THE BREAKING BAD HABITS IN RELATIONSHIPS SERIES — (PART 1)

Welcome to the first part of a series about breaking bad habits in relationships. This week’s topic is close to my heart. I am an introvert. I hate small talk and I find socializing to be tiring and draining of my energy. I recharge when I am alone or with my family.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

I married an extrovert. The nature of Deb’s extroversion has evolved over time. When I met her, I expressed my concern that I felt I was going to need to make appointments just to see her. I told her she needed to “trim the fat” and stop wasting time with relationships that didn’t feed her. 
 
Introverts are often judged as being aloof, or just not very nice. I’m sure there are some that would fall into that category, but it is an unfair generalization. Being drained by socializing does not equal not liking people.

I’d bet that there are many extroverts like Deb that don’t even know that they need quiet time to recharge. In other words, they need help accessing their introverted natures. 
 
I’d also bet that there are many introverts like me that don’t realize how we need meaningful contact with others and that it isn’t helpful to throw the baby (meaningful relationships) out with the bathwater (superficial relationships). In other words, they need help accessing their extroverted natures.
 
Differences tend to get polarized in relationships, meaning the extrovert becomes more extroverted and the introvert becomes more introverted, making it easy to resent and blame the other for their differences.

When dynamics get polarized it does a disservice to both individuals, to the relationship and to the family system. If the introvert lets the extrovert be the “social one”, he is unwittingly limiting his own experiences and capacity for growth.

On the other hand, what tends to happen when one person moves toward the center is that it helps the other person move more toward the center. That provides both people with room to explore the other side more.

Exercise

  1. Come up with an area where you and your partner are polarized. I.e. socializing.
  2. Now, find one aspect of your partner’s role that you can imagine experimenting with. If it’s hard for you to imagine this, try imagining what it is about it that is attractive to your partner. I.e. Making dinner plans with another couple.
  3. Tell your partner you’d like to make plans with another couple and follow through.
  4. This will give you a new experience of being the one that makes something like this happen. This could make you feel more empowered and also have more ownership of the situation.
  5. It can also pleasantly surprise your partner, make them more curious about you, more appreciative and more likely to reciprocate.
  6. Start small. Choose little things at first that feel more manageable.

Acknowledging that you tend to stay stuck in certain roles and playfully exploring and challenging these dynamics will go a long way to make you and your relationship feel more fresh and alive.

Stay tuned for more on challenging and breaking bad relationship habits next week. 
 
Bye for now.

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David B. Younger, Ph.D is the creator of Love After Kids, for couples that have grown apart since having children. He is a clinical psychologist and couples therapist with a web-based private practice, and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 12-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.


Originally published at www.loveafterkids.com.