It is a Friday evening. My husband Mike is just getting home from work. I have been home all day with our kids. We have plans to meet friends out for dinner and drinks. Mike comes home, changes his clothes and we are out the door. On our way to the restaurant he is crabby, short and seems like he is no mood to have fun…without kids and hang out with other grown ups. I think to myself “How can you not be excited about getting out!?” We are quiet on our way there. We arrive at our destination and it takes awhile for him to lose the anger and crabbiness and start over as “Fun Mike”.
This scene has played out time and time again in our 21 year marriage. It took me until recent years to understand that he wasn’t mad at me or even mad at the fact we were going out. In fact he loved those things. Then I cracked the code!!!! What was his problem you ask? Nothing. He is an introvert. Introverts get recharged with energy and fun by having down time…quiet time…time alone away from people. He is in sales and with people and “on” all day long. He gets home and is excited to kick off his shoes and relax with nothing to do. Me? I am a total extrovert – ever since I can remember. My report card in elementary school almost always said “very talkative” or “very social”. But that wasn’t always meant in a positive way-my grades! I get recharged from being around other adults, being social and going out. It rejuvenates me and gives me a new spring in my step. It makes me a better friend, wife, mother and overall person. I love talking to people, meeting new people and being around people. Until I realized this small little thing I was a grump because of it all. If he has his time to relax and enjoy the quietness and downtime – all is well.
My youngest daughter is the same way. She loves to do things, be with people and have fun. She is outgoing and all in all loves life. But when she has had too much of it all – she needs a break. She needs to go somewhere quiet and regroup and be alone. By me understanding this, I can help her and respect her quiet time away – instead of using the line “Come out and be fun with us”.
What I have learned about introverts over the years and from asking introverts is this…They NEED time away to recharge. When they are quiet it does not mean they are upset or tired – just quiet. If they aren’t talking a lot in a group – it is ok – they are just taking it all in and listening. They would much rather listen to what others are saying. If there is something to talk about – or discuss in a serious matter – they will when they are ready – (important to know when you have an argument with your spouse!) After being in big loud groups or outings, an introvert may take a couple days to recharge and regroup. I try to put myself in their shoes but as an extrovert – if I was away at some quiet retreat, conference or alone all weekend…I would be crazy and so desperately need a couple days to be around people and talk and be social to recharge. Sometimes introverts need to process what is being said, take it all in before they can react properly.
I am a loud mouth say it like it is right brained liberal that loves being social, funny, creative, out going, perhaps sharing too much with people. It can get me in trouble too – side conversations (that’s me), not paying attention (SQUIRREL!) because my mind is racing onto the next fun thing to do, anxious to speak which turns into interrupting others. I have to consciously work on these things- especially in the company of introverts. But I also have tendencies of the other…I do enjoy a quiet weekend with no plans. Love a quiet evening at home with the family and TV. I can actually be quiet and enjoying being alone – but not for long!
Knowing these traits of introverts, I can better understand my husband and daughter and respect that difference we have. I tell you – it really helps a marriage when you have two totally different ways of recharging and you understand them.