Saturday, May 25, 2013

chilly may morning

This morning we played through a scene we know very well: Matt is up a couple of hours before I am, and spends them happily reading and drinking coffee. I waddle out of bed, brush my teeth, and before I get ready to settle down to my book, I go over to Matt to greet him with a smooch on the cheek, and he does not even look at me, much less respond. Sometimes he heaves a great sigh and looks at me with a pained expression.

It always makes me mad, and today I actually didn't even get all the way over to his chair because I just didn't want to start out the day by taxing him for two seconds of attention.

I'm telling the story like I'm still mad, but I'm .... not exactly.

Anyway, I ended up standing awkwardly kind of near his chair and saying "hey," then quickly turning around to get my coffee. A window in our wall frames the face and hands of the person sheepishly pouring coffee,  so he watched me with an exasperated grimacey smile, and then said very pointedly, GOOD MORNING.

This is how the morning goes between a serious introvert and a 1% extravert. I KNOW that he doesn't want to have a big conversation first thing in the morning, and neither do I, really. I'm not jumping onto his book and laying across it like a cat. I need a few seconds of human affirmation to start my day, just one smile and two words. To me, it doesn't seem like much to ask for something that feels so important to me- look up from your book which you've been reading in complete silence for two hours to say hello and then I'll leave you alone until you want to talk to me! To him, it feels like a huge intrusion for something that shouldn't be so important to me.  We both think the other person is being selfish.

On my good days, I compromise and wait for him to greet me. I can understand that he would like to choose at which point to put his book down, so I try to restrain myself. Sometimes I don't mind.

After 2.25 years of marriage, I think I can now (slightly saltily, of course) advise those interested in getting married: the introversion-extraversion differential is the source of very deep (if not the deepest) conflicts. I don't say the most explosive conflicts, simply the most stubbornly innate.We can talk about chores, religion, and tastes in relatively dispassionate tones, but nothing can change the fact that I need a little bit more interaction than he does, and he needs a little bit more solitude than I can bear. We overlap quite a bit on the introversion-extraversion axis, but the fringes where we differ are still baldly glaring. If we were more different I can see that it would be big trouble. This is something you don't realize about a person until you've lived with them for a while, and as far as I can see, there is no way around it, especially not first thing in the morning.

And I suppose that is where love comes in, no, actually, I do believe that is where love comes in, but that doesn't mean that it's easy or I know what to do. We can talk through or compromise our way around everything else, but these opposing needs comprise the last imbedded stone in our way. It is not moveable by reason or bitter self-effacement.


  1. L and I are COMPLETE opposites on the introvert/extrovert scale. O-P-P-O-S-I-T-E-S. Only recently did we discover this about ourselves which has made a huge difference in our understanding of the other person and how to show love to each other. We've been married 11.5 years and are just now figuring this out so kudos to you for figuring out so soon! I drive L crrrazy on such a basic level and the other way around but it has helped us to know what to expect and how to best respond. Honestly, it's helped me to not feel so weird. Can you guess if I'm an I or and E? Ha, don't answer that. ~janna

  2. Yes, Janna! So helpful to hear that someone else has similar struggles. I'm impressed that you're even "more different" and still able to work it out! Like you say, just knowing about the differences really helps. And God knows that throughout the ages there have surely been millions of very different couples who have struggled into unity- I wonder if I even know what that truly looks like. It might be very different from my idea of marital harmony, and it probably doesn't mean that you never annoy each other. Probably involves a lot more prayer...

    You know, my impulse is to say L is the extravert because I usually see him in his "public" role at church, but I know that can be misleading, so now I'll just have to observe quietly... :)

    1. Also, I wonder what we mean when we say, like I did in my post, that we "need" interaction or solitude.

      I "need" for my husband to say good morning to me... or else what? I'm not going to be "happy?"

      By that do I mean "everything is okay," or "I am overwhelmed with tears of joy," or "I'm smiling"?

      Those seem like pretty trivial understandings of a good life.

    2. Yes to more prayer. Actually identifying and knowing our needs and wants has been freeing. I am the introvert. I could spend weeks in our townhome and not talk to another person and be completely content. Being around people, especially for any extended period of time, is exhausting to me. For the longest time I really felt like I was a weird selfish person because for the most part no one else in my life is as much of an introvert as I am. OK, so I am selfish but that doesn't have so much to do with my introvertedness. This is a struggle for L who is an extrovert (duh!) and needs to be, and loves to be, and is energized by being around people.

      My point, I have one, is that once we figured out all this introvert vs extrovert stuff out about each other and how to express what we need to each other life became so much easier. It was a big DUH! moment for both of us.

      "Oh, you just need a little notice that I want us to hang out with friends and then to be left alone for awhile?"
      "OK cool"


      "Oh, you just need to know you're free to go hang out without me and I won't be upset?"
      "OK cool"

      That was probably way oversimplified.

      Oh, I think that your question of "need" is good. For me, I understand us to be intelligent human beings that yes, need interaction or solitude. Or most likely a varied mix of the two. I don't think that needs met = happiness. Or maybe it does! It's up to you and Matt to figure out what those (not trivial to me) things mean to you and what they mean in your marriage.

  3. Simplified, but true- you're right that sometimes a simple little conversation makes the bottom drop right out of a conflict! We've had very similar exchanges. But although we've intellectually had the light bulbs turn on, it still takes PRACTICE! More than 2.5 years of it.

    In high school and early college, I used to be a much more manic extravert (distract me from myself, please!). And I thought that what I really needed was the giddy high of always having A GREAT TIME WITH PEOPLE! But a few really good friendships, the quiet inwardness of Orthodoxy, and being married to such a calm, self-reliant person has definitely helped me pare it down and realize what I really need (which I am still in the process of articulating.) I ain't done prunin' yet, though.

    I wonder if introverts often, like you, think that they're weird. Because... how could you tell...? Hm?