Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Alone-Together Time

It seems to surprise people when they find out I'm an introvert. I often get a, "Nooooooo..." in response, as a matter of fact. People at work always say, "But you're so happy all the time!" As though they would know better than I do. And as though all introverts walk around in a cloudy, gray bubble of depression. But I think the real discrepancy comes in the fact that these people don't understand what being an introvert or an extrovert really means.

Shy people are often described as "introverted" and outgoing people as "extroverted." This is the definition I myself knew, until a couple of years ago in a graduate class when we took the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test. No matter your feelings on the accuracy of the test, it was helpful for me to understand the different characteristics listed, and examine the actions of myself and others within that perspective.

This professor of mine explained that introverts are energized by being alone and drained of energy by being around other people. Extroverts, on the other hand, is a person who is energized by being around other people. (I verified this information just now on about.com. That's right--find a more credible source. I dare you.)

This new information just clicked with me (actually, since we're on a psychology path here, I assimilated this information easily into my existing schemata). I had always wondered why, after a looooong, stressful week of school and work, I craved a night in with my Instant Netflix, but my roommate was ready to party.
The times that I did join in with the festivities left me feeling even more exhausted and counting down the minutes until 11pm, which I deemed the earliest point at which I could go home.

It also helped explain why, after a weekend trip with the family, I absolutely had to remove myself to my bedroom and spend an evening painting my nails and listening to music instead of watching a movie with my parents. (On this particular night, my dad actually barged into my room at about 10pm because he was "worried" about me--I think he thought my introversion was a suicidal sign. I assured him it was not.)

This isn't to say I don't enjoy myself around other people. I do, and I am outgoing and social--as long as I've already had that time to myself to recharge my batteries.

This revelation wasn't long after B and I had become serious, and I started to worry about what this meant for me in a relationship. How could I ever live with somebody? How could I ever have someone else around 24/7 and avoid snapping at them and being downright rude like I'd been to my parents when I lived in their house?

Although it took some time, those worries have finally abated. As I got to know B better, I realized that he, too, was an introvert. Although he's never taken the Meyers-Briggs test that I took, I've observed (and we've discussed) that he, too, energizes with alone time. What's even more fantastic, is that over the past four years, I've come to the point where time that is spent with B relaxing together at home, whether that's reading, watching Netflix, or playing a video game, can also be re-charging for me. I call it our "alone-together" time. I think that's one of the ways I really knew that B and I could make this commitment to be married. As an introvert, I'd finally found someone that I could energize with--or, at least, that didn't drain my energy source.
"Alone-together" time is still something we have to work at. Since I'm still living at my parents' house, our time in the evenings is limited, and we sometimes find ourselves feeling pressured to "do something" during those times--go out for a drink, watch a movie, have ice cream, etc. We've talked about how in order for two introverts to successfully live with one another, we'll have to practice our "alone-together" time even more--those times when we're both at home, but B is vegging out in front of the TV watching basketball while I'm catching up on my favorite blogs on my computer.

Lastly, I've been pondering this: Do couples work best if their introvert-introvert or extrovert-extrovert? How does an extrovert-introvert couple both maintain their sanity as well as their relationship? What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. So, Cory and I are definitely extrovert-introvert couple. I never knew about the energy part of it, until I read an article about the differences in children. I realized that Molly is an introvert like me. Sometimes, she just needs alone time. As a couple, we definitely have to make compromises about going out vs. staying home (although not as much now that we have kids and can't go out!).