Friday Flashback: When There’s Too Much Quality Time
I am a mild extrovert (actually an ambivert) while my wife is a moderate introvert. My son is an extreme introvert and my daughter is an extreme extrovert. This has given me the chance to understand this continuum from one end to the other. For example, sending my daughter to her room ALONE was the ultimate punishment, but doing the same to my son was not a punishment at all.
What exactly do introvert and extrovert mean? An introvert is not necessarily shy – some big name comedians and talk show hosts are introverts. The best explanation I’ve heard is in terms of how we “recharge”. An introvert needs to be alone to “charge their batteries” while an extrovert is charged by being with others.
Very often husband and wife are on opposite sides of the intro/extro continuum, and this can be a real problem. The introvert needs to be alone after a long day; the extrovert is ready – and needs – to go out and socialise. Because of this, there are times when the only way for both to get what they need is to not be together for an hour or three.
The need for alone or together can also come into play in marriage on the couple level. I like to talk, a lot, because it’s a primary way I connect with my bride. She’s very much into communication, but she needs quiet and alone time when she’s had a long day with a lot of people. In the past, I made life difficult for her when we traveled and she was “stuck” in a hotel with me. I finally found a way to make it work for both of us; when we get back to the room I hit the computer (there’s always work to be done) and keep my mouth closed for a whole hour (a significant sacrifice for me). During this time my wife reads and revels in her alone time. Because I’m not watching, touching or talking to her, she feels alone even though I’m a few feet away. After her hour or so of recharge time, she’s ready to be with me, and she can really be with me because she’s had a chance to recharge.
How you deal with the intro/extro issue in your marriage will depend on which each of you is, how far to one side you each are. Try to understand her need and how strong it is, and do whatever it takes to ensure her need is met. Some sacrifice is probably needed on each side, but be sure you each get what you need regularly.
[This post first appeared August 18, 2009]