Dear Dr. Buckingham,
My fiancé and I recently had a pre-marital coaching session. During the session I mentioned that my fiancé and I experience the world differently. He is introverted and I am extroverted. I get energized from social interaction and being out and about. Also, I love to have intense conversations on a regular basis. I get energy from sharing my thoughts and feelings even if I do not think them through.
My fiancé is opposite in that he likes small intimate settings and prefers to stay home. He does not like to talk just to be talking and often gets irritated with people who talk “too” much. The coach mentioned something about a personality test that looks at how individuals gather or generate energy. She told us that some people are introverted and some people are extroverted. I have heard the terms used at work, but I do not know how they relate to our relationship.
The coach recommended that we do some more research and seek advice from a psychotherapist who is familiar with the test. She made it sound like our relationship could be problematic if we did not understand how personality preferences could potentially impact our marriage. Help us! My Fiancé is Introverted and I Am Extroverted, Why Does That Matter?
Thanks in advance,
Dear Ms. Extroverted,
Many relationship experts often focus on potential relationship problems such as communication, finances, spirituality, intimacy, and trustworthiness when providing counseling. And while these and other items are important to examine, I personally believe that personality or psychological preferences such as Extraversion and Introversion should be explored and discussed more often with couples. Discussing introverted and extroverted differences matter because the differences can either make or break a relationship.
As a psychotherapist who has received training in the Myers & Briggs Personality methodology and has also provided therapy to hundreds of couples from around the world, I have learned the importance of helping couples understand extroverted and introverted preferences in their relationships. By recognizing and understanding personality preferences, couples can create relationships that are filled with harmony, trust, respect and outright enjoyment.
Preferences refer to what individuals like and personality refers to an individual’s way of thinking, emotions, and behaviors that make him/her unique. There are many aspects to explore as it relates to personality preferences between introverted and extroverted individuals, but for purposes of this article I will focus on sources of energy and offer a few perspectives based on my personal experience and work as a psychotherapist.
Perspective #1: Too Much Stimuli Can Drain Energy from Introverts and Potentially Impact How They are Viewed In Relationships
Generally speaking, introverts like myself prefer to experience the world and gain energy through our personal affect and introspective processes. Therefore, we are more prone to feeling overwhelmed and drained when presented with too much external stimuli whether it is interpersonal or social in nature.
Engaging in reflection and developing clear ideas before speaking or acting is invigorating for most introverts. Also, some introverts reserve our energy by limiting the number of people we allow into our social circle. This is done more often than not because too much conversation and/or stimulation can make it difficult for us to focus. Unfortunately, our reserved demeanor can contribute to and/or cause our partners to label us as being cold, standoffish, unfriendly, unapproachable and in some situations self-centered. Regrettably, this negative interpersonal phenomenon is widespread in a lot of relationships but can be managed effectively by taking the time to recognize and embrace personality preferences.
Some people prefer to talk a lot and some do not. Some people prefer to socialize with a lot of people and some do not. Some people prefer to get moving on projects and some people prefer to think things through thoroughly before acting.
There is no right or wrong personality preference, just wrong ways of coping with them.
When interacting with introverts in a relationship, please try not to overload us by presenting us with too much stimuli (long or back to back intense conversations, etc.) within short timeframes. However, if this unavoidable, please spend some time checking in with us periodically. Periodic checks may help us release pent up feelings and thoughts. Also, remember that introverted individuals are not necessarily shy or reclusive, we just relate to the world from within. “How does this relationship affect me?” is a thought that a lot of us have more often than not. This thought helps us assess and monitor our energy and attitude.
Introverts are capable of having healthy and fun relationships, but we often need some “Me Time” to recharge. This “Me Time” might include limited talking, limited socializing and limited enthusiastic energy. However, this “Me Time” does not mean limited love or appreciation for our partner.
Perspective #2: Energy for Extroverts Typically Flows from Activities and Active Involvement with People
A large percentage of extroverts are good at keeping a pulse on the world around them. In my work as a therapist, I have found that most extroverts are aware of their inner selves, but would rather spend more time socializing and engaging in activities that make them feel alive. Stimuli in forms of social gatherings, group activities, frequent conversations or couple outings offer them opportunities to re-energize.
Unlike some introverts, extroverts are more likely to look for external ways to cope with relationship unhappiness. During phases of unhappiness, extroverts might seek out others and allow their social energy to guide their emotion and behavior.
Generally speaking, extroverted individuals are not very reserved in their demeanor whether it be personal or interpersonal. Some extroverts often speak without hesitation and feel that it is better to be heard than to be quiet. Unfortunately, extroverted individuals can be labeled as being over the top, too energetic, too pushy, arrogant and in some situations, too needy. Disappointingly, their social energy is often misunderstood and causes many of them to withdraw in relationships.
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When interacting with extroverts in a relationship, please do not try to shut them down or discourage them from engaging in the extroverted behavior. Instead, spend some time encouraging them to reflect on their behavior and to pay attention to how they might be impacting their partner.
Like introverts, extroverts are capable of having healthy and fun relationships, but they often need reminders to “Look Within” in order to maintain the relationship and personal balance. Looking within involves examining their expectations and views regarding how their partner should or should not behave in their relationship or social situations. Also, looking within involves accepting that everyone does not process or behave with the same level of the enthusiasm as they do.
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Please keep in mind that rather you are extroverted or introverted your personality preferences influence your attitude and affect your relationship. When we do the things that we like to do in our relationship, our attitude is typically positive. On the contrary, our attitude is not as positive when we do things in our relationship that we do not like to do. While we do not always get to do the things that we prefer in our relationship, when possible accommodations should be made in order to create a healthy, fun and enjoyable partnership.
Understanding your partner’s personality preferences, including how they affect him or her, how they affect their style of communication, and how they are different from what other people prefer is vital to building rapport and a healthy relationship. Lastly, please keep in mind that preferences allow us to have different interests, different ways of behaving, different ways of seeing the world, and different ways of making our relationship better.
If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.