My husband and I are big-time, card-carrying, happy-on-a-desert-island introverts. While most dating couples worry about disagreements they’ll have and whether they’re ready to commit, I worried, mainly, that we might run out of things to talk about.
Introverts like us have to expend lots of energy to be social, and then take time on their own to recuperate and recharge. I worried that we’d sink more into silence as our marriage progressed, using our social energy for other people and forgetting to save some for each other.
On the other hand, I feared that it might be impossible to recharge and get precious alone time while living with a spouse. I thought maybe we would resent each other as time went on and become desperate for our own space. Can an an introvert really be happy, I wondered, tied to another person forever?
Well, here I am, nearly three years married and as much an introvert as ever. It has been a journey, and I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but here’s what I can share.
Be intentional with communication.
As I write this, I’m extremely stressed-out and busy preparing for an upcoming work trip. Communication with my husband has really suffered as I commit all my mental energy to planning and checking items off my to-do list. Like many introverts, I get quieter when there’s a lot going on in my mind and I’m trying to process it all.
That doesn’t mean I get a pass though. Marriage can be hard work sometimes, and this is one area where many introverts will have to work harder to avoid letting communication suffer. For me, this means shutting the laptop and having a real conversation with my husband as we get dinner ready, or asking him to go on a walk with me so we can catch up somewhere that I’m not distracted by work.
I’m not always great about following through on this, but it is always worth it. I’m frequently surprised at my husband’s intuition and the insights he can share if I let him in on the problems I’m working out in my head.
Embrace your introvertedness.
No, I’m not saying anyone should let the Cone of Silence descend on their marriage. But I do think a lot of my early frustrations were caused by the gap between who I wanted us to be and who we were in real life. I imagined us as this cool couple with a wildly busy social calendar and friends over all the time. I nursed this idea that being in love meant we would talk for hours on end, laughing and telling stories late into the night.
Those are all great things, but in reality, they’re just not us. We actually do make a big effort to maintain friendships and build new ones, and we enjoy all kinds of activities outside the house. But when we’ve been out for awhile, I’ll catch my husband’s eye and know we’re thinking the same thing: it’s time to go home and snuggle on the couch with mugs of ice cream and a good movie.
Sometimes we do have long and profound conversations, but not when I force the issue. The truth is, we’re quiet people who have to process a lot to say a little. And we’re most at ease in our communication when we’re comfortable with that.
Expand your bubble.
One thing a married introvert cannot do is shut his or her spouse out, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally. Even if the mechanics of communication need work, the openness to share needs to be there.
Even when we were dating, sometimes I felt the need for a little bit of space after we had spent a lot of time together. I had my little introvert “bubble,” and he was still on the outside of it.
But a real transformation happened after we got married. As we settled into life together, time spent with him started to feel like recharge time, rather than social energy spent. We wanted to be in the same room with each other, even if we were just reading books or getting housework done. My introvert bubble had expanded, and he now fit inside.
My husband and I are still working through this introverts-in-marriage thing. Some things that might come easily for more outgoing couples are a challenge for us. But the payoff is worth it: companionship, someone in my corner who understands my introverted soul. And, of course, someone to stay in with and enjoy ice cream and movies on low-key Friday nights.