The Introvert-Extravert Dilemma: How to Survive Living With a Partner of the Opposite Type10 November 2019 / By Megan Malone Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on November 10, 2019
As I sit down at my laptop to flesh out this article, a familiar voice behind me recants his latest phone bill. From Alexa’s stereo, I hear soft piano keys play a jazzy tune. A dog bark echoes outside, almost as if it was attempting to sing along with the jazz.
The lights in our shared office space are brighter than I prefer, but I’m used to it. I’m an Introvert who has lived with an Extravert for nearly two years and has been in a relationship with said Extravert for almost five.
My fiance, the Extravert, loves spending time together. Activities I typically would prefer to do alone, like running to the grocery store to grab a frozen pizza for dinner, are, in his opinion, much more fun in pairs.
He needs external stimulation: a phone conversation with an old friend to fill his afternoon commute, Saturday night out with a group of college buddies, or spending “alone time” not completely alone, but “alone together” with his favorite person — me.
Fortunately, I love spending time with him, too. But I’m also an Introvert, and there are plenty of days where the differences in our personalities make cohabitating a bit challenging.
I need time alone to recharge. Yes, this means “alone alone.” And even my favorite person doesn’t get a free pass to disrupt this need.
If you’re an Introvert-Extravert couple who live together, read on for what to expect and tips on how to live together peacefully.
Moving in together? Prepare for space shock
One of the hardest periods of our Introvert-Extravert relationship thus far happened when we first moved in together.
Even though I knew I needed alone time as an Introvert, it was my first time sharing a space with a significant other. For several months, I felt like I needed to always be “on” for my extraverted partner.
We’d come home from work and talk about our days, eat dinner together, watch television together, go to sleep together and do it all again the next day.
At first, it was fun. Then it started to get draining. I would get moody when he asked if I wanted to go out to eat because all I wanted to do was take a bath and read a book. These were little things, and we didn’t even realize that they were causing friction.
If you’re an Introvert moving in with an extraverted partner, or vice versa, it’s essential to realize that cohabitation will change your relationship. The Introvert can no longer retreat to his own bedroom to recharge at any given moment and the Extravert can’t invite a group of friends over on a random night just because she feels like it.
However, this doesn’t mean that an Introvert-Extravert couple can’t live together while both feeling energized and fulfilled.
Happily sharing a home with anyone requires healthy communication, respect, and compromise. It’s easy to forget that the person you live with has needs that may be much different than your own. These tips can help the Extravert-Introvert couple succeed not only as partners — but also as roommates.
Tips for the Extravert living with an Introvert
Be respectful of your Introvert’s alone time. If your introverted partner is preoccupied (like reading in bed or working at their desk) ask if it’s a good time to talk before diving into the story you’re excited to share with them. They may be just as excited to hear your tale as you are to tell it, but they will appreciate the care you took to respect their alone time.
Give advanced notice about social functions — and, if possible, the chance to opt-out. Remember that as an Extravert, you need more external stimulation than your Introvert. And that’s OK. But don’t expect your introverted partner to be as excited as you are about a spontaneous Tuesday dinner out with your best friend and her husband or participating in that kickball tournament you signed up for next weekend. Introverts enjoy being around people, of course, but they’re more strategic about how they spend their social batteries. The more they have time to plan, the better. And if it’s a last-minute request, don’t be too surprised or upset if they decide not to go.
Find fulfilling hobbies outside of the relationship. This tip goes for both Introverts and Extraverts, but it’s especially crucial that the Extravert not rely too heavily on their introverted partner to fill their need for company and conversation. Find a regular hobby that energizes you and doesn’t require your partner’s participation. This could be a weekly happy hour with co-workers or bi-monthly bible study group. Make sure that you’re also giving your Introvert the same amount of time to do their own thing.
Don’t take your partner’s needs personally. When your introverted partner communicates their need for alone time, don’t take it personally. It can take a lot for an Introvert to feel comfortable enough to express this need. The best thing you can do for your partner is to listen and understand their needs from their perspective.
Express your needs. Yes, Introverts need more time alone to re-charge than Extraverts. But this isn’t an excuse for your Introvert to cancel all plans from now until eternity. It’s just as important for your introverted partner to respect your needs as it is for you to respect theirs. If there’s a social function that’s extremely important to you, make sure your partner knows how much you would appreciate that they be there. Compromise is a two-way street.
Tips for the Introvert living with an Extravert
Communicate your needs. The most important tip for an Introvert living with an extraverted partner is learning how to express your need for solitude. I used to worry that expressing my need for alone time would hurt my fiance’s feelings. But he has been incredibly understanding and supportive. Don’t expect that your partner will “get it” right away, or worse, read your mind. You need to clearly articulate what you need and be willing to help your partner understand how important these needs are to you. Not doing so will cause small annoyances to bottle up until your feelings of slight frustration turn to major resentment.
Find your own space. When my Extravert and I need to do our own thing, he goes to the office, and I go to the bedroom. In his space, he can study, talk on the phone or listen to music as loudly as he wants; I can read, chat with friends online, or watch Netflix on my laptop. For Introverts, especially, it’s essential to have somewhere in your home that you can retreat when you need solitude.
Manage your energy wisely, but also say “yes.” One beautiful thing about being an Introvert in a relationship with an Extravert is that the Extravert can encourage the Introvert to try things that they usually wouldn’t choose to experience on their own. Life is much more fun when we live it outside of our comfort zone, and saying “yes” to your extraverted partner’s experiential suggestions could result in both of you having a great time. Just make sure you take the time you need to mentally prepare, and go in with an open mind.
Know your limit and express this to your partner. Many Introverts know that after a certain amount of time at a party they “hit a wall” and mentally begin to check out. Tell your partner what this experience is like for you and create an action plan for social functions when needed. For example, if your husband wants to have a group of friends over for a Saturday game night, explain that you’ll most likely want to leave the party at a certain time. But understand that may not be enough social time for him. Devise a plan that suits you both. Maybe he takes the late-night party-goers out for coffee and continued conversation after you hit the hay, or they move the poker game to the basement.
Happily ever after
When I think back to what attracted me most to my soon-to-be husband, it was the way he can enter any room and invite other people’s attention. He loves people — and I love that about him. I’m grateful for how we balance each other out and how we learn and grow from our differences.
Living together as an Introvert-Extravert couple will come with some adjustments. But the living situation doesn’t have to make the relationship hard.
By making an effort to understand your partner’s personality type and needs, respecting those needs and communicating issues as they arise, an Introvert and an Extravert can live happily ever after, together.
Conor Cook (not verified) says...
I would really like to know your perspective once you are married for a little while. I guarantee there will be some modifications to these suggestions, once you have begun your life as one. It won't be easier, but different.
*You may ignore this message, but I wanted it to be read, at least.* For those reading, please consider waiting until marriage before moving in - it is not the prevailing trend, but many of the issues that arise in situations of personality clashes will be seen in a completely different light after marriage. If you know that you will be with each other always, you will work on the issues in a way that seeks their good, along with yours, knowing that their benefit is truly your benefit.
Michel (not verified) says...
I agree with you 1000%!
There are many more factors that play in personality compatibility than the 'traits and types". In marriage there are moral and religious beliefs that modify and influence how much and how to compromise, love , sacrifice and be humble. Forgiving, kind, patient, etc... I tend to believe our personality traits do not change over time and may be ever. However time make us learn how to live in a different way. For example I was born in a cosmopolitan city, would suffocate without culture a library and airport! Life journey s brought me progressively from a large city to a medium size city but with a lot of culture then to a medium size town without culture then to a small town with no culture. It was Hell and torture. Now I am not young anymore, I do not want or feel driving in a large city where the speed limit sign is insignificant. I feel sad that I missed who I was but I learned to aoorecitiate the other way of doing things. In marriage, we give of ourselves and we die for each other. Discovering each other and helping the other to enjoy being is a joy. So compatibility in the morals and values of marriage supercede our different personality traits.., if one has both compatibilities then... that s easy life.... less chance to grow in love.... though still a paradise.
I am an INTJ woman who has been married to an ESTJ man for 30 years. The first few years were tough going for us. He wanted visit with his extroverted family almost every weekend and that meant I had to go too. He assumed he and I were joined at the hip. The introvert has to let the extrovert know that it is perfectly acceptable to do things separately. He balked at that at first. "Married people do everything together"!. He thought I was wierd until he found out that he could persue things he liked (NASCAR, TV watching) even though I wasn't into them. My advice is to keep gently reminding the extrovert of your need for aloneness. After a while we got into a situation where he had his area to do what he wanted and I had one too. It worked for both of us. INTJ and ESTJ is not a perfect match but we have made it the best we can.
Reader (not verified) says...
It feels like this article is all about how to respect the introvert and not about helping the extrovert as much.
Victoria12231988 (not verified) says...
I agree. All the articles I find are about how the extrovert has to cater to their introverts needs. Doesn't sem very balanced to me.
zygmy (not verified) says...
I was specifically looking for an artical to share with my extrovert husband, to help him understand my introvertism. Pre COVID, he traveled quite a bit and that was the perfect solution for us. Now we are home together. I haven't had to explain myself to him because we had a built in solution with his travel. Now, I'm struggling. I have never had to ask for alone time. Now, I have to ask and it crushes my soul to tell him that I need some space. I think introverts have a very hard time asking to be alone because that goes against the grain of being a loving human. For me, I feel like a monster telling those that I love to back up and give me space.
s (not verified) says...
I realize your post is from a few years ago, but I related to your words so profoundly it brings tears to my eyes. I am currently struggling in living with my extrovert boyfriend & everyday I feel a piece of my soul dying (as well as my attraction to him) as I'm constantly waging a war within myself. In my opinion, I've been open & forthcoming & honest about my need for alone time & the benefits this brings to my well being therefore the relationship as well. But here I am, 2 years later, still desperate for alone time & feeling guilty anytime I ask for it/ receive it. It doesn't help that he expects to return home to find me magically turned into some sparkly, peppy, loving affectionate person just because he "gifted " me an hour or 2 of solitude. How do I politely say that I at minimum would need 2-3 weeks away from the relationship & all the social pressures of it to even begin to feel any relief let alone enjoy his company in a genuine, mutually satisfying way again?? I love this man however I can't properly love him & give him a healthy happier version of myself if I'm always explaining & reminding & re-explaining what I need in order to maintain my sanity.. it's like he views this as a shortcoming, a disorder of mine that will cure itself by spending more time together, I'm miserable more than I'm happy & it's not fair to either one of us. Living apart is out of the question if we're going to remain a couple, according to him, but at this point I have to put my well being, essentially my mental & emotional health, a priority OVER trying to convinve him to understand & accept me as an introvert...
Thanks to anybody who read this & can relate...
Cornelia (not verified) says...
I so agree. I'm an extravert, and I'm really, really trying to make the best out of my relationship with an introvert (not living together), but it's not gonna work if it's all about him in this relationship. To him it's fine to meet up, spend the entire day and night and then disappear for a few days, leaving me completely stunned and questioning everything after a couple of days not getting just the slightest sign of him being alive. According to this article, the extravert just has to accept that. It's really unbalanced. Extraverts need to hear that they're loved, they want to be surprised and overwhelmed by someone taking the initiative for once, they want at least some form of contact on a daily basis, stuff like that. Not reading anything about that. Maybe the author should co-write this article with the extravert partner, to also hear that part of the story.
Satya (not verified) says...
Agreed!!! This asks for understanding and respect for the introverts need however, what about the extroverts needs? Individuals defaulting separate spaces is the natural course for life. We are born alone and die alone. It takes more effort to connect and us ENTJs cannot survive without that connection. Where is the common room where the couple can spend equal time together as they do apart?
Saviya (not verified) says...
I think the success of an introvert/extrovert relationship depends on the level of introversion/extroversion of the people involved. Extremes on either side of the spectrum will not work out. I am extremely introverted and my boyfriend is moderately introverted and it's still a struggle. Even though he understands my need for alone time and he has that need too, I require wayyyyyy more than he does and it creates a lot of friction. He has close friends and wants me to come be a part of the group, but it always feels like such a chore and I really don't enjoy hanging out even though they're lovely people. I don't know if our relationship will last.