“Whenever we go out to a social event or a party, my husband can shoot the breeze with anyone. He chats up almost everyone there, and acts like the smooth, charming guy I fell in love with years ago. While he often wants to stay right to the end of the party, I usually want to head home earlier. I find keeping up small talk really difficult. If I was with my best girlfriend, well, that would be a different matter. We can talk for hours when we are together one on one! My husband wishes I could just try a little harder and be more outgoing. He thinks I just need to like people more. But, I really do like people, and have several really close friends. It is just that in social situations, I don’t like an audience when I talk, but he really does. I like to get to know people individually.”
Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst, coined the terms ‘introversion’ and ‘extroversion’, believing these temperaments were extremely important in understanding interpersonal relationships. He felt that people with opposite temperaments have the potential to appreciate, transform, and improve one another. He also understood that they can lead people to explode in exasperation, have fights, and experience rejection.
This is the first of two articles about couples with different temperaments on the extroversion-introversion continuum or scale. When talking about these terms, it is important to keep in mind each of us tends to be closer to one end of the continuum than the other. These are not absolute fixed traits. An introvert can behave and think like an extrovert in certain situations and vice versa. We have a preference or predominance of one style of relating. Temperament is both genetically inherited and influenced through socialization.
Which are you? Are you more extraverted or introverted? What about your partner? (remember, each of us is somewhere on a continuum, not completely one or the other.
1. I tend to draw more energy from:
• other people (E)
• my own thoughts (I)
2. When I’m at a social gathering, I tend to have more energy:
• once I get going near the end, I may be the last person to leave.(E)
• toward the early part of the night, and then I get tired and want to go home.(I)
3. Which sounds more appealing?
• Staying home and doing something special with your partner such as watching an entertaining video and eating my favourite take-out food. (I)
• Going with your partner to a place where there aren’t lots of people and social interaction, such as a nightclub or party. (E)
4. When out with friends, or my partner, I am usually:
• Quite talkative throughout. (E)
• More quiet and reserved until I feel comfortable. (I)
5. In the past, I have tended to meet most of my people including my partner:
• Through by personal introduction from close friends and family. (I)
• When I’m doing things like at parties, clubs, work, recreational activities, chance meetings, or when friends introduced me to their friends. (E)
6. I tend to have:
• many acquaintances and many (or few) close friends (E)
• a few close friends and/or a few acquaintances (I)
7. in the past, my loved ones and partner tend to say this about me:
• “Can’t you come out of your shell, please?” (I)
• “Can’t you be quiet and still for once?” (E)
(from Love Types by Alexander Avila)
Opposites attract. The most common pair of opposite temperaments is the extrovert male and the introvert female. It just so happens there are more male extraverts and more female introverts in our society. One reason that opposites attract, the research has found, is that we like the opportunity to learn new skills from a partner who has a different temperament and abilities than our own. Evolutionary psychologists say that opposites attracting is nature’s way of spicing up the gene pool.
The following information is based on research by Marti and Michael Laney outlined in their book The Introvert and Extravert in Love.
The Extrovert Male- Introvert Female Couple
When These Couples Are ‘In Sync’:
• They don’t compete for attention
• Each offers balance to the other
• The introvert nurturers the relationship
• Extrovert male expands the introvert experiences in the world
• The introvert encourages the extrovert to slow down and enjoy home life
• The introvert keeps the extrovert focused
• The extrovert can speak up for the introvert
• The extrovert has the limelight
The Challenges for Extrovert Male- Introvert Female Couples
• The extrovert male can become frustrated by the introvert female’s need for solitude
• The extrovert male can become out of touch with the introvert’s needs
• The introvert female may want more independence and the extrovert male may resist
• The extrovert male may get upset by the introvert female’s disinterest in socializing and entertaining
• The extrovert male may focus too much on his career or outside activities and not her
• The introvert female may want more intimacy than the extrovert male
• The introvert female may feel ignored, unheard and hurt
Tips for Extrovert Men Communicating with Introvert Women:
• Allow time to understand her. Ask and then listen
• Discuss one thing at a time
• Communicate in writing
• Expect a need for reflecting and time for delayed responses
• Match her pacing
• Arrange quiet settings for one-on-one conversation
• Ask questions like: ’What is it you are thinking about?’ or ‘How does that seem to you?’
Tips for Introvert Women Communicating with Extrovert Men
• Encourage him to talk because he often thinks out loud
• Keep the conversation going and ask questions
• Offer to brainstorm an issue with him
• Recognize that he will cover a variety of topics
• Interrupt him respectfully when you want to have a conversation as he likely sees this as an addition and complementary to what he is saying
• Summarize what he said then add your view to become part of the conversation
Tips for Couples in Social Situations When He is an Extrovert and She is an Introvert
1. Anticipate situations where there is a potential for problems such as social events, parties, meeting new or unfamiliar people. Make a plan in advance.
2. Introverts may need to plan how they will engage in conversations with people they have not met before. They may need to think ahead about something interesting to say about what they have done recently a trip, their kids, or current events as an ice breaker.
3. An introvert wife may ask her extravert husband to stay nearby for some part of the party or event to introduce her and help her be at ease with others.
4. Make a plan as a couple about how you will communicate your readiness to leave the party. Have a secret signal (like a loving touch to their back) to get his attention and if you want to avoid offending the hosts or guests or interrupting by saying it out loud.
So, like the introvert woman in the beginning of this article who was describing the differences between herself and her husband, knowing the temperament differences will help you adapt to each other better. It requires acceptance of the differences, not a belief of superiority of one over the other. It also requires good communication to strengthen your relationship and avoid frustrations.