Do you prefer to spend time with one close friend rather than with a large group? Do busy, crowded events exhaust you? On a Friday night, would you rather curl up on the couch and watch a movie than dance at a club? Then, like me, you are probably an introvert.
What Exactly Is Introversion?
We can credit uber-psychologist Carl Jung with first defining the now ubiquitous personality labels of introvert and extrovert. Basically, introverts are drawn inward to our thoughts and feelings and get our energy from time spent alone, while extroverts feel energized when connecting with others.
How does this translate to daily life? According to Psychology Today’s article “All About Introversion,” you are likely an introvert if “a crowded cocktail party feels like a holding cell to you.” In other words, introverts often feel depleted by busy social encounters and re-energized by solitary, often creative hobbies and pastimes.
I know I feel completely drained after going to a party with lots of small talk. My head feels like it’s spinning, and the only way I can fully recharge is by going home and being alone for a long period of time, often with a big glass of red wine in hand.
We Aren’t Shy, Okay?
Let’s also be clear about what introverts are not. Introversion does not mean shy, neurotic, or antisocial. It is a common misunderstanding to think introverts are always timid and quiet. We can talk when we want to!
Things are looking up for my fellow introverts; while for years American society has rewarded and prized the outgoing, often loud traits that go hand in hand with extroversion, introversion is finally having its well-deserved time in the sun.
Just scan the bookshelves at any bookstore: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, Quiet Impact: How to be a Successful Introvert by Sylvia Loehken, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olson Laney, are all bestsellers. And they all highlight the many gifts of introversion.
Plus, there are some pretty impressive current and historical introverts you just might have heard of: J.K. Rowling, Bill Gates, Abe Lincoln, and Audrey Hepburn, to name a few. Not a shabby group of comrades!
In a society which extolls extroverts, many contemporary authors– and countless psychologists– are urging us introverts to remember the strengths we bring to the table. Introverts are often skilled at forging close friendships, and we usually possess good listening and concentration skills.
I would add to that list that many of us are unfailingly loyal companions and highly sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. Not a bad skill set for those of us looking to form or strengthen romantic relationships!
We’re also good at making plans because introverts typically look before we leap and take many factors into consideration when making decisions. I know I thoroughly enjoy being the one who plans out a special date or organizes a cocktail gathering of a few good friends.
Sure, we may not have 1,000 friends on Facebook, but we likely have deeper, more trusting relationships than a typical social butterfly might.
Arguably the best part about being an introvert? We don’t depend on others for our happiness because it is within us.
Dating As An Introvert
Let’s get to the heart of the issue: What does being an introvert mean for your love life?
True, it may be a bit more challenging to find romance when you often prefer solitary activities. However, I have compiled creative solutions to finding The One. Just because introverts gain much of our energy from being alone doesn’t mean we don’t also enjoy the love and romance found in a caring partner relationship.
Meeting Someone to Love
How are we supposed to meet potential love interests when our favorite place to be is the peace of our own homes, cozied up with the newest Lianne Moriarty novel? Have no fear: I am not going to suggest trolling a bar or joining the dreaded singles group. It’s a great big world out there, filled with all kinds of wonderful people! We just have to look in the right spots.
Volunteering Can Mutually Beneficial
One fantastic way to meet other people in a low pressure, low stress environment is to sign up for volunteer work in a field you are interested in. Likeminded people will be with you, and you’ll have plenty to talk about and do together without the added pressure of an overstimulating singles venue (think speed-dating: an introvert’s idea of Hell).
Even if you don’t click with anyone romantically at your volunteer job right away, you might at least broaden your network of close friends. I may be married (to a fellow introvert, I might add), but when I started volunteering with a therapeutic horseback riding organization, I met many new friends from all walks of life.
Would I have met these new pals without that weekly commitment to helping people with disabilities experience the joy of horseback riding? Certainly not. By putting myself out there and focusing on interests I am passionate about– horses and helping others– I met fellow introverts (and extroverts) who share similar passions. Truth be told, volunteering has been life changing.
In Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, she finds that close bonds are integral to our happiness, and when we are happier, we are more open to new experiences (and that could include romance). So perhaps even broadening the scopes of our social circles– like through volunteering– we can reinforce our confidence and openness to meeting even more new people.
Get Set Up
Another great resource for those of us who tend to prefer the quieter side of life is to ask good friends to introduce you to potential partners. After all, one of the introvert’s best traits is our knack for forming close bonds– your best friend knows you well, and perhaps she knows a great fit for you if you are open to giving it a shot.
However, does the thought of a “set up” leave a knot in your stomach? Are you suffering from post-traumatic blind-date hell? I understand. But bear with me, this method can work!
A married couple (both introverts) who I am friends with, Jen and Keith, were set up by a mutual friend several years ago. They are now happily married with children.
How did the introduction work exactly? “It’s a funny story,” laughs Jen. “My 60-year-old neighbor had Keith over to work on his computer, and thought to himself, ‘hey I know someone who would be perfect for this guy!’ and called me up using Keith’s phone right then and there!”
Jen and Keith couldn’t help being caught off guard (and a bit embarrassed) by the impromptu introduction, but in a way, she notes, “the absurdity of the situation broke the ice; plus, I trusted my neighbor.” A few e-mails and a follow up phone call later, and they felt comfortable taking the plunge and going on a first date to a dueling piano bar.
Would they have ever met without that first introduction? “Probably not,” says Jen, one half of the happily married couple. She is infinitely grateful she took her friend up on his introductory ‘offer.’
Online Dating Doesn’t Have to be Scary (or Awful)
Now to the final frontier: online dating. Does the mere thought of scrolling through photoshopped head shots and predictable bios make your lip curl in disgust? I urge you to give it a second thought.
Introverts may find they actually enjoy the slow pace of getting to know someone in the calm of their own home before upping the ante in person. Online dating is no longer the taboo way to meet someone that it used to be.
In fact, the Huffington Post recently reported new research suggests that “one in three Americans now meet their spouses online, and that those marriages are more satisfying and less likely to end in divorce than those that begin in traditional, offline venues.” Now that’s uplifting news for those looking for love!
So how should an introvert go about online dating?
The Big Sites
Match.com and eHarmony are still the leaders in online matchmaking. eHarmony is especially known as the go-to place for people looking for longterm relationships.
eHarmony’s reported numbers make a powerful case for its longterm matchmaking success: After finding a match on eHarmony, Harris Interactive states that “an average of 542 eHarmony members in the United States marry every day.” That’s a lot of marriages!
Quirky? There’s a Niche Site For That
There are also niche dating sites out there for the truly unique, esoteric bunch. In fact, sites exist for just about any hobby, passion, or interest out there: whether it be dog lovers or vegetarians (seriously, it’s called Veggie Date), farmers or city folk, or wait for it– Geek2Geek.com, which brings together (you guessed it) geeks with fellow geeks.
All jokes aside, similarly to volunteering, a niche dating site helps connect people with similar passions, which is a great way to form the start of a relationship regardless of what that interest may be.
Dating an Extrovert
Finally, maybe your concern is of a different ilk: You are already in a relationship, and you’re worried because you’re an introvert and your partner is an extrovert. Can opposites not only attract, but also survive and thrive longterm?
Let’s turn to the experts. Dr. David Sack, a board certified psychiatrist, emphasizes that, “as much as you may want to “fix” the introvert or extrovert in your life, you are better off recognizing that they are the yin to your yang.”
How does this yin and yang appreciation look in real life? Try taking turns. Engage in quiet, just-the-two-of-you activities together occasionally (walks, art, movies) and in more social activities at times (a dinner party, a concert). You both may find you enjoy thinking outside the box from time to time. Novelty enhances romance and happiness, and could further strengthen your intimacy!
Whether you are on the quest to find a partner, or you are concerned about the introvert-extrovert dynamic in your existing relationship, try embracing your introversion while pushing yourself to think outside the box. I truly think that we introverts can make the best partners out there, especially if we begin by appreciating all of the wonderful aspects about ourselves.