3 Tips for Introverts and Extroverts To Live Together Peacefully and Happily

Photo: Getty Images/Ferli Achirulli Kamaruddin and EyeEm
The clichéd phrase "opposites attract" may have some credence in the world of relationship compatibility, but it certainly doesn't provide guidance for what to do when you move in with the yin to your yang. It begs the question of whether introverts and extroverts can live together harmoniously, given that they have certain polar preferences. So, if you find yourself nervous about cohabitating with someone who you love, but who has a very different idea of what constitutes "leisure time," then you need a game plan.

As a reminder, an introvert is typically someone who loves to spend time alone, or with just their partner or chosen family. "An introvert is not 'just a shy person.' Rather, an introvert is simply a person who is fueled more by solitary time than by turning their attention outward into social gatherings," says Carla Manly, PhD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in relationship issues. Extroverts, meanwhile, tend to feel more drained when they don't have time for socializing or extending their interpersonal network.

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The caveat, of course, is that introversion and extroversion both operate on a sliding scale, meaning most people are a bit of each. (Some folks are even "ambiverts," which describes a blend of introvert and extrovert tendencies.) The reality of this continuum is important to remember for purposes of cohabitating with a person who has different preferences than you.

How introverts and extroverts may complement one another in relationships

According to Dr. Manly, it's unlikely that an extreme extrovert and extreme introvert will wind up in a long-lasting relationship. Their lifestyles may simply butt heads, and ultimately this may drive them apart. But, that's not the be-all and end-all of the situation.

"If partners are moderately dissimilar on the introversion-extroversion scale, the differences can actually fuel both attraction and self-growth," she says. "For example, a moderate introvert who tends toward the reclusive side may be attracted by the buoyant, gregarious side of a moderate extrovert. The extrovert may, in turn, be attracted to the introvert’s more thoughtful, reserved style." Essentially, if you and your significant other are able to adjust to one another's interests and needs, you may just find personal enjoyment in each of those activities.

"The introvert may discover newfound enjoyment in social activities that would have previously been avoided," says Dr. Manly. "In the same way, the extrovert may come to embrace the benefits of increased quiet time and partnership engagement."

3 ways to keep the "opposites attract" mentality alive once you've moved in together.

The more you and your partner differ on that introvert-extrovert continuum, the more tension may crop up once you move in together, says Dr. Manly. So, anticipating these differences—and discussing how you'll work through them ahead of time—can be essential for your partnership.

Because, here's the thing: While the occasional disagreement about how to spend a Saturday afternoon won't be a deal-breaker, these arguments may compound over time if you don't work on them together. Below, find three tips to stop that situation from taking shape.

1. Work to understand where your partner is coming from

If you're sharing a house key with someone who's introverted, make sure you ask how social engagements feel to them. Is there a certain number of dinner parties that doesn't leave them feeling pooped? What's their favorite way to recharge? How many hours a day do they need me-time?

"Depending on an individual’s level of introversion—where they find themselves on the introversion-extraversion continuum—being social can be tremendously, moderately, or extremely draining," says Dr. Manly. "The more introverted a person is, the more psychologically taxing a social event will be."

If you're facing the opposite scenario—that is, a partner who has extroverted tendencies—talk to them about why they feel energized in a crowd and how many times a week they need to hang out with friends in order to feel fulfilled.

2. Make a daily task of strengthening your emotional intelligence muscle

"If both the introvert and extrovert have strong emotional intelligence and healthy communication skills, they can often navigate the obstacles that arise," says Dr. Manly. There are a few way to sharpen your emotional intelligence skills, including:

  1. Free writing and journaling to understand the ebbs and flows of your emotions.
  2. Adopting a center-seeking practice, like meditation, that can help you stay present and aware of your partner's needs.
  3. Looking a things through their perspective. Knowing what you know now about how they receive energy, how are they feeling right now?

3. Think about your relationship through a growth-oriented mindset

If you're constantly thinking about your relationship in terms of what that person is making you do (like going to a party), or keeping you from doing (like skipping the party to stay in and cook dinner together), your relationship will come from a place of resentment, not respect.

"Being somewhat mismatched on the introversion-extroversion scale can be a nonissue when partners are committed to respecting each other’s needs in a compassionate, collaborative way," says Dr. Manly. "Especially for partners who are growth-oriented, slight or moderate differences on the introversion-extroversion continuum can be seen as opportunities to become more flexible, connected, and caring."

Over time, you may find that your introverted partner shows you how to seek energy and inspiration from calmer, self-reflective activities. And, vice versa: as an introvert you may discover that your extroverted S.O. inspires you to get yourself out there, and you make wonderful, new connections as a result.

In other words, you grow together, and (eventually) you inch closer and closer on Dr. Manly's continuum.

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