Did you know opposites attract? Of course you do! That saying has been ingrained in us usually from an early age and usually as a way to explain why Mom was annoyed with Dad.
But opposites, especially in a marriage, can sometimes have a hard time understanding each other. That’s where personality studies come in.
Introvert v. Extrovert
See, I’m an extrovert. In a nutshell, that means I LOVE being around people. Not all people, of course, but I get my energy from interacting with others. For example, I may spend time with a friend, get home all hyped from that fun interaction, and then call another friend on the phone for an hour because I want the high to continue.
That might surprise someone who knew me in high school because I was what you’d call a “socially awkward extrovert” (see Chalene’s podcast about complicated personalities) but being alone is not my idea of a good time. I gasp when my introverted friends suggest seeing a movie alone or going out to dinner BY MYSELF. “Why???” is my response every time.
Introverts, on the other hand, get their energy tanks filled by being, you guessed it, ALONE. My husband actually likes going to the movies alone or traveling across country by himself. I cringe just thinking of those activities. I don’t even like running errands alone.
Married To Your Opposite
One of the biggest “problems” in a marriage between an introvert and an extrovert is that one ALWAYS wants to be together and the other one honest-to-God NEEDS time away, alone, to reboot.
As a young, insecure extrovert my husband’s tendency to “check out” freaked me out. I thought I had done something wrong. I mean, if he loved me he’d want to spend every waking minute WITH me, right?? That’s how I felt! I mean, I must love him more . . . (Ahhh, the angst of youth.)
Actually, it wasn’t until my husband was deployed and I dove into a bunch of podcasts that I came across Chalene Johnson’s podcast defining extroverts and introverts. I had a lightbulb moment. See, my husband used to go “fold” his laundry for like three hours. He’d go up to the bedroom, put a movie on, close the door, and take FOREVER (at least it seemed that way to this extrovert) doing his laundry. I mean, come on! I could do the same load in 3o minutes! But after hearing the podcast I realized that he wasn’t just getting a task done; he was rebooting, filling back up his depleted social/giving tank so that he could come back downstairs renewed to once again give to his family.
What’s funny is watching my daughter, who is also an extrovert, display the same sentiments I feel. Actually, though she and I are different in a lot of ways, I love that I “understand” her in this very basic way. For example, sending her to her room ALONE is one of the worst punishments you can give her! She loathes playing by herself and was a very “needy” infant/toddler before (thank God!) her brother was born. Now she just follows him around.
As for my son, I’m about 99% sure he’s an introvert like his father, but at three it’s pretty early to tell. However, his tendency to go hang out alone with complete satisfaction makes me suspect.
Knowledge is Power . . . and Peace
Doing the work to understand your spouse and your kids for who they are is SO helpful. It really creates a renewed peace in your family. I no longer send my six-year-old to exile unless there was a big transgression. On the other hand, I’ll probably have to find a different consequence for my son because sending him to his room would most likely not phase him. And my husband . . . I now “get it” when he puts on his headphones to tune out the world or disappears into the bedroom. Actually, I’ve found that I’ve adopted some of his habits. Not for three hours – that’s WAY too long to be without people – but I can now appreciate an hour alone. I wasn’t doing it right before (cue Maroon 5 and some essential oils).
Opposites attract, like they say. My husband and I can look at and interact with the world very differently but we agree on the fundamentals, the non-negotiables, and I think as long as those are in place, the differences make life interesting!
I’m curious: Are you an introvert or extrovert? How is your partner your opposite?
Until next time,