How to Get Along with an Introverted Spouse

One of the hardest lessons we learn in marriage (and in our other relationships, too) is this: it’s impossible to meld and become one. We are two separate humans with two separate personalities.

This realization is often scary. My spouse isn’t just like me? What’s wrong with him?! Because if something isn’t wrong with him, then something must be wrong with me!

That’s why it’s so tempting to try to mold our spouses into versions of ourselves.

But doing so is not only unhealthy, it’s a recipe for marital discontent. As soon as you go about trying to change an ingrained aspect of your spouse’s personality – say by trying to make a loner more outgoing or a quiet person more talkative—you are basically telling your spouse, “There’s something wrong with you. You are not good enough.” And no one likes to hear that.

For instance, I’m an introvert. I also probably have some sort of sensory issue that you all can have a lot of fun diagnosing in the comments. This sensory issue was never diagnosed, thank God, so I managed to get through childhood without being labeled as someone with the D-word (disorder). Basically, I am sensitive to light, sound and scent. Too many conflicting sounds are difficult for me to understand. Like in restaurants, when a lot of people are talking at once, I can’t separate the voices so everyone sounds just like the teacher in Peanuts.

I get exceptionally sensitive to light, sound and scent when I’m tired, when I’m hormonal or whenever I get the bright idea that someone like me can do that thing called multitasking. Like, tonight, I tried to bake chicken thighs while also microwaving a few things and simultaneously washing the dishes. During all of this, my daughter kept asking me questions like, “What is a gridiron?” and “Do you know that Neptune is blue?”

Oh, and the stupid dog kept barking.

I dang near almost checked myself into a mental asylum, let me tell you. At one point I started shouting, “Where is the stupid oven mitt? Who took my oven mitt? Where did someone put my oven mitt?” Keep in mind that the only other beings in the kitchen were my 5 year old and my dog, and my 5 year old had not moved from her position at the table the entire time. Now, my dog is capable of a lot of sneaky things, but he doesn’t generally hide oven mitts just to see if he can irritate me.

You want to know where the oven mitt was? It was right in front of me, where I’d just left it.

My husband came home some time later. The poor man. You will understand why I call him that soon. Promise.

I greeted him with a, “Heh.” That was about all I could manage. My daughter rarely greets my husband. It’s a stage she’s going through. She clings on me and tells me she loves me and that she will never let me go. If Daddy asks for a kiss, she runs and hides in her bedroom.

But the dog wagged his tail. “At least someone is happy to see me,” my husband said brightly.

Later, after getting our daughter to sleep, I said, “You don’t want to be around me right now.” He waved his hand in front of his nose. He assumed I was broadcasting that I’d eaten beans for lunch.

“No, not because of that,” I said. “I’m grumpy. You might want to stay away from me.”

“Why are you grumpy? How was your day?” he asked.

Sweet, right? It was. He’s sweet. But I wanted to amputate his vocal cords. The only thing I wanted in that moment was an empty house.

“You’re leaving, right? You’re going out tonight, right?’ I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

I said, “Good, I think that’s for the best. I really need to be alone.”

He understood about as much as someone who doesn’t have a sensitivity to sound, scent, and light and who doesn’t get into grumpy snits can. That’s to say that he understood that whatever was wrong with me was not his fault. It’s not to say that he didn’t think that I was in dire need of a little pill that might work some magic among the neurotransmitters in my brain.

As soon as he left, I felt better, much better. My daughter was asleep. My dog was curled up in a tight ball. The house was quiet. I was alone. Nothing smelled funny. I ate a chocolate covered banana. Cold and hot things always soothe me. I don’t know why. I’m sure it’s part of the disorder I have that does not have a name.

So then I wrote this post that rambles on and on and doesn’t offer much in the way of helpful information.

I don’t want to disappoint. I’m much too sensitive and grumpy to add feeling like a failure to my list of troubles, so here are a few tips for getting along with an introverted spouse.

  1. When your spouse says, “It’s not you, it’s me,” believe it. We get grumpy. We require solitude. It’s nothing personal.
  2. Help your spouse find moments of solitude, especially if you have children. If your spouse seems grumpy, offer to take over as a parent and suggest your spouse do whatever he or she needs to do to re-energize.
  3. If your spouse grunts one-word answers to your questions, it probably means that your spouse does not have the emotional ability to carry on a conversation in that moment. Again, this is nothing personal. Every time you ask a question, your spouse’s nervous system reacts as if it were just plunked down in the middle of a loud rock concert where two completely different types of bands – say Moby and Rush—are playing in the same room, at the same time, and at 1000 decibels each–along with millions of cheering fans who are crowded so close together that they are sharing each other’s air. And while that might turn you on, it’s torture for an introvert. If you really need to get an answer to your question, write it down and ask your spouse to give you an answer at his or her earliest convenience.
  4. If you are an extrovert and in need of companionship, allow your introverted spouse to offer companionship in spurts. Introverts can be social. We can be conversationalists. We can even be engaging. But we can only do it sometimes. We have an on, but our on only works if you allow us to have a lot of off, too.
  5. Create a quiet haven for your introverted spouse. It might be a spare bedroom or somewhere in the basement or even a closet. It could be the garage. Wherever it is, it’s a Do Not Disturb Zone. That way your spouse can put him or herself in timeout as needed, so you don’t have to.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How do you deal with your spouse’s personality differences? Care to diagnose my little syndrome? Leave a comment.

74 comments… add one

  • Lonely extrovert October 23, 2015, 8:56 am

    I know this post is about the needs of the introverted and i understand the needs and difficulty faced ive been married to a introvert for 3 years now.
    I get so excited to see him and then he needs time to wind down and dosnt want me bouncing all over him like a happy puppy, which is actually quite devistating to me who was so excited and its never reciprocated, i get it he needs space, but what about my needs? How is it ok to devisate me for his time to process all im asking is 10 minutes of being happy to see me ive even said to him to just pretent to be happy to see me.. do you know what thats like? To tell your husband to ‘pretend’ to be excited to see you? And to actually prefer that to nothing at all.i feel more alone sometimes when we are together.
    The issue is that i need stimulus, when my husband is thinking and recharging… i feel so incredibly alone, if a issue comes up and i want to discuss it and resolve it then and there and he needs time to process and sits there in silence while think about all the potential possible negative outcome and every awful thing he could think of me, then the more i talk and try to goad him into answering and he dosent and it feels like if he really cared he would at least try to fix it but he dosent because hes processing and i end up a crazy emotional mess over something that could have been resolved easily.
    Sometimes its important for introverts to process and have time and space… but also i wish he would realise what it dose to me to be ignored.
    Is there anyway i can make him see. I know he knows i feel this way because i tell him but he just says that its unfair to ask him the be hyper and bouncey when hes not…..sometimes hes great and i really love him for the amazing gentle person he is
    Is there a way to work this out?

    • Me too! November 2, 2015, 4:49 pm

      I have the same problem. My husband is as boring as a corpse; he does not talk to me unless I talk to him and he grunts one word answers. He also doesn’t look people in the eye when they interact with him and guests often ask me if my husband hates them. I don’t expect him to be a social butterfly like me but I do need some stimulating conversation. When we were dating, my husband was quiet but he still made conversation and we had fun together.

      • Paula January 12, 2016, 1:42 pm

        Your husband sounds like mime. You might want to find out if your husband has Aspergers. I thought mine was extremely introverted, but once I asked him to take a test from an Aspergers page, it changed our marriage. Once, you understand it you can cope better, and if your spouse is willing they can build the habits of being kind.

  • Shona November 29, 2015, 4:31 am

    Hi, your piece provided me with a lot of help as I have an introverted partner who needs precisely what you describe. My question is if your husband has ever had others in his life question your behaviour due to the potential affect it has on thier involvement in your life? I am learning how to help my partner as much as I can and coexist as I am ambivert but my friends and family see him as rude and question me about it. It leads me to question things also, just wondered if you come across that at all.

    • Paula January 12, 2016, 1:51 pm

      Check into Aspergers. See if he fits the profile. That is exactly how my husband comes across to our friends and family. If he is then get every book you can and read up! It’s not something he can take a pill for and his brain is literally wired differently. But it seems to make difference that there is a real reason he is like that. But, your spouse should not use it as an excuse for his behavior.

  • lita Williams January 11, 2016, 11:26 am

    Finally somebody who understands. I’m not crazy.

  • Marie January 12, 2016, 3:09 pm

    I concur with Paula. I have since found out that my husband has Asperger’s and it has made all of the difference. It doesn’t make things go away but with understanding can come a new way to handle things and acceptance that this is how it is.


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge