You chose your sweet S.O. because they’re a calm port in the storm, even during the most turbulent times. But they’re a textbook introvert and you’re the complete opposite. What happens when your life-of-the-party personality—and the packed social calendar that goes with it—makes your partner want to dive under the pillows? Or when your need to interact with other humans on a regular basis slams right into his or her need for solitude? Like Paula Abdul and MC Skat Cat, you guys can work it out. Read on for some tips.
1. Don’t take it personally. No, your one-and-only doesn’t hate your friends. They’re just maxed out on those four-hour, monthly group dinners. Ask them about their specific likes and dislikes when it comes to social events: Maybe they can’t stand packed cocktail parties but would gladly go to brunch with another couple. Perhaps they feel invaded when a bunch of new people come over, but they’re fine stopping by that fundraiser with you for 45 minutes. Make an effort to help your partner stay connected in ways that make them feel comfortable—you'll realize their social reticence has nothing to do with you or your friends.
2. Offer to be the social director (with an important caveat). Some introverts find the endless back-and-forth of making plans with friends and fam exhausting. (Can you do dinner at 8? What about 8:30? What restaurant? What neighborhood?) If it’s no stress for you, see if they’d like you to become the official social coordinator, fielding those constant texts, calls and emails. But even if you’re the one handling the RSVPs, it’s essential that they get veto power. If two dinners and a birthday party in one week feels like too much, it’s on you to reschedule—that means proposing a later date to catch up with your second cousin or just meeting with her solo.
3. Set designated quiet times. Understanding introverts is key to living with them. While extroverts feel energized and excited after spending time with other people, introverts tend to feel drained, and may need a few hours in a quiet room away from other people (yep, even you) before feeling like themselves again. Expect that this time will need to be automatically scheduled into your weekend—don’t be surprised if your partner needs to spend some time decompressing alone after a grocery store run or trip to Ikea.
4. Do your own thing. Let’s face it: If you’re an extrovert, your introverted partner probably isn’t going to fulfill every single one of your social butterfly whims. And that’s totally OK. In fact, hanging out with separate friends is one of the best things healthy couples can do regularly to build a better sense of self in their relationships. So go meet your work friends at that crowded happy hour, and trust your S.O. is having a great time at their knitting class.
5. Self-advocate. Although it’s important to consider your partner’s feelings, being an introvert isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s OK for you to express your feelings of frustration, and totally kosher to ask for a compromise. You’re entitled to say, “It’s important to me that you come to this work dinner,” and know your spouse has your back.