According to relationship therapist Tracy Ross, LCSW, introvert-extrovert relationships are pretty common, and that might be in light of humans craving balance. “Introverts and extroverts are attracted to each other because of the differences,” says Ross. And, in some ways, this can work really well, like when the more introverted person feels like they need more social appointments on their calendar, or when the extroverted person is feeling overwhelmed by their commitments.
"Communication really means understanding each other's needs, understanding how you're different, and knowing yourself well enough to know [how you can] accommodate [each other].” —Tracy Ross, LCSW
This same scenario, though, can lead to some relationship woes—particularly when the introvert and the extrovert aren’t seeing eye to eye or communicating honestly with each other. “Communication is the backbone of any relationship,” says Ross. “Communication really means understanding each other's needs, understanding how you're different, and knowing yourself well enough to know [how you can] accommodate [each other].”
While (with healthy communication) an introvert-extrovert relationship is possible, there are potential obstacles to be aware of if you're in such a dynamic. Below, Ross outlines three of them.
- Tracy Ross, LCSW, New York City-based couples and family therapist
3 things to expect from an introvert-extrovert relationship
1. Compromising on social engagements
For an extrovert, it’s not just exciting to meet new people—it’s a way for them to refuel, says Ross. That’s why extroverts might want to go out more than their introverted partner. But regardless of which role you play in your introvert-extrovert relationship, a little understanding can go a long way, says Ross.
If you’re the extrovert, it can help to remember that your partner is more likely to be drained by social interactions so that you don’t grow to resent them for not coming along. Also, says Ross, give your partner a little more lead time when you want them to go somewhere with you, because the introvert needs more time to prepare mentally for social interactions.
Similarly, says Ross, if you’re the introvert in the relationship, understanding that your partner needs social interaction to recharge can cause a perspective shift. You might realize that sometimes it might be appreciated if you do something not necessarily because you want to do it, but because you get that it’s important to your partner.
2. The introvert feeling overwhelmed by the extrovert’s interactions
Research has shown that people find extroverted qualities to be preferable in social situations. With that in mind, it’s understandable that introverts might be overwhelmed or intimidated by—or even feel less worthy than—their social butterfly partner in social settings. The key here, says Ross, is to remember that both parties involved have their strengths and situations wherein they shine, and social gatherings is simply that for the extrovert.
It's important that both the introvert and the extrovert understand this so that no seeds of resentment are planted. Furthermore, the extrovert might be mindful to spend time in situations that cater to the introvert's strength, so that this reality is made clear. We all have our own preferences, and it’s a sign of emotional maturity that our partners understand and validate that.
3. Different approaches to arguments
Ross says extroverts tend to say whatever comes to their mind during an altercation, because one way they process information is by listening to themselves talk about them. Introverts, though, don’t typically respond or engage unless they’re sure about how they feel or what they think about an issue. So, when an extrovert is ready to talk, an introvert might well not be—potentially laying the groundwork for subsequent fighting.
Part of the reason why this may lead to an additional layer of discord is that extroverts may take an introvert’s silence as a sign of withdrawing, Ross says. What's more likely happening, though, is that the introvert is sorting out how they feel so that they can respond instead of react (and that’s a good thing).
Ultimately, understanding each other's communication style and also trusting in that you have each other's best interest at heart is what leads an introvert-extrovert relationship to success.
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