September 25, 2012

Caring for your introvert

I saw this via FB a while ago. It helped clarify many things in our marriage. While in Minnesota, I chatted about it with a couple of my aunts, so this post is for them.

Our first fights as a married couple were around Issue 1: Privacy (closely related to Issue 2: embarrassment). My Mom had a bone-deep value around not having hidden secrets in the family. I'm sure she'd gone a little too far in the self-revelation direction, but I'd seen the power of not living with shame. If I did something embarrassing, turning it into a funny story meant that I no longer had to worry about someone 'finding out'. During college, I spent hours discussing every emotion with each of my close friends. How can you discuss emotions without describing circumstances? We all discussed our relationships including physical issues, emotional frustrations, etc.

After getting married, I continued to talk with my college friends and my sister in the same way I had before marriage. For Jrex, this felt like a violation. I felt like he was telling me I had to be bound by HIS embarrassment or shame or whatever and I REFUSED to live like that. Well, it took me a while to come around to realizing that even though his story and my story were now deeply intertwined, I could tell my story while trying to limit the details of his story. It's been a strange/frustrating dance for both of us. When I saw this list, it gave me an additional 'aha!' moment. It was ALSO an introvert vs extrovert issue. 

Issue 4 jumped out since within our conflicts I usually pushed him to respond. To TELL me what he was thinking. In my defense, half the time when I gave him time to formulate a response, he fell asleep! (Marriage during the PhD, Med School, Residency, Fellowship years meant he was ALWAYS tired).

We're currently working on #5. He will often have long pauses while he thinks of how to say what he's thinking. I jump in and try to finish the sentence. There's a little bit of the fun of a quiz show if I get it right, but it drives him crazy. I'm trying really hard to just sit on my quick words and wait. Sometimes I then have to remind him he was thinking of an answer... (since he's still tired).

We thought for a while that Brex was also an introvert. I'm not entirely sure anymore, but I've got this list in the back of my mind in case he is.

I also heard from a friend who was deeply trained in the Myers-Briggs personality test that the deepest conflicts in a relationship are between an introvert and an extrovert. The issue is that an introvert processes emotion internally and when speaking, states a conclusion. An extrovert process externally. Therefore, for an extrovert, there's a swirl of emotions and she doesn't know what's really bothering her until she talks it through with a friend or a counselor. There's a need for someone to ask a key question, or even to just hear the words out loud in order to have the 'aha!' moment when she can identify the THING that's at the center of the swirl. Thus, an extrovert states a premise and has NO idea what the conclusion will be. The introvert hears a conclusion and gets upset and defensive. Meanwhile, the extrovert has NO clue why there's a fight about something that isn't even the THING.

I'm not sure what the list for care for an extrovert would be. Any ideas? Obviously one would be to listen and ask questions to help them think out loud. Any others? Are there other things that should be added to the introvert? Anyone else married to their opposite on the intro/extro scale?


sam said...

Do you think somebody can be half an introvert and half an extrovert? I don't quite want to be alone, but just want to be alone with the people I'm closest to.

OTRgirl said...

Sam: no introvert wants to be alone. I'd say you just described an introvert precisely. I have a much deeper need to be either 'on' or 'off' and by 'off' I mean, alone in the house with NO ONE. Jrex seems to be fine if I'm around all the time. While he doesn't enjoy going with me to a party full of strangers, he's the first one to want to invite close friends over for dinner.

OTR sister said...

I think you just wrote another need of extroverts: To have downtime in solitude.

Here's some more:

Do activities together
Let them go dancing
Regularly have dinner parties or get together with friends.
Laugh with them.

Mizasiwa said...

Also married to my opposite - me extro him into and its HARD!! This was a good post thanks!!