Tell me I’m not the only one who likes to do those tests on Facebook, the ones that tell you useless information like what kind of dog you would be if you were canine instead of human.
I’m not too sure how discovering that I would be a pug has helped me understand myself but I’m a sucker for any kind of self analysis. Instigated by the many organisations I’ve been a part of over the years, I’ve done all the personality tests going – Enneagram, Strengths Finders and Myers Briggs, to name a few.
I’ve learnt something new every time but Myers Briggs is the one I’ve delved into the most deeply. Interestingly, my husband and I are made up a very similar combination of letters. For the Myers Briggs advocates out there, I’m an ESTJ and he’s an ISTJ. This makes us quite similar in many ways, except for the fact that I’m an extrovert and he’s an introvert. Any extroverts who are married to introverts, will know that this actually makes us very different. Neither of us are extremes but we definitely have our feet in two opposing camps.
Annoying or Endearing?
They say that opposites attract and there’s so much about my husband’s introvert ways that I admire: he genuinely enjoys his own company; he is a great listener; and he is beyond happy if he doesn’t get invited to the party that everyone else seems to be at. As you can imagine, I (the extrovert) am not happy about any of those things!
Whilst I like to think that he admires my ability to make a new friend at every social function and I hope that he is endeared by the fact that I’ve always got something to say, I have a funny feeling that he sometimes finds these traits pretty annoying. In short, the wants and needs of an introvert differ hugely from that of an extrovert.
If you’re an extrovert in relationship with an introvert (or vice versa) you might be wondering how you’re going navigate Christmas – the introvert is looking forward to chill time in front of the fire, while the extrovert is saying ‘yes’ to every drinks party going! We’ve been together 24 years now and these differences have caused a few misunderstandings over the years but during that time, we’ve developed some habits that have helped us both. I thought that some of you might find them useful…
1. Diary Planning is Key
As an introvert, my husband loves nothing more than to see a whole empty week in the calendar. For him it signals a lovely opportunity to unwind. For me, it signals rising panic! I have learnt to try to strike a happy medium by giving him plenty of warning and actually thinking it through before immediately saying ‘yes’ to every invitation. Having a visible diary that we can both see, really helps to make this work.
2. Together isn’t Always Better
Let me clear something up – my husband is not a recluse and I’m definitely not a party animal (as I said, neither of us are extremes). However, we do have different ideas around socialising. Of course he enjoys spending time with other people but too often and for too long, then he starts to feel drained. Assuming it’s with the right kind of people, I find it energising.
When our children were small, these differing needs (because that’s what they are after all) would regularly cause us to lock heads. Having spent much of the week on my own, with CBeebies and toddlers for company, I would want to make the most of the weekend by having friends round for dinner and booking plenty of activities in. Having spent all week with people at work, he needed to spend the weekend quietly recharging.
It didn’t take long to realise that I would need to get my socialising ‘fix’ during the week. These days, I try to ensure that I have at least one night out with a friend and working from home lends itself to arranging coffee or dog-walking dates with friends.
3. Spread the Fun Out
Did I tell you about the year we had my family to stay at Christmas and his family to stay at new year? Suffice to say, it was too much. We soon realised that this just doesn’t work well in our house (he’s not the only introvert).
As a result, we tend to spend time with people on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, but not both. And if we’ve committed to having family to stay over at new year, we won’t book up Christmas as well.
4. Consider Each Other’s Needs
You’ve probably surmised by now that for him, fun looks like relaxing at home, watching what he wants on TV and having very little on the agenda. For me, fun is having lunch with a friend, meeting up for drinks in town and organising Christmas round at ours. I’m exaggerating slightly but you get the gist.
Two decades later and we’ve realised that there is no right or wrong here, we just both have differing needs.
I’ve learnt that I must consider him before booking in things that sound like my kind of fun and he understands that socialising is crucial to my wellbeing. We’ve worked out ways to ensure that we both get those needs met and it works. It’s also helped us to appreciate the other person’s quirky ways, rather than resent them.
I imagine that many of you reading this will be in a relationship with someone who is the opposite to you in this respect. Have you learnt any tips and tricks to help manage the differences?