety of perspectives. It can be very grounding to know that nobody is exactly right. Being an extrovert is also fun because there are some things you just can't do by yourself, like crowd surfing or running a relay race.

Being an introvert means that your few friends are often your friends for life. You can pick up where you left off with them even if you haven't talked in a few months. You spend lots of time with them, so you know them really well; you remember details and quirks and have a lot of ridiculous little in jokes built up from years of knowing each other. It's a very intense form of intimacy, and it is very enjoyable.

I'm sure you guys can think of more. You're supposed to be a team and support each other. Work on the problem together. Good luck; speaking as a shy-ish extrovert, I do not envy the rock and hard place you're stuck between.
posted by sockomatic at 11:05 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hi. I'm going to replace you with my husband and your girlfriend with me. I am not a social person at all and my husband does not press the issue. I am fine with my alone time/time with him, and I do not seek out social events because they are tiresome to me after a time, even if they are with close friends. It's just how I am. There are times when I wish I was a social butterfly, but any effort on my part is met with my own insecurities that are deeply rooted and that are hard to change. I don't see this as a negative. It's who I am. I love my husband because he is the opposite of me; he is very social. I have been with my husband for 7 years and not once has he gotten upset over my lack of enthusiam for some things that he enjoys. I am not upset with him when he wants to go out. I will put on a brave face (this is my term, not applying it to your situation) and "play the part", so to speak. He knows that I am doing this and is okay with it. I don't actively mean to be like this, it's who I am. If you love your girlfriend and see yourself being with her for the long term, you will find a way to love her introverted-ness. She is worth it.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 11:16 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, another thing: during our weekend of talking, my boyfriend told me why it matters to him that I'm there and involved and having a good time, and I told him why sometimes I just can't. We both understand so much better where the other is coming from. I know that when I'm at party with him and wish I could be at home with a book, I've thought of his reasons for wanting me with him, and I feel better.
posted by punchtothehead at 11:20 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have been dating an introvert for the past five years, and I am quite extroverted. Most of my social life is solo, I will spend the day with friends and he will stay home and do his own thing. I am fine with this, in fact, sometimes I prefer it. I can hang out with my friends without having to worry that our plans accommodate him, or that he finds our conversations boring, or feels left out.

If I was in your situation, with the dinner party, I would be less concerned that it was awkward for me that he wasn't talking, and more concerned that I had dragged him into a situation where he felt uncomfortable, or that I wasn't making enough effort to include him in conversation. Do you try and steer the conversation towards topics she is in interested in? Do you accept that she might have hit her capacity for socializing long before you do--and understand if she wants to call it a night early? Maybe she meets your friends for dinner, and then heads home before you and your friends head out for drinks.

...accept that much of my social life will be solo, try to help her where I can, and patiently wait for her to feel more comfortable in social situations.

Even if she stops being shy, that doesn't mean she is going to like social situations. My introverted boyfriend is actually much more outgoing and well-spoken than I am--he is just an introvert. He just finds social situations draining and would often prefer to avoid them.
posted by inertia at 11:23 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have friend couples where one is really extroverted and one is really introverted and it works. In these cases, they both come out and the introverted one is quiet and no one cares. We talk to the extroverted one a lot, the introverted one less because they seem not to want to. The introverted one is always polite though, just on the quiet side.

I would consider myself extroverted and would have a hard time with someone who came with me places and just didn't talk. But it works for these people because they don't feel like they need to care for each other in social situations. I think this is the key for you here.
posted by sweetkid at 11:29 AM on March 28, 2012

Best answer: So there's a lot in your question I recognize. In fact, some part of me could have written a close version of it once upon a time. I don't consider myself an extrovert (and definitely wouldn't be considered one by those who know me best), but I do need to go out into the world, even (and sometimes especially) to places where I don't know anyone.

Even if I'm by myself and I don't really talk to anyone, being out and about and around people on my way home from work makes me feel better sometimes than just heading home to the guy I love, who'd rather not join me. When I met him, I would have thought he was hugely extroverted - he had a huge circle of acquaintances and was popular among them (I knew of him long before I met him), but as I fell in love with him, I realized that he was a boisterous introvert. He's not misanthropic, but given the choice, a lot of the time, he'd rather just be with the people to whom he's closest.

We were besotted and loved spending time together, and it never felt like there would be any sort of issue, even after a few years together, even after he moved in with me. But eventually, as we got into patterns, I defaulted to his preference, and though I still loved (and preferred) spending time together, the saying 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' exists for a reason. A couple of years ago, he needed to return home to his family for a six month period, and during that time, I started going out again and being social in different patterns -- not because I was lonely but because I was bored. And doing that, I realized that I not only enjoyed these things but that doing them made me happier.

I was excited when he returned to our home city because I had all these new people, places and patterns I wanted to show him. And he liked it too, I think, because, in a way, I was more of the guy he had originally fallen for but now we were in a secure relationship where he didn't have to worry that I was going anywhere. But, at first, I got frustrated, because if I asked him if he wanted to do X, he was comfortable enough to tell me the truth -- that he didn't necessarily want to (which is not the same thing as saying he wouldn't do it, as I eventually learned.)

It was at this point in our relationship (a lot longer in than 6-9 months) that I realized we were differently aligned on the 'homebody/barfly' spectrum, when, for various reasons having to do with our lives at the time and our individual personalities, I had always thought we were much more similar.

And you know what? It doesn't matter one bit. I do my things sometimes. We do things together sometimes. Sometimes he wants to be there. Sometimes he's humoring me. But we're happy and that's what matters.

This would be a problem if he wanted me to be home with him all the time when I wanted to be out or that he never did anything with me that he didn't 100% want to do. That would drive us both crazy. But he doesn't, and I don't. And if your girlfriend wasn't meeting you halfway, I'd say you have a problem. But it sounds like she really is.

So, to be honest, as someone who has been in your shoes, I think you've got your priorities skewed. I can't get in your head and tell what you're thinking and how things feel, so I don't know if there's anything anyone can say that can get you to change that. But I'm going to try.

In relationships, you compromise. Sometimes you go to a movie or a concert that your partner wants to see or order the food that your partner wants, and you don't hate it but you aren't as excited about it as them. What it sounds like you want is somebody who is as excited to be at every movie, every restaurant, every meal as you are. That's taking the analogy to a ridiculous extreme, but, to me, it is kind of ridiculous. You need to think - why do I want her to be this way? As long as she's happy and she's letting you do what you need to do, why would her being more extroverted be better than what you have now?

And once you come to that conclusion, figuring out why -- whether the 'her' in your imagination is your current partner or a future one -- consider how realistic this is. How sure are you that version of "better" is something that exists? To me, it sounds like a vaporous "wouldn't it be nice" but how nice? Someone you like to spend time with, someone you share interests with, someone you have a similar sexual appetite with, someone you "could spend an eternity holding each other and talking to each other and making each other laugh" -- those are all solid things that are very obvious pluses that you can understand. Even if you didn't have them in your current relationship, I bet you could understand why they are important and valued. How important is this other thing you find lacking? Would it be more important than those other things? Are you sure?

I think what you're responding to is a societal expectation that couples do things together and go from being two individuals socially to one unit. People will sometimes ask, sometimes accost me when they discover I have a partner "why he isn't out with you?" When they ask, I tell them that we have separate lives or what he's up to at that time. When they accost, I tell them because we aren't needy co-dependent freaks who have to spend every free moment together.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to have a partner who you can do the things you like with, but if you spend your time looking for someone who likes everything you like in the exact same way, (a) you probably won't find her and (b) I bet you'd be super bored with her when you did. You mention in your original post that you think that your "strengths are complementary"; I think maybe you should start looking at the fact that she doesn't need contact with or reassurances from the outside world as one of those strengths.

What I'm saying is -- have you ever been in relationship with someone who was more of an extrovert than you? It can be awesome. But it can also be exhausting. However, if she's someone who has felt shy in the past, when you aren't harping her about it, she probably finds that part of you attractive. Just because she isn't reacting to your social time with people in the way that would make you happy, don't think that she isn't content. If she's unhappy, it's her job to tell you that. Don't make trouble where none exists if you really love this woman.

This is only anecdotal, but I don't know any happy couples where I'd call both of them extroverts. I'm sure that they are out there, and it's just my limited sample size, but I also think that the 'mismatch' is more of a norm than not. Hell, the Chicago Metafilter Meetup crew is chockablock with the more social half of married/partnered couples (along with plenty of charming single folk as well). Occasional, their other halves will join us (to prove they exist, maybe - mine still hasn't), but usually it's just the social half of the couple being social by themselves happily.

If, after all this reflection, this still feels 'dealbreaker' level important to you, just remember this:

Along with the benefits, a matched pair of extroverts presents* its own set of issues/problems.

(* I didn't say I didn't know any couples with two extroverts, just no happy ones.)

But this mismatch can be done and is being done happily every day. You just have to examine and realign your expectations.

On a related note, re: you feeling disingenuous upon receiving sappy text messages lately, this doesn't necessarily have to mean you don't feel the same way you used to. It could be because, if you're an 'all or nothing' type (which, frankly, based on your message you seem to be -- nothing wrong with that, I'm partnered to one too), when you're having any doubts about anything, you feel like anything other than the absolute 100% truth about your feelings, lingering doubts included, is a lie. If you want to be in any sort of successful long term relationship, I'd work on that too. You can absolutely love someone even if you don't like something about them.

Good luck!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:33 AM on March 28, 2012 [15 favorites]

I'm a big ole extravert engaged to an introvert. It was REALLY hard in that first year, to adjust to his style of socializing and it still is in some ways. He isn't shy, and after he gets comfortable he isn't even necessarily quiet, but he just doesn't like to get out there and meet people on nearly the same level that I do. We spend a lot more time at home than I'd like, because I really don't like to go out alone and he's hard to get out the door.

The trade-off is that he's a fearless and savvy traveller, while I live and die by the guide books. Out travelling adventures are much more fun with his style than mine. Take some time to find some of your girlfriend's gifts that complement yours.

Just to comment on all the ridiculously insensitive answers you received early on (the one written from your "gf's" point of view was particularly nasty)--anyone who says they've NEVER considered breaking up with their partner, or fantasized a little about dating again during rough times is being completely disingenuous. It's totally normal. The important thing is that you're trying to understand her and work things out, and you're being honest about your feelings while you do it. Good luck to you both.
posted by sundaydriver at 11:34 AM on March 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

If I were in your shoes, I would cool it off. It sounds from your description like more work for both of you than is necessary or comfortable. If you feel that you would be more comfortable with an extroverted woman, then that's what you should try.

I will say that "live and let live" is an important principle for successful relationships, though.
posted by Currer Belfry at 11:42 AM on March 28, 2012

I feel.... gah, it's hard to describe how I feel.

That's honestly where you should start, and I don't mean this in a snarky way. I think it's very telling that when you get down to really describing how this all makes you feel, you are at a loss for words. I'm sure there's more going on than "Gee whiz man, it'd sure be awesome if she could be like me." Her introversion doesn't seem to be causing any actual problems besides your own feelings about it, so what are those feelings, why are there problems, and how can you deal with them so that you can stay happily with your girlfriend if that's what you ultimately want to do?
posted by thebazilist at 12:01 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm a major introvert who's also quite social. I love socializing with my medium-sized group of friends. That said, I always have to balance hanging out with other people with lots of quiet, relaxed downtime. Even social events that I totally enjoy leave me feeling drained. I hate large parties, particularly with people I'm not close to, and especially when those people are extroverts. Basically, strangers scare me. This is an unchangeable part of who I am.

The way I see it (and the way I've seen it work in other couples), to make a mixed social style partnership work, you both have to respect the other's style, be totally okay not always having your partner be a part of your social life, not try to change the other person, and be happy making social compromises where you both sometimes do things you don't love to be with or support the other person.

The fact that she goes to dinner parties and stuff where she isn't totally comfortable and that she doesn't mind you going out without here suggests to me that she is compromising already. If your girlfriend is like me, the longer she knows people, the less she's likely to feel shy around them. Now you have to decide if you can stop trying to change her, like totally, forever, stop it, and if you're willing to make social compromises too. That might mean not going out every time you want to so that you can stay home and nurture her and your relationship instead. If you can't do those things with an open mind and heart, neither of you will be happy.
posted by mostlymartha at 12:16 PM on March 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: What you wrote about your girlfriend sounds a lot like what people have said about me. I have a hard time feeling close to people. I have a hard time with small talk and social situations where I don't know people. I tend to be quiet and I tend to be read as icy/distant/cold until I get comfortable with people.

That said, I've done a lot of work to overcome this and am still actively working on it. It's not easy and there are definitely times where I decline to go to things because I don't have the social energy. Your girlfriend sounds like she's doing the same thing by trying to avoid situations where she'd be overwhelmed rather than go and "just [sit] there the whole time and not [say] a single thing". But I have improved my sociability a TON, so there's hope. It's take time, but it has happened. You need to cut her some slack.

That said, how much slack you're willing to cut is up to you. Things that have helped me:

- the ability to exit a social situation at any time (with or without the people I came with) or find a quiet place to take a quick reprieve.

- emphasis on what I've done well in a social situation, rather than what I've done "wrong"

- conversational seeds, like bringing up a shared interest or activity eg: "Jane [person with a well known interest in rock climbing], Girlfriend has just started rock climbing." It's helpful with knowing where to start in making social conversation.

- empathy and compassion when I decline a social invite or have a not-so-great time at one

If you can deal with some give and take: you go to some stuff by yourself, she comes along to things she feels she has energy for, then you can make this work. If you just find yourself resenting her or being angry, then it's probably best to part ways.

Basically, it can work, but it will take some work from both of you and some acceptance that things will never be the way you'd ideally want them.
posted by radioaction at 12:27 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For now, go with option B. It sounds like you love her, but you're just frustrated with this aspect of her personality. It happens. However, if you are starting to actively resent her for something that is an inherent part of her, it's probably best to end it.

I'm a female INFP in a relationship with a male ENTP, and we do just fine. The key to our relationship is that he doesn't try to force me out of my comfort zone, and I try to push myself out of it sometimes; sometimes I'll stay home when he goes out with friends, sometimes he'll opt out of a party to spend time with me, and sometimes I'll go out with him even if I'm not really in the mood to socialize. He more than accepts my introversion - he actually appreciates and admires it. As for me, I love that he's so outgoing and affable because he's able to make me feel comfortable in social situations where I might not know anyone.

This was interesting to me: When I'm at a party and she spends the whole time sitting next to me and feeling silent, I feel.... gah, it's hard to describe how I feel. I feel like I'm taking something away from her, or being the loud obnoxious brute who's monopolizing the conversation.

What do you think you're taking away from her? The opportunity to speak? I'm just like your girlfriend - I much prefer to just take in the interaction around me rather than be involved in it. If the mood strikes, I'll chime in, but for the most part, I'm perfectly happy letting my boyfriend be the center of attention. Unless she has actually told you, "Stop being obnoxious," I wouldn't be so quick to assume that she thinks badly of you for being extroverted.
posted by constellations at 12:53 PM on March 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

Do you ever have just one of your friends come over to hang out with you & your GF? If not, doing this once in a while over a period of time (i.e. once a month over a period of months) will give her a better chance to feel like she's making a quality connection with him/her in a less-overwhelming environment. This is how I (an extremely introverted person) tend to really begin to feel comfortable around friends-of-friends.

But everyone's right--she will be this way for the rest of your lives. Y'all (both of you) need to work out compromises you can live with if it's going to work.

introversion != social anxiety.
posted by smirkette at 3:34 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe you can think of introversion and extroversion as being similar to voyeurism and exhibition. She enjoys sitting back and taking it in. You want to be the one performing. If you think about it in this manner maybe you'll be less critical of her for not jumping up and performing at parties. She is enjoying herself, just differently then how you would.

(I'm speaking as a crowd loving introvert, parties are the best places to fall asleep at!)
posted by Dynex at 5:05 PM on March 28, 2012

I don't have much advice to offer, but this article is both helpful and humorous:

A friend sent it to me once after we had a long discussion about our introverted and/or extroverted tendencies. It sounds to me that perhaps you are both on opposite ends of the spectrum; you are outright extrovert, and she is outright introvert. That may be a difficult hill to climb in some respects, but on the positive side: isn't this kind of a great opportunity to push each other out of your respective comfort zones a bit and explore new activities (social ones, and quiet indoorsy stuff?) Is there any push/pull on your end or hers? Is part of the issue that you feel you go out of your way to do quiet "stay at home" type activities, and she doesn't reciprocate with as much enthusiasm? Perhaps explaining to her that doing loads of introverted activities is just as taxing on you as extroverted activities are to her, might help?

I guess before any decisions are made, you both deserve a good talk about it, perhaps she assumes that you are fine and happy in both elements and doesn't quite grasp that quiet activities alone or just with her day in and day out doesn't quite fulfill your social needs...

I wish you luck! Hope the article is at least entertaining.
posted by hollypolly at 8:27 PM on March 28, 2012

Just to preface the article: I don't mean to imply that you don't care for your introvert, I just think it's a humorous take on things.
posted by hollypolly at 8:30 PM on March 28, 2012

OP already asked that people not post links to articles about understanding introverts.
posted by sweetkid at 8:47 PM on March 28, 2012

Response by poster: And so, the final wrap-up....

I knew this would be a hot-button issue, so it was easy to look past the unpleasantness in the first part of the thread -- which included somebody's "clever" attempt to put words in my and my girlfriend's mouths. Charming.

To be fair, I should have mentioned in the original text that I was looking for ideas and approaches to making things work. The way I phrased it, it does sound like I'm asking the internet whether or not I should break up with my girlfriend.

Fortunately, this thread featured some excellent advice, and I also got a lot of really good advice over MeFi mail. And so for that, I thank you. I feel less alone now.

My perspective on the situation has changed somewhat today. I think my girlfriend and I definitely need to talk about this some more. However, whereas my former approach was borne of frustration, I'll approach our next conversation with the aim of trying to find something that works for both of us. It sounds like that sort of thing is at least within the realm of possibility.

I really appreciated your accounts of how you did/didn't make things work in your own relationships. I've felt wrong and guilty for doing things on my own and for bringing her to events where she would sit silently. But if she's truly okay with those things -- truly okay -- then maybe I shouldn't feel so bad about it.

Really, we have a really good relationship for the most part, and I would feel like a fool to throw it all away at this point, or at least without trying a new approach.

Oh.... and a few of you mentioned cheating. Hah. If only you knew me. I've never cheated on a woman. I don't even lie. I'm someone who, if a company I despised accidentally gave me thousands of dollars, I'd spend hours working through the bureaucracy to make sure they got it back from me. Don't laugh -- that's actually happened on more than one occasion. So no, this is not a danger. I would break up with my girlfriend before I'd cheat on her. But I suppose you had no way of knowing that.
posted by Sloop John B at 9:48 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

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