Per my usual trend, my most recent significant other is a complete extrovert. I often admire how naturally socializing comes to him. While traveling the halls of our law school, he would wave to and chat with almost every passerby, while I awkwardly grinned and attempted (by attempted, I mean failed) to engage in the small talk. Our personality differences were obvious to me, but I never gave it much thought and it had not interfered with our relationship.
And then it happened. After about a year and a half of dating, he finally lost his patience and asked me why I seemed so uncomfortable around his family. Did I dislike them? If things didn't change, he was going to have to think about things, he said.
I had no words for him. All I could provide in response was a complete breakdown. In my mind, I had been making huge efforts and quite frankly, I thought I was doing well. Admittedly, I was quiet when in a small group of his very outgoing family, but I was quiet when I was with my own very outgoing family. After countless heartbreaks, this was the guy I knew I wanted to be with and if I could not change for him, how could I ever have a successful relationship? Why was I so ridiculous and unable to be his outgoing counterpart?
After much self-loathing and thought, I realized it was simple. My introversion would not change, and I was not going to live a life trying to alter something about myself that was no less permanent than my blue eyes. My boyfriend would have to try to understand me, or our relationship would have to end.
I knew I had to try to reason with him, but the explanation would be the hard part. I feverishly searched for articles that I felt best described what it meant to be an introvert, because although I could put my daily experiences into words, I thought it would be most helpful for him to see I am not alone. I went as far as highlighting the sentences I related to most and giving examples from my own life. I e-mailed this information to him and crossed my fingers.
Being the wonderful guy my boyfriend is, he actually took the time to sit and digest the articles. He did not pretend to completely understand or relate, but he acknowledged that introversion exists, and that it is not wrong to be that way. I was not someone to be fixed, I was someone to be accepted. There was no bigger relief for me than to be accepted by the person I love. Now, we are constantly poking fun at each other's personality. I ride him about his political wave and chit chat with anything that breathes, and he teases me about my embarrassing affair with reality television (yes, I just outed myself). The joking eases the tension surrounding the issue, and it is something we would have argued about had we never had the discussion.
Extroverts are far from jerks. They just can not grasp the idea of introversion and its hallmark of socializing being draining. We live in a world dominated by extroverts, so it is easy to see how an extrovert can misinterpret an introvert as antisocial, shy, surly, or even rude. For them, a social outing is as easy and instinctual as waking up in the morning. When an extrovert and an introvert are in a relationship they want to last, it is so so so important to have a frank discussion about who you both are and whether it is something each of you can accept. Your extrovert does not need to fully understand your introversion, but you must demand he/she respect it.
And it is not all on the extroverts. Us introverts need to compromise too. If your significant other will accept that you may only want to go out with a group one weekend night, it behooves you to be as socially "on" as you can when you do attend a function. Your partner will appreciate the extra effort you make to engage, just as you will appreciate the following day of quiet time.
Have I figured out the perfect balance yet? No. I still have a lot of work to do in compromising. Does my boyfriend still get upset when I retreat into myself? Probably. Has he ever given me a hard time about it since our discussion? Never, which tells me he respects me and that is all I can ask for.
Extroverted-introverted relationships are far from impossible. Just have the discussion as early as possible and talk it out. You will likely find out you complement each other well!