After thinking on Liz’s portion of this post, I found it somewhat humorous that God puts introverts and extroverts together—not always—but frequently. I don’t know why he does it, but I am so thankful for the grace he’s shown Liz and I. We truly are a wonderful match—she’s just what I need and I’m, well, I hope I’m growing on her:-).
So I’m the introvert and Liz is the extrovert. And from my point of view, in our relationship I’m the normal one:-) and she’s, well, she’s wonderfully abnormal. At least that was what I thought when we met. Here was a vivacious, kind, optimistic girl with brilliant, smiling blue eyes who went out of her way to talk to me! And she was spiritual. Great! Awesome! I remember watching her interact effortlessly with the people around her. It was a wonder to behold her flourishing in a crowd of people, and loving it. And her extrovertedness won me over (among other things) and so I married her. But boy did I have a lot to learn. Here are some of those things in no particular order:
1. When we were first married I used to think that my wife was crazy. Sounds terrible to say, but I gained this belief because of her practice of beginning discussions with ridiculously unformed thoughts. She’d say things like, “why don’t you clean the apartment?! How can someone call themselves a Christian and live in a messy apartment!?” And I would stare at her and she would stare at me and I would think, “this girl is crazy.” Or even worse she would ask a difficult theological or ethical question and then expect me to answer right away. Are you kidding? This sort of thing is usually anathema to us introverts. We don’t do that. We need to think through everything we possibly can and then say only what we know. Not so with my extroverted wife, she’d much rather “process out loud.” That is, she just says the first (possibly ridiculous) thought/question in a long train of thoughts and waits expectantly for me to answer so she can continue processing. It’s not that they can’t process alone, it just takes longer—and they do so enjoy doing it in groups. So I’ve stopped judging the first thing that comes out of her mouth when she is wrestling with a problem. This decision has radically reduced the number of times that I thought of my wife as a crazy heretic :-) In fact, since learning to reserve judgment and instead helping her process information I have come to appreciate this method of problem solving. More often than not, I’ll learn something three steps down the rabbit hole that I wouldn’t normally have considered.
2. While dating and at college Liz always wanted to spend our Friday and Saturday evenings at the soccer or basketball games being held on campus. Now, I can’t tell you how much I disliked sporting events. Huge crowds of friendly, exhuberant people all asking me questions about inane topics (in my opinion). It was torture and I didn’t go often. When I did acquiesce, I would only go as long as I could sit and read a book or my PDA (a precursor to smartphones). Little did I realize how much this habit frustrated Liz, the habit of “being there” but not really “being there.” I’ve since learned that Liz needs to interact with people in order to recharge her emotional batteries. This is especially true when it comes to our relationship. If I am spending “quality” time with Liz I need to actually be engaging her in conversation. Sitting next to her on the couch (or bleachers) doesn’t count. She needs personal interaction in order to relax and have a good time. (Although, below is an illustration of every introvert’s fear—it’s a familiar story: he was an introvert trapped in a room full of extroverts :-).
3. Our two natures are particularly opposite when it comes to our disagreements. Sometimes we fight. Yep, pick your jaws up off the ground, we do. And when we do, Liz will want to process the information (read: “keep arguing”) well past the sun going down on our wrath. In fact, she’ll process into the wee morning hours because she just wants to get everything settled. Her philosophy is “hash it out tonight so it can be done and over with!” I, on the other hand, need some time to mull the ideas over and come to a well thought out conclusion/solution. This is an ongoing adjustment. She knows that if I say “I need time to think about this,” that I do and will. And I know that if we can come to an agreement that night she’ll be able to sleep more easily.
4. Being an extrovert, Liz will get restless if we have an entire weekend at home. So, I either try to get her out of the house and spend the time talking with her, or I encourage her to invite people over. She is able to exercise her gift of hospitality and we both are able to interact more with people for the glory of God (only she may enjoy it more than I do :-).
5. I have learned that I must “pay attention” to my extrovert. I like to live in my head. It’s safe-ish in there and I have so much to think about. But this tendency to live in there can really hurt Liz, especially if we’re having date or family time. During those times she needs me to be totally “in the moment.” To her this means that I’m laughing and talking and having a “good time” with her. For me, the trick to doing this is to switch my thinking into the present. I don’t have to think about things a week from now. There are plenty of things to think about in the present situation—and that will communicate love to Liz. And she will think I’m “having a good time” because I’m engaged with figuring out the present:-).
Again, these are just a few things that I have learned as an introvert living with someone of an opposite nature (not to mention gender!). Maybe we will delve into a few of these topics during another post. But the key is to learn how to love the spouse that God has given you. That means loving and serving them in a way that takes their personality into account.