4 Ways to Nurture a Healthy and Happy Introvert-Extrovert Relationship
Picture your ideal Friday night. Are you having a wild evening on the town? Or are you curled up at home with a good book? Now, think about your partner's ideal evening. Is it the same?
If not, you've probably encountered the tension that can arise from navigating an introvert-extrovert relationship. When you want to stay home and recharge with quiet alone time, your partner craves social interaction and scrolls through social media with a textbook case of FOMO.
Misunderstandings happen, and both partners are left wondering how their needs or their partner's needs can possibly be met when their social and solitary requirements are so wildly different.
Take a deep breath and relax: This can work. Remember, opposites often attract. Introvert-extrovert couples can find balance in the middle as long as both partners are willing to put in the work necessary to understand each other.
We asked four relationship experts for their best tips for couples navigating opposite energy needs. Here's what they had to say.
1. Recognize that both personality types are valid.
Licensed Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice says it's important to understand how each personality type energizes. "Introverts need to recharge alone or at least while engaged in a primarily solo activity—reading, meditating, engaging in prayer or using art to self-express," she says. "Extroverts need to recharge with others."
It's important to remember that one isn't better than the other. An introvert is not inherently anti-social, and an extrovert is not always someone who loves small talk with strangers. Both have their positive and negative personality traits, and there's no right or wrong way to draw your energy from the world.
"Sometimes, the introverted partner is treated as though they have a deficit, and this is not an egalitarian starting point," says Paul-Roy Taylor, a clinical psychologist. "Instead, it's better to acknowledge that each partner has their own equally valid ways of handling free time, mutual time, social spheres and social intensity scales."
Whether you're the partner who's always planning the next happy hour or the one who can't wait to go home and be alone after an eight-hour workday, your way of approaching your time is valid. The key for making an introvert-extrovert relationship work lies in respecting your partner's needs.
2. Schedule time to fulfill your needs.
When a relationship has both an extroverted partner and an introverted partner, they will need to find ways to recharge on their own. "Schedule separate activity time," says therapist Rachelle Heinemann. "One partner may want to go out with friends all night and the other may want to sit on the couch and veg. Doing so separately gives you both an opportunity to recharge without argument."
If you're the introvert and your partner wants to go to a brewery with good friends, but you're feeling more like a Saturday spent reading a new book, do it. Alone time doing the things that make you happy is good for both your mental health and your relationship. Your wellness relies on doing the things that fill you up and recharge you—and those don't need to be the same for your partner.
3. Make time for each other.
It's also important to prioritize spending time together, and that includes participating in each other's favorite activities. Let the extrovert choose going to a concert together with lots of people around, or have the introvert choose a quiet afternoon at home where you both tackle a new recipe.
"Schedule time to do both kinds of activities together," Heinemann says. "This will probably be outside of both partners' comfort zones, but knowing that there is a structure and balance can help. It also shows your partner you care and want to do things for them."
Keep in mind that social situations can cause anxiety for introverts, so make sure you know ahead of time what the plans entail, and whether you'll have an out if necessary.
"Plan ahead," says licensed Talkspace therapist Amy Cirbus. "If you know you're going to have differences of opinion on how to navigate a social invite, talk through what each of you needs and ways to meet those needs while enjoying time together."
4. Communicate your expectations.
Both partners need to work on understanding how introverts and extroverts navigate the world differently. Unless you're an ambivert, meaning you straddle the middle, it may seem completely foreign for an extrovert to understand why social time isn't valued for their introverted partner and vice versa.
The key is open communication—after all, your partner can't understand how you're feeling and why you're feeling that way unless you tell them. "Ask questions before making assumptions," Cirbus says. "After a particularly challenging time, like a social gathering or a weekend spent arguing over what to do, create space to talk, walking through what feels necessary and healthy to each of you."
There will inevitably be bumps in the road in an introvert-extrovert relationship, but open communication and empathy will help you get through them together. "Come into each conversation with compassion and try to understand what it may be like in their shoes," Heinemann says. "Wait for heightened emotions to settle down and create an optimal space for listening and compromise."