Introverts & Extroverts

Often the terms introvert and extrovert are misunderstood.

Our American culture seems to value, for the most part, an out-going and in-your-face friendly style.  As a result, I think, these words have been categorized as good or bad.  Extrovert equals good and introvert equals bad.  Not only is this unfair, it can have a confusing and unproductive impact on a couples relationship.

These words simply describe one piece of a person’s personality style.  An extrovert is someone who gets energized by being with other people.  Socializing in groups refuels them. They leave a party or social gathering feeling filled up, at peace, comfortable in their own skin, ready to do more.  Time spent interacting with others  helps them sustain themselves during the times when they need to be on their own.  An introvert gets the same kind of energy and comfortable feelings from spending time alone or with one or two other people or at the computer. That is how they refuel so that they can sustain the interpersonal part of their lives.  For an extrovert, too much time spent alone can be draining.  For an introvert, too much time spent with other people can be draining.

Clearly there is an entire spectrum here.  The key is to achieve a balance between these two extremes, a balance which is unique to each person.   The right balance for a person can also change over the course of a lifetime depending upon life circumstances.   

I need my own space.

I need to get out and be with people. 

The tricky part comes when the members of a couple have  different styles. How very easy it can be to take your partner’s choices personally.  It is not unusual for one  person to feel unloved and unimportant when their partner wants more  time to be alone.  It would be equally upsetting for the partner of an extrovert to deal with possible feelings of inadequacy or pressure to join social activities, or even a sense that they are not special to their partner.

Therefore, it is very important to remove the good/bad label from the terms extrovert and introvert. Couples need to be aware, on a daily basis, of their own healthy balance of alone and together time. If they can do this without judgment, there will be ample opportunity for friendly negotiation around  how time is spent.