Editor’s note: Cat Koehler took the day off. Enjoy a blog from our archives.
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I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise when I say that I am an extrovert. I like to talk. A lot. I have lots of opinions and I’m not shy about expressing them. I like to be around people, even those I don’t know. So it may come as a surprise that nearly 11 years ago, I entered into a mixed marriage. I married an introvert.
What may be even more surprising is that we are still married! To be honest, some days it surprises us. Marriage isn’t an easy endeavor in the most ideal situations; throw two very different personalities in the mix and Happily Ever After can seem even more daunting.
From our first date (or second if you ask my husband), he knew I was an extrovert. I talked non-stop. I’m not sure he said more than five words that night. It was “The Cat Show” for sure. In fact, I talked so much, I didn’t know his last name until we had been dating for more than three weeks.
Eventually, I let him get a word in edgewise – at least long enough to say “I do.” The real issues with an extrovert and introvert living together became even more apparent after we were married.
Being the talker (and some would argue, woman) that I am, I wanted to talk about everything that was right, wrong and indifferent. I wanted to know how he was feeling. I wanted to know his hopes and dreams. He, on the other hand, didn’t want to discuss feelings, hopes or dreams. It took me awhile to differentiate conversations meant for my husband and those I should reserve for my girlfriends.
I wanted to be around people all the time and have lots of friends. Since my husband preferred to stay home and have just one or two good friends, I found myself going places alone. For many years, I made excuses as to why he wasn’t with me. Then I realized that being an introvert wasn’t a bad thing, and there was no reason to make excuses for his absence. Making excuses only perpetuated my negative feelings about his introverted ways.
Arguments have been another obstacle for our mixed marriage. Have you ever seen an introvert and extrovert argue? It’s truly an exercise of futility. I’ve seen it more than I’d like to admit, and for the first seven or eight years we were married, it never ended well.
These were never productive conversations. Admittedly, many times I would end up pestering my husband to the brink of insanity and it would end in both of us being extroverted but not solving the problem.
Eventually (a very loooong eventually), I learned to give my husband some space when he was upset. It took a great deal of restraint on my part, but I mustered all of my self-control and went about my business. In the end, he would approach me and we would have a conversation – not an argument.
I’ve learned many things in the years I’ve loved this introvert but have never been able to put them into words. But the other day, I stumbled upon something that sums it up pretty well. No one has been able to identify the original source, but to whomever wrote this – Thank you!
How to Care for an Introvert
• Respect their need for privacy.
• Never embarrass them in public.
• Let them observe first in new situations.
• Give them time to think. Don’t demand instant answers.
• Don’t interrupt them.
• Give them advance notice of expected changes in their lives.
• Give them three 5 minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing before calling them to dinner, or moving on to the next activity.
• Reprimand them privately.
• Teach them new skills privately, rather than in public.
• Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests and abilities, encourage this relationship even if the friend moves.
• Do not push them to make lots of friends.
• Respect their introversion. Don’t try to re-make them into extroverts.
After all this time, we still aren’t perfect. There are times (many times) my husband cringes at my outgoingness, and there are still plenty of times I find myself pushing him beyond his comfort zone. Even though we are very different, I couldn’t imagine sharing this life with anyone else. I certainly couldn’t imagine doing it with someone who talks as much as I do!
Cat Koehler is married with two children. She works full-time. Read her Mondays on momaha.com.