I ’m an introvert in a relationship with an extrovert, and we took a while to strike the right balance.
I met my partner in the hospitality industry, a sector of the economy that is famed for its employees’ tendency to burn the candle at both ends. When we met in 2016, I was waitressing part-time while studying for a degree in English Literature at Oxford University, and he was the manager of the restaurant next door (owned by the same couple as the restaurant I worked at).
I was immediately attracted to him because he was quite literally the life and soul of the party; people of all nationalities and genders seemed drawn to him and he had this magical ability where he could cajole even the most miserable and tired coworker to a nearby pub for a pint at the end of a shift. I was struck by his openness, and the fact he seemed sincerely interested in each and every conversation he had. He messed around and made jokes but he gave really good impartial and judgment-free advice as well.
We quickly became friends, and then, something more than that. It is safe to say that it wasn’t long until we had developed feelings for one another, but there were a number of factors that meant it was a while before we both decided that we wanted to pursue a relationship.
There were literal fireworks when, on New Year’s Day 2018 (in the small hours of the morning), we officially became boyfriend and girlfriend. He was a tremendous source of support throughout my final year at university, and when I finally finished my exams, he took me on a surprise trip to Paris, where we gorged ourselves on the finest cheese, steak and wine in true French fashion. We moved in together shortly after I finished my studies, and we have recently found a new flat together that’s even nicer.
We are both keen foodies, experimenting with pasta making and Mexican cuisine at home, and avid restaurant-goers, much to the dismay of our bank accounts and waistlines. We enjoy bouncing ideas off one another for novel restaurant or food truck concepts. We are connected by the importance of family in our lives, as well as the friends we have both made through the restaurant trade. We both like travelling and frequently dream of hammocks in Mexico by the sea. We’re both intensely competitive, with an ongoing Scrabble feud.
But fundamentally, we are very different people. We may have met in a setting where sleep is often sacrificed in favour of one more drink, where we were frequently the last ones to be turfed out of a club before closing, but that’s not really me at all.
I am an introvert. I preferred the solace of a good book throughout my childhood to playing with others. As the oldest of six children, it was my retreat from the chaos and a way to cope with being bullied at school. As an adult, I struggled to keep up with my peers at university who seemingly enjoyed dancing through the night in the dankest, sweatiest venues that Oxford has to offer. A combination of introversion and social anxiety does not a fun clubber make.
Sure, as an aspiring journalist, I can turn on the charm when required: I can ask probing questions and I often find others turn to me as a confidante or shoulder to lean on. But frankly, I find all social interactions exhausting: an afternoon BBQ will likely necessitate a two hour nap afterwards — and not because I’ve had one too many bottles of beer. I enjoy spending time with people whether they’re my nearest and dearest or complete strangers, I just find it tiring.
My partner is the opposite: he jumps at the chance to go out and meet people. I might come home from work slightly tired and content myself with a few episodes of a TV series before bed, but he would rather go out and do something. He might play football with his coworkers from his new job in Finance, or arrange 5-a-side with friends from the hospitality sector. He might stay in and play FIFA with his friends — but even then he will be on the microphone and loudly lamenting each goal that gets conceded, and celebrating the ones they score. I wouldn’t mind at all if he was the only person I spoke to each day, but he thrives and flourishes with that connection to others. We are different, and that’s fine — it’s just the way that we are wired.
Whilst I acknowledge and even celebrate our differences, that doesn’t mean that the introvert / extrovert dynamic doesn’t pose challenges in a long term relationship. There are days when, clouded by tiredness or insecurity, I feel as if my partner would rather spend time with someone who isn’t me. There are days when I have made my partner feel like it is difficult to leave the house because he has comparably more of a social life than I do. There are days when we have both questioned whether we have enough in common for the relationship to work in the long run. But on days like these, we need to recalibrate and remind ourselves of our differences.
As long as we make a concerted effort to spend quality one-on-one time with each other each week there is absolutely no reason as to why I can’t stay at home binge-watching Mad Men whilst he goes out with his friends. I don’t have to go along to social occasions when I don’t feel like it, and equally, he shouldn’t have to ask for permission to leave me at home in a duvet burrito. It took us a while to figure that out, but our relationship is now more open and honest than it’s ever been before and I’m tremendously grateful that I landed that waitressing job.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert dating someone who is completely opposite to you?
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