Despite their fundamental differences, extroverts and introverts are often drawn to each other. While they may be the yin to your yang, dating an introvert may bring about some unexpected challenges for you, especially when you’re an outgoing person.
When you have a relationship with an introvert, you have to train your mind to respect their boundaries and learn how to communicate with an introvert partner. Without making them feel left out or ignored. Once you learn to strike that balance, your relationship can thrive in ways you couldn’t have imagined. To help you get that balancing act right, it’s important to know what introverts need in a relationship, along with some effective communication strategies to get through to them.
We bring on board emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney), who specializes in counseling for issues like extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief, and loss, to help us see who introverts are, what do they need, and what is the shortest (and quietest) way to their hearts.
Who Is An Introvert?
The famous Myers-Briggs Personality test alludes to the extraversion-introversion dichotomy. This test criterion is based on Carl Jung’s personality theory of extraversion and introversion. Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, said that we are all somewhere on the spectrum between extreme introversion and extreme extraversion, calling the people right in the middle ambiverts.
Introverts, as per Jung, are people who are energized by their internal world, in contrast to extroverts who are energized by the external world. Introverts’ energy expands in quiet reflection while it disintegrates during interaction with the outside world. They turn inward to rest and energize.
The Myers-Briggs Organization, interestingly, analyzed the inputs of the famous test and came out with its results in a study titled, How Frequent Is My Type. The study found out that introverts made up 50.7% and extroverts 49.3% of the United States general population. It is surprising to note that the number of people identifying as introverts outweighs the extroverts, albeit marginally. You are clearly not alone in having to date an introvert.
The most common characteristics you would associate with the quality of introversion or with an introverted personality type are:
- Being reserved, reflective, and sensitive
- Being non-confrontational
- Preference for low-stimulation settings
- Enjoying solitary activities
- Protective of their personal space
- Not very adept at social skills
- Most comfortable in small groups
However, care must be taken to not mistake introversion as a social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder stems from psychological issues that cause a person to feel fearful of social interactions. Whereas, introversion is a preference to interact less to conserve one’s energy. This is important as it allows you to see value in your partner’s personality type and what they bring to the table instead of vilifying their reflective nature as shy, awkward, or socially anxious.
What Introverts Need In A Relationship
Since extroversion and introversion are not two boxes but a colorful spectrum, it means that we are all capable of showing some traits of both these personality types. The differentiating factor is what we turn to when we are drained and need our batteries recharged. An extrovert would like to socialize to rejuvenate whereas an introvert needs quiet time to recharge.
In addition, introverts’ need for space or to disengage from the outside world is often misunderstood as a lack of motivation in a relationship but they too crave a strong emotional connection with their partner. This inability to understand each other’s intrinsic needs can become a root cause of conflict.
If you are an extrovert in a relationship with an introvert, you might often find yourself struggling to understand your partner. Here are some things you need to understand about them to avoid pulling out your hair when dealing with an introvert lover:
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1. Introverts like meaningful conversations
Introverts are mistaken to be shy or hesitant. But the truth is that they just find small talk pointless and tiring. Always looking inwards for their energy source, they do not like to expend their energy on meaningless chatter. But with the right people, in the right setting, and on the right substantive topics, they are great conversationalists with a penchant for deep, meaningful conversations.
Introverts are stimulated by intelligence. You’ll have to fan your partner’s curiosity if you’re dating an introvert. Ask them how their day was or tell them about yours, and they’ll be happy to talk about it, sure. But discuss theories, philosophies, geo-politics, and you’ll see their eyes light up like never before.
2. Stick to quiet settings when in relationship with an extreme introvert
It’s a well-known fact that introverts are extremely sensitive to their surroundings. They don’t like big crowds, loud music, or having to scream. If you’re in a relationship with an extreme introvert, you can call them antisocial all you want, but you’ll have to learn to respect their choice in the matter.
Figuring out alternative ways of dating an introvert as an extrovert is fairly simple. You just need to try to understand their basic reservations. Plan your dates in a quieter environment. If you want them to socialize with your friends, keep the gatherings small and intimate. Or, be creative in finding a middle ground. For example:
- Don’t: Throw them a surprise Super Bowl hangout with a ton of people. It will leave them feeling flustered and even annoyed
- Do: Keep it simple. Or if you really want to enjoy in a group setting, take them out for a public viewing at a pub instead. You get your crowd, but they don’t have to make conversations with anyone
3. Dating an introvert? Take it slow and steady
An introvert takes their time to open up and let anyone into the sanctum sanctorum of their life. That includes their romantic partners. It’s not that they don’t trust you or love you enough. It is just beyond them to open up too soon. To resolve any introvert-extrovert relationship conflict, you must understand this side of their personality.
They need their partners to be patient and take a slow and steady approach. Saying “I love you” too soon or barging into their personal space before they’ve welcomed you in can scare an introvert off. With an introvert partner, patience is your best friend.
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4. Be sensitive toward your introvert partner
Opposites attract. But that also makes communication and understanding an arduous task. Pooja says, “Often introverts are sensitive about people’s reactions and words. Even if they are offended by something, they do not express it. They naturally expect the same level of sensitivity and empathy from their partner.”
As that partner, you have to respect your SO’s boundaries. Your introvert partner needs your support when dealing with the outside world. For example, when introducing them to your friends or family, be sure to check in with them from time to time. Ensure that you support your partner to help them handle the overwhelming attention.
5. Don’t take their personality personally
One of the biggest introvert dating problems is that some of them have the tendency to over-analyze the minutest of things and overthink to an extent that they get caught in their thoughts. They expect their partners to not take this personally. It’s not that they’re not interested in what you’re saying or doing.
They don’t mean to be emotionally distant and aloof. It’s just who they are. It would help you to remind yourself that they don’t mean ill toward you. It may be helpful to figure out an appropriate response every time they demonstrate this personality quirk. A small shift in how you respond to certain aspects of their personality can help you crack the code of how to communicate with an introvert partner effectively.
6. Give them their space
Introverts thrive on personal space and solitary time and they expect their partners to not violate it. Pooja says, “If forced to compromise with their space, which is sacrosanct to them, an introvert might feel devalued in the relationship. They must be given enough space to feel safe and express themselves without hesitation.”
If they need to be alone for a while after being in a room full of people, understand that it’s their way of recharging and recuperating. Pulling them out of this cocoon of alone time or solitude or pushing them too hard to engage with you can become a reason for conflict in your introvert-extrovert relationship.
When dating an introvert as an extrovert, it may help you to have an open conversation about their boundaries. The two of you can have pre-decided phrases that you may use to communicate the non-negotiable need for space.
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7. Spend quality time together
No matter how much it may seem that introverts prefer nothing more than their own company, they too crave a deep, meaningful connection. Even more so with their partners. However, for them, it is the quality of the time spent together that matters the most. They don’t care about checking items on a bucket list.
This can prove to be one of the biggest benefits of dating an introvert, provided you learn to appreciate it. For them, sitting on a couch and having a heart-to-heart conversation with their significant other trumps being at the most happening event in town.
11 Communication Strategies To Use If You’re Dating An Introvert
Pooja says, “The secret of successful relationships is effective communication. But self-expression is where introverts lack. This becomes a major hurdle, leading to misunderstandings and conflict in an extrovert-introvert relationship.” In the case of an introvert dating an introvert, this doesn’t pose any real challenge because both partners understand where the other is coming from. However, this can become the root cause of introvert-extrovert relationship conflict.
Dating an introvert can seem hard. Their tendency to bottle up can drive you up the wall. However, these 11 communication strategies can help you along the way. Once you make a breakthrough and connect with them at a deeper level, you will realize that having a relationship with an introvert is one of the most rewarding experiences.
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1. Practice active listening if you’re dating an introvert
Active listening may well be the gateway to strong communication when dating an introvert, if you’re an extrovert. Introverts often feel that they’re not understood, which is why they learn to bottle up over time. So how can an extrovert communicate better with an introvert partner? Here is how:
- When your partner is saying something, lean in
- Nod. Your body language reflects your interest
- Ask questions
- Maintain eye contact
- Keep the phone or the laptop away
Pooja adds, “This is an acquired skill and can be practiced with the partner over a period of time to get it right.” In a world where most people hear but few listen, this can go a long way in helping you build a strong connection.
2. Weigh your words carefully
This study clearly explains it all in its title, The Language of Extraversion: Extraverted People Talk More Abstractly, Introverts Are More Concrete. It explains how extroverts are by nature talkative people who like to voice their thoughts as they pop in their head and use the other person as a sounding board.
This can get both overwhelming and confusing for an introvert who tends to focus on facts. It helps if you make it a habit to weigh your words more carefully before speaking, especially when you’re both settling into the relationship.
3. Talk slowly and clearly
Pooja says, “Often when there is disagreement, people raise their voices or become aggressive. Some people speak fast as a habit and lack clarity. If the listener is an introvert, they would be left overwhelmed and confused.” Our two bits? Avoid a word salad. You must allow your introvert partner the space to take in and process their thoughts.
Studies show that introverts prefer intermittent communication, where they have time to reflect, rather than a constant flow. Try talking slowly, especially in overwhelming settings such as a party, and convey your thoughts in a clear, concise manner to avoid overstimulating your partner.
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4. Respect your partner’s need for privacy
One of the signs you are dating an introvert is their discomfort with bringing their personal life into the public domain. Respect their boundaries and allow them their privacy. As an extrovert, it might help you if you remembered that space in a relationship is not an ominous sign, and it is all right for them to want it.
Let them open up to you at their own pace. If there is something of a private nature that you need to discuss with your introvert partner, do it privately. Public conflicts can make anyone feel cornered, let alone introverts.
5. Share your thoughts in writing
Introverts tend to express themselves better through the written word than through one-on-one conversations. So, if you have been trying to get through to your partner with no success, try writing to them. Pooja says, “This allows introverts to go back to it again and again for more clarity. They may not like to talk much but will express themselves confidently and clearly in writing.”
Exchanging emails, texts, or even hand-written notes and love letters can be a great way to get an insight into their beautiful mind. This can be especially helpful if you’re dating an introvert long distance and want to show affection in meaningful ways. Long phone calls may be preferred by some introverts but video calls are just not a cup of tea for most.
6. Plan dates where you can talk freely
Personal space, quiet surroundings, privacy, and quality time – basically, their comfort zone – are the prerequisites for an introvert. So, when you make plans to hang out with your partner, keep these things in mind and pick a place accordingly. Here are some indoor and outdoor date ideas for couples:
- Indoors: A quaint café or an al-fresco dining setting works best if you’re out for a meal, for instance. There are no loud noises and enough space between tables for your partner to be able to talk to you without the nagging unease of being overheard
- Outdoors: A hike on a quiet trail or camping is always better than an open-air concert or a fair
Bonus Tip: If confused, just ask! Your partner will only feel heard and seen in the relationship if you ask them for their preference.
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7. Give them room to talk
A typical introvert-extrovert conflict can take hold when one partner does all the talking and the other doesn’t get a chance to say their piece. This happens because extroverts tend to ramble on whereas introverts struggle to put their thoughts into words. Here are a few things you can do:
- Check the tendency to talk too much
- Pause between sentences to allow them to respond
- Ask open-ended questions to encourage your reserved partner to speak out and share more
- Give them more time to think over and respond should they need it
If you are in a relationship with an extreme introvert, you need to know this. And if you do end up in a conflict with each other, do not forget to abide by some fair fighting rules.
8. Don’t push for a response
Introverts take their time to mull over things and analyze them before making up their mind on a matter. You may be discussing whether to get pizza or Chinese for dinner or contemplating a big life decision such as moving in together. If your partner says “let me think about it”, give them the time to think and respond.
If you push them for an answer or take offense at their lack of readiness to respond, they may withdraw completely. In such situations, it can seem like dating an introvert is hard. But you have to understand where they’re coming from to not let these natural personality traits become a sore point in the relationship. After all, dating as an introvert is hard too.
9. Steer clear of sensitive topics
You may have a million questions about your partner’s life. Their past relationships, insecurities, fears, and triggers. However, forcing them to open up about these is not going to work. You’ll only push them away by prodding and quizzing them endlessly.
Instead, focus on creating a connection strong enough for them to let you in. This does not mean that your curiosity does not matter. But remind yourself to approach some subjects with care. Communicate clearly what you want to know and why. Give them time to respond, and accept gracefully if they don’t want to open up yet.
10. Pick the right moment for important conversations
As your relationship progresses, there are bound to be conflicts and discussions on touchy topics. To make sure that these conversations don’t get derailed by your partner’s tendency to bottle up, pick the right moment. Time the conversation when they are in the right mind space and likely to be more receptive to your interjections and thoughts. Be patient if you want it to go well.
For instance, when dating an introvert woman or man, pick a time when they are not overwhelmed with external stimuli, such as work calls or emails. Better yet, tell them you want to talk to them and ask them to get back to you at a time they are most comfortable with.
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11. Pillow talk is your best friend when dating an introvert
Pooja says, “There is a reason why pillow talk is considered to be a boon for good relationships. Partners are at ease, have plenty of time at hand and can express themselves in a safe space.”
Want to get to know your partner better and know them like the back of your hand? Make pillow talks a ritual in your relationship. There is no better time and opportunity to get into some deep conversation topics than when it’s just you and them in the comfort of your personal space, without a single distraction to take the focus off the conversation.
- Introverts are people who are energized by their internal world, in contrast to extroverts who are energized by their external world
- As per a study, introverts make up 50.7% and extroverts 49.3% of the United States general population
- Introverts need meaningful conversations, space, quality time, a slow and steady pace, and sensitivity from their partner in their relationships
- Distance allows people to view the relationship from a different perspective and gives them space to nurture their individuality
- Good ways to communicate with your introvert partner include being a good listener, talking slowly and clearly to them, communicating via writing, planning quieter dates, and letting them talk
The long and short of it is that patience is your biggest asset when dating an introvert. Almost all introvert dating problems can be handled if you just hang in there and allow them to reach out to you. Introversion is only a personality shade, just as extraversion is, and not an issue that needs to be fixed.
Introverts have plenty to offer. They are one of the most sensitive, empathetic, and trustworthy partners. Their loyal and peaceful companionship can be a refuge for restless extrovert souls. Loving an introvert may not seem easy but you are lucky to have an introvert partner.
Don’t expect to hang out in a group and go clubbing when you are dating an introvert. Be ready to have dates at quaint coffee shops or go camping by a peaceful lake. When you talk, they would truly listen and take an interest in what you say. Dating an introvert can be fulfilling provided you try to understand them.
It can get a bit difficult to date an introvert because they have the tendency to clam up, live in their own world, and talk very little (initially). When that happens, do not push them. Give them their space and they would make an effort to get out of their shell. Be prepared that they would reach various relationship milestones much later.
Yes. In the case of an introvert dating an introvert, they would understand each other better resulting in fewer personality-related conflicts.
Yes. Like any other human being. But the way they express their jealousy might be different. They might become sad and quiet instead of getting angry or throwing a tantrum. You might not even get to know that an introvert is jealous.
Yes, introverts can cheat. Since they are not too expressive, you really don’t know what they are up to. Introverts get into emotional affairs more often than physical ones. Because communicating over text or online comes more easily to them.