When I first met my husband, I immediately loved how effortless it was to be with him. I was content in his company because I could be myself and say whatever was on my mind. Some days we would pack a week’s worth of activities into a few hours and other days we would do absolutely nothing special – and every day together was (and still is) so much fun. To people who know us, they might say we are a good match for one another. We have similar interests, career aspirations and humor. Yet, what many people would never guess is that we are actually opposites when it comes to our personality type. I am an introvert and he is an extrovert. While there are other differences as well, this has been the most noticeable throughout our life journey together.
A common misconception is that introverts are shy and extroverts are outgoing. Not so. What it really boils down to is where you get your energy. I require alone time, solitude and quiet to recharge after interacting with people. My husband, the extrovert, gathers his energy from being around people. A day of solitude is actually draining to him. You can see how two people with opposite personality types can quickly run into a few road bumps when seeking out their energy sources.
So how can we all get along and give each other the space, or the attention we need even when it’s opposite from what we might crave? Here are 5 tips for how I have personally learned to live in peace and balance with someone the opposite of my personality type.
- Make an effort to understand each other’s personalities.
I gave you the two-sentence summary of introverts and extroverts, but that hardly scratches the surface. One of the best things my husband and I did was take the Myers-Briggs type indicator leading up to our marriage. We were able to see the differences in how we approach different situations in life and it really shed light on areas in which we may not see eye to eye because of our different personalities. Rather than being frustrated because he didn’t react to something the same way I did, I gained the understanding that he is reacting in a way that is appropriate and acceptable for him. Also, realizing that he is drained by too much downtime and solitude gave context to why he might like to hop to the next activity when I would rather have a break. Really understanding each other’s personalities is essential for living together in peace.
- Don’t judge or compare.
With the understanding of our differences, comes the temptation to judge and compare these differences. It also made me self-conscious of handling situations differently than he would. Why would I rather stay home when he wants to go see friends? Why do I feel drained when he’s excited to interact with everyone around him? The answer to this question is that it simply doesn’t matter. Comparing an introvert to an extrovert is like comparing hot to cold, black to white, up to down and wondering why they aren’t the same. It’s maddening if you don’t recognize it and change that way of thinking! In your own relationships, try not to be critical of each other’s need for social interaction or desire for alone time. Rather, encourage it.
- Find balance with independent activities.
My husband enjoys things I don’t and vice versa. Rather than give up these hobbies and interests because we don’t share them, we seek them out independently. An example is when we go on vacation. He might spend an afternoon golfing (something I have never had an interest in) while I read a book, take a nap or spend time with someone else in my family. There are still many things we do together, but we are not joined at the hip. We are confident and comfortable with our relationship to enjoy time apart without feeling guilty or conflicted. This has been a very valuable for helping us – an introvert and extrovert – live together happily.
- Be in tune to cues and triggers.
While we are opposites, this is not an excuse for my husband or me to be blind to each other’s cues and triggers for stressful situations. I continue to learn from past experiences what may cause him to be uncomfortable, unhappy or angry. These are very different from my own triggers. I can also pick up on non-verbal cues for when he may be in more distress than what he is openly communicating. I then search for ways to change the situation to alleviate the problem before it grows into a full-blown fight. I can say the same for him about me as well (and I will openly admit that I am more likely the person getting stressed out). Taking an active role in trying to understand each other’s personalities has helped us to be a better support system when times get tough.
- Don’t take it personally.
Finally and most importantly, come to terms with the fact that you cannot and should not be the sole source of each other’s happiness. Especially in the beginning of our relationship, I wanted to accommodate my husband and his active and outgoing personality. If he suggested something to do, I would oblige even when I needed some downtime. This works for a while, but as we grew in our relationship I felt more and more comfortable expressing my desire for some alone time. We had to learn that these differences were not our failures to make each other happy. Sometimes he will attend a social event and I’ll stay home, and when we come together again we are content and excited to see one another. The bottom line is that opposite personality types aren’t designed to be the missing piece that fills every void. We must still seek out other friends and activities to be truly fulfilled.
Opposites attract – and we are one more example of this truth – however, learning to live together day in and day out while accommodating our opposite personality type has been a continual learning process. As we continue down this life journey together, there will be much more to learn and maybe the best we can do is stay passionate and sincere about wanting to help each other live a life of contentment – in whatever form that contentment is found.
Are you an introvert or extrovert who lives with the opposite? Share how you accommodate each other’s personality types by commenting below!