Are you an extrovert? Introvert? And how does that affect your marriage?
This month, on the Wednesdays, we’re doing a series on personality types and marriage! I love personality tests and quizzes and all the fun stuff that goes along with understanding how you’re wired. I grew up with the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator), because my mother was trained on it and used to deliver seminars on it, so it’s just common conversation fodder around our dining room table.
As I explained last week on my starting post on the MBTI and marriage, the MBTI comes up with 16 different personality types based on four different scales. One of those scales is extroversion/introversion, and this week, let’s look at how these things can impact our marriages.
I’ll be using the book Just Your Type to help me explain all this. Just Your Type outlines all the different MBTI types, and how they interact in marriage. It’s a very fun read (you’ll find yourself in it, and it’s so funny when you read about the conflicts that you and your spouse always have–and you realize that it’s actually to be expected because of your personality differences!).
What is Extroversion vs. Introversion?
People often think that extroverts are the life of the party, while introverts are wall-flowers. It doesn’t actually work that way. In fact, many Broadway actors are actually introverts! Introverts aren’t necessarily shy; it’s just that they get their energy from being alone and being able to think things through, whereas extroverts get their energy from being with people and being able to talk things through. So extroverts will naturally want to spend lots of time with their spouse and with other people; introverts will naturally want some alone time. When we’re having disagreements, extroverts will want to talk about it immediately, whereas introverts will want to wait.
We often think that women are more extroverted and men more introverted, but in fact, it’s pretty much equal by gender.
Extroverts tend to direct their energy towards the outside world, and thus are always looking at what’s going on around them. That can make them easily distracted. Introverts tend to focus on their inner world, and are very aware of what they’re feeling and experiencing.
(By the way, I can’t decide how to spell Extrovert. I think Americans are more likely to spell it extrovert, while the British are more likely to do extrovert, and we Canadians can’t make up our minds. So I keep going back and forth. Sorry!)
Where are YOU, my readers, on the introversion/extroversion scale?
In my Friday newsletters, I asked all through the month of July questions about personality types. We were really surprised by the results on extroversion/introversion! We got almost no extrovert-extrovert pairs?! Only 5% of people who responded are extroverts married to another extroverts. Perhaps extroverts don’t like newsletters?
Introvert-Introvert pairs made up about 40% of those who responded, while 55% of those who responded are in a marriage with one introvert and one extrovert.
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Now, let’s take a look at how the different combinations can affect marriage!
MBTI and Marriage: When extroverts marry introverts
An equal number of men and women are extroverted/introverted. So this isn’t a gender issue, though we often think women are extroverts and men are introverts. But this difference can definitely cause problems!
Here’s one example: how we solve problems.
Renee and James found themselves at a familiar impasse — once again. A simple misunderstanding during dinner had somehow mushroomed into a full-blown fight. Renee, the Extrovert, wanted to deal with it now, hoping they could resolve the conflict before it escalated any further. But James, the Introvert, was nowhere near ready to discuss it. Although he really didn’t understand what had happened to cause the rift, he knew he needed time by himself to think about it.
Extroverts will want to talk it out right then; introverts need time to process. So extrovert spouses: give your spouse time to think! And introverted spouses: remember that your spouse needs to hear your heart and needs to know what you think and feel. Make it a point to deliberately share something everyday, even if it seems odd. A good practice to get into is the High/Low sharing exercise!
When you ask an Extrovert a question, he or she will usually start talking. This is because Extroverts think out loud. But with Introverts, the opposite is more often true. When you ask an Introvert a question, he or she will usually pause before answering…Not only do Extroverts speak first and think second, but they also tend to act before they think. As a result, they are usually quick to become engaged in new and interesting situations, they like being out in front, and they are comfortable in the spotlight.
Not surprisingly, this leads to differences in how we choose to spend free time. Extroverts want to be involved in things with lots of people; introverts will want to be alone more or with small groups of people. Parties will exhaust them, and may require days to recover from. Extroverts will thrive at parties.
Understandably, Introverts choose to have fewer people in their lives, and they are more often close friends or confidants. Most Extroverts, however, “collect” people and often have a stable of friends and acquaintances with whom they enjoy spending time.
If you’re an extrovert married to an introvert, become involved in some same sex groups where you can get together with friends without requiring your spouse to come along!
When Extroverts Marry Extroverts
Here’s the one that I’m most familiar with: Keith and I are both extroverts. That may seem like we wouldn’t have any problems, since we have similar approaches. We enjoy other people. We talk problems through immediately. We easily spend time together.
Nevertheless, there can be some drawbacks that it’s still good to be aware of.
Because we’re both so outwardly focused, and because we process through talking, if we’re upset about something, we have to discuss it right then and there. However, because we haven’t had a lot of time to process it, we can often escalate arguments far beyond what they should be. We don’t seem to have an “off” switch. It’s like the more we talk, the louder the volume gets, because we’re reacting to what the other person is saying–even if what the other person is saying hasn’t been thought through clearly.
For instance, if we’re upset, I may feel angry, but I’m not always sure why I’m angry. I haven’t had time to process it yet. So I tend to verbalize the first thought that comes to my mind–even if, had I thought and talked it through more, I would have realized that I wasn’t actually angry about that. Nevertheless, it’s now been said, and so Keith reacts to that, and it grows from there.
If what I say initially is only 80% accurate, and then Keith reacts to that in a way that’s only 80% accurate, and I react to what he says in a way that’s only 80% accurate…well, pretty soon we’re arguing about something that’s only about 33% accurate (I know you can’t measure things exactly like that, but you get the picture!).
Extroverts would benefit from taking a bit of a time out when they’re angry, and taking a big step back and get out of this reacting-reacting cycle. One of the best ways to do this is to stop reacting to what the other person is saying and start talking instead about what your deepest need is at this moment. I talk about that in this post on how to resolve conflict, and it’s one of the big “thoughts” in my book 9 Thoughts that Can Change Your Marriage. When we can figure out the underlying emotional need in any situation, we can stop the negative reactive cycle and get to the heart of the problem.
How Can 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage Help You?
In fact, you tend to have the same fight over and over again.
Maybe it’s because you haven’t learned the secret to resolving conflict–it’s about unmet emotional needs, and it can change everything for you.
Stop the blame game–and start solving these problems! It’s easier than you think.
Check out 9 Thoughts here.
When Introverts Marry Introverts
Introverts don’t tend to have the same social needs that extroverts have, but that doesn’t mean they don’t benefit from or need community.
When two introverts marry, they might find it easy to retreat into their own little world and not make as much of an effort to find good community. Many introverts may be perfectly happy and content if they only ever had to see their family for the next few years.
But the problem is that even if you don’t get your energy from interactions with other people, you still need community. So the introverted couple may have a unique struggle to fight reclusiveness and find social outings and interactions that they enjoy and make them a scheduled part of their week, similar to how you would working out or going grocery shopping.
On top of fighting reclusiveness in social situations, many introverts may find they need to learn to fight the urge to become reclusive in their everyday experiences. If you are able to process things internally, you still need to share the result of your processing with your spouse. Two introverts who find themselves in conflict may both come to solutions to the conflict and rectify it in their own minds but never actually communicate their internal journey with the other. But it’s sharing that internal journey that is what allows you to share your heart with your spouse.
Focusing on communication, even if you feel you’ve already processed it on your own, allows you to bring your spouse into your experience. And that shared experience is crucial in marriage. Again, the High/Low exercise may feel awkward, but it’s so much easier than asking the question “how was your day”, and it allows your spouse in.
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So now we’ve tackled the extrovert/introvert scale. Next week we’ll turn to Sensing/Intuition, or detail person vs. big picture person.
Let me know in the comments: are you an introvert or extrovert? How does that affect your marriage?
And if you want to learn more, check out Just Your Type!
Posts in the MBTI Marriage Series:
MBTI and Marriage: An Overview
MBTI and Marriage: The Extrovert/Introvert Scale (this one!)
MBTI and Marriage: The Intuition/Sensing Scale
MBTI and Marriage: The Thinking/Feeling Scale
MBTI and Marriage: The Judging/Perceiving Scale (coming soon)
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