“I’m so bored! I can’t just sit here cooped up all day!” my husband Eric blurted out, seemingly out of nowhere. I looked up from my sewing machine, foot still on the pedal, surprised and confused. There was no place in the world I would rather be on a snowy winter day than right inside our little one bedroom apartment in Kansas City. “You need something to do? Could you run to the grocery store for me?”
Eric gaped at me, incredulous. “I’m not talking about going grocery shopping. I’m talking about doing something with other human beings! We never do anything but sit around this apartment!” Immediately, I felt my defenses rising.
“Well I happen to like sitting around this little apartment! What, am I not enough for you? Is marriage not what you hoped it would be?”
And so began another argument in the first few months of our marriage. When Eric and I got married I thought I knew him better than anyone else, and that we had all things in common. He is an artist, a musician. He enjoys spending time alone reading books or writing in his journal. I assumed we would have a pretty equal need for alone time. Boy, was I wrong.
After only a few months of marriage we both realized that we weren’t as alike as we thought. We were living in a new city where we didn’t know anyone, and we found ourselves arguing more and more over how to spend our free time. I was perfectly happy just hanging out the two of us or doing things completely alone. Eric quickly grew restless with this lifestyle and, though he loved me just as much as ever, craved interaction with other friends. As newlyweds, this tension was tough. It was easy for me to feel offended, or like I had disappointed him somehow. He in turn felt frustrated, but also worried that he had disappointed me!
It took us a few years to truly work through this dynamic we were faced with. We had a lot of conversations about it, and also talked about it with other couples who gave us encouragement and insight into how they handled the difference in their own marriages. And frankly, a lot of our resolution came from being committed to learning about and appreciating each other’s personality.
We eventually came to understand personality trait differences and the true definitions of an introvert and extrovert. We learned that I, as an introvert, am refreshed by spending time alone and that he, an extrovert, is refreshed by spending time with groups of people. It doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy being around friends; of course I do. And it doesn’t mean that he never enjoys being alone; that’s absolutely untrue as well. It all comes down to the way we get our “batteries” recharged, and that looks different for each of us.
Over time, and with a lot of trial and error, we’ve figured out how to live together in a way that meets both of our needs which sometimes requires compromise. For example, I might really want to stay home and read a book on the night that a mutual friend is having a party that Eric wants us to go to. If it’s important to him, I usually agree to go along even though it’s not my preference. There are also times we stay home instead of going to a gathering or event. We’ve found that marriage requires give and take, but the balance we end up giving each other has been a gift.
Our differences in personality helped us learn how to be individuals even within a great marriage. Now, I have no problem staying home alone and happily letting him go off to hang out with friends (especially if I know we’re going to spend the next night on a date together), and some nights he is willing to sacrifice and stay home to meet my needs. It’s taken awhile to figure out how we can each be our true selves within the union of marriage, but it is now something that comes much easier to the both of us, and allows us to love each other even more deeply for who we truly are.