A relationship between extroverts and introverts offers an opportunity for each partner to engage in healthy personal growth and requires them to make adjustments to their comfort level. Some of these adjustments may be a welcome change of pace and others might require radical shifts in how each partner conceptualizes what it means to be romantically involved with another person.
What’s It Like Dating an Introvert?
Dating an introvert is no more difficult than dating anyone else. All relationships typically have some type of learning curve. People are complex, and so putting two people together in an intimate relationship means doubling that complexity. Anytime you decide to couple with someone, you’re going to face challenges and relationship conflict. It’s just a question of which set of challenges your particular combination of individuals will face.
I would suggest challenges that arise from dating an introvert are largely easier to resolve than others. And contrary to the general wisdom that extroverts must concede to deprivation and sacrifice when dating introverts, the relationship can actually be quite rewarding for the extrovert.
How to Date an Introvert
A good way to date an introvert is to step off the “extroversion high horse” and remember the way you do things is no better or worse than the way introverts do things; they’re just different. You have to make just as many compromises as they do. Conversely, being an introvert isn’t an excuse to have your partner bend to your introverted will, either.
The decision for extroverts and introverts to date each other is bi-directional, so each person will need to adjust what feels comfortable for them if they’re going to make it work; however, this is no different than what needs to be done for any relationship to be successful—it’ll just be different compromises.
The following is a list of tips and strategies for successfully dating an introvert. As with any such list, it’s painted with a very broad brush, as we couldn’t possibly say each tip applies to each introvert. Use your best judgment as to what makes sense specifically for you, your beloved introvert, and your unique relationship.
1. If You Don’t Want to Date an Introvert, Then Don’t Date an Introvert
It might not be immediately apparent that you’ve been unknowingly dating an introvert. It is fairly universal that people in the early stages of courtship are on their best behavior, presenting their ideal selves to potential mates—the one that will get the most validation. This goes both ways. We each want to impress and win over our crush, so we often hide the traits we know potential mates won’t like. One can only carry on like this for so long, however, and eventually both partners will drop the ruse. That’s when the real person shows up.
But once you realize who you are actually dating, that’s who they are. With traits like introversion and extroversion, things can be adjusted and compromises can be made, but at the end of the day, they’re not going to fundamentally change. This is reductionist, but if you don’t want to date an introvert, just don’t. If you know you won’t want to compromise to the degree required, save yourself the time.
2. Don’t Act Like They Have a Deficiency
Speaking of the “extroversion high horse,” no one deserves to be treated as less than because of an immutable personality trait, so recognition here that each of you is just different and enjoys different things will go a long way.
3. Plan Low-Key Dates
“I got us tickets to Coachella!” That’s something an introvert will not necessarily appreciate. It might even cause them some anxiety if they have trouble saying “no.” Introverts will be happy with something low-key where you can get to know each other a little better. Opt for a quieter restaurant instead of the latest hot spot.
Pro Tip for Extroverts: Introverts typically prefer assigned seating at concerts rather than general admission. But frankly, who doesn’t?
4. Don’t Make Their Desire for Alone Time About You
This is a big one, and true extroverts will have a hard time wrapping their head around it. Too much socialization time can lead to an introvert hangover. You might think: “Wait, she has no plans on a Saturday? That must be terrible for her. I’ll ask her out!” They may have nothing to do on a Saturday night, and they’re just fine with it. You might be shocked she still wants or needs to spend the time alone even after your invitation. This is probably one of those preferences that will show up later on in the courtship rather than immediately.
Pro Tip for Introverts: Be sure to convey to your disappointed extrovert that this desire for alone time that evening doesn’t have anything to do with them, then suggest alternative plans for another night.
5. Don’t Force Them Into Things They Don’t Want to Do
Let’s say you have a big birthday dinner with 10 people at a restaurant coming up. You no doubt would like your introvert to come be your date so you can show off that sexy new beau to your friends; however, you know your partner will be uncomfortable and silently cringing the whole time. But, you don’t want it to look to your friends that you and your partner are having some type of problem if you arrive alone. Don’t force your introverted partner to do something they don’t want to do because you don’t want to have an awkward conversation with your friends.
Just leave your partner at home. You’re not going to have fun bringing them anyway, because you’ll know they’re sitting in misery while eating their bacon-wrapped dates. You can have your partner sign a lovely card, and you can bring it for the birthday celebrant. You don’t owe anyone an explanation why your partner isn’t there. If you’re asked, you certainly don’t need to lie. Other couples will envy that you and your partner have such strong communication and respect for each other’s preferences.
Or, if you both arrived together at a party, there’s no obligation for you to leave together. If your partner wants to go, then you stay and keep having fun! You can reconvene later or another day.
6. Know That Introverts Are Selectively Social
It’s a myth that introverts aren’t social. Their capacity for being social just takes more energy than the extroverts, and they have a threshold before reaching introvert burnout. Extroverts recharge by social engagement. Introverts are drained by social engagement, so they are selective about whom and on what they are willing to expend it.
7. Leave the Drama Behind
Introverts don’t like unnecessary drama. If high dudgeon and drama were your way of showing love and investment in prior relationships, that’s just not how introverts do it. Boundaries, assertiveness, and healthy conflict resolution: These are music to an introvert’s ears. This might be one of those ways dating an introvert can help you grow.
8. Don’t Try to Impress Them
Introverts don’t like braggarts and showoffs, and they will spot efforts to impress them with superficiality from a mile away. They’ll be more interested in what makes you unique. Tell them what’s on your mind and not what’s in your summer home.
9. It’s Okay to Have Separate Social Spheres
As couples, we often have to make compromises, but I always say don’t make compromises you can’t live with and don’t make compromises you don’t even need to make. That definitely applies to your social lives. Introverts won’t like some of your friends. That’s okay. You won’t like some of theirs, either.
Having separate social spheres is generally healthy in relationships anyway. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you and your friends doing something fun and extroverted on a Saturday night, and your partner and her friends doing something introverted—or even your partner just deciding to stay home while you go out. When relationships are solid and each partner understands the other, these types of arrangements aren’t seen as threatening or a sign that there’s a problem in the relationship.
10. Introverts Are Loyal
Because every social and romantic relationship is a higher energy investment for introverts, they tend to be extremely loyal and appreciate loyalty in return. Because of their investment, they might see the loss of a relationship or it being in turmoil as more of a threat than you do. That’s why they prefer those previously-mentioned skills to avoid drama, like assertiveness and healthy conflict resolution.
11. They May Place Fewer Demands on You & Your Time
Introverts have a habit of being self-sufficient in a lot of ways. They may have developed skills to manage difficult feelings and emotions on their own, and you may wonder why they don’t immediately open up to you when they have a problem or a bad day. Introverts are better at asking questions rather than answering questions sometimes, so you might need to be more inquisitive at first and show them you’re invested.
12. Some Will Be Quite Direct
Some introverts won’t mess around when it comes to telling you what’s on their mind. It goes back to that idea of loyalty and selectiveness in their social world. You’re a trusted person to them, and trusted people deserve to hear the truth. A lot of people don’t like to hear things directly and have trouble expressing themselves similarly. This is another one of the introverts-can-help-me-grow areas.
13. However, Being an Introvert Is Not a Free Pass
Don’t let your special introvert use their personality trait and directness as excuses to treat you with disrespect. Your time and needs matter, too.
14. Make the First Move to Solidify the Relationship
Toss out your gender dynamics here. I know culturally we’ve decided in cisgender heterosexual relationships that men should make the grand overtures toward solidifying the relationship, but if you’re dating a male introvert, you may find yourself waiting a long time for an overt sign of commitment. It’s not that they are uncommitted, they may just not make the first move. Take charge of your feelings and if you want to take the next step, make the first move. You probably only have to do this once before it becomes a more mutual practice of showing commitment.
Mastering Introvert Dating: Increase Your Level of Differentiation
This is really the only tip you need: Your level of differentiation will predict your ability to function in a relationship with someone who is different from you on the traits of introversion and extroversion. Broadly speaking, differentiation is a psychological concept related to the degree of emotional maturity you possess to hold onto your autonomous emotional functioning while in a close intimate relationship with another person.
How strong is your sense of self, self-esteem, ability to self-validate, and tolerance for true intimacy? These are just some elements of one’s level of differentiation, and the more highly differentiated you are, the higher ability you’ll have to navigate the roads of dating across personality traits and addressing any fears you may have regarding intimacy. We are born undifferentiated, and for the most part remain that way in our relationships unless we take active steps to make big changes. This may be through a personal growth process of self-confrontation and challenging anxieties about relationships, as well as through therapy with a professional trained in differentiation-based therapy who can provide guidance and offer you support.
For example, low levels of differentiation generally lead to self-presentation in the early stages of courtship. People during this phase tend to put their best self forward and hide traits, beliefs, preferences, and sexual tastes that they know are less likely to be validated. The extrovert might downplay their need for social engagement while the introvert might inflate their tolerance for these activities. Because highly differentiated individuals are uncommon, you may not realize you are in a relationship with an introvert or extrovert until several months into a relationship or until after a commitment has been made. That’s when people really show who they are!
Highly differentiated people will let you see them accurately from the beginning. You’ll know you’re with one in the early stages of dating because they will not falsely flatter you; will not pseudo-validate everything you say, like, and believe; and will take risks by letting you see their strengths and their weaknesses relatively early on. Your differences will be interesting to them and they’ll have respect for where you both disagree rather than seek unwavering agreement.
Highly differentiated introverts and extroverts are wonderful to date, and these two individuals will have very little problem dating each other—at least when it comes to these two traits. Increasing your level of differentiation is the best tip for dating anyone, including introverts.
And if that all sounds appealing, many of the above tips for dating an introvert were written within the framework of increasing one’s level of differentiation. Win-win!
Finding the Right Therapist for Increasing Differentiation
Not all types of psychotherapy apply to all problems or are best for all clients. Some types even conflict with each other. Differentiation-based therapy and attachment-based therapy, for example, are both great for tackling relationship problems, but they are not compatible and have very opposite goals.
When finding a therapist, an online directory of mental health professionals can be a great way to find the best fit, since you can use a search tool to filter for the type of therapy you’d prefer.
How Do You Know If an Introvert Likes You?
As mentioned, an introvert probably won’t be the first to tell you they like you, so you have to look for signs. The biggest two would be their time and their personal space. If an introvert is asking to spend time with you, they are giving you one of their most prized commodities. Additionally, an introvert bringing you into their personal space is a big deal. Their home is often their sanctuary. If an introvert invites you to their place and cooks something for you, you’re good as gold.
Can Introverts Date Other Introverts?
Absolutely! The introvert-introvert pair just gets each other. They won’t take their time together for granted, they’ll probably both want to leave the party at the same time (if they even wanted to go at all), and they’ll have wonderful dates. They might run into trouble with one person’s need for alone time not coinciding with the other’s, which means they might have to make extra effort to ensure there isn’t too much distance being created. But overall, it’s a great match. There’s a price for that great match, however: There’s not quite as much opportunity for growth. But that’s okay! Just enjoy your binge watching on Saturday nights.
Dating an Introvert Infographics