“I have never pegged you for an extrovert.” says my future father-in-law. I’m completely shocked by this statement, well I guess not completely. I do tend to get nervous, which often renders me uncharacteristically quiet, especially around people that I feel the need to “impress” or at least not make a bad impression, which I am notoriously known for. However, despite my apparent lack of extroversion in these cases, I am 100% positive that at my core I am extremely extroverted.
Now, let me clarify what extroversion is, lest there is confusion. Extroversion is not necessarily talking to random strangers (which I rarely do, though my father does it constantly). Extroversion does not mean a person can never be shy (which I am on more than several occasions). Extroversion does not necessarily mean the “life of the party” (that may have more to do with charisma). Extroversion does mean that being around and interacting with people gives the extrovert energy and a chance to recharge. It tends to mean that an extrovert likes getting things out of her head via talking things through with others and getting outside opinions, because it’s hard for a true extrovert to make sense of their thoughts without making them tangible in some way. People always say, think before you speak and while that adage is definitely smart in a lot of ways, I find it impossibly hard. I have a difficult time thinking without speaking and time spent just thinking with no input or discussion with others normally sends me in a million circles in which case I never get anywhere. I am drained when I’m all alone for long periods of time. I get tired and lethargic. I think it might be the reason why I don’t like reading or watching movies that much. I think it’s why I struggled to enjoy Wall-E. I am extremely affected by my environment and the types of stimulation I receive. It’s why I can’t watch scary movies or documentaries about diseases and why I required that if Evan wanted to play Fall Out 3 at my apartment we would have to have the windows open so I could have tons of natural sunlight to offset the dark and depressing mood. I am a creature of social interaction and light. That is what brings me joy and keeps me sane
So why would this ever cause a problem? For the most part, society encourages extroverts more than introverts and I have read several articles on the difficulties of introverts living in the world. It is much more rare that you hear about the pitfalls of the extrovert. While the extrovert may be the life of the party, once the party is over, that’s when the draining begins. It’s important and nice sometimes to have relaxing alone time in between social interactions (yes, we need that too). But, we have a much shorter tolerance for that and if that “relaxing” down-time goes on too long, it becomes an extroverts worst nightmare. I find myself being starved for attention at times when I have had very little interaction. Therein lies the main problem: on some fundamental level, I need other people in order to stay balanced and people aren’t always going to be available. At least with introversion, you may be able to choose to remove yourself from social interactions at will (at least to some extent), but it is much more difficult to force others to be around you. Yes, sometimes, your family goes out of town or your friends are busy doing other things or your significant other has to go to work. You have no control over the lives of others. The best you can do is try and keep up the relationships you have and try to get through those moments when no one can actually be there with you.
What’s possibly worse than this problem, however, is the problem of love and romantic relationship. I\’ve always believed that when I found the person I was destined to be with for the rest of my life, I wouldn\’t need anything, or more importantly, anyone else. As long as I had him by my side, my anxiety would subside and I would be able to do anything and for some people, I\’m sure that is indeed the case. But for me, I need more social interaction than what only one person can provide. I\’m still getting used to this and what this means for my relationships. What are the limits and boundaries to my social interactions with others, particularly other men? How can I fulfill my social needs while maintaining a relationship where exclusivity is mandated? How can I reconcile my extroverted energy with my fiance\’s introverted energy?
Do any other extroverts out there struggle with their need for social interaction? How do other introverted/extroverted couples maintain a balance to fulfill both party\’s needs?