How Introverts and Extroverts Attract Each Other
My friend Ted is a musician. He’s kind of quiet with a great sense of humor. He enjoys getting together with friends, but not too many at a time, and his fuse is pretty short when it comes to being with large groups of people. He’s the guy that disappears from a party all of a sudden. One minute he’s here, the next minute he’s outta here. Ted doesn’t dislike people at all, but his tolerance for being around them is pretty limited, and when he maxes out, he’s done, and then he’s gone.
Suzanne’s a high school teacher and a real firecracker. She’s loud, energetic, fun-loving, opinionated, (and not afraid to express her opinions), and she’s a talker. And she’s married to Ted.
You’d think that a pair like that would be a match made in somewhere other than heaven, and if you did, you’d be right. Ted and Suzanne have been married for sixteen years and except for the first several months, things have been shall we say…intense. A typical introvert, Ted tends to seek solitude and time for introspection when his battery needs recharging. When he’s under stress, he values no one’s company more than his own and finds clarity, comfort, and relief in being solitary. Yet he’s not a loner or a hermit. Once Ted is refueled, he’s ready to re-engage and connect with other people. But not until then.
Suzanne, on the other hand, gets recharged by being with people. When she’s stressed out, her initial impulse is always to get with people; preferably in person, but if that’s not possible, then at least by phone. Emails and texts don’t do it. She wants a connection.
“I fell in love with Ted because we had such great connections. We used to talk for hours about the most personal and meaningful things in our lives. I loved his depth and his capacity for listening and understanding; I thought that it would never end. Boy was I wrong. I don’t know what happened but over time it seemed that Ted became increasingly more distant and less emotionally available. He reacted to my efforts to engage him and draw him out with resistance and resentment. He became passive-aggressive and that drives me nuts! It seems that the harder I try to express my frustration and my need for more closeness, the more he withdraws. I’ve even thought about divorce but I cling to the hope that he might change and go back to being the old Ted that I fell in love with. I know he’s still in there somewhere but I just don’t know how to reach him and bring him out.”
Ted has his own version of the story.
“ When I met Suzanne, I was in a very down place in my life. Gloria, my girlfriend of four years and I had recently broken up. Not surprisingly, she had some of the same complaints about me that Suzanne has. ‘He’s detached, distant, aloof and withheld.’ She used to tell me all the time how frustrating and painful it was to be with someone who didn’t share himself and spent so much time isolated. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Gloria, I really did, but she was just too much for me. What to her was a reasonable expectation of connection time, to me was overwhelming.
I wasn’t surprised when Gloria called it off between us, but I really did love her and was hoping that somehow things would work out. I wasn’t hurting as much as she was but after she left, I fell apart. The hole in my life that she filled was empty again and I really took a dive emotionally. I went into a deep depression and got in touch with a fear that there might be something really wrong with me. What kind of a jerk pushes away a woman that he loves without even making an effort to get her back? I swore to myself that if I was ever fortunate enough to find someone that I loved and loved me I wouldn’t make that same mistake again.
So when Suzanne and I met, we both fell hard for each other and I was so grateful and relieved to have been given another chance to do it right this time. The first year that we were together was incredible. It didn’t take any effort on my part to choose to spend time with her. I loved being back in a relationship. I felt like a man who had been dying of thirst and was finally drinking from a stream of cool fresh water. I thought that it would never end.