Introverted, But Not Shy – Does Your Mate Need Space?

Does your spouse seem to hibernate every once in a while? Does your husband wander off by himself or unexpectedly shun socializing with people he usually enjoys? Does your normally chatty wife frantically wave her hand while mouthing “I’m not here” when you try to hand her the phone, leaving you to make a lame excuse on her behalf?

If events like this happen periodically and they are not connected bigstock-newspaper-in-nature-26343218to changing life events or an argument, don’t take it personally – maybe your mate just needs some space.

A couple of years ago I was driving back from a conference with writing-buddy Sonia Gensler, telling her about how I just got on the other side of my semi-annual funk. About every six months or so I have a two or three day period wherein I withdraw socially, avoid phone calls and ignore emails. I never knew what brought it on or how to characterize it. I didn’t feel depressed and had no problem getting out of bed and being productive in an enjoyable way – I just didn’t want to be around people.

Sonia nodded and said: “You’re an introvert like me.” She was as blasé as if she had just stated the obvious fact that we both have brown hair. I’m quite sure my jaw dropped and I looked at her like she had just sprouted a second head.

Me? An introvert? I’m one that would be voted most likely to plop myself down at a table full of strangers, introduce myself and end up with a new pal and a lunch date twenty minutes later. As a matter of fact, that’s pretty much how I had connected with Sonia six years prior.

“Have you met me, woman?”

That’s when I got educated about what being introverted means. To my surprise, being an introvert had nothing to do with being shy. Introverts can be shy, but being shy doesn’t make one an introvert. Psychologist Carol Bainbridge provides this simple definition: “Basically an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around others.”

In contrast, she defines an extrovert as one who is energized by being around others. So an outgoing person may be an extrovert, but being outgoing does not make one an extrovert. The difference between the two is simply how we go about recharging our batteries.

Light bulb! I didn’t have ‘funks’ – I had recharging sessions (whew!)

Understanding the dynamics of these two types of personalities can help us to better meet the needs of our mates. Do we need to give them some space periodically to recharge so that they can enter social situations with more enjoyment?

On the flip side, if we’re married to an extrovert, do we need to cooperate and be supportive of the activities that replenish their energy?

Understanding the introvert versus extrovert dynamic can help us depersonalize our mate’s behavior. Her wanting to be alone for a day doesn’t mean she’s shunning him, pouting, or being hormonal. Him wanting to go to a party where they will know few people doesn’t mean he’s being insensitive to her insecurities about being around strangers. If we realize it’s not personal and focus on what the need is of the other at a given point in time, we may both end up  replenished and in sync.

Does the introvert/extrovert dynamic affect your relationship? Let us know how you deal with it in the comment section below.

Shel Harrington

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