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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Introverted Singlutionary

I am an introvert. This has been brought to my attention in many ways over the past several months.

As an introvert, I need a lot of "me" time. I need quiet. I get easily overstimulated. The only problem is that, I don't LOOK like an introvert. I am animated and gregarious and very talkative. I enjoy people. I am always planning activities and building community. I live in a house with 3 other people. Writing this blog is a great way for my introvert to relax because I can be alone & quiet when I write it, but I can still engage in lively interaction and conversation with others.

Is it easier for an introvert to be a Singlutionary?

Spirited Children (or something like that)
My best friend, the Purple Turtle is an introvert with an extrovert for a husband and a 4 year old extrovert for a son. I used to find her husband exceedingly annoying because he never rests. He never stops talking and he doesn't understand that other people need time and space to think. Purple Turtle read this wonderful book about raising her extroverted son but she really learned more about how to nurture her introverted self. This book talks about how to deal with introverted children (of which I was certainly one) as well as introverted ones. It says that when they get home from school, introverts need time alone and so it is best to let them be by themselves until dinner time and then engage with them, ask them how their day went, etc.

When I come home from work, I do not want to be bombarded with hugs or requests or questions or invitations to go out. I don't want to interact. Or, maybe I do want to interact but only with very specific people in a very specific way.

Sacred Solitude
The reason I haven't been writing much lately, is that I've been in a very conflicted relationship that I was never fully on board for. Many people in my inner circle don't even know about this relationship because I didn't want to announce something that I was never sure was going to last. It didn't. There are many reasons for this. I learned a lot about myself, who I am and who I am not. Perhaps the biggest lesson of all (aside from being a little more cautious before committing to being in a relationship and NEVER telling potential partners about this blog) is that I am intensely introverted. Yes, I go out in the world and interact with strangers. Yes, I am always creating events and hosting get-togethers. Yes, I even have my own meetup group. But I have a secret life outside of all of that that most people never see. This secret life is quiet, introspective and solitary. I need this secret life to be well and thriving in my public life. In order to go out into the world and be the vivacious, active, creative and ambitious person that I am, I also need this deeply personal sacred time. And I need a lot of it. In a relationship, a lot of this time seems to, for me, get negotiated away. It disappears under the expectation that being involved with someone means wanting to spend ALL free time together.

Deceptive Appearances
Our culture worships the extrovert. If you are a quiet, shy or reserved person, you might be perceived as rude or unhappy or maybe even stupid. Social, gregarious people are seen as smarter, sexier and more likely to be successful. I've adapted. Last week, I was told by a friend of a friend that I seem to be an extrovert. This makes it even more offensive to people when I frequently turn down social invitations. There is often an attitude, especially amongst younger folks, that if you're not doing anything particular, you're available to socialize. So, on a Friday night, if I don't have plans, I am expected to accept invitations to go out or do SOMETHING. When in fact, I do have plans -- with myself. And no, this is not lame and pathetic but vitally important to my well being, my ability to function in the world and my ability to be who I am.

It is difficult for me to explain this to people sometimes. I've had to become comfortable with saying "no" and knowing that for some people, it will seem as if I am rejecting them entirely.

Private Life
This private, solitary life that I lead in the corners of the day when I can sneak away from demands and social expectations is usually enjoyed 100% alone. There are a few people who I could be in the same room with and still feel this sense of peace and rejuvenation. The folks are also introverts. I suspect that all introverts have private lives and sometimes we lead them in the same room. Purple Turtle, my best friend from childhood, is someone who I can be around for days on end -- mainly because we have the same need for quiet and introspection. If she grabs a journal and a book and goes to sit in a chair on the other side of the room, I know what is up and I follow suit. I have a cousin that I also can spend a lot of time around -- and my parents -- the biggest introverts of all (almost to the point of being hermits).

It was very difficult, in many of my past relationships to have this private, quiet, reflective time. The extroverts that I was dating did not understand. They felt shut out. They wondered why I didn't want to do things with them all the time. Meanwhile I felt drained and angry. Sacrificing this time is not an option for me.

Now that I am back to being single, I feel this huge sense of relief. I can be myself again. I can shut the door and lock it. I am free to be alone. And then, when I am done recharging, I am free to go back out into the world and be me.

Does my introversion prevent me from being in a relationship? No. It just narrows the pool to people who can understand my need for solitude. Should I only date introverts from now on? Maybe. Or at least people who understand the need for quiet and peace and aloneness and who enjoy it themselves.


Angela said...

Oh wow ... you're in my head. Every word you wrote described me. I need a few minutes to let this percolate.

McCaffery said...

I'm really glad you wrote again and glad for this post. I once saw another introvert write, about being in constant contact and always having to "do" activities or dates with a partner, "Without enough time to myself, I am at my wit's end." I am the same way. This post really resonated with me. Thanks.

Miss Megan said...

Hope you don't mind, but I just put a link to this post on my own blog. I've been crazy-busy lately and learned that I don't like it. Just like you, I need an amount of "me" time and others don't always understand. Thank you for your post!

downfromtheledge said...

u were right on the money when u wrote, "if you are a quiet, shy or reserved person, you might be perceived as rude or unhappy or maybe even stupid." i have been fighting all of the above my whole life and hating myself for it, when i can't change the way i am anymore than a talkative person can keep quiet for long!! i know i am hard to read, often misinterpreted, but i never have understood how silence is equated with stupidity?? when i overcompensate by trying to be lively or entertaining or social, it drains the hell out of me. too much noise and chaos. and at the end of the day, have i proven to others that i am a "normal" outgoing person? nope.

in relationships, i will often crawl back into my shell, especially when someone attacks me. people who don't understand the concept of "introvert / extrovert" will resent my retreat inward. after an argument with one boyfriend, i showed him a couple pages from "The Introvert Advantage," a book one of my professors gave me (the problem is, extroverts don't read this book!) --- all i can tell you is 1) don't be dumb enough to think a guy wants to "understand you better" to "improve the relationship" and 2) people who don't take the time to get to know me have already made up their mind, & it's a waste of time to try to convince them of anything.

if you google "melancholic-melancholic love match" based on the Personality Plus book, it might provide some more insight on finding someone who "gets" what u need. if & when i DO choose to enter another relationship, i need to be able to cuddle at home in front of a movie some friday nights, not go out and get more stressed from being around too many people!

Contented Single said...

Thanks for this post. I feel pretty much the same. People would not guess I am an introvert as I am comfortable socially. But my preferred state is being on my own.

I find it hard to be in relationships for this reason. Last boyfriend was a real 'doer', he felt bad if wasn't always out and about. Because of my introvert nature, I don't even feel like being in a relationship, and I think I could only be in one with an introvert so as to enjoy that quiet company that you mention you have with your best friend.

I wonder if most single by choice, or single at heart people are introverts, in that they find a lot of contentment in being on their own?