Occasionally, I’ll find a search term in my blog stats which interests me, and go look it up myself. (These are the terms people type into search engines, which bring them to my blog.) Tonight, such a search term led me to this page:
Me: Extrovert. She: Introvert. Can this relationship survive? Should it?
The title is self-explanatory. In reading the question and the responses from introverts, I recognized myself in the girlfriend and the other introverts.
The writer’s feelings about her introversion, reminded me of all those irritating comments I get from extroverts: Why don’t you talk? You’re so quiet! Smile! And, of course, the “helpful” advice on how to change myself and be more outgoing.
Or criticisms that I’m “not lively enough,” that my quietness/shyness is a character flaw that I must work to overcome, or else I’m “in my shell” or being stubborn or not pushing myself enough.
Or the manager at work who treated my shyness as a discipline problem, saying that others were “afraid” to talk to me because I was quiet, directing me to push myself, make more small talk, etc. (I felt vindicated later on when the president of the company complained that people were spending far too much time socializing and needed to talk about work during work hours.)
Then, of course, my favorite, Richard telling me one night that maybe my friends get tired of me not wanting to leave my “comfort zone,” even though he did not know my friends, never met my friends, never spoke to my friends, and had no reason to think this.
The comments in the AskMetaFilter article reminded me of the early days of my relationship with my husband:
When we were first dating, my extroverted husband would take me to SCA events, but then run off and do who knows what, without telling me where he was going or for how long.
I’d spend quite a bit of time either standing around alone, or with people I barely knew, and feeling miserable, or looking all over for him. I felt abandoned, bored, awkward.
He’d want to go there early in the day and stay for hours; I got drained, overstimulated. I began to hate SCA events; this is why I stopped going for a long time, thinking it was the SCA itself which did not appeal to me.
The same thing happened once at a wedding dinner: After we finished eating, he just got up and left. He went to chat with friends, but didn’t say where he was going or invite me along.
So I sat there at the table, with a stranger, and neither of us spoke; I felt miserable, abandoned, bored. It wasn’t about him chatting with friends, but about me feeling abandoned.
Over time we worked things out as he discovered how I felt to be left alone among strangers, that I enjoyed SCA events much more if I was with him, that I wanted to be sociable but could only stand an event for a few hours.
The comments reminded me of my ex Phil, who during/after the breakup accused me of being a “party pooper,” told me other people considered me one because I am quiet, shy, and (allegedly) did not want to go dancing with him (even though we went to several dances, and even though I didn’t recall him ever asking me to go to a club before the night I had a concussion).
He twisted it into a character flaw and a good reason to break up with me, because my ideas of fun were different from his!
It is so very reassuring to read through these comments, and through various other blogs and articles I’ve found about introversion over the past several years, and find that I’m okay the way I am. That it is not at all a “character flaw” to be introverted/shy.
For a while I thought it was selective mutism, but when I read about selective mutism, it seems more like extroverts pathologizing the more extreme introverts, and trying to “fix” them because they must be “wrong” and “unhappy” the way they are. I read that “selective mutism” is not generally caused by abuse, and that it can run in families. So…Couldn’t it just be extreme introversion?
This comment put words to one main reason why I could not be forced into friendship with Tracy, into jumping her hoops to please her:
You seem to be unwilling to let her be her. If she’s not comfy around your friends after six months, bitching to MeFi won’t change that. And neither will confronting her about it.
Now she’ll sit there quietly thinking “these are the friends I have to be OK with” the entire time. Sounds miserable to me, I’d stop seeing your friends ASAP if you told me that. –Brian Puccio, Comment
I’ve written about this in various other posts, and here (20,000-word version) and here (summary + option to read full story), so I don’t want to rehash it all.
But the above AskMetaFilter link reassured me that my husband and I made the right decision when we ended the “friendship” with Richard and Tracy. Because they were extroverts who:
- showed zero empathy to my introversion, so much so that even my husband noted it
- would not accept me as I was
- insisted I was “making excuses” and needed to “push myself”
- insisted on pushing, guilting and punishing me into becoming extroverted, even accused me of being a “victim” by not becoming extroverted–but when I said “STOP trying to change me” said “I’m not trying to change you” and got petulant and said I needed to get over my hurt feelings before talking to him again
- even went so far as to go into narcissistic rages with cussing and fury and punishments and blame and physical intimidation and threats because I could not become the extrovert Tracy wanted me to be–so everything I did, even though Tracy was okay with other friends doing them, I was not “supposed” to do, (even after I was specifically told that I could do them)
- accused me of “false facts” and called me crazy for writing about all these things and calling them bullies, even though there is nothing “false” or “defamatory” about the truth
Because of all these things, I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my husband and I did the right thing in severing all relations with them. Not just romantic partners, but friends, especially best friends, need to accept you the way you are. If they can’t, then they don’t belong in your life.
I read through the comments in the AskMetaFilter article, and recognize so much of what Richard and Tracy did, and the things I tried to explain to them, that I see that no, what I wrote is indeed what happened, nothing “false” about it. Tracy tried to force me to change to be an extrovert to please her, I resisted because at my age I knew it was impossible, so she punished and bullied me in various overt and covert ways.
Commenters in the AskMetaFilter article suggested ways to steer the introvert into conversations rather than leaving them to fend for themselves; Richard basically left me to fend for myself, with plenty of criticisms but no actual help at the times when I was around Tracy, and trying to force and guilt me into things I did not feel comfortable with, such as hugging Tracy.
Because Richard went along with her instead of actually listening to me and realizing that introverts cannot “push themselves” into being extroverts, that we’re not “making excuses,” that our quiet and introverted behaviors are not character flaws or deliberate attempts to annoy Tracy, that we need to be accepted as we are–
–He was not a good friend at all. I think the more I accept and realize that he was not a good friend, the more I will let go of the false dream of him as my “best” friend.
I contrast it with how my husband has responded to my explanations of the introverted brain and how social situations tax me. It is a huge difference.