My Introvert Life: In Marriage

olive chan —  May 17, 2012 — 8 Comments

[My Introvert Life is a series exploring my introversion as it presents itself in various life contexts.]

When people find out I’m an introvert, the most common question is, “So what is Tim? An introvert or an extrovert?”  Well, we tell them, on the sliding scale of introversion/extroversion, Tim is more extroverted than I am, but not an extreme extrovert.  He will still need down time at home, but definitely not as much as I need it.  He starts to get restless if he doesn’t get out of the house at least once a day.  Whereas I can go four days without leaving our apartment and not notice it!  (Ok, by day four, I am restless too.)

introvert-marriageLearning about our temperaments and how to care for each other has definitely been a journey.  And we are constantly still learning.  When we were dating, we didn’t have to deal with this area of difference very much because most of our dating relationship was long distance.  But after we got engaged and I moved to Vancouver, we were a bit shocked at the disparity between our needs.  That’s when we began figuring out how to accommodate each other.  Here are four key things that helped us.

1. Accept that we don’t have to do everything together.
This was huge.  At first, we hesitated to do things separately.  But we quickly realized that this was actually a great idea.  So now, more often than not, Tim will represent us at social events (parties, dinners, etc).  This way, he gets his social fix and I get to stay at home.  And when he comes home, he updates me on everything that happened and tells me who said hello.  We have learned to be selective about which events we attend together.

2. Invite people over.
Being extremely introverted and highly sensitive, environments such as restaurants are often too stimulating for me.  The crowds and noise often deplete me of energy that I would rather expend on connecting with the friends we are meeting with.  One solution for us is inviting people over to our home instead of going out.  Sometimes, we will opt for take-out so that I don’t have to cook.  Hosting people in our home allows me to feel more at rest and I don’t have to waste energy taking in new surroundings.

3. Play to our strengths.
Since Tim doesn’t mind (and even enjoys) going out, he will often run our errands.  I have a terrible dislike of malls, as well as big stores such as Superstore and Walmart.  So I write him up a list and he goes to do the shopping.  The one catch in this arrangement is that Tim will often purchase stuff that’s not on the list simply because “It looks good” or “It was on sale.”  So we end up spending a little extra money when he does the shopping.  But I figure that’s a small price to pay for me getting to avoid those energy sucking stores.

4. Check in with each other.
The best way of making sure each of our needs is met is by asking the other person how they are feeling.  Since every week is different (and sometimes every day), we have learned to check in with each other before we make commitments with other people.  If I have had a string of days at home, I’ll be up for seeing more people.  And if I’ve had a series of social engagements, I will want a couple days at home.  When we are both at an event, we have a secret code between us for when I have had enough and want to go home.  It helps me to know I have an exit strategy.  If we’re at an event where we can’t leave early, Tim will often encourage me to take a bathroom break when he sees my eyes starting to glaze over.

It’s not easy being married to me.  In fact, I think Tim deserves some sort of award for living so harmoniously with this wannabe hermit.  It’s amazing that he obliges my needs for rest, solitude and quiet.  What’s even more amazing is that he actively seeks to guard and defend my needs.  He is my biggest advocate when it comes to caring for me – even better than I am for myself!  I feel very fortunate to have married someone who accepts my introvertedness.  And I’m thankful, too, for our differences.

  • Karen

    In terms of shopping, I discovered that it can be pretty recharging and relaxing if no one is at the store. I get a cart, walk super slow, and slowly consider the options available. However, I have to get there when the store opens. Kin’s Market lets ppl shop when they are opening. But most ppl are scared to go in cause they are setting up and you have to maneuver around tables and displays that haven’t been carried to the front yet. Which is perfect for me cause the store is all mine. London Drugs (I go to the Brentwood one since the mall is closed still when LD opens) is also perfectly empty except the random senior or someone running in for 1 item quickly when they first slide open their doors at 9am. Superstore (I go to the Coq one near IKEA) is great around closing on a weekend between 9:30pm-11pm. The closer to closing, the better…every isle is empty, its really quiet, there’s not even employees around except for at cash registers.

    In case you ever needed to buy anything and Tim happened to not be around.

    • olive chan

      Thanks for the tips, Karen!

  • Kristin

    Yes, I know what you mean about going out for dinner being draining. I often get so distracted by noise, motion or multiple conversations going on around me that I come home exhausted. Because I tend to be very aware of what is going on around me, it’s hard for me to tune out what is going on in my environment plus have a conversation. I find that I often do best in a booth instead of an open table, maybe because it helps block some of the motion from my view. Do you have any recommendations for restaurants that have a more peaceful environment that is less draining for you?

    • olive chan

      I agree with you about the booth vs. open table, Kristin. I find that White Spot is generally quieter and more spacious and Asian places are generally louder and more cramped. Although Lemongrass on Kingsway is a great little Vietnamese place that is quiet. I dislike places like Boston Pizza or Red Robin, where they play music, have TVs going and it just feels busy and loud.

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  • paper sun

    I hope you know how lucky you are to have a supportive, perceptive husband. I was in a marriage for 12 years with someone who kept trying to convince me that my needs were not real and that if I could only change my mindset, I would be fine. I finally had to end it because I was becoming depressed. Now I live on a small island in a beach house with my 2 daughters and life is heaven, but I miss my husband. This struggle is very real within relationships. Thank you for writing about it! If found you on google.