Before we get started on the latest letter, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Lindsay. Hi! You may remember me from such articles as “Dating While Introverted: What You Need to Know” and “An Introvert’s Guide to Breaking Up.”
I’m going to be your new Social Introvert columnist.
My first post will be another deep dive into the world of dating (so many of you have queries about love!). But I’m here for questions and concerns about all your connections, not just those of the romantic type. It can be tricky to navigate the waters of any social interaction—bosses, coworkers, girlfriend’s parents, roommates—and I’m on hand to tackle them all and dig into the tough stuff. So please, email me at [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you!
I have been dating my girlfriend for a year and a half. We have lived together for almost a year now. She is an introvert.
We do have a lot in common and share a lot of the same views, but there is something that has been the topic of conversation (and arguments) as of late: Social Demands.
I am an extrovert. I love going out to bars and dinners, playing sports, and doing just about anything that involves a group. The problem is my girlfriend does not like me doing a majority of these things. She will beg, plead, and fight with me not to go out after work for a drink with friends, play in a coed softball league, or do pretty much anything that involves my co-workers, friends that she doesn’t know, and other females. I do tend to her introvert needs like staying in, one-on-one outings, small groups, leaving parties early, or not doing a single thing and just being a couch potato for hours. I am not getting the same social pleasure in return though.
We have discussed whether this is a trust issue, and she responded with a hard “NO.” And I do believe her. We have sat down and discussed a compromise where I get a few nights out a month, but that has died, and the begging to stay in has started again. Once the begging starts, it almost always leads to her getting pissed, saying some mean stuff, and me having to give up the plans that I told her I was going to do and just coming home. It’s draining for me, but at this point, it’s not worth the fight.
Here is a good example. Just today, I texted her saying I was going to play softball after work tonight. She had already thrown one of her fits the week before when I said I was going to play, and I didn’t in order to avoid a fight. This week, I put my foot down because I really want to play softball. In my eyes, it’s a harmless activity. In her eyes, coed sports is an activity that only single people take part in. She is offended by me wanting to do something like that and thinks it’s rude. I think that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.
What I am looking for is advice. I need my social life, or I am going to lose my mind, but I also need her to accept this fact and realize that these activities are harmless. I am all about staying home and watching a movie, but not 7 nights a week. To give her credit, she does go out, but it has to be planned 5 days in advance and with a small group. I do invite her to come out for a drink or play in these sporting activities because she stated that people in relationships don’t do coed activities without their significant others involved. But every time I invite her, she declines.
Thanks for hearing me out!
– An Extrovert Who Needs His Social Activities
Hello, dear Extrovert!
I wanted to answer your letter for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I applaud you for taking the time to try to understand your girlfriend’s introversion. I see many letters come in from very social, outgoing extroverts looking to understand their introverted partners, and as an introvert myself, I find it incredibly heart-warming.
Dating is about compatibility, right? But we’re not just introverts and extroverts—temperament is just one facet of our personalities. While it’s tempting to try to distill the confusion that surrounds dating into a single element, in reality, we’ll never truly be able to pinpoint that magic, sparkly fluff that holds a relationship together. People contain multitudes, so to boil it down to one category is closed-minded and even a little dangerous. It’s going to shut you down and keep others locked out.
But you, dear Extrovert, are not at all closed-minded or shutdown. You definitely crave an interesting and also a compassionate life. You’ve talked to your girlfriend, you’ve attempted compromises, and it sounds like you have done what you could to be a supportive guy. (Granted, I’m only hearing one side of the story, but since you’ve found your way to a website focused on the needs of introverts, I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’re a pretty A-OKAY dude, who is busting his ass to do his best.) Still, it sounds like you’ve made no progress.
Might I suggest that you’re not able to make any headway NOT because your girlfriend is an introvert, but because she is selfish? These are rough words, I know. I promise you, I am not without empathy for your girlfriend, but we’ll get to that in a minute because I have something very important I need to relay to you first.
Just because I identify as an introvert does not mean I have the right to disregard the feelings and needs of the people in my life, especially those about whom I care most deeply. Introverts or extroverts, we all have to compromise. We introverts have to understand that spending time on one’s own is not everyone’s cup of tea and that we are going to encounter people out there in the world—and maybe even date them—who do not have the same needs as we do. Dating and interacting with people different from ourselves is one of life’s great pleasures, and we should all seek to get outside our comfort zones every now and again. I don’t support using introversion as a safety net, and I don’t support using it as an excuse to ignore the needs of your partner.
I get a lot of emails from extroverts asking, “I’ve been on ex-number of dates with this person, and he/she is an introvert. Do I need to accept the fact that they never really text or call me back?” I’m usually thinking, “Uuuhhh, no. That’s not okay.” When someone is visibly reaching out to you and you’re visibly ignoring them, that’s not about being introverted—that’s about being kind of a jerk. So, Extrovert, it is not okay that your girlfriend asks you not to play softball or have friends outside the bounds of your relationship. In a healthy partnership, you support each other’s hobbies and try to nourish each other’s interests even if you don’t share them.
You claim you’ve questioned whether this is a trust issue and got a strong “no,” and I respect that you’re taking her denial at face value. It’s an important thing to be able to trust your partner’s words. But your partner’s words don’t match her actions. What I’m trying to get at is that this is absolutely 100% a trust issue (like I’d go to Vegas, bet a ton of money on the fact that this is a trust issue, and then take my fistfuls of cash to the bank). The fact that your girlfriend keeps saying “NO!” while displaying behavior that runs completely contrary to her response is troubling.
To understand this issue, your girlfriend will have to do some digging of her own, and maybe she’s not ready to. That’s not your fault, and it’s not really her fault either. People need to find their own answers in their own time, and, unfortunately, you may not be on the same schedule. Or maybe, once you’ve confronted her and relayed that you really believe that this is a trust issue, it will allow both of you to have an honest conversation, and she’ll be willing to do some of this work. We can’t know this yet.
I doubt her current selfishness is coming from a mean-spirited place. It’s likely coming from a deep-rooted insecurity, which she alone will have to address. Perhaps you can support her in this and perhaps not—it may take some time to pinpoint. But what lies at the core of your unmet desire to be more social is not your girlfriend’s introversion. It’s her own inner conflict. (Now, if there’s something you have not told me, like perhaps you cheated on her in the past, well, that’s on you and a whole separate bag of goodies.)
Readers, please don’t get stuck in an Extrovert-Introvert binary—it’s a spectrum. When you focus on the oppositional aspect TOO much, it throws your balance off kilter and has just as much potential to destroy a relationship as if you’d never addressed it at all. (Balance, people. Balance. It’s a life-long battle, but it’s one worth fighting for. I guarantee this won’t be the only time you’ll see me address it.) Being an introvert is not a dating death sentence. Nor does it mean that dating an introvert is your problem to solve or that it’s a problem at all. (I’m talking to all you very well-meaning extroverts who think one party is going to turn us into different people. Stop that.) It’s one component of the whole eco-system.
Good luck to you, dear Extrovert. Even if you and your girlfriend don’t stay together, you sound like a warm, compassionate fellow who wants to set boundaries for a healthy, long-lasting relationship. So, I’m not too worried about you. I believe you’ll find your way to just that.
Sending you all my best thoughts,
The Social Introvert
Have a question about a personal or professional relationship problem? Email the Social Introvert at [email protected]!