Friday, November 5, 2010

Dating as an Introvert

Since Trixie outed Roxie and me as introverts yesterday, I think now is good time to discuss how it affects my dating life, because, let me tell you, it totally does.

First, a definition or two. An introvert is someone who recharges by being alone and find other people tiring. Extroverts, on the other hand, are recharged by other people and fade when alone. Introversion to extroversion is a spectrum, and most people fall somewhere in the middle, rather than on the extreme ends. Introverts are not necessarily shy or misanthropic, we're just misunderstood.

For me specifically, I am definitely not shy, I have excellent social skills, and I do love having long and meaningful conversations.

However, as an introvert:

I loathe small talk.

Exchanging pleasantries and meaningless conversation is difficult for me, especially it's just done to fill space or time. Unfortunately, first meetings and first dates are often completely made of small talk and it feels like a waste of time and words. I recognize it has its place and does help you to get to know someone, and I will engage in it, but it's still hard for me. Therefore, I probably come across as, at best, quiet or, at worst, arrogant when I first meet someone. Those are not first impressions that are erased easily.

Large gatherings are killer.

Linger longers, house parties, bars etc. There are too many social interactions going on at once for me. It's incredibly draining as I feel I have to circulate and find people to talk to. I'm fine when I find one or two people to talk to as I drown out the madness around me, but, as I mentioned, I hate small talk, so getting into that is hard. Unfortunately, it's one of the best ways to meet new people, but as I'm out of my element, I'm probably throwing out that uncomfortable vibe, and that's not helpful.

New groups are hard.

I do great with small groups, particularly of good friends. On the other hand, if I'm the new person in a group that already knows each other, I have a difficult time breaking in. Somehow, I feel like anything I have to include isn't really worth saying, or I won't be heard, or something. It's tricky to explain. But if you see or are in a small group of people laughing and talking and one or two people quietly smiling and nodding and only saying something occasionally, that/those person(s) is/are probably an introvert. It doesn't mean I'm not enjoying myself, just that I'm waiting to say something I feel is worth saying. It's why in high school I could watch my friends laugh and play video games for hours while I just sat there. Didn't need to play or engage in the conversation to have a good time.

As an example of the last two points:

When I first moved to my city, my roommates took me out the very next night for a friend's birthday. The first activity was bowling with a select group of friends, maybe 8 people tops, divided into 4 people at each lane. I was just fine talking and getting to know these new people as each interaction was one at a time, but after bowling was cake and ice cream back at someone's house, with seemingly every young single adult in the whole area invited. There were at least 80-100 people there. Within an hour, I was perched in a corner, spent and ready to go home whenever my roommates were. I had reached my new people quotient for the evening and was overwhelmed by everything going on. I wasn't quite fetal and rocking back and forth in my discomfort, but I was most definitely done. Usually, in such situations, I make sure to drive myself, so that I can retreat as soon as I'm ready. I often tell myself that if I'm not having a good time or feeling drained after a certain period of time at a party, I am free to go home. A lot of the time, I stay longer than I first intended and have a great time, but at least I have the option.

I truly am content to spend a week's worth of evenings at home before I start thinking "Oh, I think I need some face time with someone." I live alone for a reason (having people I am not committed to loving in my personal, intimate, home space is akin to hell, I have decided). I love other people, and I really am interesting, engaging, fun person to be around, and I need to have people in my life. But, I also need my solitude, so I don't go bats*** crazy and cranky and send killer death rays with my eyes just because someone asked me a polite question and invaded my personal space. If I've had enough recharge time, all of those things are tempered. Balancing my need for people and love with my need for time alone is an ongoing challenge, but I'm getting better at it.

Are any of you introverts or in a relationship with one? I'd love to hear your experiences!

In the meantime, some mandatory reading for introverts and those who love us:

Caring For Your Introvert - An excellent introduction to introversion and what it means

The Introvert Advantage - I own this and will make my future husband read it. It's like my owner's manual.


Roxie said...

Marrying an introvert definitely helps. Neither of us is big on small talk. Neither of us is pulling the other to large parties. And we are both content to just spend our evenings sitting on the couch doing our own things.

But yeah, doing small talks on dates, while possible and I could do it, was killer.

Danny said...

I found your blog on MMB and I just have to tell you how much I needed to read this post! I'm totally like this and I've always kind of felt like there was something wrong with me because I was content to not say anything in groups, or I hate being with tons of people. I've never really thought of labeling myself as an introvert but it kind just reading this kind of makes me think I am one and it's okay to be that way. Sorry-sounds kinda cheesey but seriously I needed this!

Lynn said...

ditto to Danny.

Barbaloot said...

It's like you just wrote a post that completely described me. I never thought about how being alone recharges me...but that's a perfect description!