Help! I Married an Introvert: Tips for Engaging the Strong, (more) Silent Type
Yup. My husband is an Introvert—capital “I”. Let me be clear: The guy loves people! His job is, for the most part, taking care of them. But this also means that by the time he crosses the threshold of Casa de la Breitenstein, he may have already utilized a solid 75% of his word quota, just by loving on people. He will chat animatedly with the kids, wrestle them on the rug to their hearts’ content, and take an active role in combat, er, kid bedtime. But by the time the last one finally falls silent, my man would often enjoy the same privilege: quiet, personal time.
I, on the other hand, am ready to externally process my day. After all, the events haven’t happened unless I have discussed them with someone else, right?
Our differences have led to no few misunderstandings and even isolation. But they’ve also driven us together in the ways we complement each other and we have learned to love well someone dramatically different.
I must admit: There’s a reason God fashioned us as such a perfect match, and there are a few aha’s I’ve been able to stuff in my marital backpack on the way. Wanna chat?
- When he chooses alone time, it’s not necessarily about not choosing me. When I was first married, I felt sure that when he headed off to basketball for some verbally-minimal athleticism, he was choosing that over me. Now, I understand that he is choosing us. Sure, that’s not always the case, and I’m as likely to be selfish in my desire-turned-demand for conversation. But as he replenishes, he’s ready to give back more to our relationship. Now, I look for chances to let my spouse get some alone time and refuel.
- He doesn’t have to be my everything. I’m one of those remarkably blessed women who’s married to their best friend. But as well-matched and one-flesh as we’re designed to be, God made me as part of a Body—meeting others’ needs and allowing some of my burdens to be carried. I’ve been guilty more than once of not actively pursuing authentic relationships with girlfriends. And that can place an unhealthy burden on my spouse.
- Introversion doesn’t mean “don’t seek me out.” Many introverts still long for someone to pursue them relationally. There’s a reason they were attracted to your sunny social skills, your luminous conversation, your ease with people. Use those skills to gently, patiently plumb the depths of this incredible soulmate of yours.
- Listen well. When in doubt, count five seconds—yes, five!—and see if there’s something he might add. Um, and put the kibosh to interrupting, turning the conversation to your own experiences, finishing his sentences, overreacting, etc. Ask questions to see if you understand what he’s communicating, and to draw him out. Introverts can often have a rich, contemplative thought life. Who knows what gems might be yours?
- Remember that the times you feel connected may not be the times he feels connected. Your “love tank” may be filled after a soul-baring dialogue or a night of conversation with each other or with friends—which could be exhausting or less fulfilling to him. Get to know the ways your husband feels relationally satisfied.
- On that note, take care not to outshine…or bowl over. I’ve found I can get going in conversation without allowing my man, who has some remarkable thoughts to contribute, to even take a breath. Instead, I can turn to him occasionally when someone asks a question of us. I can pause a few seconds allowing him to thank the lady at the drive-thru rather than hollering across him. I can use my social ease to uplift him, ask his opinion in group discussions, and act as his teammate—throwing him the ball rather than hogging it, so to speak.
- Ask permission. Like any of us in an area that requires more energy, there’s a courteousness to simply asking if we can engage someone in conversation: Hey, you okay if we chat after the kids go to bed? Is this a good time, or are you in the middle of something? I need to talk with you about something ___-related after work—not an emergency, but I just wanted to give you a heads-up.
- Consider structure that works for you. If you’re feeling deprived, consider discussing a rhythm that addresses both of your needs. Perhaps you can plan a catch-up time alone over coffee for fifteen minutes after the kids go to bed. Maybe you decide together that you’ll have the radio off when you drive together so you can chat, or that he’ll have alone time on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Maybe it’s a regular date night or “date in”.
- Desire, but don’t demand. The longing we have to converse is deeply good, and part of the relational glue God gave us to hold us together. But personality type or “love language” isn’t an excuse for greed or selfishness in conversation or energy levels—just like it’s not an excuse to hole up, plug in, and tune out every night. Working out the kinks of that give-and-take, searching for that sweet spot where both our needs are met and we regularly lay down our desires for each other, is the work of marriage.