The old saying is ‘opposites attract’ and sometimes even extreme opposites attract; introverts and extroverts. So, does John Gray’s infamous saying ‘men are from Mars and women are from Venus’ mean that marriage between opposites is doomed from the start? Not at all.
Being married to an introvert if you are an introvert and vice versa can be extremely hard work, but communication and compromise are the key to making these precarious relationships work.
If you’ve managed to get each other up the aisle and are actually married, there must be something extremely special between you both for you to have survived this far.
So how do these relationships work in practice?
Every time Jane Winter and her husband decide to go out for dinner together they start to bicker about whether they should eat in or out and the whole idea of going out becomes a major issue.
‘My introvert husband starts, round about Monday evening, by suggesting we go out together for dinner at the weekend and yet by the time Friday comes around, he’s trying to wriggle out of it and suggests yet another night in…’
Jane, as an extrovert, feels it’s starting to encroach on their marriage.
‘We’ve been married for 12 years so this isn’t anything new. It’s just that after all this time, knowing that James is going to behave like this, making excuses and preferring to get a takeaway and have a night in front of the telly which we can do any night of the week, I feel as though what I’d like isn’t as important and I don’t want to go out on my own – again…’.
Introverts vs Extroverts
To quote Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ – that unless you are lucky you too could be ‘star-crossed lovers’.
Generally speaking, introverts tend to need quiet time, without other people, without incessant talking, music, traffic – to sum up – quiet!
If there’s a lot going on introverts can’t concentrate, relax or recharge.
However, extroverts are the opposite. They are inclined to be energised by other people, they love the stimulation of being around lots of other people and are always planning and plotting the next social event.
Extrovert Jane continues, ‘I’m just talking about going out for dinner, just the two of us – not a dinner party! My goodness, a suggestion of a dinner party would be treated as though I’d suggested a visit to the dentist for root canal treatment! Just the thought of going to a restaurant makes him feel anxious and sick. It’s so frustrating because once he’s actually there in the restaurant, he really enjoys himself and I have to bite my tongue not to say, ‘told you so!’.
Where am I?
It’s easy in any marriage to lose track of who you are – it’s not uncommon to take on your partner’s habits.
Sometimes these changes are so subtle you don’t even realise you are doing it – it’s easy to start to ask yourself ‘Who am I? Where did I go?’.
It can be particularly hard if you have children – outside being a wife, a husband, a mother, a father, an employee there’s very little time left for the individual you.
It can be particularly difficult if one of you in the marriage is loud, dominant and very sociable and the other one in the relationship is quiet and introspective.
Taking time out to take stock of yourself is essential if your relationship is to work.
It’s imperative you respect each other’ s differences and needs and give each other space to remember who we are as individuals.
Extroverts vs Introverts
Simon is married to Penny who is an introvert.
‘I knew when we first started dating, we were the opposite of each other. Penny is really confident and articulate. She sort of took control of our relationship and organized our social life, our friends, meals out, even where we lived when we moved in together and of course, our wedding and when we had children was her decision’.
Simon is happy for Penny to be the boss, most of the time.
‘It’s what works for us, I suppose. She understands I need my own time, my own space and that I don’t always want to go out when she does.’
He’s the first to admit however, their marriage has its ups and downs.
‘Now that we’re older…’.
The couple is in their fifties.
‘…we’ve learned to compromise with each other, I suppose. It’s not all Penny’s way. One holiday will be just us as a family, the next is with a bunch of friends but with the understanding, I won’t be at all the meals and day trips’.
There have been rocky times between them…
‘I sometimes find Penny can be too much – too loud and bossy. That’ the time I disappear into myself more.’
The love chemistry
What seems to be the solid basis for making this type of relationship work is the genuine, under-lying love these couples who have these personality differences, have for each other.
They respect each other’s differences and although they make find that these fundamental differences are at times difficult, even insufferable, the love they have for each other outweighs the negatives.
The outward differences are not as important as the core values according to Professor Bahns from Wellesley College.
‘Anything that disrupts the harmony of the relationship – such as areas of disagreement, especially on attitudes, values or preferences that are important – is likely to persist’.
So, if introverts and extroverts don’t survive the first couple of months, they are unlikely to survive marriage – just as in any relationship.
Bahns continues ‘Change is difficult and unlikely; it’ easier to select people who are compatible with your needs at goals from the beginning’.
The 3 Cs.
Therefore to make a marriage work between an introvert and an extrovert you have to accept that at times, it will be hard work but if you believe that it’s worth it, it’s worth working at it.