I’m in a relationship with an extrovert, and we live in an ideal world.

 

This post is part of my series for BlogHer’s March 2014 NaBloPoMo challenge. See all my NaBloPoMo posts here.

Prompt of the day:
Do you enjoy being alone? What do you do when you’re by yourself?
Prompt of yesterday:
What is your favourite personality trait that you possess?
Prompt of the day before yesterday:
If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

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To be 100% honest, the NaBloPoMo challenge has got me jaded by now. I’ve got other projects under my belt for the blog and outside of the blog, but somehow I just won’t give up on this one. Although the prompts are directed to me personally (with “self” fittingly dubbed as the month’s theme), I strive to provide content that really achieves the level of depth I see in stories and writings I admire. Doesn’t look like it, but it takes a lot of thought before hitting the ‘Publish’ button for these NaBloPoMo posts. Since this is a challenge I signed up for myself to begin with, I’m gonna zip it from now on – no more complaints until I breathe out the final sigh of relief.

 
 

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The short answer: I enjoy being alone. I do creative stuff. My favorite personality trait is my introspective tendencies. While I don’t believe people can change 180-degrees, I do believe people change, just as I have consciously made changes about myself while being in a relationship with an extrovert.

The really long answer:

Ever since Susan Cain’s 2012 bestseller spoke up for the millions of misunderstood individuals across the globe – often stereotyped as the shy, awkward, and the socially inept ones in the group, the whole stigma surrounding introversion has been going under some serious transformation.

Take this: People often mistook me as an extrovert. It doesn’t come as a surprise, considering I make it a habit to initiate conversations and occasionally indulge in shallow reads. In fact, if you look closely enough, you’ll find that these so-called “secret” introverts are actually pretty common (here’s a comprehensive checklist for you to spot one).

That said, the reverse is also true. From afar, 10 has all the looks of an introvert: Slow-paced, slightly slouched, bespectacled. But once you get to know the guy, he just can’t stop thinking aloud. Hands down 10′s a natural extrovert.

From the beginning, he was the one opining on everything, whereas I’m the one who kept my opinions to myself. He provided a ground that has just the right level of openness for us to connect (’cause the blabbermouth type is my biggest pet peeve), and as I began to feel comfortable around him I started opening up more.

Being alone is a way I recharge. I blog, I journal, play music, workout, nap, daydream, read, doodle pigs, dream about pigs, dream about having pigs, and just overall get creative when I’m alone. Part of this is because inspiration comes more often when I’m by myself than when I’m working with people. At times this is a sweet escape from reality. Other times it’s a breather just so when I come back to “the real world”, I can give my undivided attention to whatever the task at hand.

When 10 and I first became an item, I gave him the heads up that alone time is a daily non-negotiable for me, to which he simply nodded, then added that he needed it too sometimes. I said no, it’s not that I don’t understand all humans need it now and then, it’s just that I need more space than he thinks I do. He thought he got it ( … and that’s how our journey of misunderstandings began), until our relationship started roving like an emotional roller coaster.

 

The usual conflicts

As we get to know each other better, we realized how different we are on the introversion-extroversion spectrum – he feels energized when interacting with others (up till today he’d drive through an hour’s traffic just to see me, his “vitamin”), while I always have this weird tendency that whenever other people are around, I feel that I have to contribute something – anything, to buoy the crowd (in this case, entertain/inform/delight him).

It’s the same with turning down social invitations: It happens whenever I find myself with nothing left to give. Whether it’s from the group dinner I went to last night or all the small talks I had with potential clients during the day, these interactions tire me out. It’s all a mixture of preparing way ahead (to figure out the interests of others), navigating the human psychology (through conversations), and finding as many ways as I can to relate with these people. So I think it’s pointless to be at some place if the people involved in the particular social setting won’t be able to fully engage in my company. It’s those moments when I’m totally spent but also well aware that even if I’m not in the room, it wouldn’t make any difference. In those cases, I’m essentially a waste of space.

 

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During our earliest arguments, 10 didn’t quite understand what I mean by this. He’ll be like, who ever asked you to be anything, or do anything at all for them? I just want you to be by my side as my girlfriend; nobody has the need out of you to be anything. I was like, I know, but this is me – I can’t feel comfortable in a social setting without making myself useful – including in our relationship. At that stage, I always maintained that just because I now have a boyfriend, I musn’t depend so much on him for my own sh*t.

We went into the relationship knowing we both want it to be exclusive, so I didn’t want to mess it up. As a result, I find all ways to be as self-sufficient as possible for fear that I’ll drive him away. Even so, he would always come to me and do whatever he thinks that would make me feel safe and secure.

Now here’s the thing: When something’s wrong, no matter how hard I try to hide it, it’s transparent on my face (while he’s the one better at looking indifferent). So whenever something’s up with me and he came to see what’s wrong, I’d still refuse to reveal what’s troubling me, convincing myself that it’s unnecessary to do so until I figure something out myself.

It’s later that I found out what I was doing – withdrawing and secretly demanded more out of myself with every struggle – had the opposite effect on him: As a boyfriend, he was feeling pretty much useless, as if I’m abandoning him or something. I never ask him for things, for help, for anything at all. In fact, I came off as aloof, as if “you are still treating me like an outsider,” he’d say. It was already six months into our relationship, and I still wasn’t as open to him as any girlfriend would be.

 

Polar opposites? Not exactly.

So you see, it’s a very difficult dynamic to work with. We deal with stress very differently (10 would just talk it out with his family while I’d go for a run and shake off the bad vibes) and we do different things to meet our emotional needs (he likes it if I drop by to ask how was his day so far, while I prefer him leaving me alone with Dan Brown for a few hours). The extrovert must receive some kind of an acknowledgement from his partner regularly, and the introvert must stop assuming her partner thinks the way she does.

Depending on the situation, sometimes it’s the other way round – I’m open to exploring new places and things while 10 prefers sticking to what he already knows. We had to work around these individual traits (e.g. going to new places at least once a month) to meet our needs as a couple. The point is, it took lots of painful trial-and-errors to get to where we are today, and now that we’re approaching our three-year mark, we both realize that we might just be exactly what the other needs.

It’s natural for both ends of the spectrum to be drawn toward each other for their seemingly opposite (but potentially complementary) traits. But the first thing that drew us together wasn’t any of our polar traits: It’s the fact that we share the same core values and beliefs.

I know this might sound crazy for some people, but the reason why I chose to be single for 4-5 years was because I wanted to know whether the guy I’m potentially going to spend the rest of my life with values the same things as I do: Purity, honesty, places God before me, things like that. It’s impossible to know these deeper stuff on the first three dates, right? Well, I thought I was the only one who’s crazy.

Three weeks after I met 10, he already asked me whether I want to be his girlfriend. While doing so, he told me about his faith and how he leads his life according to that faith. I just wanted to clear the air, he said, just in case I say “yes”, we won’t break up for reasons related to differences in our core beliefs. In my heart I was like, hmm, how convenient, while he went on apologizing that he sounded weird telling all that to me.

Bottom line, what I’m trying to say is that no matter how different we are on the outside – our habits, our traits, and such – we have more similarities than we are different at heart. Remember that absolutes don’t exist (i.e. pure introvert, pure extrovert), as extroverts can easily be mistaken as an introvert, and vice versa. So long as the duo wants the same things, shares the same ideals, and is willing to work very, very hard to make it happen, I truly believe the introvert-extrovert couple make the best team and one that will flourish for a very long time.

 
 
 
 
 


Stace

 
 

via Melanie Menser on Pinterest / Daily Infographic

 

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