There I was at the entrance of a bar, welcoming new people who have come to attend the young adult event being hosted there, and asking people to fill out nametags. Not the first place my friends would have thought to look for me.
For years I had been attending this event–which involves a bar, a guest speaker, and a group of young adults. Sometimes I successfully dragged my roommate along, but often I showed up alone. As an introvert, this was a bit of an ordeal for me. I was not energized by the idea of entering a room full of new people alone and then finding a group to socialize with. I figured being a greeter would at least give me a good place to stand. I loved the talks and had met many lovely people, but what really drove me to go was something else. I had a secret hope that I’d finally meet my future husband, but just when I was starting to lose all hope that my future husband even existed, he entered the room.
Kyle and his best friend Dan walked in with open, interested faces. When they came up to fill out their nametags, they were all smiles. They asked me about myself and told me that they were roommates and runners, that Dan worked in the area and Kyle was in school just down the street. They stayed to chat until we heard someone on the mic beginning the introductions. Quickly, they found seats in the back, and I stayed awkwardly at the greeter table, wondering at their charm and sincerity. Kyle looked back at me and patted an empty chair beside him. I spent the rest of the evening with him. Later, I found out he “called dibs on the blonde greeter,” and later (actually, much later), when I found out he was my soul mate, I married him.
When I look back on the night I met Kyle, I view it with a little magical haze. It stands out from almost all the other nights of my single years because, in truth, the search for lasting love mostly just felt grueling. There were a LOT of other moments in my dating career (many not involving an actual date) that were frustrating, awkward, and even painful.
I know first hand the struggles of dating life. The chase (oh the chase!) can be socially and emotionally exhausting for anyone, but perhaps especially for introverts. We love our close, deep friendships, and often neglect to create new ones, thereby limiting our dating pool. Getting out and meeting people to date and open up to seems daunting, and after a few failed attempts, we’re soon ready to just give up!
But I’m here to say, never give up! In my introvert’s search for love (which had the most beautiful, worth-the-wait ending) I learned a few things.
Spend some of your time “out there”. In my first years of teaching and living in the grown-up world, my social network seemed to have gotten frustratingly smaller. I worked in a small private school with a lovely but small staff, which employed a total of four men. I had a few good friends who lived in the area, and forged some new close friendships at work. But no one seemed to have a brother, cousin, boyfriend’s buddy, etc. to introduce me to. So my little introvert heart, which longed for love and marriage, had a dating pool of, um, zero. When this is the case, you cannot spend all your nights with the people you already know and love. After years of meeting hardly anyone new, just going out with my girlfriends and talking only to them all night, I decided I had to go outside my comfort zone, significantly.
Give online dating a try. Kyle and I dated twice, with a two-year hiatus in between, and during that time I ventured into the world of online dating. I admit, every bit of my romantic soul balked at meeting my future husband this way, but online dating is a great tool, especially for introverts., for three reasons:
- A potential date initially encounters you through something you’ve written, something you’ve put careful thought into and captures who you really are.
- When you meet your date, you’re already on the date. You do not have to sing karaoke or flirt your way through the crowd to get noticed. Your date arrived at this coffee shop/restaurant/bar already planning to talk to you. Plus, you get to converse one-on-one, which introverts, as good listeners and lovers of small groups, often excel at.
- You get really good at first dates! Online dating helps you to get sort of desensitized to the awkwardness and better able to keep up a natural flow of conversation. I have to say, by the second time I started dating my husband, I had all but mastered the first date. (And I think this is a transferable skill. I think I got better at job interviews and meeting new relatives-in-law too.)
Honestly, there are just too many successful on-line dating stories, as romantic as anyone else’s stories, to ignore this approach.
Get involved in things that are interesting and valuable to you. Whether you’re in school or working, you need to find a way to spend time with other young adults who share your values or interests, both for friendships and for dating. While I was single, I wasn’t interested in joining any rock-climbing groups or running clubs. But I did play volleyball in high school, so when a fellow teacher asked me to be in her league I said yes. I have to say, though I didn’t meet my husband there, I did meet a few really nice young men—and the reminder that there are good guys out there was also really helpful!
Keep an open heart. I have to confess, I’ve overlooked or misjudged too many men in my life. I’ve passed up dating opportunities, thinking they were a waste of time, energy, and emotion, because they didn’t quite fit my vision. For an introvert who is also a romantic and an idealist, dating is a big deal. Our emotions run deep and our expectations run high, and we hate to feel disappointed. But we have to remember: real life isn’t a romcom movie or romance novel. In real life, there are so many more scenes to get through, many of them mundane and none of them edited. In our dating lives, we have to keep plugging away, keep facing the hazards. We all have to approach the world with open hearts and be ready to give that special person a chance when he or she finally walks in the room.