A number of years ago—ten or more—my husband Tom and I walked into a social function. I scanned the room and said to Tom, “I don’t see any of our friends,” and was about to suggest we leave and go to a movie instead when Tom answered, “We’ll make new friends.”

Welcome to our introvert/extrovert marriage. We laugh about that story now along with any number of others like it, but at the beginning of our relationship, our different temperaments caused problems. We didn’t have the words to describe it then—all we knew at the time was that I felt that Tom always wanted to be at a party or gathering, and he felt that I never did. We had a lot of these conversations: “I don’t want to go, but you can go.” “I’m not going to go without you.” “That’s not fair. It makes me feel guilty.” “But I really want us to go together.”

Some of this began to change when I took a Myers-Briggs test. I remember being irritated—angry even—when my results showed that I was an introvert. To me, the word introvert had negative connotations: shy, boring, no fun. And even though the person administering the test patiently explained that being an introvert didn’t mean any of those things but instead had to do with where you got your energy, it took me a while to stop being defensive.

Once I relaxed into it, it began to make perfect sense. To put it (very) simply: extroverts draw energy from activity and being with people, while introverts draw energy from an inner world of thoughts and ideas. To put it another way, while introverts may enjoy being with people (I do), it’s taxing. They need to be alone to recharge. Extroverts, on the other hand, are drained by being alone. They recharge by reconnecting with people. These are general statements, of course, and people are found all along the introvert-extrovert continuum. My tendency for introversion is more towards the middle, meaning I’m introverted—but not extremely so.

Indeed, a lot of people are surprised when I mention that I’m an introvert, and I find myself relating to some new terms that are now popping up such as outgoing introvert and social introvert. I suspect Tom’s results would reflect his extroverted nature. It’s rare that he comes home from a full day of work to an empty house, but when he does, he’s been known to head to the Mexican restaurant down the street to watch a ballgame and have dinner at the bar. That’s how strong his need is to be around people.

Over time (we’ve had almost 30 years of practice), Tom and I have come to understand our differences. Having the language to describe them has been helpful. So has the fact that our work suits our personality types. Tom is in sales and is therefore with people most of the time. I spend my days mostly alone, blogging, bookkeeping, and Family CEO-ing. We compromise too. Tom is agreeable to taking a pass on some social events or going without me at times. In return, I go to a few more than I’d like to. And communication is key. Tom knows to tell me if something is especially important to him because then I know to make it a priority. As we look over our calendars or discuss an invitation, I’ll sometimes ask him, “On a scale of one to ten, how much do you want to do this?”

And we focus on what makes us both happy: spending time with family and those close to us, doing things such as outings with our kids, dinners with friends, and drinks on the patio with neighbors. In fact, despite my being a card-carrying introvert, one of my favorite things to do is to have friends and family at our house for special occasions or no occasion at all. I’ll just need a really long nap when they’re gone.

Share your thoughts.

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    Hi. Thank you for mentioning being an ambivert. I hadn’t heard of that before. I’ve taken several different tests and my results fluctuate between introvert and extrovert, but I always thought of myself as an introvert. I thought it had to do with where I was in my life and career when I took the test. Can you recommend a test that has that option?

  130. Tony Vargas says:

    I am also in an introvert/extrovert marriage. And like you, it took the MB test to get me to be comfortable with my introversion. What I am going to take away from this article – and thanks thanks thanks btw – is that my wife and I need to focus on activities we both like. Somewhere along the way, we determined that marriage was about being together all of the time and doing something that made the other miserable. I think we can still do that (haha) but throw in things we both like more often.

  131. Phillip Fine says:

    Glad you and your husband were able to arrive at a modus vivendi. I am an intense introvert, having been identified as such as early as 12 or 13 in a personalty test. But for us introverts, the bigger world can be a negating experience, given radio, television, advertising and almost everything else continually stress the desirability of being an extrovert. I don`t know about you, but I am going to go ballistic the next time someone tells me I am too serious, or to lighten up!

  132. Sach1304 says:

    Julie, I suppose I can say like you are more of an ambivert than an introvert. Even I gave a test and my character resembles to yours and my nature came out to be ambivert. We like to be around people whom we like to be else we would better be alone. Its so refreshing to hear that these kind of nature is so common and not an odd man out thing.

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