Follow-up April 2006

The Introversy Continues

Jonathan Rauch comments on reader feedback about introvert dating and poses a new question

Recognizing our introvert/extrovert dichotomy, my husband has identified the introvert/extrovert anthem, a song by bluegrass artist Jesse Winchester, called "Every Word You Say." It is truly the introvert's ode to his extrovert partner, and we could not resist dancing to this song at our wedding in May 2004. It was us! The version we played at our wedding was performed by Jerry Garcia, in one of his side bands, Legion of Mary. There can be no better expression of the dynamic shared by the introvert/extrovert couple, and I urge everyone reading this to track down Jerry Garcia's exquisite version. For now, the lyrics must suffice:

I'm no good company, I guess that's true
I like my silence, like I love you
But if you feel like talking, talk away
I'm gonna hang on every word you say

The odd thing is that I'm an extrovert with lots of introvert friends. There seem to be two kinds of introverts—ones who are made jittery by the presence of other human beings, and ones who are petulant about the existence of other human beings. The first are easy to deal with, the second are not. The second don't tend to understand extroverts or anyone else that well because they do not value or want connection with other people. The first type value it very much, but only when they feel relaxed enough to open up.

Some extrovert-introvert pairs can make beautiful music together because what one wants to give or receive in any social interaction matches up perfectly with the other person's wishes. But for a pushy extrovert who wants to turn everyone into the life of the party, and for a petulant, impatient introvert who just wishes the rest of humanity didn't exist, things can get much dicier.

I have a whole website dedicated to these issues.

The customary thing is to pair extro and intro according to traditional Myers-Briggs, but there are some pretty odd combinations from a superficial glance. John and Jacqueline Kennedy are the perfect example. She was very introverted. He, very extroverted.

Why do all the "men are from mars" type books assume that women are extroverts and men introverts? I have two X chromsomes and still need a "cave" to retreat to now and again. And why is it assumed that misunderstandings between heterosexual couples are caused by gender-related differences? Maybe, just maybe, it's more to do with variances in personality. With the difficulties that crop up when two people have a relationship. Maybe you can back me up on this, but I haven't noticed that same-sex couples are in accord with each other all the time.

Perhaps we should write a book called "Introverts are from Saturn, Extroverts are from Jupiter".

I just married an extrovert a few months ago. I have always treasured any alone time that I can get, and it takes a all of my energy to "act" like an extrovert for more than a few hours. He has to have people in the house every waking moment, and I get my fill after about two hours and want to just hide in another room and accomplish things other than visiting. I guess it comes down to finding balance in all things, because he does bring more living and memories and relationships to my life, but it also wears me out. I don't think it's healthy for him to have zero alone time to reflect on his life and thoughts, so I'm still working on the compromise part of our social life. If both of us were introverts, maybe we would be really miserable and depressed and have no enjoyment out of life whatsoever, so as long as we both can balance things out, its a great combination.

I was painfully shy and introverted as a youngster and as a young woman. I married an extrovert who was always student body president or spokesman for a singing group or whatever—the consummate politician and schmoozer. But after we had been married a few years, I became the extrovert and he became the introvert. Go figure. We were married for forty years. He died a year ago, and I am finding myself reverting to something in between extrovert and introvert but leaning to introvert.

I'm a female introvert. One problem with an extroverted spouse (I should know, I had one!) is that this person is always wanting to go to parties, to social events, out to dinner with other couples, to family get-togethers. Either the introverted spouse has to go too and be miserable (hearing: "What's the matter, why aren't you having a good time?"), or the introverted spouse stays home, making the extroverted spouse irritated ("Can't you at least come to one of these things?"), and leading other attendees to assume something is wrong with your marriage.

One of the greatest compliments I have ever given anyone I dated is that being with him was like being alone. Being an introvert himself, he took this as the huge compliment it was. Can you imagine saying this to an extrovert?

On the "is it harder for a woman to be introverted," I suspect yes. Women are expected to be warm, nurturing, "people" persons, willing to talk and listen to others for hours. As a female in management, I have been criticized for not being like this at work. As Mr. Rauch said, one becomes very good at putting on the social act, but it takes energy. I need hours and hours alone to recover.

I was married to an extrovert. His social acumen was enticing because he was so charming. Everybody liked him, he had no enemies, he always said the perfect thing at the perfect time. It didn't work out. Remarrying another introvert last August is the best thing that ever happened to me. I don't have to apologize or figure out some way to get out of going to social gatherings because he gets it. We can be together happily, just reading next to each other. Life is good.

As a female, I've always felt pressured to be more socially adept and I resented it. In large part, I married my first husband thinking that some of his extroversion would rub off on me. It took me too long to figure out that what I was was good enough.

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